Mandritsa, a village in the Eastern Rhodopes, is located on the right bank of the river Byala Reka, 19 kilometres to the South of Ivaylovgrad, and very close to the Bulgarian-Greek border.
According to legend, the village was founded in 1636 by three brothers – Albanian Christians who were cheesemakers. They supplied the Ottoman army, so the authorities allowed them to choose land for themselves and gave them tax exemption. It is thought that the bulk of Mandritsa’s Albanian inhabitants came to live here later, or at the end of the 18th century. It is the only Albanian village in Bulgaria where people speak a bizarre kind of archaic Albanian to this very day.
Nowadays, Mandritsa is abandoned with very few permanent residents. But during the summer months there are tourists who come here for the village’s past. Mandritsa has preserved its adobe and brick three-storey houses in the National Revival style, with their wood carved ceilings, wrought iron balconies and colonnades.