Makak Konak Guest House: A Countryside Retreat Near Veliko Tarnovo
There are times when you’re travelling where you just want to chill out in a place that feels like home so I felt lucky to find Makak Konak Guest House, a great little countryside retreat less than a fifteen minute drive from Veliko Tarnovo. Set in the idyllic village of Ledenik, my hosts, Rossi and Peter, instantly offer me a warm welcome into their home.
A tour of the house offers an eclectic mix of murals, sculptures, paintings and interesting old photographs of Peter’s grandfather and even great-grandfather. This makes for a slow circuit as I stop to gaze for longer and ask questions which they’re happy to elaborate upon. Each of their four rooms are spotlessly clean and tastefully decorated with great attention to small details, including the more than average toiletries provided.
Three of the rooms, two doubles and one family room, share a bathroom with another double room having an en-suite. Downstairs, there’s a large, open plan living room complete with kitchen and dining area. They cater for all types of travellers including families with children. Scattered around the entire house are beautifully patterned tiles neatly integrated into particular niches which add splashes of vibrancy alongside all their artwork on display.
The sun is shining so I make the most of exploring the garden where the springtime beginnings of fruit and vegetables are emerging and we discuss the merits of homegrown food. Later, with Rossi as my guide, we embark on a walk around the village starting from the river which is seconds away from their home. As we stroll along the riverbank, spotting many birds and passing the resident babas (old ladies) at ‘checkpoint charlie’, a term nicely coined to refer to them wanting to know all details about Rossi’s latest guest, my host explains more about what they offer at Makak Konak of which there is a great deal.
Weekend events include a range of choices from photography, alternative medicine and art to more nature inspired activities of bird-watching, fossil collecting and fishing. They’re either hosted by friendly experts, Rossi or Peter who are also both artists in different fields. As we walk and talk, it’s evident that Rossi is both knowledgeable and passionate about her local environment and its history. En route, we meet the local ‘uncle’ taking his much loved cow for a walk and whose milk we’ll have with our breakfast the next morning.
For the time being, our walk is cut short by a heavy downpour from which we luckily take shelter under a porch of an old water mill. Once owned by the Communists, this building, like many found in Bulgarian villages, has been left to disrepair, and its Viennese machinery sold off long ago. Although there is much more to see of the village, the rain is relentless so we have to postpone my explorations for another time.
Back at the house, after a fantastic hot shower, it’s time to prepare dinner. Rossi is equally enthusiastic about cooking, and, by her own admission, loves to feed people so be prepared to indulge on some scrumptious Bulgarian cuisine! As she organises tonight’s menu, Peter lights up the fire and I drink herb tea, our conversation moves around their family histories, Bulgarian and British customs, cultures and, food obviously 🙂
First up on the menu, Rossi cooks a risotto which is later used to stuff the leaves of lapad, a dark leafy plant found growing wild here. To tie me over until dinner, I am offered banitsa and a homemade paste on bread, both made from these leaves and both of which are delicious. Rossi talks me through each of the ingredients and I learn a lot from her flavoursome, culinary talents. For our main, we have freshwater trout from the Rhodopes, the area where Rossi is from, only this time they are wrapped in vine leaves. Topped off with a green salad and the obligatory rakia, we’re on course for a great evening of amazing food and company.
Needless to say, from the combination of rakia and an orthopedic mattress, I slept extremely well that night and was only awoken by the delightful birdsong in the morning. Despite a meandering start to the day and still being full up from dinner, breakfast emerged with another feast: two types of pancakes with a choice of mountain serene, kashaval, fig jam and bananas, all of which are washed down with fresh coffee and juice…plus some additional entertainment from Peter’s pancake flipping! With all meals, Rossi caters for both meat eaters and vegetarian, and where possible, will always use locally-sourced ingredients and produce from their garden.
I was travelling alone and stayed for just one night so made the most of Rossi and Peter’s fantastic hospitality which they were more than happy to share with me. If the clouds had been a little brighter that morning, I might have been tempted to get my book, sit in their garden and simply relax a little longer.
I leave Makak Konak with a promise of a return stay…plus a cinnamon and vanilla pancake with banana which I didn’t have room for at breakfast!
(Disclosure: I received a complimentary stay at Makak Konak in exchange for posting my honest review. All opinions are my own and reflect my personal experience.)
Want more information and pricing for Makak Konak Guest House? Take a look at their Facebook Page and if you’re in the area soon, check out their Springtime Events below: