The site

"Kotel does not burn in fire, Kotel does not get cut by sabre, in Kotel you cannot easily get in. "

This was the proud song of the elders of Kotel, which was sung as a call to arms in defence of the town for over 200 years. 

Kotel’s strategic location at a key mountain-pass determined the town’s historical fate through the centuries, making it an important crossroads for armies, trade and, more importantly, for ideas.  Almost every corner of Kotel has an interesting story to tell. As a place where ideas where exchanged, it became a fertile ground for the development of a distinctive cultural character that gave birth to some of the most notable historical figures of Bulgarian history, and is considered to be the “cradle of the Bulgarian Renaissance”. During the Ottoman rule, the town had already developed into an important center for Bulgarian culture and national consciousness, which was defined by the fight for an independent Bulgarian church and an effervescent national revival movement that eventually led to Bulgaria’s independence. 

Kotel remains a symbol of Bulgarian national identity, but nowadays it enjoys a more peaceful and idyllic existence as a pastoral town with a colourful and diverse community made up of four different ethnical groups – Bulgarians, Turkish, Roma and Karakachani / Sarakatsani. The valley where Kotel is located is nestled between beautiful mountains with an exuberant nature, a favourable climate and lush pastures that have historically favoured sheep breeding. This has been one of the main sources of livelihood for the local community, and it allowed for different drafts related to this practice to flourish in Kotel. One of these crafts for which the town is particularly famous is the weaving art of carpets. The town is well known for the quality of its carpets which are even celebrated by a local festival in the summer.

In 1894, several years after the liberation of Bulgaria from the Ottoman rule, the town suffered a severe fire that devastated almost the entire historic centre. The only intact neighbourhood – Galata – located back then in the periphery of Kotel, is nowadays an architectural reserve. This old part of town keeps the atmosphere of the Renaissance spirit and contains one of the finest examples of the Bulgarian revival style architecture.

In this neighbourhood the Kozichkovi houses are located – a traditional housing complex in the very heart of the architectural reserve. The main house is a two-story building constructed in a traditional wooden technique. The hip roof is covered with the so called “Turkish’’ ceramic tiles – widely used in the regional vernacular architecture and one of the character-defining elements of the traditional Balkan Mountain towns and villages. The housing complex is a listed monument of culture and is owned by the municipality.


The training course

The Kozichkovi houses are currently abandoned and stand in a not very satisfactory condition. Proper maintenance work on the wooden structures hasn’t been done since several years, which led to a slow degradation into its current state. The municipality aims to restore the houses to their authentic state and to convert them into a lively workshop space for local craftsmen.

During the European Heritage Training Course the Kozichkovi houses including their state of conservation had been documented in detail. The documentation dossier which has been established in result of the training course provides the basic information for emergency repairs and future conservation interventions and was the very first step on the way to revitalise the Kozichkovi houses.

The documentation process was led by architects with experience in the field of architectural documentation and heritage conservation.

The educational program included an introduction to the local context, history and culture of the town, as well as an introduction to the particularities of the vernacular architecture of Kotel through guided tours around the town. It was complemented by demonstrations of traditional crafts led by local craftsmen – such as traditional carpentry and wood barrel making. An excursion day to the nearby located village of Zheravna was a great opportunity for the participants to experience the charming atmosphere of Bulgarian vernacular architecture found in this region, and to explore the natural mountain landscape.


The training course was jointly organised by Meshtra –Traditional Knowledge and Crafts and European Heritage Volunteers, in collaboration with the University of Architecture, Civil Engineering and Geodesy Sofia.

European Heritage Volunteers