Discover Zhrebchevo: a church, a village and a lake

Maria Belcheva | Live the World

November 23, 2022

Thanks to the geographical location, in Bulgaria we experience four seasons – spring, summer, autumn, winter. Every season has its beautiful and less beautiful features. And today, I want to tell you a story about a church, a village and a lake worth discovering in Zhrebchevo, and how are (were) they all affected by the change of seasons.

The church

I would like to start with the church because it plays the most important role in this story. It was built in the second half of the 19th century and named after one of the most famous and most respected Bulgarian saints – St. Ivan of Rila. The name “Ivan” is still one of the most popular names among men in the country. It could be compared to the English “John”. The church wasnt and still isnt big or rich in ornaments and decorations, but it has one very interesting and distinguished characteristic – it is the only building in the village, left almost intact!

Photo © credits to

The village and the lake

In order to tell you the rest of the story, I need to go back a little bit in time. The settlements in the area date back to the 15th century. There are also Roman ruins left from the time when this territory was part of the Roman empire. Then, in 1965, the government decided to build an artificial lake in this area. The people who lived in the Zhrebchevo village, as well as in two more neighboring ones, were ordered to move. They tried to fight the governmental decision, but in the end, they had no choice but to leave their homes and find a new place to live.

Photo © credits to Hadji
Photo © credits to

And the lake was built. As the church was built on a hill, it did not completely sink under the water. It was left unattended, but surprisingly, its walls withstood the forces of nature in time. Now, almost all of the church is underwater for 10 months every year, as the dam lake is in its full size. But during the remaining two months the waters recede and the church reappears in its (almost) full beauty. Weddings and other ceremonies are held here, people come and light candles, bring flowers, or just come to honor the forces of seasons and the amazing way they work. For the more adventurous, one could go kayaking in the dam lake, or just camp in the area as long as the weather allows it.

Discovering Zhrebchevo and the story behind it is like a journey to a completely undiscovered place in nature. Every time one visits this place, they feel overwhelmed by the power that nature has over us and becomes more aware of their role in this process. The church is only remarkable because of the role nature plays in its existence and preservation. The lake is a dream for adventure lovers – there is something mystical and exciting about a group of settlements under your feet. It is just like the myth about Atlantis, with the difference that no one really knows where the remains of the legendary civilization lay. So, go there and explore this magical place by yourself!

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