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Yagodina, Bulgaria

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Yagodina, with its 420 inhabitants, is part of the municipality Borino and is located some 1,200 m above sea level in the Western Rhodope Mountains, a lime stone mountain chain with a height up to 2,200 m. In the past, Yogodina was barely reachable. There were only agricultural and swamp roads to both Bulgaria in the North and Greece in the South. Only in the 1940s, a road was blasted into the narrow canyons.

Despite the height, fruit, vegetables and berries can be grown thanks due to the favorable climate. There is also traditional sheep and cattle farming with own milk, cheese, meat and wool production. At the end of the collectivized agriculture in 1989 this holistic economic manner was pursued again increasingly – initially only for self-sufficiency, but since Bulgaria‘s accession to the European Union in 2007 also for the market. Thus there are even agrarian beginners who sell their products to the growing number of tourists.

The location, previously considered impractical, has become a chance over the last decades: the potential of the landscape was consequently made available for tourism. First self-sustaining value chains were established. Some programs by the CAP (Common Agricultural Policy of the EU) also served as triggers. Thus there is a high number of intercommunal initiatives, that concentrate on the creation and expansion of hiking and adventure tourism as well as social, educational and infrastructural subjects. Yagodina is part of eight of these initiatives, often with great creative influence. The spectrum of tasks includes social assistance for the elderly, single or handicapped people, education facilities, the renewal of technological infrastructure and the expansion of touristic highlights (e. g.: the development of a dripstone cave, construction of observation decks, cycling and hiking paths). Many activities are part of the Leader-program, which allows the involvement of local decision makers.

Initiatives implemented in Yagodina are successful: the number of overnight stays is rising, the existing accommodations are well booked, new hotels and restaurants are almost finished. Additionally, all-terrain taxis have been installed, that take guests to the hardly reachable attractions. A great focus lies on year-around tourism, which the climate definitely allows. Another major attraction for both the village community and tourists are the well-maintained traditions and folklore. Especially important is the regionally typical cuisine.

The very young village renewal in Yagodina is promising and cross-linked. A remarkable improvement of the economic potential and the quality of life was already achieved. The creational work in the field of tourism as well as the high awareness for the potential of the landscape and the intensive interregional connections of the village are exemplary.

Therefore, Yagodina is awarded a European Village Renewal Award for special achievements in individual fields of village development.