VIBRANT COMMUNITIES http://vagabond.bg/index.php/ en WESTERN RHODOPE WONDERS http://vagabond.bg/index.php/western-rhodope-wonders-3488 <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">WESTERN RHODOPE WONDERS</span> <div class="field field--name-field-author-name field--type-string field--label-hidden field__item">by Dimana Trankova; photography by Anthony Georgieff</div> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><a title="View user profile." href="/index.php/user/251" lang="" about="/index.php/user/251" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="" class="username">DimanaT</a></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">Wed, 07/27/2022 - 15:42</span> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-field-subtitle field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field__item"><h3>Land of caves, gorges and plenty adrenaline rush</h3> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-image field--type-image field--label-hidden field__items"> <div class="images-container clearfix"> <div class="image-preview clearfix"> <div class="image-wrapper clearfix"> <div class="field__item"> <div class="overlay-container"> <span class="overlay overlay--colored"> <span class="overlay-inner"> <span class="overlay-icon overlay-icon--button overlay-icon--white overlay-animated overlay-fade-top"> <i class="fa fa-plus"></i> </span> </span> <a class="overlay-target-link image-popup" href="/index.php/sites/default/files/2022-07/gorge%20bulgaria%20mystic.jpg"></a> </span> <img loading="lazy" src="/sites/default/files/2022-07/gorge%20bulgaria%20mystic.jpg" width="1000" height="667" alt="gorge bulgaria mystic" title="gorge bulgaria mystic" typeof="foaf:Image" /> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><p>Bulgaria's most stunning caves and gorges, along with thick forests and sites to discover and explore: the Western Rhodope is one of the best places in Bulgaria for a summer escape for both dedicated hikers and chance travellers.</p> <p>In the Western Rhodope, the picturesque is often just a step away from the sublime and you will often have the feeling that you have ventured into the realm of some powerful and not always benevolent spirits. The landscape was created in the aeons when some of the Earth's oldest rocks were being formed, long before the emergence of complex organisms, between 2.5 billion and 540 million years ago. With time, these morphed and shifted shape under the immense pressure of tectonic movements, volcanic explosions, the advance and regress of prehistoric seas, and, finally, the subtle but never ending power of rain, sun, wind and rivers carving the ancient marbles into the geological phenomena that we see today.</p> <p><img alt="Yagodina Gorge" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" id="" src="/sites/default/files/issues/190/western%20rhodope%20wonders/gorge%20bulgaria%20night.jpg" title="Yagodina Gorge" /></p> <p class="text-align-center"><em>Yagodina Gorge</em></p> <p>Trigrad and Yagodina, two villages by the border with Greece, are where the most impressive Western Rhodope geological formations are located. The winding roads in the area take you to white water gushing between steep rocks and gigantic ferns and burdock. Twisted trees and lush geraniums hang from crevices. The gorges are so narrow that direct sunlight is a rarity. It looks like another world, the real-life version of a very grim Grimm tale.</p> <p><img alt="mountain gorge" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" id="" src="/sites/default/files/issues/190/western%20rhodope%20wonders/gorge%20bulgaria%20rhodope%20mountains.jpg" title="mountain gorge" /></p> <p>The menacing beauty of the area has probably impressed humans since they settled there, supposedly around the 4th millennium BC. Making up legends and myths to explain the wild nature comes naturally and continues to this day, to attract more tourists. The best known is the tale that Orpheus descended into hell through the aptly named Devil's Throat cave.</p> <p><img alt="Devil's Throat opening" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" id="" src="/sites/default/files/issues/190/western%20rhodope%20wonders/devil%20throat%20cave%20opening.jpg" title="Devil's Throat opening" /></p> <p class="text-align-center"><em>The entrance of Devil’s Throat Cave...</em></p> <p>The name of the Devil's Throat is also recent, inspired by the supposed resemblance of the cave's opening to Satan's mouth. Its original name, Klokotnitsa, was onomatopoetic, reflecting the rumble of the Trigradska river that flows into the cave and then falls into its abyss.</p> <p><img alt="Devil’s Throat Cave waterfall" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" id="" src="/sites/default/files/issues/190/western%20rhodope%20wonders/devil%20throat%20cave%20waterfall.jpg" title="Devil’s Throat Cave waterfall" /></p> <p class="text-align-center"><em>... and its underground waterfall</em></p> <p>The Devil's Throat is not a cave that you visit if you are after stalactites and stalagmites. You go there to experience the feeling of being deep under the earth's surface, where the 42-metre underground waterfall booms in a huge cavern and fills it with thunder and thrill. When it hits hard ground, Trigradska river disappears into another hole, to resurface miles away. According to another local myth, everything that has fallen in its waters is doomed to disappear forever in its mysterious, infernal labyrinth – from animals and humans to whole timber logs. A humble plaque by the cave entrance, dedicated to two spelunkers who drowned there, shows that this myth is not without justification.</p> <p><img alt="Devil’s Throat Cave" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" id="" src="/sites/default/files/issues/190/western%20rhodope%20wonders/devil%20throat%20cave.jpg" title="Devil’s Throat Cave" /></p> <p class="text-align-center"><em>The Devil's Throat Cave</em></p> <p>Visiting the Devil's Throat is not for the faint hearted. You enter the cave through an artificial opening, but your only way out is via a narrow metal staircase that climbs besides the waterfall.</p> <p>If the Devil's Throat is thrilling, Haramiyska Cave is in a league of its own. Located on the opposite bank of the gorge, it is accessible only with caving and climbing equipment and with special guides. To reach the entrance, you have to climb a 20-metre rock wall, and once inside, you need to sneak through some narrow cave tunnels. Then you descend into the dark abyss of a 43-metre high cave hall illuminated solely by an opening far, far above. Prehistoric people were aware of the cave, and used to camp by its entrance.</p> <p><img alt="Yagodinska Cave" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" id="" src="/sites/default/files/issues/190/western%20rhodope%20wonders/yagodina%20cave.jpg" title="Yagodinska Cave" /></p> <p class="text-align-center"><em>The Yagodinska Cave</em></p> <p>Located in the gorge of Buinovska River, the Yagodinska Cave is much tamer. It is all you need if you crave stalagmites and stalactites, and is advertised as Bulgaria's most beautiful cave. It is 10 kms long and spreads over three levels, but visitors are taken on a guided tour that covers only 1,100 metres on the lowest level. The path leads you by stalagmites big and small, rock curtains and cave pearls. Here and there the rock is covered in spots that spelunkers have dubbed leopard skin. The most spectacular rocks have their own, rather imaginative, names like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the Virgin Mary and Baby Jesus, Father Christmas and so on and so forth. The cave is also a place for some eccentric traditions, like celebrating New Year inside (the spelunkers leave the festive tree for the whole year in the cave) and getting married.</p> <p>With its caves and narrow gorges, this part of the Western Rhodope is all about staying underground and far from the direct sunlight. But there are places where you can get a higher vantage point.</p> <p>The Eagle's Eye viewing platform, near Yagodina, requires litle effort and some money – to visit it, you have to rent a 4WD and a guide from the village. They will take you to the cliff edge from whence you can watch the vista of the Rhodope plus parts of the Pirin and the Rila. </p> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-disclaimers field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--entity-reference-target-type-block-content clearfix field__item"> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><hr class="uk-divider-icon" /><p><a href="https://us4bg.org/?hl=en" title="AMERICA FOR BULGARIA FOUNDATION" target="_blank"><img alt="us4bg-logo-reversal.png" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" src="/sites/default/files/banners/AFB_LOGO.jpg" width="30%" class="align-left" /></a><strong>Vibrant Communities: Spotlight on Bulgaria's Living Heritage is a series of articles, initiated by Vagabond Magazine, with the generous support of the <a href="http://www.us4bg.org/?hl=en">America for Bulgaria Foundation</a>, that aims to provide details and background of places, cultural entities, events, personalities and facts of life that are sometimes difficult to understand for the outsider in the Balkans. The ultimate aim is the preservation of Bulgaria's cultural heritage – including but not limited to archaeological, cultural and ethnic diversity. The statements and opinionsexpressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the America for Bulgaria Foundation and its partners</strong></p><hr class="uk-divider-icon" /></div> </div> <a href="/index.php/archive/issue-190" hreflang="en">Issue 190</a> <a href="/index.php/taxonomy/term/221" hreflang="en">America for Bulgaria Foundation</a> <a href="/index.php/taxonomy/term/229" hreflang="en">The Rhodope</a> <a href="/index.php/taxonomy/term/248" hreflang="en">Nature</a> <div class="field field--name-field-mt-post-category field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--entity-reference-target-type-taxonomy-term clearfix field__items"> <div class="field__item"><a href="/index.php/travel/vibrant-communities" hreflang="en">VIBRANT COMMUNITIES</a></div> </div> <section class="field field--name-comment field--type-comment field--label-above comment-wrapper"> <h2 class="title comment-form__title">Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=3488&amp;2=comment&amp;3=comment" token="ZzZx87kkBRAtXMFuampqSzWCRxgszHoHDofuwneOv2g"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Wed, 27 Jul 2022 12:42:34 +0000 DimanaT 3488 at http://vagabond.bg http://vagabond.bg/index.php/western-rhodope-wonders-3488#comments FAIRYTALE CHURCH http://vagabond.bg/index.php/fairytale-church-3483 <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">FAIRYTALE CHURCH</span> <div class="field field--name-field-author-name field--type-string field--label-hidden field__item">by Dimana Trankova; photography by Anthony Georgieff</div> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><a title="View user profile." href="/index.php/user/251" lang="" about="/index.php/user/251" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="" class="username">DimanaT</a></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">Wed, 07/27/2022 - 14:42</span> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-field-subtitle field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field__item"><h3>Russian Orthodox temple near Shipka honours fallen in 1877-1878 Russo-Turkish War</h3> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-image field--type-image field--label-hidden field__items"> <div class="images-container clearfix"> <div class="image-preview clearfix"> <div class="image-wrapper clearfix"> <div class="field__item"> <div class="overlay-container"> <span class="overlay overlay--colored"> <span class="overlay-inner"> <span class="overlay-icon overlay-icon--button overlay-icon--white overlay-animated overlay-fade-top"> <i class="fa fa-plus"></i> </span> </span> <a class="overlay-target-link image-popup" href="/index.php/sites/default/files/2022-07/russian%20church%20bulgaria.jpg"></a> </span> <img loading="lazy" src="/sites/default/files/2022-07/russian%20church%20bulgaria.jpg" width="1000" height="667" alt="russian church bulgaria" title="russian church bulgaria" typeof="foaf:Image" /> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><p>When travelling near Kazanlak in the Valley of Roses (also known as the Valley of Thracian Kings), your attention will be drawn to three monuments on the slopes of the Stara Planina mountain range. The first is the silhouette of the crumbling concrete "flying saucer" of the Communist Party Buzludzha House. The second is the bulwark-ish monument to the 1877-1878 defenders of the Shipka Pass. The third is the golden domes of a Russian-style church that gleam amid the forest above the town of Shipka.</p> <p>The church is a mesmerising sight with its onion-shaped domes reflecting the low sun. Its colourful ornamentation, bright arches, and green-tiled dragon-scales-like roofs make you think it belongs in a fairytale. Tall trees cast deep shade in the romantic park around it, lending an air of quiet contemplation and mystique.</p> <p>The bulky Shipka Pass monument and the romantic Shipka church are related. Both are dedicated to those who died defending the Shipka Pass, a crucial battle in the Russo-Turkish war that led to the restoration of the Bulgarian state after five centuries of Ottoman domination. Between August 1877 and January 1878, Russian forces and Bulgarian volunteers fought off, often against almost overwhelming odds, the attacking Ottoman army. Later, their sacrifice and bravery became a symbol of national consciousness and pride in Bulgaria.</p> <p><img alt="russian church bulgaria" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" id="" src="/sites/default/files/issues/190/fairytale%20church/russian%20church%20bulgaria%20interior.jpg" title="" /></p> <p class="text-align-center"><em>The church's architecture, interior and decoration are in the finest tradition of the so-called Russian Revival style</em></p> <p>The gold-domed church, along with a monastery, was built to honour the memory and to house the remains of Russian soldiers who died in the 1877-1878 war. Construction was funded by donations and was initiated by the Russian diplomat, Count Nikolay Ignatieff, who was instrumental in the 1877-1878 events, and the mother of the Russian Gen Mikhail Skobelev, whose bravery in the war made him a hero to Bulgarians. The same man, significantly, commands a much more sinister gable in Central Asia as he was responsible for the Khiva Massacre, in today's Uzbekistan.</p> <p>Construction of the Nativity church at Shipka started in 1885 and ended in 1902. Russian builders designed it in the distinctive style of 19th century Russian clerical architecture, a romantic concoction of the tradition of older wooden churches and the ambition of the empire, demonstrated by its rich ornamentation, gilt domes and a 53-metre spire with bells whose combined weight exceed 45 tonnes. The underground level is more sombre, as it is a crypt for the remains of about 9,000 Russian and Bulgarian soldiers.</p> <p>The Shipka church was created to be a place of commemoration and quiet contemplation, but also act as propaganda for Russia's role as the liberator of the Bulgarians. When the USSR replaced the old empire the church became the focus of... a property dispute. In 1934, Stalin transferred ownership of the site to Bulgaria, on one condition: that White Russian emigres could never act as custodians.</p> <p><img alt="russian church bulgaria" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" id="" src="/sites/default/files/issues/190/fairytale%20church/russian%20church%20bulgaria%20dome.jpg" title="" /></p> <p>The Russian church is now the property of the Bulgarian East-Orthodox Church. It is one of several former Russian churches in Bulgaria the most famous being the Russian church in central Sofia. </p> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-disclaimers field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--entity-reference-target-type-block-content clearfix field__item"> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><hr class="uk-divider-icon" /><p><a href="https://us4bg.org/?hl=en" title="AMERICA FOR BULGARIA FOUNDATION" target="_blank"><img alt="us4bg-logo-reversal.png" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" src="/sites/default/files/banners/AFB_LOGO.jpg" width="30%" class="align-left" /></a><strong>Vibrant Communities: Spotlight on Bulgaria's Living Heritage is a series of articles, initiated by Vagabond Magazine, with the generous support of the <a href="http://www.us4bg.org/?hl=en">America for Bulgaria Foundation</a>, that aims to provide details and background of places, cultural entities, events, personalities and facts of life that are sometimes difficult to understand for the outsider in the Balkans. The ultimate aim is the preservation of Bulgaria's cultural heritage – including but not limited to archaeological, cultural and ethnic diversity. The statements and opinionsexpressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the America for Bulgaria Foundation and its partners</strong></p><hr class="uk-divider-icon" /></div> </div> <a href="/index.php/archive/issue-190" hreflang="en">Issue 190</a> <a href="/index.php/taxonomy/term/221" hreflang="en">America for Bulgaria Foundation</a> <a href="/index.php/taxonomy/term/249" hreflang="en">The Stara Planina</a> <a href="/index.php/taxonomy/term/230" hreflang="en">Religions in Bulgaria</a> <div class="field field--name-field-mt-post-category field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--entity-reference-target-type-taxonomy-term clearfix field__items"> <div class="field__item"><a href="/index.php/travel/vibrant-communities" hreflang="en">VIBRANT COMMUNITIES</a></div> </div> <section class="field field--name-comment field--type-comment field--label-above comment-wrapper"> <h2 class="title comment-form__title">Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=3483&amp;2=comment&amp;3=comment" token="lQvo8eqVKl5xo7yQqCRvpUGeoOPGqBRc1P6miz1TOCA"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Wed, 27 Jul 2022 11:42:45 +0000 DimanaT 3483 at http://vagabond.bg http://vagabond.bg/index.php/fairytale-church-3483#comments WHAT HAPPENED AT PETROVA NIVA? http://vagabond.bg/index.php/what-happened-petrova-niva-3481 <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">WHAT HAPPENED AT PETROVA NIVA?</span> <div class="field field--name-field-author-name field--type-string field--label-hidden field__item">by Dimana Trankova; photography by Anthony Georgieff</div> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><a title="View user profile." href="/index.php/user/251" lang="" about="/index.php/user/251" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="" class="username">DimanaT</a></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">Wed, 07/27/2022 - 13:42</span> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-field-subtitle field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field__item"><h3>Historical site in the Strandzha attracts crowds in late summer</h3> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-image field--type-image field--label-hidden field__items"> <div class="images-container clearfix"> <div class="image-preview clearfix"> <div class="image-wrapper clearfix"> <div class="field__item"> <div class="overlay-container"> <span class="overlay overlay--colored"> <span class="overlay-inner"> <span class="overlay-icon overlay-icon--button overlay-icon--white overlay-animated overlay-fade-top"> <i class="fa fa-plus"></i> </span> </span> <a class="overlay-target-link image-popup" href="/index.php/sites/default/files/2022-07/petrova%20niva%20monument.jpg"></a> </span> <img loading="lazy" src="/sites/default/files/2022-07/petrova%20niva%20monument.jpg" width="1000" height="667" alt="The monument at Petrova Niva area is the focal point of the August commemorations of the 1903 uprising" title="The monument at Petrova Niva area is the focal point of the August commemorations of the 1903 uprising" typeof="foaf:Image" /> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field uk-text-bold uk-margin-small-top uk-margin-medium-bottom field--name-field-image-credits field--type-string field--label-hidden field__item">The monument at Petrova Niva area is the focal point of the August commemorations of the 1903 uprising</div> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><p>Men dressed in early 20th century military uniforms, patriotic songs and speeches, lots of banners and grilled meat stalls: if you crave attending a mass event after the end of the Covid-19 travel restrictions, consider visiting Petrova Niva in the third weekend of August.</p> <p>Marked with a sombre stone monument at a picturesque bend of the Veleka river, Petrova Niva is connected to a heroic and traumatic event in Bulgarian history, the St Elijah-Transfiguration Uprising.</p> <p>To understand what the St Elijah-Transfiguration Uprising of 1903 was about one needs a more general look at the wider Balkans context at the end of the 19th century.</p> <p>The 1877-1878 Russo-Turkish War resulted in a part of the Bulgarian lands being liberated from 500 years of Ottoman domination. A new statelet appeared on the map of Europe: the Principality of Bulgaria. Its boundaries were roughly today's northern Bulgaria, including the Plain of Sofia. However, the remainder of the territories inhabited by ethnic Bulgarians remained subordinate to the High Porte. This was the autonomous province of Eastern Roumelia – roughly today's southern Bulgaria centred on Plovdiv. Macedonia, Aegean and Eastern Thrace, large parts of the Rhodope and the Strandzha mountains remained within the Ottoman Empire. In 1885 the Principality of Bulgaria and Eastern Rumelia united without a war.</p> <p><img alt="The area teems with greenery and wildlife" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" id="" src="/sites/default/files/issues/190/what%20happened%20at%20petrova%20niva/wildlife%20strandzha.jpg" title="" /></p> <p class="text-align-center"><em>The area teems with greenery and wildlife</em></p> <p>The unification of the two signalled to all those Bulgarians outside of Bulgaria proper that the new state would continue to expand. In 1893 in Salonika, or today's Thessaloniki in Greece, where a significant number of ethnic Bulgarians lived, an organisation calling itself VMORO, or Internal Macedonian-Adrianopolitan Revolutionary Organisation, was set up. Its purpose was to engage in combat with the Ottomans, liberate Macedonia and Eastern Thrace, and join Bulgaria.</p> <p>Ten years later the repercussions in the wake of a failed uprising in Gorna Dzhumaya, today's Blagoevgrad, ignited the ethnic Bulgarians in Macedonia and Eastern Thrace. At the beginning of 1903 the VMORO decided to start an uprising on 20 July, or 2 August in the Gregorian calendar: the high day of St Elijah. At the end of June 1903 VMORO's activists from the area of Adrianople, today's Edirne in Turkey, met in the Strandzha and decided to start their part of the uprising on the high day of the Transfiguration: 6 August, or 19 August in the Gregorian calendar. Hence the St Elijah-Transfiguration name.</p> <p>Importantly, the meeting in the Strandzha occurred at Petrova Niva.</p> <p>In the course of about 20 days the rebels from the Strandzha gained the upper hand. They declared a Strandzha republic, spanning from Malko Tarnovo to Tsarevo.</p> <p><img alt="A battle in the St Elijah-Transfiguration Uprising of 1903 took place in Brashlyan Village" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" id="" src="/sites/default/files/issues/190/what%20happened%20at%20petrova%20niva/traditional%20house%20strandzha%20brashlyan.jpg" title="" /></p> <p class="text-align-center"><em>A battle in the St Elijah-Transfiguration Uprising of 1903 took place in Brashlyan Village</em></p> <p>It did not take long for the Ottomans to return with a vengeance. The rebels were heavily outnumbered by Ottoman forces. They were defeated by the autumn of 1903. Dozens of villages were torched, hundreds of houses were destroyed and thousands of people lost their lives. About 30,000 refugees arrived in Bulgaria.</p> <p>From today's standpoint the St Elijah-Transfiguration Uprising started too early, was not well-conceived and failed to inspire a massive turnout. Yet the collective memory of the failed uprising continues to live on in the Strandzha and is an important part of the local identity. There is a song, which starts with the words "A clear moon is now rising..." It describes the last battle of a few rebels besieged near the village of Brashlyan. It is now the self-styled anthem of the Strandzha. Ironically, the melody had been borrowed from a popular Ottoman song which was in fact... a love song.</p> <p>Petrova Niva with its monument to the St Elijah-Transfiguration Uprising of 1903 has been a place for veneration for generations. The monument was erected in 1953.</p> <p><img alt="When travelling to Petrova Niva, you will first encounter a stunning meander of the Veleka River" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" id="" src="/sites/default/files/issues/190/what%20happened%20at%20petrova%20niva/veleka%20river%20bend.jpg" title="" /></p> <p class="text-align-center"><em>When travelling to Petrova Niva, you will first encounter a stunning meander of the Veleka River</em></p> <p>The August commemorations at Petrova Niva usually attract huge crowds. The Bulgarian President often attends. The spirit is unmistakably patriotic and with recent events concerning North Macedonia's EU membership, can even turn revisionist. However, the event is a good time to mingle with Bulgarians you will hardly meet at the cafés and bars in Sofia and Plovdiv.</p> <p>If you are not into local politics or history, Petrova Niva deserves a visit anytime in the year for its location in a pristine corner of the Strandzha, in a maze of quiet meadows, thick oak forests and Veleka's beautiful meanders. </p> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-disclaimers field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--entity-reference-target-type-block-content clearfix field__item"> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><hr class="uk-divider-icon" /><p><a href="https://us4bg.org/?hl=en" title="AMERICA FOR BULGARIA FOUNDATION" target="_blank"><img alt="us4bg-logo-reversal.png" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" src="/sites/default/files/banners/AFB_LOGO.jpg" width="30%" class="align-left" /></a><strong>Vibrant Communities: Spotlight on Bulgaria's Living Heritage is a series of articles, initiated by Vagabond Magazine, with the generous support of the <a href="http://www.us4bg.org/?hl=en">America for Bulgaria Foundation</a>, that aims to provide details and background of places, cultural entities, events, personalities and facts of life that are sometimes difficult to understand for the outsider in the Balkans. The ultimate aim is the preservation of Bulgaria's cultural heritage – including but not limited to archaeological, cultural and ethnic diversity. The statements and opinionsexpressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the America for Bulgaria Foundation and its partners</strong></p><hr class="uk-divider-icon" /></div> </div> <a href="/index.php/archive/issue-190" hreflang="en">Issue 190</a> <a href="/index.php/taxonomy/term/221" hreflang="en">America for Bulgaria Foundation</a> <a href="/index.php/taxonomy/term/251" hreflang="en">The Strandzha</a> <a href="/index.php/taxonomy/term/280" hreflang="en">Bulgarian history</a> <a href="/index.php/taxonomy/term/302" hreflang="en">20th century Bulgaria</a> <div class="field field--name-field-mt-post-category field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--entity-reference-target-type-taxonomy-term clearfix field__items"> <div class="field__item"><a href="/index.php/travel/vibrant-communities" hreflang="en">VIBRANT COMMUNITIES</a></div> </div> <section class="field field--name-comment field--type-comment field--label-above comment-wrapper"> <h2 class="title comment-form__title">Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=3481&amp;2=comment&amp;3=comment" token="LwFsYhiqDpPeBfNtjxpSMEB7YUhlYZY_r4GvRTgVYdk"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Wed, 27 Jul 2022 10:42:56 +0000 DimanaT 3481 at http://vagabond.bg http://vagabond.bg/index.php/what-happened-petrova-niva-3481#comments DISCOVERING STRANDZHA'S COAST http://vagabond.bg/index.php/discovering-strandzhas-coast-3458 <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">DISCOVERING STRANDZHA&#039;S COAST</span> <div class="field field--name-field-author-name field--type-string field--label-hidden field__item">by Dimana Trankova; photography by Anthony Georgieff</div> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><a title="View user profile." href="/index.php/user/251" lang="" about="/index.php/user/251" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="" class="username">DimanaT</a></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">Wed, 06/29/2022 - 12:41</span> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-field-subtitle field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field__item"><h3>Wandering between woods, Black Sea beaches</h3> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-image field--type-image field--label-hidden field__items"> <div class="images-container clearfix"> <div class="image-preview clearfix"> <div class="image-wrapper clearfix"> <div class="field__item"> <div class="overlay-container"> <span class="overlay overlay--colored"> <span class="overlay-inner"> <span class="overlay-icon overlay-icon--button overlay-icon--white overlay-animated overlay-fade-top"> <i class="fa fa-plus"></i> </span> </span> <a class="overlay-target-link image-popup" href="/index.php/sites/default/files/2022-06/veleka%20river.jpg"></a> </span> <img loading="lazy" src="/sites/default/files/2022-06/veleka%20river.jpg" width="1000" height="707" alt="veleka river" title="veleka river" typeof="foaf:Image" /> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field uk-text-bold uk-margin-small-top uk-margin-medium-bottom field--name-field-image-credits field--type-string field--label-hidden field__item">The mouth of the Veleka River by Sinemorets forms one of the most remarkable spits at the Bulgarian Black Sea coast</div> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><p>The Strandzha mountains coast, roughly everything along the Black Sea south of Burgas, is about 100 km long as the crow flies. Yet it is very varied. You will discover smaller and bigger bays, old towns and purpose-built modern resorts, a campsite or two, a number of picturesque rivers, inlets and... islands. In fact all of Bulgaria's islands are along the Strandzha coast. You will probably be underwhelmed, however. There are just four of them, not counting the St Kirik Isle north of Sozopol which was appended to the mainland, in the 20th century, with a quay.</p> <p>The northernmost isle is St Anastasiya, in the Bay of Burgas. On an area of 0.22 sq km, St Anastasia has accumulated more history than its humble size suggests. It was inhabited at least from the 4th-6th century AD, and in the Middle Ages a monastery was built on it. It survived well into the 20th century.</p> <p><img alt="storks bulgaria" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" id="" src="/sites/default/files/issues/189/discovering%20strandzha%20coast/storks%20bulgaria.jpg" title="storks bulgaria" /></p> <p class="text-align-center"><em>In late summer, Strandzha's skies fill with storks that gather in large flocks before their journey to Africa</em></p> <p>Then something unexpected happened. In 1923, the government closed the monastery and turned the island into a political prison for members of the persecuted Agrarian Party and the Bulgarian Communist Party. In 1925, 43 Communist inmates made a daring escape. The fugitives managed to reach the Soviet Union but soon afterwards most of them fell victim to the Stalinist purges.</p> <p>Their escape proved inspirational for the Communist government after 1944. St Anastasia was renamed Bolshevik and was repurposed for recreational activities. In the 1960s-1980s, the island became a favourite haunt for both tourists and the Burgas bohemia, who loved the rugged terrain, the marvellous vistas of Burgas Bay, the cheap restaurant and the feeling of a getaway from the over-regulated life on the mainland. The island had become a place to escape to, not to escape from.</p> <p>With the democratisation after 1989, the island's old name was restored. Due to financial issues, regular transportation was terminated and the restaurant was closed. For years, the only people on St Anastasia were the keepers of the lighthouse, which was first built in 1888, and in 1914 was replaced with the structure still in operation today.</p> <p><img alt="St Anastasiya Island" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" id="" src="/sites/default/files/issues/189/discovering%20strandzha%20coast/black%20sea%20island%20burgas.jpg" title="St Anastasiya Island" /></p> <p class="text-align-center"><em>St Anastasiya Island</em></p> <p>The end of St Anastasia's desolation came in 2014, when the Burgas City Council brought back the island onto the local tourist map complete with infrastructure, a museum, a hotel and a restaurant.</p> <p>With its area of 0.66 sq km, St Ivan near Sozopol is Bulgaria's largest sea island. You might have heard its name already, as in 2010 news broke that the "relics" of St John the Baptist had been discovered there. The "holy bones" were unearthed by archaeologists excavating the large monastic compound which was established on the island in the 5th-6th century, and lasted until 1629.</p> <p>The island has been deserted ever since, if you do not count the Russian military hospital which was operational during the 1828-1829 Russo-Turkish war.</p> <p><img alt="medieval ruins island" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" id="" src="/sites/default/files/issues/189/discovering%20strandzha%20coast/medieval%20ruins%20bulgaria.jpg" title="medieval ruins island" /></p> <p class="text-align-center"><em>The humble remains of an early Christian basilica on St Ivan Isle were the supposed resting place of some St John the Baptist holy relics</em></p> <p>As there are no humans around, the island is a sanctuary of vibrant wildlife. It is a protected area and home to several endangered species. The most interesting are Bulgaria's largest European Herring Gull population and the country's only earth rabbit colony, since 1934. The coexistence between the gulls and the rabbits is far from harmonious. Tiny bones of bunnies eaten by the birds can be seen scattered all over the island. If you visit, try to avoid May, when seagulls nest and may become aggressive to humans.</p> <p>So close to St Ivan that until recently it was believed to be a part of it, St Petar is only 0.01 sq km in area.</p> <p>Bulgaria's smallest Black Sea island was probably born after a severe earthquake rocked the island of St Ivan. This catastrophe may have happened around the middle of the 19th century, when the name of the island appeared in historical records for the first time.</p> <p><img alt="black sea beach bulgaria" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" id="" src="/sites/default/files/issues/189/discovering%20strandzha%20coast/black%20sea%20beach%20bulgaria.jpg" title="black sea beach bulgaria" /></p> <p class="text-align-center"><em>Drivers' Beach is one of the last unspoilt beaches in Bulgaria</em></p> <p>The islet is more popularly known as Bird Island, because of its Herring Gull colony. This is also the reason for its white colour, the result of accumulated guano.</p> <p>St Toma, opposite Arkutino, in the Ropotamo Reserve, is the habitat of other rare species. The islet with an area 0.01 sq km bears the name of the chapel which once stood on it, but it is more popularly known as Snake Island. A flourishing colony of grey water snakes live there. They are completely harmless, but can give you a good scare if you are swimming in the bay.</p> <p>The other peculiarity of Snake Island is the only wild-growing cacti in Bulgaria, introduced here by King Boris III in 1933. The cacti are of the Opuntia variety, and flower in June. In August and September the yellow blossoms produce edible fruits which look like plums and taste of strawberries. St Toma is a part of the Ropotamo Nature Reserve.</p> <p><img alt="island black sea" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" id="" src="/sites/default/files/issues/189/discovering%20strandzha%20coast/black%20sea%20island%20sozopol%20bulgaria.jpg" title="island black sea" /></p> <p class="text-align-center"><em>St Kirik Isle has been connected with a pier to Sozopol for almost a century</em></p> <p>For most visitors the Ropotamo nature reserve, which was founded in 1940, is the shortest cut to Strandzha's raw nature. In it, you can experience both flora and fauna rarely seen elsewhere in Bulgaria, including lianas, water lilies and even sea eagles. St Toma Isle is a small part of the nature reserve. It includes the densely forested lower basin of the River Ropotamo; several nearby beaches; a number of swamps, the most famous of which, Arkutino, sports some of the Black Sea's best beaches. It also has a number of rock attractions like the Lion's Head. The greater Ropotamo reserve also includes the chunk of land north of Primorsko, including the famous Oil Cape.</p> <p>In summertime the Ropotamo nature reserve is heavily visited. The beaches of Arkutino and Stamopolou have been touristified though to a lesser extent than the ones northwards of the Ropotamo reserve.</p> <p><img alt="snake island black sea" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" id="" src="/sites/default/files/issues/189/discovering%20strandzha%20coast/snake%20island%20black%20sea.jpg" title="snake island black sea" /></p> <p class="text-align-center"><em>The Snake Island is a part of Ropotamo Nature Reserve</em></p> <p>During Communism the nature reserve was also popular. Its greatest enemy was... the top Communists themselves. At the end of the 1970s Lyudmila Zhivkova, the daughter of Communist dictator Todor Zhivkov, was minister of culture. She initiated the construction of a huge concrete housing project to give "talented children" the opportunity to meet and be creative. Zhivkova died before the compound was finished. The government still pushed construction until the fall of Communism, in 1989, put the megalomaniacal project to an indefinite hold. Its ruins continue to hover over Arkutino's fine sand dunes.</p> <p>Under Communism, the area north of Stamopolou was cut off from the outside world by a fence and heavy security. It was turned into hunting grounds for top Communists who spent their holidays at the Perla government residence at the seaside. Perla, now abandoned, still stands. It sport a small but fine beach. Its biggest woe is a badly thoughtover quay erected in the Communist-era. Its purpose was to "protect" the beach from open sea waves. What happens in actual fact is that it also keeps all sediments within the beach area. The result is... a clogged and disappearing sea.</p> <p>The opening of the Perla residence premises also allowed public access to one of Bulgaria's most fascinating sites. Begliktash, an ancient Thracian rock shrine, stuns with its heavy boulders supposedly arranged millennia ago to measure time, protect the remains of dead kings, serve as the backdrop of sacred rituals and provide spiritual energy.</p> <p><img alt="ropotamo river" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" id="" src="/sites/default/files/issues/189/discovering%20strandzha%20coast/ropotamo%20river.jpg" title="ropotamo river" /></p> <p class="text-align-center"><em>The mouth of the Ropotamo River</em></p> <p>Lovers of wild nature will feel quite at home in Ropotamo. The reserve has many paths, most of them unmarked, that lead to fine beaches and fascinating rock formations.</p> <p>One of them is Maslen Nos, or Cape Oil, a well-known sight with its emblematic lighthouse. The cape's unusual name comes from the shipwrecks that happened along the treacherous coast. At one point they were so many that the waters around it looked reflective owing to the tons of spilled olive oil from the their holds.</p> <p>Sozopol and Tsarevo, about 17 km north and 30 km south, respectively, are the largest towns on the Strandzha coast. Both are positioned on rocky promontories and claim long history, particularly Sozopol with its ancient origins and old quarter of traditional houses. In summertime Sozopol and Tsarevo are so packed with tourists that they should be avoided.</p> <p><img alt="megalithic shrine" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" id="" src="/sites/default/files/issues/189/discovering%20strandzha%20coast/megalithic%20shrine.jpg" title="megalithic shrine" /></p> <p class="text-align-center"><em>Manmade or natural? Begliktash Thracian rock shrine is a stunning place year round</em></p> <p>About 20 km south of Tsarevo two settlements defy the mass tourism squads. Ahtopol, Bulgaria's southernmost town at the Black Sea coast, appears to manage the delicate balance between being a relatively inexpensive summer holiday destination and a town that tries to preserve its atmosphere and traditions. If you visit in summertime you will instantly be immersed in the unmistakable atmosphere of middle-class Bulgarian holidaymakers having fun. It will be noisy, overpopulated and the smell of fried fish will be everywhere. Once the crowds go, however, the town retreats back into its shell. The seagulls will continue to cry, but their cries will be melancholic. The only people you are likely to meet are some fishermen who make early morning departures in their boats.</p> <p>Ahtopol was founded on a rocky peninsula, in 430 BC, as an ancient Greek colony. It was called Agathopolis, the City of Love, and this name still survives in its present form.</p> <p><img alt="church sea bulgaria" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" id="" src="/sites/default/files/issues/189/discovering%20strandzha%20coast/church%20sea%20bulgaria.jpg" title="church sea bulgaria" /></p> <p class="text-align-center"><em>Tsarevo's old church</em></p> <p>Agathopolis was never on a par with the major powers in the region, like Apollonia (Sozopol). Even in its heyday, when it minted its own coins (in Antiquity) and was the seat of a bishopric (in the Ottoman period), it always had a provincial feel. By the beginning of the 20th century it was a relatively humble but lively fishing community, mostly made up of Greeks who had lived there for generations. After the Balkan Wars of 1912-1913, the majority of them left and were replaced by Bulgarians fleeing the Ottoman Empire. In 1918, disaster struck: a fire ravaged the city, leaving almost nothing of its old houses and archaeological remains.</p> <p>Under Communism, organised tourism finally reached Ahtopol. But the town lacked the interesting architecture and the fine beaches of its neighbour, Sozopol. Moreover, it was too close to the strictly guarded border zone with Turkey. Most of the organised tourism here consisted of holiday facilities, mainly bungalows, for factory workers. The rest of the business was left to local families who would rent rooms in their houses.</p> <p>Travelling along this part of the Black Sea coast is easy now, but Ahtopol remains slightly off the beaten track, the resort of blue collar and lower middle class Bulgarians who cannot afford a holiday in more "prestigious" parts of the coast. Some of the old holiday facilities have been abandoned, and new hotels have appeared but local old ladies continue to line up at the entrance of the city, offering rooms to those arriving by bus.</p> <p><img alt="black sea beach" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" id="" src="/sites/default/files/issues/189/discovering%20strandzha%20coast/beach%20sandy%20bulgaria.jpg" title="black sea beach" /></p> <p class="text-align-center"><em>Primorsko's south beach with Perla, the residence of top Communist apparatchiks, in the distance</em></p> <p>The holiday-makers in Ahtopol are the very reason why the town remains the quiet, fishing city that is so alluring, with its unpretentious atmosphere.</p> <p>The oldest part of Ahtopol, on the rocky peninsula, has been almost unchanged for the past 40 years: a labyrinth of narrow streets, low, post-1918 houses, fig trees, cats, old ladies preparing fresh fish and men gathered in their tiny gardens remembering times past, drinking cheap rakiya or mastika.</p> <p>There are a couple of sights to add to this: the low and dark Church of the Assumption, built in 1776, and the old Greek school, situated on the edge of the wind-blown cliffs. Ahtopol's promenade is one of the most rewarding at the Bulgarian Black Sea coast. Come here for views over a bay filled with colourful fishing boats, for the lonely silhouette of the light signal on an isolated rock in the sea, and for the constant murmur of waves breaking on the cliffs of the peninsula where old Ahtopol stands.</p> <p><img alt="dramatic lighthouse" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" id="" src="/sites/default/files/issues/189/discovering%20strandzha%20coast/dramatic%20lighthouse.jpg" title="dramatic lighthouse" /></p> <p class="text-align-center"><em>For dramatic vistas, go to Ahtopol's lighthouse during storm</em></p> <p>And there is the fish. Ahtopol is the unofficial Bulgarian capital of one of the Black Sea's tastiest and most sought-after fish, palamud, or Black Sea bonito. A migrating species, schools of palamud pass by the southern chunk of the Bulgarian Black Sea coast in autumn. Ahtopol is the place with the greatest concentration of palamud, but the catch is always unpredictable.</p> <p>A few miles north of Ahtopol the small village of Varvara, which is actually inland, will provide an entirely different standpoint about life along the Black Sea.</p> <p>According to a local legend, the Varvara village got its name in Antiquity. Back then, wayward Thracians used to live on this rocky part of the Black Sea shore.</p> <p>Raids and pillage were their main sources of income, and their neighbours, from the rich Greek town of Agathopolis, were their usual victims. As a retribution for the raids, the Greeks called the Thracian settlement Varvara, the place of the Barbarians.</p> <p><img alt="iron tree bulgaria" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" id="" src="/sites/default/files/issues/189/discovering%20strandzha%20coast/iron%20tree%20bulgaria.jpg" title="iron tree bulgaria" /></p> <p class="text-align-center"><em>The Iron Tree by Varvara is not a mesmerising piece of land art, but an abandoned movie prop</em></p> <p>The story is hardly true. But even if it were, it doesn't fit the profile of modern Varvara. There is hardly more tranquil place to spend a summer vacation on the Bulgarian southern Black Sea coast.</p> <p>Varvara lacks the shortcomings of its bigger and more popular peers claiming to be seaside resorts. Here there are no crowds of partygoers from all over Europe. The number of fancy bars in Varvara is exactly two, and both of these are on the beach, far from the hotels and the houses. You will struggle to find a souvenir stall. The sidewalks are almost completely for you, and the sky is full with swarms of swallows and storks. Staying and eating in Varvara is relatively cheap and the quality is better than in the more popular seaside resorts at the Strandzha coast like Primorsko, Sozopol, Tsarevo and so on.</p> <p>Then why is Varvara so calm and affordable?</p> <p>Because of the sea. The village's only beach is small and rocky. Your other option to swim is to dive from the picturesque cliffs around. The most popular of these are the Dardanelles, named after the Dardanelles straits, and the Mekite Skali, or Soft Rocks.</p> <p><img alt="iron bridge bulgaria" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" id="" src="/sites/default/files/issues/189/discovering%20strandzha%20coast/river%20bridge%20bulgaria.jpg" title="iron bridge bulgaria" /></p> <p class="text-align-center"><em>The iron bridge over the Veleka by Sinemorets was built under Communism to serve military purposes. In case of an attack from Turkey, it could be easily blown up to thwart an invasion</em></p> <p>The first tourists to discover the quiet charm of Varvara were the artsy and alternative crowds, which arrived in the early 1980s when travelling to this region, close to Turkey, was still problematic.</p> <p>Even then, Varvara had the atmosphere of a place out of time and out of space. It is hardly a coincidence that when Bulgarian hippie celebration of the 1 July sunrise went too mainstream in the city of its origins, Varna on the North Black Sea coast, the hardcore revellers moved the event to Varvara. Their meeting point was one of the most surreal landscapes in Bulgaria; a metal tree rising on the windswept shore. The Iron Tree is actually an abandoned movie prop.</p> <p>While by the early 2000s, Varvara was mainly a place for artists, latterday hippies and everyone outside the mainstream, it gradually started to attract middle-class Bulgarians and hipsters. The feel that you are far from the crowds and that you have all the time in the world to rest is still here and three days in Varvara look like a week (in a good way).</p> <p>The last two settlements along Strandzha's coast are Sinemorets and Rezovo.</p> <p>Sinemorets is anything but picturesque – a maze of holiday properties built in the past 20 years – but its surroundings are among the finest on the Bulgarian Black Sea coast. Perched on a rocky peninsula by the mouth of the Veleka River, Sinemorets is surrounded by lush forests and probably the last unspoilt beaches in this country.</p> <p>The pristine landscape is the result of the Cold War. Under Communism, the village was in the border area with NATO-member Turkey, and access was forbidden without a special permit. This was hardly good for tourism, and the beaches of Sinemorets stayed empty.</p> <p><img alt="sand lilies" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" id="" src="/sites/default/files/issues/189/discovering%20strandzha%20coast/sand%20lilies.jpg" title="sand lilies" /></p> <p class="text-align-center"><em>Sand lilies</em></p> <p>Things changed after 1989. People were now allowed to enjoy the unspoiled nature of Sinemorets. The first to arrive, initially in small groups, were Sofia intellectuals and new-agers seeking refuge from the crowds.</p> <p>The locals, however, were eager to finally cash in on the beauties of Sinemorets. In the 2000s, construction took over Sinemorets, turning the once sleepy village into a concrete nightmare of new hotels and streets filled with construction debris. The crowds grew bigger and the intellectuals were replaced by ordinary Bulgarians and some German tourists.</p> <p>The outskirts of Sinemorets remain untouched, as they are part of the Strandzha National Park.</p> <p>The northern beach at Sinemorets is where the Veleka joins the Black Sea, forming the only fresh water protected bay in Bulgaria. The beach is extremely beautiful – the river flows from the thickly forested slopes of the Strandzha, and empties into the sea through a narrow channel at the northern end of the bay. Picturesque cliffs overlook the spot, and one of them, at the southern end of the bay, is called The Sphinx because it resembles, well, a sphinx.</p> <p>Swimming at the southern bay at Sinemorets, Butamyata, is easier and it shows. It is more developed, with lines of beach umbrellas on the sand, and a tavern booming out music, and the strong smell of fried fish.</p> <p>When you are at Butamyata, you might notice a steady stream of people climbing up and down a tiny path in the rocks. Follow them. This is the beginning of the Sinemorets-Rezovo eco path, which leads along the shore and explains, with detailed information boards, the diverse and picturesque geological phenomena sculpted by the sea waves out of volcanic eruptions that occurred about 80 million years ago.</p> <p>The crowds in the first few kilometres are not interested in the geology as most of them only take the eco path as it leads to the last undeveloped beach on the southern Bulgarian Black Sea.</p> <p><img alt="wild beaches bulgaria" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" id="" src="/sites/default/files/issues/189/discovering%20strandzha%20coast/wild%20beaches%20bulgaria.jpg" title="wild beaches bulgaria" /></p> <p class="text-align-center"><em>Silistar is the last piece of sand on the Bulgarian Black Sea coast where you can spread your beach towel</em></p> <p>Listi Beach is a long, pristine stretch of sand, protected by rising cliffs, the Strandzha forest and the fact that there is no track leading to it. Nature lovers and campers are a fixture here, staying for days in tents and, when you see the beach, you will understand why.</p> <p>Silistar Beach, the last on Bulgarian territory, is farther along the eco path, but it can also be reached by car, via the road to Rezovo. It is beautiful, but far more commercialised, with a camping site, a tavern and a forest of umbrellas taking up a good portion of the sand.</p> <p>If you love walking, there is more around Sinemorets.</p> <p>Another, and very easy, eco path starts from the northern end of the north beach and leads all the way to Ahtopol. Like the eco path to Rezovo, it incorporates beautiful scenery and more volcanic geology.</p> <p>For the more adventurous, there is the eco path upstream of the Veleka River. Follow it for the experience of wild forests, clear water and the joy of reaching the village of Brodilovo, deep in the Strandzha, on foot.</p> <p>Swimming is the last thing to do in Rezovo. The village is located at the northern end of a deep and seductive bay, but most of it is in Turkey. People visit Rezovo mostly for the opportunity to have a selfie in front of the Bulgarian and Turkish flags at the mouth of Rezovska River, defying the sings that ban taking photos of "foreign territory."</p> <p><img alt="bulgaria turkey border" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" id="" src="/sites/default/files/issues/189/discovering%20strandzha%20coast/bulgaria%20turkey%20border.jpg" title="bulgaria turkey border" /></p> <p class="text-align-center"><em>The mouth of the Rezovska forms the border with Turkey</em></p> <p>In the 1980s, Bulgaria and Turkey were on the verge of a military conflict over the mouth of the Rezovska River. The reason: the middle of the river defines the marine border between the two and the areas where the valuable turbot can be fished. To enhance the chances of their respective fishermen, both countries started to divert the course of the Rezovska by pouring tetrapods into it. When they finally stopped, the mouth of the river had changed beyond recognition, and remains so to this day.</p> <p>In the 1990s, the Bulgarian government entertained the idea of opening a border crossing point at Rezovo, but this is yet to happen. This is why, when you reach Rezovo, your journey along Strandzha's coast is over. </p> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-disclaimers field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--entity-reference-target-type-block-content clearfix field__item"> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><hr class="uk-divider-icon" /><p><a href="https://us4bg.org/?hl=en" title="AMERICA FOR BULGARIA FOUNDATION" target="_blank"><img alt="us4bg-logo-reversal.png" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" src="/sites/default/files/banners/AFB_LOGO.jpg" width="30%" class="align-left" /></a><strong>Vibrant Communities: Spotlight on Bulgaria's Living Heritage is a series of articles, initiated by Vagabond Magazine, with the generous support of the <a href="http://www.us4bg.org/?hl=en">America for Bulgaria Foundation</a>, that aims to provide details and background of places, cultural entities, events, personalities and facts of life that are sometimes difficult to understand for the outsider in the Balkans. The ultimate aim is the preservation of Bulgaria's cultural heritage – including but not limited to archaeological, cultural and ethnic diversity. The statements and opinionsexpressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the America for Bulgaria Foundation and its partners</strong></p><hr class="uk-divider-icon" /></div> </div> <a href="/index.php/archive/issue-189" hreflang="en">Issue 189</a> <a href="/index.php/taxonomy/term/221" hreflang="en">America for Bulgaria Foundation</a> <a href="/index.php/taxonomy/term/251" hreflang="en">The Strandzha</a> <a href="/index.php/taxonomy/term/248" hreflang="en">Nature</a> <a href="/index.php/taxonomy/term/254" hreflang="en">The Black Sea</a> <a href="/index.php/taxonomy/term/224" hreflang="en">Thracian heritage</a> <div class="field field--name-field-mt-post-category field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--entity-reference-target-type-taxonomy-term clearfix field__items"> <div class="field__item"><a href="/index.php/travel/vibrant-communities" hreflang="en">VIBRANT COMMUNITIES</a></div> </div> <section class="field field--name-comment field--type-comment field--label-above comment-wrapper"> <h2 class="title comment-form__title">Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=3458&amp;2=comment&amp;3=comment" token="ZaAyVN4ArV26iE64V6_-JG-o0ytyoU_D2ou1ax_YnTQ"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Wed, 29 Jun 2022 09:41:13 +0000 DimanaT 3458 at http://vagabond.bg http://vagabond.bg/index.php/discovering-strandzhas-coast-3458#comments BULGARIA'S COLD WAR PLANES http://vagabond.bg/index.php/bulgarias-cold-war-planes-3456 <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">BULGARIA&#039;S COLD WAR PLANES</span> <div class="field field--name-field-author-name field--type-string field--label-hidden field__item">by Dimana Trankova; photography by Anthony Georgieff</div> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><a title="View user profile." href="/index.php/user/251" lang="" about="/index.php/user/251" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="" class="username">DimanaT</a></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">Wed, 06/29/2022 - 12:15</span> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-field-subtitle field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field__item"><h3>Former guardians of Warsaw Pact now they rust in towns, villages</h3> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-image field--type-image field--label-hidden field__items"> <div class="images-container clearfix"> <div class="image-preview clearfix"> <div class="image-wrapper clearfix"> <div class="field__item"> <div class="overlay-container"> <span class="overlay overlay--colored"> <span class="overlay-inner"> <span class="overlay-icon overlay-icon--button overlay-icon--white overlay-animated overlay-fade-top"> <i class="fa fa-plus"></i> </span> </span> <a class="overlay-target-link image-popup" href="/index.php/sites/default/files/2022-06/soviet%20airplane%20bulgaria.jpg"></a> </span> <img loading="lazy" src="/sites/default/files/2022-06/soviet%20airplane%20bulgaria.jpg" width="1000" height="732" alt="soviet airplane bulgaria" title="soviet airplane bulgaria" typeof="foaf:Image" /> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field uk-text-bold uk-margin-small-top uk-margin-medium-bottom field--name-field-image-credits field--type-string field--label-hidden field__item">Tu-134 passenger airplane parked in a Silistra neighbourhood</div> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><p>In the spring of 2022, Bulgarian military aircraft used during the Cold War suddenly became hot news. Should Bulgaria offer its old Soviet MiG- 29s to Ukraine, or shouldn't it? The debate went beyond the usual division between "hawks" and "doves." For some, sending the MiGs would help Ukraine to defend itself against an aggressor. For many more, including the Bulgarian president, himself a former fighter pilot, such a move would leave Bulgarian airspace unprotected, as some recently purchased US F-16s were yet to arrive. Significantly, the nay-sayers reasoned, such a move would make Bulgaria "a part of a conflict" it should be "neutral" to.</p> <p>Long before the war in Ukraine, curious travellers in Bulgaria have had first-hand experience with old Soviet aircraft. Small-town Bulgaria is dotted with decommissioned military airplanes. At squares and by roads, they sometimes rust and are sometimes well maintained in silver or camouflage greens and browns. Some even have commemorative plaques.</p> <p>What are these permanently grounded planes doing here in the first place? The majority of them were installed as monuments to Bulgarian military aviation. Some were dedicated to victims in the line of duty, others owe their existence to the nostalgia of retired pilots. Some mark a place of historical importance for the Bulgarian air force – like in Svilengrad, from where the first Bulgarian military crews flew during the Siege of Edirne, in 1912. A great many of the grounded planes are there simply because some aircraft lover managed to install them there. According to a list published on bgspotters.net, there are about 250 such planes in Bulgaria. The data, however, is unofficial and may be incomplete or incorrect. By 2012, 19 of the aircraft had been broken up and sold as scrap metal, a process carried out roughly between 1998 and 2007. Many of those still standing have suffered damage at the hands of local vandals or enthusiasts collecting parts as memorabilia.</p> <p>The Ministry of Defence Air Force division maintains 63 of these aircraft. The location of 13 planes on the list is not specified, while the majority of the others are in public spaces in villages, towns and even the appropriately named Aviation Square in Sofia.</p> <p>Most of them are MiGs and L-29s. These grounded planes bear witness to Bulgaria's former role in the Warsaw Pact. Before 1944, the Bulgarian air force flew French Blériots and German Fokkers and Messerschmitts. In 1925 a Bulgarian aircraft workshop opened in Bozhuristhe, followed by a factory in Lovech, in 1943. Before they shut down, in 1955 and 1954 respectively, they had produced about 1,000 DARs, a Bulgarian-designed aircraft.</p> <p>When Bulgaria entered the Warsaw Pact its air force was transformed into Soviet MiGs, Ils, Tus and Yaks, plus East-German Lims and Czechoslovakian training L-29s. Up to 1989, the Bulgarian air force had invested in about 500 Soviet fighter aircraft and about 70 helicopters.</p> <p>When the Cold War ended, Bulgaria reduced the number of military aircraft to about 220, and in 1998-2003 10 airfields were closed. At the moment Bulgaria protects itself with Russian MiG-29 jet fighters, upgraded to NATO standards, and Su-25 and Mi-24 ground attack aircrafts. In 2019, Bulgaria commissioned eight F-16 fighter jets from the United States, and in 2022 the US Congress approved the sale of another eight. These are yet to be manufactured.</p> <p>Meanwhile, some of the old, decommissioned Communist fighter aircraft await you in Bulgarian towns and villages.</p> <p><strong>BATAK</strong></p> <p><strong>In the square by the church of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary:</strong> L-29</p> <p><img alt="soviet airplane bulgaria" class="" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" id="" src="/sites/default/files/issues/189/soviet%20airplanes%20in%20bulgaria/soviet%20fighter%20jets%20bulgaria%205.jpg" title="soviet airplane bulgaria" /></p> <p>In Batak, there is a tradition. Every generation born in the city – Bulgarians still use the military term nabor, or levy – has to do something for Batak when they reach the age of 50. Some of them have built public water fountains and others playgrounds for the children. Those born in 1949 installed... a plane in the centre. It was the idea of a retired pilot Mitko Karlyukov. It was enthusiastically supported by his nabori. The L-29 was bought and placed in the square in 1999. In 2020, the now septuagenarians repainted the plane.</p> <p><strong>Aero L-29 Delphin Specifications</strong></p> <p>Made in Czechoslovakia</p> <p><u>First flight:</u> 5 April 1959</p> <p><u>Introduction:</u> 1961</p> <p><u>Produced:</u> 1963-1974</p> <p><u>Number built:</u> 3,500</p> <p><u>Crew:</u> two students plus instructor</p> <p><u>Length:</u> 10.81 m</p> <p><u>Wingspan</u>: 10.29 m</p> <p><u>Height:</u> 3.13 m</p> <p><u>Wing area:</u> 19.8 sq.m</p> <p><u>Empty weight:</u> 2,280 kg</p> <p><u>Loaded weight:</u> 3,280 kg</p> <p><u>Maximum speed:</u> 655 km/h</p> <p><u>Range:</u> 894 km</p> <p><u>Service ceiling:</u> 11,000 m</p> <p><u>Rate of climb:</u> 14 m/s</p> <p><u>Armament:</u> 200 kg of guns, bombs, rockets, missiles</p> <p><strong>BARDARSKI GERAN</strong></p> <p><img alt="soviet airplane bulgaria" class="" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" id="" src="/sites/default/files/issues/189/soviet%20airplanes%20in%20bulgaria/soviet%20fighter%20jets%20bulgaria%206.jpg" title="soviet airplane bulgaria" /></p> <p><strong>On the square:</strong> MiG-17 fighter aircraft</p> <p><strong>In the kindergarten:</strong> L-29 jet trainer aircraft</p> <p>The MiG in the square is a memorial to a Soviet crew who crashed in the area, in 1944. It was restored in 2007. The L-29 is now used as a playground in spite of reports that its deteriorating condition makes it unsafe.</p> <p><strong>MiG-17F Fighter Specifications</strong></p> <p>Made in the USSR</p> <p><u>First flight:</u> 14 January 1950</p> <p><u>Introduction: </u>1952</p> <p><u>Number built:</u> 10,603</p> <p><u>First fight:</u> 1958, Straits of Taiwan</p> <p><u>Crew:</u> 1</p> <p><u>Length:</u> 11.26 m</p> <p><u>Wingspan:</u> 9.63 m</p> <p><u>Height:</u> 3.80 m</p> <p><u>Wing area:</u> 22.6 sq.m</p> <p><u>Empty weight:</u> 3,919 kg</p> <p><u>Loaded weight:</u> 5,350 kg</p> <p><u>Maximum speed:</u> 1,145 km/h at 3,000 m</p> <p><u>Range: </u>2,060 km</p> <p><u>Service ceiling:</u> 16,600 m</p> <p><u>Rate of climb:</u> 65 m/s</p> <p><u>Armament: </u>1x 37 mm Nudelman N-37 cannon; 2x 23 mm Nudelman-Richter NR-23 cannons; up to 500 kg external stores including 100 and 250 kg bombs</p> <p><strong>NOVI HAN</strong></p> <p><strong>In the village centre:</strong> MiG-17</p> <p><img alt="soviet airplane bulgaria" class="" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" id="" src="/sites/default/files/issues/189/soviet%20airplanes%20in%20bulgaria/soviet%20fighter%20jets%20bulgaria%204.jpg" title="soviet airplane bulgaria" /></p> <p>The plane was placed in central Novi Han in 1997 by a local man, Hristo Petrov, who used to be an instructor at the Gorna Mitropoliya air force training ground. Novi Han's then mayor supported the idea. When asked by the Bulgarian National Radio why he did this, Petrov explained: "First, because we are from Novi Han. And second, because the mayor used to be radio operator at the air forces." According to Petrov, the grounded plane at Novi Han has promoted military career among locals, but this is hard to corroborate.</p> <p><strong>KOVACHEVTSI</strong></p> <p><strong>On the road to the village of Sirishtnik:</strong> MiG-17</p> <p><img alt="soviet airplane bulgaria" class="" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" id="" src="/sites/default/files/issues/189/soviet%20airplanes%20in%20bulgaria/soviet%20fighter%20jets%20bulgaria%202.jpg" title="soviet airplane bulgaria" /></p> <p>If there is something like a family of flying aces in Bulgaria, then it is that of Kovachevtsi's own Karamfil Stamenkov, a retired colonel. He and his three brothers were all fighter pilots. Between them, they completed 161,627 flights or 57,448 flying hours. Karamfil Stamenkov is also the owner of the only private Museum of Aviation and Astronautics in Bulgaria (entrance free), in Kovachevtsi, which has a collection of model aircraft, family medals, parts of the NATO missile that fell over Bulgaria during the war in Kosovo in 1999, and specimens of some astronaut food.</p> <p>Col Stamenkov also has a plane. The MiG-17 fighter parked in front of the make-shift museum is the same machine which Stamenkov flew for 15 years. It was given to the municipality by the former chief of the General Staff General Miho Mihov, also a pilot and a student of Colonel Stamenkov.</p> <p><strong>OMURTAG</strong></p> <p><strong>By the entrance to the city from the Sofia-Varna road:</strong> MiG-19, MiG-21bis, Su-22 plus an M-11 missile</p> <p><img alt="soviet airplane bulgaria" class="" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" id="" src="/sites/default/files/issues/189/soviet%20airplanes%20in%20bulgaria/soviet%20fighter%20jets%20bulgaria.jpg" title="soviet airplane bulgaria" /></p> <p>Welcome to the openair Aviation and Spacecraft Museum, created in 2008. Why here? Indeed, few Bulgarians now know that the nation's second astronaut, Aleksandar Aleksandrov, who spent nine days of July 1988 on the Soyuz TM-5 spacecraft, was born in Omurtag, in 1951. The openair museum brings together the three types of aircraft that Aleksandrov flew. The MiG-19 was the first to be placed, followed by other machines. The reason for the missile is somewhat unclear. It was an M-11 that downed an American U2 aircraft in 1960, leading to a new phase of confrontation between the Great Powers during the Cold War.</p> <p><strong>MiG-19 Fighter Specifications</strong></p> <p>Made in the USSR and China</p> <p><u>First flight:</u> 18 September 1953</p> <p><u>Introduction:</u> 1955</p> <p><u>Number built: </u>2,172 (not including Chinese production)</p> <p><u>Crew: </u>1</p> <p><u>Length: </u>12.54 m</p> <p><u>Wingspan: </u>9.0 m</p> <p><u>Height: </u>3.9 m</p> <p><u>Wing area:</u> 25.0 sq.m</p> <p><u>Empty weight:</u> 5,447 kg</p> <p><u>Maximum takeoff weight:</u> 7,560 kg</p> <p><u>Maximum speed: </u>1,455 km/h at 3,000 m Range: 1,390 or 2,200 km with external tanks</p> <p><u>Service ceiling: </u>17,500 m</p> <p><u>Rate of climb:</u> 180 m/s</p> <p><u>Armament: </u>3x 30 mm NR-30 cannons; hard-points with 4 under-wing pylons and provision to carry combinations of unguided rockets; 4 Vympel K-13 missiles, up to 250 kg of bombs</p> <p><strong>MiG-21 Fighter Specifications</strong></p> <p>Made in the USSR, also in India and Czechoslovakia</p> <p><u>First flight:</u> 14 February 1955</p> <p><u>Introduction:</u> 1959</p> <p><u>Retired: </u>1990s in Russia, still in use in a number of countries, including Bulgaria</p> <p><u>Produced: </u>1959-1985 all variants</p> <p><u>Number built: </u>total 11,496</p> <p><u>Crew: </u>1</p> <p><u>Length:</u> 15.76 m</p> <p><u>Wingspan:</u> 7.154 m</p> <p><u>Height:</u> 4.1 m</p> <p><u>Wing area:</u> 23.0 sq.m</p> <p><u>Empty weight:</u> 4,871 kg</p> <p><u>Gross weight:</u> 7,100 kg</p> <p><u>Maximum speed: </u>2,125 km/h at 3,000 m</p> <p><u>Range:</u> 1,580 km</p> <p><u>Service ceiling: </u>19,000 m</p> <p><u>Armament:</u> 1 x internal 30 mm NR-30 cannon plus 2 x K-13 or K-13A missiles or 2 x 500 kg of bombs</p> <p><strong>Su-17/-20/-22 Fighter Bomber Specifications</strong></p> <p>Made in the USSR</p> <p><u>First flight:</u> 2 August 1966</p> <p><u>Introduction: </u>1970</p> <p><u>Produced:</u> 1969-1990</p> <p><u>Number built:</u> 2,867</p> <p><u>Crew: </u>1</p> <p><u>Length:</u> 19.02 m</p> <p><u>Wingspan:</u> 13.68 m spread; 10.02 m swept</p> <p><u>Height: </u>5.12 m</p> <p><u>Wing area:</u> 38.5 sq.m spread; 34.5 sq.m swept</p> <p><u>Empty weight: </u>12,160 kg</p> <p><u>Loaded weight:</u> 16,400 kg</p> <p><u>Maximum speed:</u> 1,400 km/h sea level; 1,860 km/h altitude</p> <p><u>Range:</u> 1,150 km combat in hi-lo-hi attack with 2,000 kg war-load; 2,300 km ferry Service ceiling 14,200 m Rate of climb 230 m/s Armament 2 × 30 mm Nudelman-Richter NR-30 cannon, 80 rpg; two under-wing launch rails for R-60 air-to-air missiles for self-defence; up to 4,000 kg on 10 hard-points, including free-fall bombs, rocket pods, cluster bombs, SPPU-22-01 cannon pods with traversable barrels, ECM pods, napalm tanks, and nuclear weapons. Current aircraft compatible with Kh-23, Kh-25, Kh-29 and Kh-58 guided missiles, as well as electro-optical and laser-guided bombs.</p> <p><strong>SENNIK</strong></p> <p><strong>Near the village centre: </strong>MiG-17</p> <p><img alt="soviet airplane bulgaria" class="" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" id="" src="/sites/default/files/issues/189/soviet%20airplanes%20in%20bulgaria/soviet%20fighter%20jets%20bulgaria%203.jpg" title="soviet airplane bulgaria" /></p> <p>It is tempting to speculate that this fighter is a memorial to the village's greatest son, wrestler Dan Kolov (1892-1940), who made his name and fortune as an undefeated champion in the United States. His best-known position was called "a plane," and after his return to Bulgaria in 1935, Kolov donated money to the state for the purchase of either a military or a postal plane (sources differ).</p> <p>However, the reason for the MiG-17's presence in Sennik has nothing to do with Dan Kolov. Sennik is also the birthplace of former chief of the General Staff, Gen Miho Mihov, the aircraft being the same machine he flew.</p> <p><strong>SILISTRA</strong></p> <p><strong>In a neighbourhood by the border with Romania:</strong> Tu-134</p> <p>The passenger Tu-134 of the now nonexistent Balkan Airlines company was parked in a garden between some Communist-era housing estates and the bank of the River Danube in 1995. For several years it was used for educational activities and a computer club, but was later closed owing to cash shortages. In 2021 some local activists renovated it as an educational centre with plans to add some multimedia featuring conversations between pilots and ground control in the well preserved cockpit. </p> <p>Tu-134 was one of the most used commercial aircrafts in the Comecon and was the first USSR airliner permitted to fly internationally. Under Communism, Silistra used to have its own airport, but after a decline in air traffic post-1989, it was closed indefinitely in 2000.</p> <p><strong>Tu-134A Specifications</strong></p> <p>Made in the USSR</p> <p><u>First flight:</u> 29 July 1963</p> <p><u>Introduction: </u>1970</p> <p><u>Number built:</u> 854</p> <p><u>Crew: </u>3-5 flight crew + 3-4 flight attendants</p> <p><u>Length: </u>37.1 m</p> <p><u>Wingspan:</u> 29.01 m</p> <p><u>Height: </u>9.02 m</p> <p><u>Wing area: </u>127.3 sq.m</p> <p><u>Empty weight: </u>27,960 kg</p> <p><u>Loaded weight:</u> 47,600 kg</p> <p><u>Maximum speed</u>: 950 km/h</p> <p><u>Cruise speed:</u> 850 km/h</p> <p><u>Range:</u> 1,900-3,000 km</p> <p><u>Service ceiling: </u>12,100 m</p> <p><strong>SOFIA</strong></p> <p><strong>Sofia Military Museum:</strong> Several types of MiGs and a training L-29 in its open-air section</p> <p><strong>Aviation Square:</strong> Laz-7 replica</p> <p><img alt="soviet airplane bulgaria" class="" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" id="" src="/sites/default/files/issues/189/soviet%20airplanes%20in%20bulgaria/soviet%20fighter%20jets%20bulgaria%207.jpg" title="soviet airplane bulgaria" /></p> <p>Unsurprisingly, Sofia is an aircraft buff's heaven, as the Military Museum exhibits arguably the best public collection of planes in the country.</p> <p>The openair section of the Sofia Military Museum is the top spot in the country if you are looking for lots of MiGs in one place.</p> <p>For a true legend of Bulgarian aviation, however, go to Aviation Square. There, there is a replica of a Laz-7 bomber. It was designed for the Bulgarian air force in the late 1940's by a Bulgarian engineer, Tsvetan Lazarov. The two-seater bomber was introduced in 1949 and was used for training and night flights. It was assembled in the the State Airplane Factory in Lovech. Until its closure in 1954, 313 Laz were produced in it.</p> <p><strong>Our to pick: RAZGRAD</strong></p> <p><strong><img alt="soviet airplane bulgaria" class="" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" id="" src="/sites/default/files/issues/189/soviet%20airplanes%20in%20bulgaria/soviet%20passenger%20airplane%20bulgaria.jpg" title="soviet airplane bulgaria" /></strong></p> <p>There is no airport for miles around, yet a Soviet passenger Tu-134 lies permanently parked in what appears to be a forest. If you identify its whereabouts and drive up to it you will see what appears like a guarded fence. Take it easy. The fence has huge holes in it and is partly down anyway. Trouble is you will have to know exactly where you are going, for the airplane is so much overgrown you will not be able to see its fuselage until you literally bump into it.</p> <p>The surreal site, evocative of the iconic Into the Wild bus, has a sinister story to it. Because there has never been an airport anywhere nearby the plane had been cut into pieces, transported and reassembled in situ... in what used to be a top secret Internal Armed Forces facility.</p> <p>The Internal Armed Forces, colloquially referred to as the Blue Berets, were set up in 1985, when Bulgaria was a hardline Communist state. At the the height of the forcible Bulgarisation campaign against this country's ethnic Turks the Communist leaders feared violence and terrorism. The berets were supposed to thwart them. The Tu-134 was set up as a training site for them.</p> <p>The facility was abandoned in the 1990s when the present-day gendarmerie, the successor to the Blue Berets, no longer had any use for it.</p> <p>This overgrown shell of a Soviet-manufactured airplane, indicative of the poignant history of Bulgaria's Communist-era aviation, is best seen from above. Bring a drone. </p> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-disclaimers field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--entity-reference-target-type-block-content clearfix field__item"> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><hr class="uk-divider-icon" /><p><a href="https://us4bg.org/?hl=en" title="AMERICA FOR BULGARIA FOUNDATION" target="_blank"><img alt="us4bg-logo-reversal.png" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" src="/sites/default/files/banners/AFB_LOGO.jpg" width="30%" class="align-left" /></a><strong>Vibrant Communities: Spotlight on Bulgaria's Living Heritage is a series of articles, initiated by Vagabond Magazine, with the generous support of the <a href="http://www.us4bg.org/?hl=en">America for Bulgaria Foundation</a>, that aims to provide details and background of places, cultural entities, events, personalities and facts of life that are sometimes difficult to understand for the outsider in the Balkans. The ultimate aim is the preservation of Bulgaria's cultural heritage – including but not limited to archaeological, cultural and ethnic diversity. The statements and opinionsexpressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the America for Bulgaria Foundation and its partners</strong></p><hr class="uk-divider-icon" /></div> </div> <a href="/index.php/archive/issue-189" hreflang="en">Issue 189</a> <a href="/index.php/taxonomy/term/221" hreflang="en">America for Bulgaria Foundation</a> <a href="/index.php/taxonomy/term/223" hreflang="en">Communist Bulgaria</a> <div class="field field--name-field-mt-post-category field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--entity-reference-target-type-taxonomy-term clearfix field__items"> <div class="field__item"><a href="/index.php/travel/vibrant-communities" hreflang="en">VIBRANT COMMUNITIES</a></div> </div> <section class="field field--name-comment field--type-comment field--label-above comment-wrapper"> <h2 class="title comment-form__title">Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=3456&amp;2=comment&amp;3=comment" token="YIaixKdApGzRf_YW1DTa3K4LzBJFjS2mFk-BzPa0YlI"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Wed, 29 Jun 2022 09:15:14 +0000 DimanaT 3456 at http://vagabond.bg http://vagabond.bg/index.php/bulgarias-cold-war-planes-3456#comments WHAT IS KARLOVO? http://vagabond.bg/index.php/what-karlovo-3454 <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">WHAT IS KARLOVO?</span> <div class="field field--name-field-author-name field--type-string field--label-hidden field__item">by Dimana Trankova; photography by Anthony Georgieff</div> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><a title="View user profile." href="/index.php/user/251" lang="" about="/index.php/user/251" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="" class="username">DimanaT</a></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">Tue, 06/28/2022 - 16:58</span> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-field-subtitle field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field__item"><h3>Small mountain town bespeaks entrepreneurial, charitable spirit of Bulgaria of yore</h3> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-image field--type-image field--label-hidden field__items"> <div class="images-container clearfix"> <div class="image-preview clearfix"> <div class="image-wrapper clearfix"> <div class="field__item"> <div class="overlay-container"> <span class="overlay overlay--colored"> <span class="overlay-inner"> <span class="overlay-icon overlay-icon--button overlay-icon--white overlay-animated overlay-fade-top"> <i class="fa fa-plus"></i> </span> </span> <a class="overlay-target-link image-popup" href="/index.php/sites/default/files/2022-06/centre%20of%20bulgaria.jpg"></a> </span> <img loading="lazy" src="/sites/default/files/2022-06/centre%20of%20bulgaria.jpg" width="1000" height="667" alt="centre of bulgaria" title="centre of bulgaria" typeof="foaf:Image" /> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field uk-text-bold uk-margin-small-top uk-margin-medium-bottom field--name-field-image-credits field--type-string field--label-hidden field__item">The St Nikola church was believed to be the geographical centre of Bulgaria. The marker is still in the churchyard</div> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><p>Great changes often spread from inconspicuous places, and Karlovo is a case in point. This town at the southern foot of the Stara Planina mountain range looks quiet and quaint now: some old, Revival Period houses huddled between newer construction lining a long street that funnels much of the traffic on the Sofia-Burgas road. You might think that nothing of importance has ever happened in Karlovo, but the first impression, as most first impressions, is wrong.</p> <p>In the 19th and the early 20th centuries, Karlovo produced a disproportionate number of men and women who influenced this nation's history: educators and wealthy merchants, benefactors and actors, artists and revolutionaries. Karlovo is also the hometown of the first Bulgarian female adventurer, Anka Lambreva, who travelled round the world, and the brothers Evlogi and Hristo Georgievi, who sponsored the construction of Sofia University.</p> <p><img alt="karlovo" class="" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" id="" src="/sites/default/files/issues/189/what%20is%20karlovo/traditional%20karlovo.jpg" title="karlovo" /></p> <p class="text-align-center"><em>Karlovo is nestled at the foot of the Stara Planina</em></p> <p>Most Bulgarians associate Karlovo with one person in particular. Vasil Kunchev, commonly known as Levski, meaning Lion, was born here in 1837. He took his monastic vows in Karlovo, in 1858, but left soon afterwards and became a revolutionary with an unmatched talent for organising rebellion against the Ottomans.</p> <p>The reason why relatively small Karlovo produced so many impressive personalities was mainly economic. At present, the town is hardly a powerhouse, but back in the day it was a centre of textile manufacturing and and rose oil production. This resulted in a lively community whose members travelled far and wide. After Bulgaria's liberation, when the Ottoman markets were lost and local manufacturing was replaced by cheaper industrial production, Karlovo started to lose its importance. Its most entrepreneurial citizens departed for places that offered better opportunities, such as Plovdiv and Sofia.</p> <p>Today Karlovo is quiet, but the inquisitive visitor can still find some rewarding curiosities and delights in and around it.</p> <p><img alt="vasil levski" class="" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" id="" src="/sites/default/files/issues/189/what%20is%20karlovo/vasil%20levski%20monument%20karlovo.jpg" title="vasil levski" /></p> <p class="text-align-center"><em>Levski's monument in central Karlovo</em></p> <p>The family home and museum of Vasil Levski is the obvious focus of interest. A tiny and rather austere place, the 19th century house is a place of pilgrimage for modern Bulgarians where school children from all over the land are taken on bus trips.</p> <p>Unless you stray off the main street and drive a couple of blocks south you might miss Levski's monument. Erected in 1907, Levski stands proud, a lion by his side: an excellent rendition of the 19th century man that by far outshines many modern attempts at heroic sculpture.</p> <p>The area around is also a delight. Old Karlovo is a mosaic of sensitively restored Revival Period houses, some of which are now B&amp;Bs.</p> <p>Two churches in the old quarter are easily recognised by their Baroque-inspired belfries. By the northern wall of St Nicholas, built in 1847, there is a small grave where Gina Kuncheva, Levski's mother, was interred. On the other side of the church a milestone claims to mark the geographical centre of Bulgaria. In actual fact, the geographical centre of Bulgaria is on the northern side of the Stara Planina, in the area of Uzana, near Gabrovo.</p> <p><img alt="old mosque karlovo" class="" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" id="" src="/sites/default/files/issues/189/what%20is%20karlovo/old%20mosque%20karlovo.jpg" title="old mosque karlovo" /></p> <p class="text-align-center"><em>The porch of Karlovo mosque</em></p> <p>The Holy Mother of God Church (1858) stands on the site of an older church, which was destroyed by fire. Its marble floor is decorated with a relief of a two-headed eagle, the symbol of the Constantinople Patriarchate. This indicates the subservience to Constantinople of the church and its parish at the time the church was erected. A mural of Vasil Levski is depicted inside. There have been several efforts to canonise him, but so far they have been turned down by the Orthodox Church.</p> <p>When you venture out of the area you will see Karlovo's other faces: beautiful modernist houses from the early 20th century, a Communist-era central square and pedestrian street, apartment blocks and infrastructure for the servicemen of the local military base. Among these are scattered newer, post-1990s business and residential buildings.</p> <p>When you are wandering around central Karlovo, do pay attention to signs of the rich charity and donation culture that existed in the town during its heyday. Today, Karlovo residents get married in a beautiful house built in 1896 by a local women's association called Education. On the main street stands the small, and sadly abandoned, Lazarovo School donated to the town in 1892 by a local merchant involved in international business.</p> <p><img alt="bulgarian rose" class="" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" id="" src="/sites/default/files/issues/189/what%20is%20karlovo/bulgarian%20rose.jpg" title="bulgarian rose" /></p> <p class="text-align-center"><em>Rose oil production is a traditional Karlovo craft</em></p> <p>The grandest of these is the woollen textile factory built in 1891 by the Georgievi Brothers on the road to the nearby waterfall. Their idea was to provide Karlovo, which was already feeling the brunt of the changed economy, with an industry and jobs fit for modern times. Machinery and factory plans were imported from England. When Evlogi Georgiev died, the wool factory became the property of the municipality of Karlovo. After the Communist takeover in 1944, it was nationalised and eventually transformed into a silk printing and stamping facility. When Communism collapsed, it was privatised. Its assets were then quickly sold off, and the factory closed. It remains so to this day.</p> <p>Karlovo has also preserved some remnants of its earlier history. The town appeared in the late 15th century, when the area was given to a high-ranking Ottoman official, Karlizade Bey, for his personal use. Gradually, his name was transferred to the settlement itself. In the centre of Karlovo there remains a beautifully painted mosque dating from those times. On the opposite side of the street there is a beautifully preserved Ottoman inn that is now a hotel. Do not be deceived by the old clock tower, however. It is a recent restoration of the original, which used to stand beside the Ottoman-era market and was demolished in 1944 to make room for new urban construction.</p> <p><img alt="old karlovo" class="" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" id="" src="/sites/default/files/issues/189/what%20is%20karlovo/old%20house%20karlovo.jpg" title="old karlovo" /></p> <p class="text-align-center"><em>Old Karlovo is beautifully preserved</em></p> <p>A short walk from the centre of Karlovo leads to one of Bulgaria's most delightful waterfalls. Both its names, Suchurum or Karlovsko Praskalo, are tongue twisters, but you can just ask around for the waterfall, and you will be understood. It falls eight metres through massive boulders and has been a favourite spot for picnics and walks for generations of locals. In 1926 a small power plant was built at the foot of the waterfall, and inaugurated in the presence of King Boris III. Unlike the wool factory, it operates today, its original Made-in-Germany turbines still doing their job. </p> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-disclaimers field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--entity-reference-target-type-block-content clearfix field__item"> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><hr class="uk-divider-icon" /><p><a href="https://us4bg.org/?hl=en" title="AMERICA FOR BULGARIA FOUNDATION" target="_blank"><img alt="us4bg-logo-reversal.png" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" src="/sites/default/files/banners/AFB_LOGO.jpg" width="30%" class="align-left" /></a><strong>Vibrant Communities: Spotlight on Bulgaria's Living Heritage is a series of articles, initiated by Vagabond Magazine, with the generous support of the <a href="http://www.us4bg.org/?hl=en">America for Bulgaria Foundation</a>, that aims to provide details and background of places, cultural entities, events, personalities and facts of life that are sometimes difficult to understand for the outsider in the Balkans. The ultimate aim is the preservation of Bulgaria's cultural heritage – including but not limited to archaeological, cultural and ethnic diversity. The statements and opinionsexpressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the America for Bulgaria Foundation and its partners</strong></p><hr class="uk-divider-icon" /></div> </div> <a href="/index.php/archive/issue-189" hreflang="en">Issue 189</a> <a href="/index.php/taxonomy/term/221" hreflang="en">America for Bulgaria Foundation</a> <a href="/index.php/taxonomy/term/249" hreflang="en">The Stara Planina</a> <a href="/index.php/taxonomy/term/280" hreflang="en">Bulgarian history</a> <div class="field field--name-field-mt-post-category field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--entity-reference-target-type-taxonomy-term clearfix field__items"> <div class="field__item"><a href="/index.php/travel/vibrant-communities" hreflang="en">VIBRANT COMMUNITIES</a></div> </div> <section class="field field--name-comment field--type-comment field--label-above comment-wrapper"> <h2 class="title comment-form__title">Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=3454&amp;2=comment&amp;3=comment" token="Cnz53DfB_rF_XPMWe6_S37-ljhZSGulxYipmu-9FntU"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Tue, 28 Jun 2022 13:58:43 +0000 DimanaT 3454 at http://vagabond.bg http://vagabond.bg/index.php/what-karlovo-3454#comments FEW SNAKES AND NO RUSSIANS http://vagabond.bg/index.php/few-snakes-and-no-russians-3428 <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">FEW SNAKES AND NO RUSSIANS</span> <div class="field field--name-field-author-name field--type-string field--label-hidden field__item">by Dimana Trankova; photography by Anthony Georgieff</div> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><a title="View user profile." href="/index.php/user/251" lang="" about="/index.php/user/251" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="" class="username">DimanaT</a></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">Sat, 05/28/2022 - 19:18</span> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-field-subtitle field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field__item"><h3>Black Sea's 'other' Snake Island is in peaceful Bulgaria</h3> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-image field--type-image field--label-hidden field__items"> <div class="images-container clearfix"> <div class="image-preview clearfix"> <div class="image-wrapper clearfix"> <div class="field__item"> <div class="overlay-container"> <span class="overlay overlay--colored"> <span class="overlay-inner"> <span class="overlay-icon overlay-icon--button overlay-icon--white overlay-animated overlay-fade-top"> <i class="fa fa-plus"></i> </span> </span> <a class="overlay-target-link image-popup" href="/index.php/sites/default/files/2022-05/snake%20island%20bulgaria.jpg"></a> </span> <img loading="lazy" src="/sites/default/files/2022-05/snake%20island%20bulgaria.jpg" width="1000" height="666" alt="snake island bulgaria" title="snake island bulgaria" typeof="foaf:Image" /> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field uk-text-bold uk-margin-small-top uk-margin-medium-bottom field--name-field-image-credits field--type-string field--label-hidden field__item">Snake Island, Bulgaria</div> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><p>"Russian warship, go f*ck yourself!" When the Ukrainian defenders of Black Sea's Snake Island shouted out to the outnumbering Russian forces at the beginning of Putin's "special military operation," they hardly anticipated that they would coin a catchphrase that would define the conflict and become a global meme. Today everyone with access to unfiltered Internet is aware that somewhere in the Black Sea there is a piece of rock called Snake Island.</p> <p>However, few would know that there are in fact two Snake Islands in the Black Sea. The second, and smaller one, is in Bulgarian waters, off one of the most picturesque parts of the seashore south of Burgas.</p> <p>The Bulgarian Snake Island is just 3 acres in size. It is a piece in the rich jigsaw puzzle of sites of interest in Ropotamo River Nature Reserve: lush oak and mangrove forests, pristine beaches, intriguing rock formations like the Lion's Head, historical and archaeological sites like abandoned fortifications, dolmens and Begliktash, the ancient Thracian megalithic shrine.</p> <p>Snake Island itself has some unspectacular archaeological remains. Recent excavations have established that it was inhabited both by the Thracians in Antiquity, and the Byzantines, in the early Middle Ages. Later, a small monastery appeared on the island. It was probably dedicated to St Thomas, as this is the island's official name.</p> <p>St Thomas Island is known as Snake Island for an obvious reason. A vibrant colony of dice snakes, feeding on fish, live there. Holidaymakers on the beautiful and undeveloped beach by Ropotamo's estuary sometimes encounter them, swimming in the sea or sunbathing on some hot rock. The snakes are harmless but should be avoided: they are a protected species and must not be disturbed.</p> <p><img alt="The other Snake Island" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" id="" src="/sites/default/files/issues/188/snake%20island%20bulgaria%20black%20sea.jpg" title="The other Snake Island" /></p> <p>The snakes' presence on the island has impressed people since times immemorial. According to a local myth, the king and the queen of all reptiles lived there. Another claims that St Marina, the saint who is widely popular in the region and is considered the master of reptiles, would bring all "good" snakes in her underwater cave and would release the "bad" ones onto the island. Local fishermen would celebrate St Marina's feast, on 17 July, by catching snakes in their nets.</p> <p>Just like so many other interesting geological formations in Bulgaria, Snake Island has been ravaged by treasure hunters looking for legendary hidden gold. In recent years, New Agers also got interested in the piece of rock, claiming that it was created by the Thracians as a larger-than-life temple to Sun and Moon.</p> <p>If you swim or sail to Snake Island, you will be in for a surprise. A significant part of the island is covered in... cacti.</p> <p>The plants, of two Opuntia varieties, are not native. They were brought from Bratislava's Botanical Garden by Bulgarian King Boris III, in 1933, for some arcane reason. The king is said to have loved Snake Island. He and his retinue would often stop there during their hunting trips in the area.</p> <p>The newcomers felt well on Snake Island and soon spread, creating a thick, thorny blanket that is impossible to walk through.</p> <p>Sadly, another species that would call Snake Island home, has not been around for decades. The island's rugged shore used to provide hiding and breeding space to monk seals. The animal was once widely present in the Bulgarian Black Sea, but was hunted to extinction in the 20th century by fishermen because it used to steal fish from their nets.</p> <p>However, birds from all Europe who stop at Snake Island during their annual migrations to and from Africa continue to do so, unchangingly, in spring and autumn.</p> <p>Luckily, Putin has not yet eyed the Bulgarian Snake Island. </p> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-disclaimers field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--entity-reference-target-type-block-content clearfix field__item"> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><hr class="uk-divider-icon" /><p><a href="https://us4bg.org/?hl=en" title="AMERICA FOR BULGARIA FOUNDATION" target="_blank"><img alt="us4bg-logo-reversal.png" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" src="/sites/default/files/banners/AFB_LOGO.jpg" width="30%" class="align-left" /></a><strong>Vibrant Communities: Spotlight on Bulgaria's Living Heritage is a series of articles, initiated by Vagabond Magazine, with the generous support of the <a href="http://www.us4bg.org/?hl=en">America for Bulgaria Foundation</a>, that aims to provide details and background of places, cultural entities, events, personalities and facts of life that are sometimes difficult to understand for the outsider in the Balkans. The ultimate aim is the preservation of Bulgaria's cultural heritage – including but not limited to archaeological, cultural and ethnic diversity. The statements and opinionsexpressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the America for Bulgaria Foundation and its partners</strong></p><hr class="uk-divider-icon" /></div> </div> <a href="/index.php/archive/issue-188" hreflang="en">Issue 188</a> <a href="/index.php/taxonomy/term/221" hreflang="en">America for Bulgaria Foundation</a> <a href="/index.php/taxonomy/term/254" hreflang="en">The Black Sea</a> <div class="field field--name-field-mt-post-category field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--entity-reference-target-type-taxonomy-term clearfix field__items"> <div class="field__item"><a href="/index.php/travel/vibrant-communities" hreflang="en">VIBRANT COMMUNITIES</a></div> </div> <section class="field field--name-comment field--type-comment field--label-above comment-wrapper"> <h2 class="title comment-form__title">Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=3428&amp;2=comment&amp;3=comment" token="RBqxW_k2wNVb_M6CX2OT28nAIv1OrE-fTSouZ272FcE"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Sat, 28 May 2022 16:18:24 +0000 DimanaT 3428 at http://vagabond.bg http://vagabond.bg/index.php/few-snakes-and-no-russians-3428#comments THRACIAN BULGARIA http://vagabond.bg/index.php/thracian-bulgaria-3426 <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">THRACIAN BULGARIA</span> <div class="field field--name-field-author-name field--type-string field--label-hidden field__item">by Dimana Trankova; photography by Anthony Georgieff</div> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><a title="View user profile." href="/index.php/user/251" lang="" about="/index.php/user/251" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="" class="username">DimanaT</a></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">Sat, 05/28/2022 - 19:00</span> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-field-subtitle field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field__item"><h3>Discover an ancient people, their shrines, tombs and treasures</h3> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-image field--type-image field--label-hidden field__items"> <div class="images-container clearfix"> <div class="image-preview clearfix"> <div class="image-wrapper clearfix"> <div class="field__item"> <div class="overlay-container"> <span class="overlay overlay--colored"> <span class="overlay-inner"> <span class="overlay-icon overlay-icon--button overlay-icon--white overlay-animated overlay-fade-top"> <i class="fa fa-plus"></i> </span> </span> <a class="overlay-target-link image-popup" href="/index.php/sites/default/files/2022-05/aleksandrovo%20tomb.jpg"></a> </span> <img loading="lazy" src="/sites/default/files/2022-05/aleksandrovo%20tomb.jpg" width="999" height="667" alt="Sacred hunt, a mural at Aleksandrovo Tomb" title="Sacred hunt, a mural at Aleksandrovo Tomb" typeof="foaf:Image" /> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field uk-text-bold uk-margin-small-top uk-margin-medium-bottom field--name-field-image-credits field--type-string field--label-hidden field__item">Sacred hunt, a mural at Aleksandrovo Tomb</div> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><p>There are places in the world where you can get to know long-vanished nations and their former glory: Egypt, China, Greece... Bulgaria also makes it on this list. Long before this country appeared on Europe's map, an ancient nation inhabited its lands, and left behind rich remains – tombs and burial mounds, rock shrines and forts, fortifications and mysterious rock niches.</p> <p>These people were the ancient Thracians.</p> <p>Together with the Slavs and the so-called Proto-Bulgarians, the Thracians are considered to be the forefathers of modern Bulgarians, whose nation emerged in the early Middle Ages. While the Slavs and the Proto-Bulgarians were recent arrivals in the Balkans, the Thracians had lived here for many centuries, and were not just some insignificant tribe. According to Herodotus, the Thracians were the second most numerous people of the ancient world after the Indians (he was wrong on that matter). They actively took part in the international politics of the day and were divided into several tribes, some of which created their own kingdoms and even minted their own coins – a sign of economic strength and political importance. They were eventually conquered by the Romans and many of them then adopted Roman or Greek lifestyles and habits. However, they largely preserved their culture until the arrival of Christianity. Eventually they became part of young Bulgaria.</p> <p><img alt="Perperikon rock city" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" id="" src="/sites/default/files/issues/188/thracian%20bulgaria/perperikon%20rock%20city.jpg" title="Perperikon rock city" /></p> <p class="text-align-center"><em>Perperikon rock city</em></p> <p>Sadly, the Thracians were reluctant chroniclers and left almost no written sources. What we do know, or believe we know, about their history, beliefs and culture is derived from archaeological research and ancient Greek and Roman sources.</p> <p>The Thracians may have disappeared, but much has remained of their treasures: their coins, tombs and shrines, pottery, weapons and heroes – both mythical ones such as Orpheus and historical figures like Spartacus.</p> <p>Bulgaria is dotted with Thracian sites, and visiting the most interesting of these is a true delight.</p> <p>One of the most famous sites created by the Thracians is the rock city of Perperikon. Situated on a peak overlooking a river valley in the Rhodope, Perperikon was a rock settlement and a major Thracian shrine which flourished in Antiquity and attracted devotees from far and wide. There is no hard evidence, but some historians suggest that Perperikon was indeed the famed oracle of Dionysus, which predicted the glorious future of both Alexander of Macedon and of Augustus. Faith was the raison d'être for the rock city's existence but life there did not come to an end when the ancient gods gave way to Christianity. Perperikon became a major episcopal centre adorned with a basilica on the site of the erstwhile pagan shrine. It was abandoned during the Ottoman period.</p> <p><img alt="Begliktash megalithic shrine" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" id="" src="/sites/default/files/issues/188/thracian%20bulgaria/thracian%20shrine%20begliktash.jpg" title="Begliktash megalithic shrine" /></p> <p class="text-align-center"><em>Begliktash megalithic shrine</em></p> <p>In recent years Perperikon was hailed by the Bulgarian media as a rival to Machu Picchu. This comparison may be a bit farfetched, but it definitely is a must-see.</p> <p>Perperikon is not the only site the Thracians carved from rock. Between the 2nd millennium and the middle of the 1st millennium BC, they were very much into creating megaliths. They built shrines on rocky peaks, carved niches and tombs at precipitous heights, and built dolmens and stone circles.</p> <p>These all represented the Thracian belief in the two powerful, yet nameless deities who had created and ruled over the universe: the Great Goddess and her son and lover, the Great God. She represented the dark powers of the underworld and was symbolised by rock caves and crevices, while he made himself visible in light, fire and prominent rock formations.</p> <p><img alt="Belintash megalithic shrine" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" id="" src="/sites/default/files/issues/188/thracian%20bulgaria/thracian%20shrine%20belintash.jpg" title="Belintash megalithic shrine" /></p> <p class="text-align-center"><em>Belintash megalithic shrine</em></p> <p>Belintash is one of the best known Thracians rock shrines. Located in the Rhodope, the high plateau that rises over a mountain valley is surrounded by a protective wall of neighbouring peaks. Stone carvings, channels and basins are cut into the rock surface. When the sanctuary was active, they may have been filled with wine and the blood of sacrificial animals – or maybe were used for making sacred wine. The inner sanctum of the shrine, the "holy of holies," was at the narrow tip of the plateau, which rises above the rest of the area, proclaiming its importance.</p> <p>The rock sanctuary at Tatul, also in the Rhodope, is now advertised as the burial place of none lesser than Orpheus. Yes, we know that the famous musician, who was able to enchant animals and melt the stone-cold heart of the lord of the Underworld, was a mythological figure. But some Bulgarian historians believe that mythical Orpheus was based on an actual Thracian man, who did something of immense importance – he reformed the Thracian religion by introducing into it the figure of the enlightened god, Apollo. Supposedly, this real-life Orpheus was buried in a spectacular tomb carved into a prominent rock at Tatul.</p> <p><img alt="Bivolyane megalithic shrine" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" id="" src="/sites/default/files/issues/188/thracian%20bulgaria/thracian%20shrine%20bivolyane.jpg" title="Bivolyane megalithic shrine" /></p> <p class="text-align-center"><em>Bivolyane megalithic shrine</em></p> <p>Located deep in the Strandzha forest, Begliktash is another popular Thracian megalithic shrine. In Antiquity the massive boulders that now stand in a clearing in the dense oak forest were a centre of religious activity. Some boulders have even been connected to particular ancient Thracian rituals (as we lack any detailed information about the Thracian religion, what follows is conjecture). At Begliktash, you will see rocks identified as a "sun dial", a labyrinth, and a sacred bed where the Thracian priest and/or king was supposed to perform a ritual sexual act with the shrine's priestess. One huge structure is believed to be the largest dolmen in Bulgaria and a royal tomb, while a great heart-shaped boulder is said to touch the ground at only two points.</p> <p>There are lesser known Thracian rock shrines that also deserve attention, such as that on a rocky plateau near the Rhodope village of Bivolyane. The most peculiar feature of Harman Kaya sanctuary are two round pads covered with what appear to be channels and circles. No one knows what exactly they were, but the hypothesis that they were used to measure time is quite popular.</p> <p><img alt="Asara megalithic shrine" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" id="" src="/sites/default/files/issues/188/thracian%20bulgaria/thracian%20rock%20shrine%20asara.jpg" title="Asara megalithic shrine" /></p> <p class="text-align-center"><em>Asara megalithic shrine</em></p> <p>Asara, near the village of Angel Voyvoda in the Haskovo region, is believed to be not just an ancient rock shrine and a fort, but also an astronomical observatory. Perched on a 600-metre high hill, the site includes several oddly shaped rocks, and on top of the highest there are two graves. For history buffs, of whom there are many in Bulgaria, these graves and the rock-hewn steps leading to them are the first stone calendar in the world, whatever that might mean. For more conservative archaeologists, they are the steps to an altar.</p> <p>The ancient Thracians also created hundreds of dolmens. Today, these structures are mostly to be found in the Strandzha and Sakar mountains. Most are small and often in places far removed from the tourist trail. One, however, stands out. The dolmen near the village of Hlyabovo, near Haskovo, is a huge affair. This family burial ground has three adjoining chambers where artefacts were found that indicate it was in use for five centuries.</p> <p><img alt="The dolmen at Hlyabovo is among the largest and best preserved" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" id="" src="/sites/default/files/issues/188/thracian%20bulgaria/dolmen%20bulgaria.jpg" title="The dolmen at Hlyabovo is among the largest and best preserved" /></p> <p class="text-align-center"><em>The dolmen at Hlyabovo is among the largest and best preserved</em></p> <p>Two stone circles built by the Thracians still survive, sort of. The most spectacular of the two is near Dolni Glavanak village, in the Rhodope. Situated on a low ridge overgrown with thick oak forest, the stone circle consists of 15 rocks about 1.5m high, with a diameter of about 10m. The other was discovered under a tumulus near the Staro Zhelezare village, in the Plovdiv region. Sadly, after archaeologists left the site the elements took their toll and now the mysterious structure, which is millennia old, has almost disappeared.</p> <p>Rock niches are an enigmatic practice indulged in by the Thracians in the Eastern Rhodope. Less than a metre high, the niches are usually trapezoid, but are present in a variety of other shapes: circular, rectangular, square. Most of them are hewn at precipitous heights.</p> <p><img alt="A Thracian burial mound, in the Valley of Thracian Kings, ravaged by treasure hunters" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" id="" src="/sites/default/files/issues/188/thracian%20bulgaria/thracian%20burial%20mound.jpg" title="A Thracian burial mound, in the Valley of Thracian Kings, ravaged by treasure hunters" /></p> <p class="text-align-center"><em>A Thracian burial mound, in the Valley of Thracian Kings, ravaged by treasure hunters</em></p> <p>More than 200 groups of niches have been discovered so far, with the greatest concentration at Gluhite Kamani, Madzharovo and Valche Pole. Of course a dearth of information only opens the door of the imagination. Some scientists believe that the rock niches were made to house the burial urns of cremated Thracians who could not afford the more expensive and prestigious rock tombs. However, the bottoms of some of the niches are angled upwards, making it impossible to put anything inside them. Others claim that the niches were hewn by adolescent Thracian boys as part of an initiation ceremony. According to a third hypothesis, the niches depict the stars and the constellations in the heavens, while a fourth proposes that they were a sort of map, indicating the whereabouts of ancient gold mines. According to yet another idea, the niches are scaled-down models of dolmens and rock tombs or, more interestingly, of the cave that symbolises the womb of the Great Goddess.</p> <p>By the middle of the 1st millennium BC, the Thracians had stopped creating megaliths. No one knows why. What is certain is that they started building monumental tombs for their elite instead. These were hidden under massive mounds of earth, which still dot almost every corner of the Bulgarian lands.</p> <p><img alt="Rock niches by Dolno Cherkovishte" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" id="" src="/sites/default/files/issues/188/thracian%20bulgaria/rock%20nisches%20rhodope.jpg" title="Rock niches by Dolno Cherkovishte" /></p> <p class="text-align-center"><em>Rock niches by Dolno Cherkovishte</em></p> <p>The largest concentration of Thracian burial mounds is in the so-called Valley of Thracian Kings, located between the Stara Planina and the Sredna Gora mountain ranges. Here, you can find arguably the most emblematic tomb the Thracians ever created.</p> <p>The Thracian tomb at Kazanlak has captured the public imagination since its chance discovery in 1944. Many historians have surveyed it, and UNESCO added it to its list of world heritage sites, in 1979. Plundered in Antiquity, the tomb nevertheless preserves skilfully painted murals of a couple surrounded by their servants. The gentleness with which the man holds the lady's white hand is still touching, 2,400 years after the paint was applied, but what the scene represents remains a mystery. Is it a farewell feast for him, the dead, and her, the living? Is it a depiction of the Thracian custom of killing the widow and burying her with her husband? Is it how the Thracians imagined the eternal bliss of the afterlife? Perhaps it is all about the sacred marriage between the deified deceased and the Great Goddess of the underworld. The style and skill of the painting indicate that the artist may have been a Greek hired by the owner of the tomb, evidence of the active contacts between the Greeks and the Thracians at the time.</p> <p><img alt="The Kazanlak Tomb is UNESCO listed because of its fine murals" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" id="" src="/sites/default/files/issues/188/thracian%20bulgaria/kazanlak%20tomb.jpg" title="The Kazanlak Tomb is UNESCO listed because of its fine murals" /></p> <p class="text-align-center"><em>The Kazanlak Tomb is UNESCO listed because of its fine murals</em></p> <p>The tomb hidden in the Golyama Kosmatka mound was not plundered, and its architecture is truly impressive. The structure has a 13-metre long corridor and two antechambers, the second of which is round, with a cupola, and is protected by a marble door. The rectangular burial chamber was hewn into a 60-tonne monolith and contained more than 70 items: a wealth of expensive weapons and precious objects, including a beautiful gold wreath.</p> <p>The most astonishing find from Golyama Kosmatka, however, was discovered buried in the mound, not in the tomb itself. It was a beautiful bronze head of a man with an unruly beard and strong features. The head was probably an effigy of the deceased that was cut off from an actual, life-size statue.</p> <p>For the Thracians, big game hunting was sacred. An activity reserved for aristocrats, it was a symbol of royal power. Every year whoever was king would go on a sacred boar hunt to demonstrate that he was still strong enough to bear the crown. In the afterlife, the Thracians believed, there would also be hunting, and so the hunt became a major theme in Thracian art. The Aleksandrovo Tomb is one of the finest examples, with its chamber paintings of men – on foot and on horseback – chasing deer and boar. The antechamber is also decorated with mysterious depictions of battles, or what might be dances between riders and naked young men.</p> <p><img alt="The stone circle at Staro Zhelezhare is now almost lost to the elements due to neglect" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" id="" src="/sites/default/files/issues/188/thracian%20bulgaria/stone%20circle.jpg" title="The stone circle at Staro Zhelezhare is now almost lost to the elements due to neglect" /></p> <p class="text-align-center"><em>The stone circle at Staro Zhelezhare is now almost lost to the elements due to neglect</em></p> <p>The vivid figures of the Aleksandrovo Tomb murals are probably the work of a Thracian artist, and the painstakingly depicted details of weapons, harnesses and clothing are an important source not only of the beliefs of the ancient Thracians, but also of their everyday life.</p> <p>Most of the impressive Thracian tombs and sites are located in southern Bulgaria, but there are some exceptions. North of the Stara Planina, the Sboryanovo nature and history reserve near Isperih is one of the best places for Thracian tourism in Bulgaria. Here are the remains of Helis, a Thracian stronghold and trading centre from the 4th-3th centuries, and several shrines and tumuli.</p> <p>One of the burial mounds preserves an astounding monument of Thracian art, the first and so far the only example of Thracian sculpture. The stone burial beds of a deceased Thracian aristocrat and his wife lie in the chamber, watched over by a row of 10 caryatids with wide-open eyes and long arms. These rather crude figures were probably Thracian rather than Greek made. The mural above them, however, is a lot more intricate. The deceased, on horseback, is receiving the wreath of immortality from a tall, regal woman, the Great Goddess of the Thracians. Excavated in 1982, the tomb is now on the UNESCO World Heritage List.</p> <p><img alt="The outstanding decoration of Sveshtari Tomb is why this Thracian monument was declared an UNESCO site" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" id="" src="/sites/default/files/issues/188/thracian%20bulgaria/sveshtari%20tomb.jpg" title="The outstanding decoration of Sveshtari Tomb is why this Thracian monument was declared an UNESCO site" /></p> <p class="text-align-center"><em>The outstanding decoration of Sveshtari Tomb is why this Thracian monument was declared an UNESCO site</em></p> <p>Thracian treasures are another hallmark of this ancient culture. The Thracian kings and noblemen drank wine from cups of gold and silver, and priests used elaborately decorated vessels in religious rituals. Gold was considered a divine metal, and many noblemen went into the afterlife with gold wreaths on their heads, gold masks on their faces, and a multitude of gold jewellery and wine cups, along with richly decorated helmets and greaves. Some of these were made by Thracians master craftsmen, others were commissioned from the best Greek artisans, living far from Thrace.</p> <p>Visiting two museums in Sofia is the easiest way to see these marvels of the ancient craft. In the treasure room of the National Archaeological Museum lies one of the most fascinating finds Bulgaria has ever produced. The Valchitran Treasure is a collection of 13 gold vessels weighing 12.5 kg, made in the 2nd millennium BC, about the time of the Trojan War. The National History Museum is home to the exquisite gold drinking vessels from Panagyurishte and the delicate harness decorations from Letnitsa, with scenes from Thracian cosmological myths.</p> <p><img alt="A gold mask, supposedly of Thracian king Teres, was discovered in an otherwise unremarkable grave in 2001, in the Valley of Thracian Kings" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" id="" src="/sites/default/files/issues/188/thracian%20bulgaria/thracian%20gold%20mask.jpg" title="A gold mask, supposedly of Thracian king Teres, was discovered in an otherwise unremarkable grave in 2001, in the Valley of Thracian Kings" /></p> <p class="text-align-center"><em>A gold mask, supposedly of Thracian king Teres, was discovered in an otherwise unremarkable grave in 2001, in the Valley of Thracian Kings</em></p> <p>Regional museums are worth visiting, too. The Vratsa Historical Museum exhibits the amazing Rogozen Treasure, the largest ever found in Bulgaria, and the museum of Kazanlak also has a fine collection of treasures excavated from nearby tombs.</p> <p>The Thracians left a trace in Bulgarian folklore and Christianity. The legendary folk hero, Krali Marko, who rides a magical horse, is probably a late Mediaeval reincarnation of the Thracian God Rider. The fairies who, in Bulgarian folklore, rule over nature and vegetation are probably faded memories of the Thracian Great Goddess. Even some saints have been influenced by the ancient Thracians. St Trifon Zarezan, for example, who is the patron of wine and viticulture, is the Christianised heir of Dionysus himself. The famous nestinari dances on live embers, which can be seen only in the Strandzha and are on UNESCO's Intangible Cultural Heritage list, are also a relic of Thracian times. They are the Christianised version of ancient rites and rituals dedicated to the Great God and the Great Goddess.</p> <p>All of these make Bulgaria, with its rich and vibrant Thracian past, a must to explore. </p> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-disclaimers field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--entity-reference-target-type-block-content clearfix field__item"> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><hr class="uk-divider-icon" /><p><a href="https://us4bg.org/?hl=en" title="AMERICA FOR BULGARIA FOUNDATION" target="_blank"><img alt="us4bg-logo-reversal.png" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" src="/sites/default/files/banners/AFB_LOGO.jpg" width="30%" class="align-left" /></a><strong>Vibrant Communities: Spotlight on Bulgaria's Living Heritage is a series of articles, initiated by Vagabond Magazine, with the generous support of the <a href="http://www.us4bg.org/?hl=en">America for Bulgaria Foundation</a>, that aims to provide details and background of places, cultural entities, events, personalities and facts of life that are sometimes difficult to understand for the outsider in the Balkans. The ultimate aim is the preservation of Bulgaria's cultural heritage – including but not limited to archaeological, cultural and ethnic diversity. The statements and opinionsexpressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the America for Bulgaria Foundation and its partners</strong></p><hr class="uk-divider-icon" /></div> </div> <a href="/index.php/archive/issue-188" hreflang="en">Issue 188</a> <a href="/index.php/taxonomy/term/221" hreflang="en">America for Bulgaria Foundation</a> <a href="/index.php/taxonomy/term/224" hreflang="en">Thracian heritage</a> <a href="/index.php/taxonomy/term/225" hreflang="en">Thracian shrines</a> <a href="/index.php/taxonomy/term/258" hreflang="en">Thracian treasures</a> <a href="/index.php/taxonomy/term/259" hreflang="en">Thracian tombs</a> <div class="field field--name-field-mt-post-category field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--entity-reference-target-type-taxonomy-term clearfix field__items"> <div class="field__item"><a href="/index.php/travel/vibrant-communities" hreflang="en">VIBRANT COMMUNITIES</a></div> </div> <section class="field field--name-comment field--type-comment field--label-above comment-wrapper"> <h2 class="title comment-form__title">Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=3426&amp;2=comment&amp;3=comment" token="jdIO5sEsWwcw_y6BXv7XHttn0h7AMfMUD9vlAFpHsMI"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Sat, 28 May 2022 16:00:09 +0000 DimanaT 3426 at http://vagabond.bg http://vagabond.bg/index.php/thracian-bulgaria-3426#comments THE MYSTIC POWER OF ZLATOLIST http://vagabond.bg/index.php/mystic-power-zlatolist-3424 <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">THE MYSTIC POWER OF ZLATOLIST</span> <div class="field field--name-field-author-name field--type-string field--label-hidden field__item">by Dimana Trankova; photography by Anthony Georgieff</div> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><a title="View user profile." href="/index.php/user/251" lang="" about="/index.php/user/251" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="" class="username">DimanaT</a></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">Sat, 05/28/2022 - 18:49</span> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-field-subtitle field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field__item"><h3>Tiny village in southwest attracts pilgrims who believe in Most Blessed Stoyna, a woman who supposedly healed through faith</h3> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-image field--type-image field--label-hidden field__items"> <div class="images-container clearfix"> <div class="image-preview clearfix"> <div class="image-wrapper clearfix"> <div class="field__item"> <div class="overlay-container"> <span class="overlay overlay--colored"> <span class="overlay-inner"> <span class="overlay-icon overlay-icon--button overlay-icon--white overlay-animated overlay-fade-top"> <i class="fa fa-plus"></i> </span> </span> <a class="overlay-target-link image-popup" href="/index.php/sites/default/files/2022-05/st%20chistopher%20zlatolst.jpg"></a> </span> <img loading="lazy" src="/sites/default/files/2022-05/st%20chistopher%20zlatolst.jpg" width="1000" height="671" alt="st chistopher zlatolist" title="st chistopher zlatolist" typeof="foaf:Image" /> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><p>Born in 1883 near Serres, which was then in the Ottoman Empire and today is in Greece, Stoyna Dimitrova was seven years old when she experienced something extraordinary. While she was ill with smallpox, a strange storm engulfed her home and tried to push the door open. Her parents attempted to keep out the elements, but Stoyna told them not to – the storm was actually St George, who wanted to enter the house. Her parents complied and a strange light filled the room. When it all ended, Stoyna had become blind.</p> <p>Several years passed before the next strange event. When Stoyna was 13, St George appeared in her dreams and instructed her to dig in the garden. She obeyed and – lo and behold – an icon of the saint and a sanctuary lamp were discovered on the spot. Stoyna built a small chapel there, but she was unable to take care of it for long, as larger events unfolded in her life.</p> <p><img alt="A pilgrim writes her wishes in a special notebook by the cell of Most Blessed Stoyna" class="" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" id="" src="/sites/default/files/issues/188/mystic%20power%20of%20zlatolist/pilgrim%20prayer.jpg" title="A pilgrim writes her wishes in a special notebook by the cell of Most Blessed Stoyna" /></p> <p class="text-align-center"><em>A pilgrim writes her wishes in a special notebook by the cell of Most Blessed Stoyna</em></p> <p>In 1913, after Bulgaria was defeated in the Second Balkan War the region of Macedonia, where Serres was located, was lost. Stoyna's family, along with many Bulgarians from the area, left en masse what had now become Greek territory. The refugees headed towards Petrich, but Stoyna never reached that town. While her family was passing through Zlatolist, she demanded to stay in the village, in the church of St George.</p> <p>Her request was highly unusual, and both her father and the local community hesitated before deciding to allow her to have her way. Stoyna settled down inside the church, and spent the rest of her life there, sleeping in a tiny room on the balcony where women would listen to mass.</p> <p>According to the accounts of her relatives and the villagers of Zlatolist, written down years and sometimes decades after her death, everything Stoyna did while living in the church of St George was extraordinary.</p> <p><img alt="A 19th century teenager reportedly painted the very un-Orthodox murals in St George's Church" class="" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" id="" src="/sites/default/files/issues/188/mystic%20power%20of%20zlatolist/death%20pale%20horse.jpg" title="A 19th century teenager reportedly painted the very un-Orthodox murals in St George's Church" /></p> <p class="text-align-center"><em>A 19th century teenager reportedly painted the very un-Orthodox murals in St George's Church</em></p> <p>She led a celibate, ascetic life, offering spiritual help and healing to anyone who sought her out, and she often communicated with St George and other saints. If anyone tried to harm her, a seemingly defenceless woman, they would be punished by divine force. Advancing Turkish and Greek soldiers were repelled by St George himself, and evil men were punished by the death of their closest kin.</p> <p>Stoyna took care of herself, the church and the garden, and provided schooling to young girls from the village. She ate little, mostly bread and citrus fruit, and gave all the money and sweets that grateful visitors brought her to the children. She instructed the adults too, teaching them Christian stories and values, and would listen to their confessions.</p> <p>Her most amazing ability was her supposed habit of staying for days in a death-like trance, after which she would predict future events, and levitate in the church while praying to St George.</p> <p><img alt="A 19th century teenager reportedly painted the very un-Orthodox murals in St George's Church" class="" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" id="" src="/sites/default/files/issues/188/mystic%20power%20of%20zlatolist/sinner%20breasts.jpg" title="A 19th century teenager reportedly painted the very un-Orthodox murals in St George's Church" /></p> <p>That was why the locals started calling her Prepodobna, or Most Blessed, Stoyna. Some even referred to her as a "saint."</p> <p>After Prepodobna Stoyna died, she was buried in the churchyard. People continued to visit and pray for health and guidance.</p> <p>As Communism took over in Bulgaria, Prepodobna Stoyna remained a local phenomenon. Vanga, a blind clairvoyant who lived on the other side of the mountain, was quick to outshine her. Stoyna slipped into oblivion.</p> <p>Stoyna was rediscovered after the regime collapsed in 1989 and the economic crisis that followed sparked interest in all things spiritual, religious and mystical. By the early 2000s, Zlatolist was already on Bulgaria's pilgrimage map, though it is still less known and visited than Rupite, the area near Petrich where Vanga spent her final years. In the warmer months you will see plenty of people driving along the dusty dirt roads from Katuntsi village or Rozhen Monastery towards Zlatolist.</p> <p><img alt="A 19th century teenager reportedly painted the very un-Orthodox murals in St George's Church" class="" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" id="" src="/sites/default/files/issues/188/mystic%20power%20of%20zlatolist/triumph%20of%20devil.jpg" title="A 19th century teenager reportedly painted the very un-Orthodox murals in St George's Church" /></p> <p>Prepodobna Stoyna's abode is actually far more atmospheric than the manicured, touristy Rupite.</p> <p>Built in 1857 and recently renovated, St George's church appears humble and bland from the outside. Inside everything changes – there you realise that you have entered a strange, mystical place.</p> <p>The church is sunk into the ground. Even when packed with people, there is a hushed silence there. Visitors usually make a beeline for a marble slab on the floor in front of the altar. The double-headed eagle carved there is a standard depiction of the emblem of the Constantinople Patriarchate, which had jurisdiction over St George's at the time of its construction, and is hardly unique. Still, Bulgarians believe that this particular slab is special, and that Prepodobna Stoyna used to pray and levitate over it. It is believed that prayers said there are particularly powerful – you just have to take off your shoes before stepping onto the sacred stone.</p> <p>While waiting for your turn, you will inevitably notice how unusual the murals in St George's are: crude, almost grotesque. The massive, dominant figure of a dog-headed St Christopher is particularly impressive. It is not unique in ecclesiastical art in the region, but people believe that it might hold some special, ominous meaning.</p> <p>There is more to see in this church. Follow the crowds to the back of the church, take off your shoes again and climb the rickety wooden stairs that lead to the women's balcony. On your way you will pass more strange murals: Death on its pale horse, brandishing a crossbow, and a bosomy Mary Magdalene naked to the waist. The artist of St George's in 1876 was supposedly a teenage boy, and these murals give credence to this theory.</p> <p><img alt="St George Zlatolist" class="" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" id="" src="/sites/default/files/issues/188/mystic%20power%20of%20zlatolist/st%20george%20zlatolist.jpg" title="St George Zlatolist" /></p> <p class="text-align-center"><em>Prepodobna Stoyna lived on the church balcony, today the space has become a shrine to her</em></p> <p>The balcony itself is packed with portraits of Prepodobna Stoyna, all recreating with varying degrees of skill her only known photograph: a pale, ascetic face with closed eyes under a black kerchief. All around are presents left by grateful or hopeful pilgrims: linens and towels, artificial flowers, all types of icons imaginable and children's clothes. Two notebooks are provided for them to write down their requests in the hope that Most Blessed Stoyna will ensure deliverance. A knot of people is usually gathered in one corner, impatient to have a look at the prophetess's cell.</p> <p>This room is small and claustrophobic, and stuffed with more portraits and icons.</p> <p>The atmosphere outside St George's is definitely lighter. Visitors walk around the tiny garden, drink water from a supposedly healing spring, pray at Most Blessed Stoyna's grave, and wait for their turn to hug or have their photo taken with the 1,200-year old plane tree.</p> <p>Once they leave the church compound, the pilgrims and visitors engage in activities which Bulgarians always connect with visiting a monastery or some other religious site: the indulgence in more earthly pleasures. Zlatolist is tiny, more of a hamlet than a village, and most of the inhabitants seem to be up at the church, selling fruit and homemade jams, pickles, wine and rakiya to tourists and pilgrims. A couple of makeshift taverns serve some of the most delicious grilled meat in this corner of Bulgaria.</p> <p><img alt="The original tombstone of Most Blessed Stoyna's grave is on display in the church" class="" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" id="" src="/sites/default/files/issues/188/mystic%20power%20of%20zlatolist/prepodovba%20stoyna%20tombstone.jpg" title="The original tombstone of Most Blessed Stoyna's grave is on display in the church" /></p> <p class="text-align-center"><em>The original tombstone of Most Blessed Stoyna's grave is on display in the church</em></p> <p>Who was Prepodobna Stoyna in reality and what happened to her?</p> <p>The lack of documentation and contemporary accounts means that there will never be a definitive answer, but her story is strikingly similar to that of Vanga. Both were suddenly blinded in strange circumstances at an early age. Both had to migrate to Bulgaria proper, and both had visions of saints. They were pious women and dedicated Christians, but are these parallels real or the result of a myth-making process?</p> <p>What is certain is that the Eastern Orthodox Church treats them similarly. On the one hand, both clairvoyants are and were tolerated by the Church authorities. On the other hand, both have been criticised by clerics and theologians – Vanga is suspected of demonic possession while Stoyna is condemned for behaving like an ordained priest and hearing confessions.</p> <p>Those who flock to Zlatolist, whether out of despair or curiosity, are probably not much interested in theology, and what they crave is the feeling of otherworldliness and mysticism. At St George's, there is plenty of both. </p> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-disclaimers field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--entity-reference-target-type-block-content clearfix field__item"> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><hr class="uk-divider-icon" /><p><a href="https://us4bg.org/?hl=en" title="AMERICA FOR BULGARIA FOUNDATION" target="_blank"><img alt="us4bg-logo-reversal.png" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" src="/sites/default/files/banners/AFB_LOGO.jpg" width="30%" class="align-left" /></a><strong>Vibrant Communities: Spotlight on Bulgaria's Living Heritage is a series of articles, initiated by Vagabond Magazine, with the generous support of the <a href="http://www.us4bg.org/?hl=en">America for Bulgaria Foundation</a>, that aims to provide details and background of places, cultural entities, events, personalities and facts of life that are sometimes difficult to understand for the outsider in the Balkans. The ultimate aim is the preservation of Bulgaria's cultural heritage – including but not limited to archaeological, cultural and ethnic diversity. The statements and opinionsexpressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the America for Bulgaria Foundation and its partners</strong></p><hr class="uk-divider-icon" /></div> </div> <a href="/index.php/archive/issue-188" hreflang="en">Issue 188</a> <a href="/index.php/taxonomy/term/221" hreflang="en">America for Bulgaria Foundation</a> <a href="/index.php/taxonomy/term/230" hreflang="en">Religions in Bulgaria</a> <a href="/index.php/taxonomy/term/239" hreflang="en">Esoteric Bulgaria</a> <div class="field field--name-field-mt-post-category field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--entity-reference-target-type-taxonomy-term clearfix field__items"> <div class="field__item"><a href="/index.php/travel/vibrant-communities" hreflang="en">VIBRANT COMMUNITIES</a></div> </div> <section class="field field--name-comment field--type-comment field--label-above comment-wrapper"> <h2 class="title comment-form__title">Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=3424&amp;2=comment&amp;3=comment" token="5x2EZVs2DGq_Xtw9ocJHWgjM5hP-RhC8YzMh37WW16U"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Sat, 28 May 2022 15:49:37 +0000 DimanaT 3424 at http://vagabond.bg http://vagabond.bg/index.php/mystic-power-zlatolist-3424#comments LOOKING AT BURGAS, DARKLY http://vagabond.bg/index.php/looking-burgas-darkly-3422 <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">LOOKING AT BURGAS, DARKLY</span> <div class="field field--name-field-author-name field--type-string field--label-hidden field__item">by Anthony Georgieff; photography by Galina Usheva</div> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><a title="View user profile." href="/index.php/user/251" lang="" about="/index.php/user/251" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="" class="username">DimanaT</a></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">Sat, 05/28/2022 - 17:18</span> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-field-subtitle field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field__item"><h3>Photographer takes in heritage of Black Sea city, and finds... freedom</h3> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-image field--type-image field--label-hidden field__items"> <div class="images-container clearfix"> <div class="image-preview clearfix"> <div class="image-wrapper clearfix"> <div class="field__item"> <div class="overlay-container"> <span class="overlay overlay--colored"> <span class="overlay-inner"> <span class="overlay-icon overlay-icon--button overlay-icon--white overlay-animated overlay-fade-top"> <i class="fa fa-plus"></i> </span> </span> <a class="overlay-target-link image-popup" href="/index.php/sites/default/files/2022-05/old%20burgas.jpg"></a> </span> <img loading="lazy" src="/sites/default/files/2022-05/old%20burgas.jpg" width="1000" height="750" alt="old burgas" title="old burgas" typeof="foaf:Image" /> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><p>Despite some researchers' claims that Bulgaria's largest city on the southern Black Sea coast is ancient (related in some way to... Troy), most would agree that Burgas is quite new.</p> <p>The first poverty-driven settlers came here at the end of the 19th century, only to find themselves in a swampy, malaria-infested area fit for little save fishing. Burgas began as a maze of squalid streets, randomly built harbour warehouses and tumbledown buildings. It took 13 years to approve the first town plan with its 289 small neighbourhoods and seven parks.</p> <p>Burgas did develop, however – faster than most other Bulgarian cities, including the then new capital Sofia.</p> <p>This happened largely thanks to the determination and zeal of its vibrant and at times extremely multicultural community. Bulgarians, Turks, Greeks, Russians, Armenians, Jews, Wallachians and many others used to live side by side in a truly cosmopolitan city. They were driven by capitalism, industrialisation and their desire to make money – a little Brooklyn unseen anywhere in the Balkans at the time except Salonika.</p> <p>Looking at The City of Burgas Jubilee Book 1878-1928, it emerges that the city was top notch at the time. Its harbour was large, and its traffic accounted for a third of the Bulgarian Kingdom's foreign trade. At least a dozen dailies were published in Burgas, and there were Belgian, British, Dutch, Finnish, German, Greek, Hungarian, Italian, Norwegian, Romanian, Spanish, Swedish and Turkish consulates.</p> <p><img alt="old burgas" class="" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" id="" src="/sites/default/files/issues/188/looking%20at%20burgas%20darkly/old%20burgas%203.jpg" title="old burgas" /></p> <p>A court report from the 1920s provides evidence of the port city's cosmopolitanism. "In a case brought before the Burgas District Court, the accused, a Russian, was represented by Bulgarian, Armenian, and Greek solicitors. The plaintiff was Russian, and the prosecutor was Czech, a Mr Mracek. The Bulgarian pleaded in his tongue, the Armenian used Turkish, and the Greek spoke in Greek. The wronged Russian gentleman spoke in Russian, while the prosecutor, who spoke none of these languages at the beginning of his appointment, elected to plead in French. Fluent in all five tongues concerned, Judge Petar Uvaliev responded to each party in the tongue of their choice.”</p> <p>The outcome of this case has been lost in the mists of time, yet it illustrates that Burgas was probably Bulgaria's most dynamic city at the time. A great many of its citizens were fluent in French due to the forceful marketing of the Pension Française, and the city displayed all signs of having adopted Mediterranean culture as its own. The surrounding lakes echoed to the growth of industry such as the Italian South would not see for at least five more decades, and commerce boomed.</p> <p>When the Communists came to power on 9 September 1944, Burgas was a flourishing European town. That is when things rapidly took another turn. Seized by an envy born of deprivation, the new rulers set about with megalomaniacal fanaticism, turning Burgas into a "showpiece Socialist community." Translated into everyday language, this meant declaring war on heritage, ringing the city with a forest of multi-storey pre-fab projects, and developing heavy industry that spread environmental malaise around the entire bay.</p> <p>Multiculturalism slowly came to an end. Most of the Jews emigrated to Israel, most of the Turks went to Turkey, most of the Greeks had already resettled in Greece.</p> <p><img alt="old burgas" class="" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" id="" src="/sites/default/files/issues/188/looking%20at%20burgas%20darkly/old%20burgas%202.jpg" title="old burgas" /></p> <p>The madness reached its peak in the 1970s and 1980s, when a Communist mayor destroyed the historic Town Hall with... an army tank. Fearing intervention from the National Institute of Cultural Monuments in Sofia, he ordered the tank to demolish the magnificent fin-de-siècle edifice under cover of darkness... A similar fate befell Burgas' covered wholesale market, and a large part of the city centre gave way to a high-rise hotel. Several streets around the Maritime Gardens were also destroyed to make room for a thoroughfare.</p> <p>What little remains of Burgas's erstwhile heritage and atmosphere has been the subject of a local photographer, Galina Usheva. Usheva has roamed meticulously the streets of Burgas, using her camera to document and breathe new life into the ghosts of old Italianate buildings, many of which have been left in various stages of dilapidation. There are many and diverse reasons for this. One of them is neglect, ignorance and sheer stupidity. Another is the many heirs to the erstwhile owners never being able to agree what to do with the property of their ancestors. Yet another involves the old trick to wait until a listed building collapses and then erect a flashy multi-storey estate on the plot...</p> <p>Galina Usheva, who is first and foremost an artist rather than an urban planning critic, takes no stand regarding the reasons. Instead, she is fascinated by the charm of the times gone by, amplified by the disarray of construction packaging – some of which in a state of dilapidation comparable to that of the buildings it is supposed to conceal. By exploring the interplays of light, the bizarre shapes and the gentle chiaroscuri, Usheva asserts, she has found her own freedom as an artist.</p> <p>The Finding Freedom exhibition by Galina Usheva was originally on display in her native Burgas. However, it holds meanings that are relevant to the whole of post-Communist Bulgaria's urban heritage. </p> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-disclaimers field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--entity-reference-target-type-block-content clearfix field__item"> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><hr class="uk-divider-icon" /><p><a href="https://us4bg.org/?hl=en" title="AMERICA FOR BULGARIA FOUNDATION" target="_blank"><img alt="us4bg-logo-reversal.png" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" src="/sites/default/files/banners/AFB_LOGO.jpg" width="30%" class="align-left" /></a><strong>Vibrant Communities: Spotlight on Bulgaria's Living Heritage is a series of articles, initiated by Vagabond Magazine, with the generous support of the <a href="http://www.us4bg.org/?hl=en">America for Bulgaria Foundation</a>, that aims to provide details and background of places, cultural entities, events, personalities and facts of life that are sometimes difficult to understand for the outsider in the Balkans. The ultimate aim is the preservation of Bulgaria's cultural heritage – including but not limited to archaeological, cultural and ethnic diversity. The statements and opinionsexpressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the America for Bulgaria Foundation and its partners</strong></p><hr class="uk-divider-icon" /></div> </div> <a href="/index.php/archive/issue-188" hreflang="en">Issue 188</a> <a href="/index.php/taxonomy/term/221" hreflang="en">America for Bulgaria Foundation</a> <a href="/index.php/taxonomy/term/254" hreflang="en">The Black Sea</a> <a href="/index.php/taxonomy/term/302" hreflang="en">20th century Bulgaria</a> <div class="field field--name-field-mt-post-category field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--entity-reference-target-type-taxonomy-term clearfix field__items"> <div class="field__item"><a href="/index.php/travel/vibrant-communities" hreflang="en">VIBRANT COMMUNITIES</a></div> </div> <section class="field field--name-comment field--type-comment field--label-above comment-wrapper"> <h2 class="title comment-form__title">Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=3422&amp;2=comment&amp;3=comment" token="TqJ8wPEbYJmPllpMk2sBA2RnJQYieB9mP1izZzROOJI"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Sat, 28 May 2022 14:18:58 +0000 DimanaT 3422 at http://vagabond.bg http://vagabond.bg/index.php/looking-burgas-darkly-3422#comments