VIBRANT COMMUNITIES https://vagabond.bg/ en WELCOME TO THE BISHOP'S BASILICA OF PHILIPPOPOLIS https://vagabond.bg/welcome-bishops-basilica-philippopolis-3033 <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">WELCOME TO THE BISHOP&#039;S BASILICA OF PHILIPPOPOLIS</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="/user/251" lang="" about="/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">Thu, 04/29/2021 - 18:13</span> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-field-subtitle field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field__item"><h3>Temple of birds comes to life after centuries of oblivion</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="https://vagabond.bg/sites/default/files/2021-04/bishop%20basilica%20philippopolis%20night%202.jpg"></a> </span> <img src="/sites/default/files/2021-04/bishop%20basilica%20philippopolis%20night%202.jpg" width="1000" height="681" alt="The Bishop&#039;s Basilica of Philippopolis" title="The Bishop&#039;s Basilica of Philippopolis" loading="lazy" 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 Bishop&#039;s Basilica of Philippopolis with St Ludwig Cathedral in the foreground</div> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><p>If you have visited Plovdiv in the past couple of years, you might have noticed a grey, modern building in the city centre, right in front of the St Ludwig Roman Catholic Cathedral. This is The Bishop's Basilica of Philippopolis, a groundbreaking project for Bulgaria in more than one way.</p> <p>The place where it stands encapsulates centuries of history spanning from Roman Antiquity to the Middle Ages. The most stunning remains are over 2,000 sq m of mosaics that depict scores of birds and intricate geometric patterns. The brand new visitor's centre uses cutting-edge technologies, such as VR and multimedia, as well as more traditional storytelling, to explain the Basilica's rich past to a wide audience of all ages, both Bulgarian and foreign.</p> <p class="align-center"><span><img alt="Nancy Schiller" src="/sites/default/files/issues/175/bishops%20basilica%20of%20philippopolis/nancy%20schiller.jpg" /><span title="Click and drag to resize">​</span></span></p> <p class="text-align-center"><em>Nancy Schiller, President and CEO of the America for Bulgaria Foundation, during the visitor centre opening on 18 April</em></p> <p>The third factor that makes the Bishop's Basilica of Philippopolis an outstanding example for care for Bulgaria's historical and cultural heritage is that the site was researched, conserved and exhibited with the cooperative efforts of the NGO sector and some Bulgarian institutions. The main engines behind the project were the America for Bulgaria Foundation, the Plovdiv City Council and the Ministry of Culture. Together, in seven years, they managed to bring back to life an archaeological site that was largely forgotten after its incidental discovery in 1982.</p> <p>A couple of years ago the project received international recognition, when the Bishop's Basilica of Philippopolis entered UNESCO's Tentative List.</p> <p>On 18 April 2021, the Bishop's Basilica of Philippopolis was officially inaugurated with a short ceremony due to the restrictions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.</p> <p class="align-center"><span><img alt="bishop's basilica of philippopolis" src="/sites/default/files/issues/175/bishops%20basilica%20of%20philippopolis/bishop%20basilica%20philippopolis%20interior.jpg" /><span title="Click and drag to resize">​</span></span></p> <p class="text-align-center"><em>A state-of-art staircase leads to the second floor where hundreds of square meters of mosaics are exhibited. They are complemented by a virtual reality corner and a designated kids area</em></p> <p>"Your hard work, creativity and dedication has made the Basilica the showpiece that it is. And it will continue to be for the generations to come," said Nancy Schiller, President and CEO of the America for Bulgaria Foundation, who was instrumental for the project. "Together let's make sure that Bulgaria's treasures will be known all over the world."</p> <p>"It is a monumental occasion and a crowning achievement. This place was once a centre of life in Plovdiv and will be one again," intoned the US Ambassador to Bulgaria, Hero Mustafa. The American Embassy has a long tradition in care of Bulgarian cultural heritage via the US Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Protection.</p> <p class="align-center"><span><img alt="hero mustafa" src="/sites/default/files/issues/175/bishops%20basilica%20of%20philippopolis/hero%20mustafa.jpg" /><span title="Click and drag to resize">​</span></span></p> <p class="text-align-center"><em>US Ambassador Hero Mustafa (top) and official guests of the 18 April opening</em></p> <p>On 19 April, the Basilica opened for the general public. The event generated significant interest both onsite, when crowds flocked to see Plovdiv's newest attraction, and online with thousands watching the opening's broadcast live.</p> <p>Through the centuries the location of the Visitor's Centre has experienced many changes and transformations. In the 2nd century AD, the citizens of Roman Philippopolis built there a temple dedicated not to an imaginary deity, but to a real one: the deified emperor. Two centuries later, when Christianity was legalised and gained influence throughout the empire, a spacious church was built over the pagan temple's remains. The Bishop's Basilica of Philippopolis is the largest early Christian church discovered in Bulgaria. It was lavishly decorated in a manner that fit its importance as a hub of Christianity, of religious and political power: splendid mosaics covered its floor, marble columns and reliefs defined its interior.</p> <p class="align-center"><span><img alt="bishop's basilica of philippopolis" src="/sites/default/files/issues/175/bishops%20basilica%20of%20philippopolis/bishop%20basilica%20philippopolis%202.jpg" /><span title="Click and drag to resize">​</span></span></p> <p class="text-align-center"><em>The splendid mosaic floor during the Bishop's Basilica excavations</em></p> <p>In the 6th century the basilica was abandoned. As waves of Barbarians stormed over the region, the citizens of Philippopolis could no longer maintain such a large temple. As the Middle Ages dawned, the once splendid basilica fell into disrepair. People, ever practical, decided to settle over the ruins. After a few more centuries, the living were replaced by the dead: a large cemetery appeared where the basilica used to be.</p> <p>The whole place was finally abandoned – and forgotten – at the end of the 14th century. It was discovered in the 1980s, when central Plovdiv underwent a major overhaul. The partially excavated basilica was fenced and forgotten again. In 2015, thanks to the America for Bulgaria Foundation and the Plovdiv City Council, mosaic restorers and archaeologists returned onsite and started researching the complicated history and the mesmerising art. Uniquely for Bulgaria, they were joined by experts in other fields who united their efforts to create a comprehensive picture of the past. Epigraphers deciphered the inscriptions and forensic anthropologists surveyed the medieval skeletons to reveal who these people were. Even the places where the rocks used for the mosaics were sourced from were identified.</p> <p class="align-center"><span><img alt="birds" src="/sites/default/files/issues/175/bishops%20basilica%20of%20philippopolis/Bishop's%20Basilica_Composite_Birds%201.jpg" /><span title="Click and drag to resize">​</span></span></p> <p class="text-align-center"><em>Scores of birds of over 10 identifiable species are depicted on the Basilica's mosaic floors. Peacocks are prominent, as for the early Christians they symbolised spiritual immortality</em></p> <p>The story of the Bishop's Basilica is as fascinating as are its early Christian mosaics. The modern Visitor's Centre brings it back to life via virtual reality, multimedia screens, videos and scaled models. Children learn about archaeology and ancient mosaics while having fun and playing games in a dedicated corner and a special outdoor playground.</p> <p>This is one the project's greatest achievements. The modern Bishop's Basilica turns the past into a part of the present and the future, creating a new focal point of interest and public life in Plovdiv and Bulgaria.</p> <p>Next time you visit this country's second largest city, do return to the grey, modern building by St Ludwig Cathedral and enter to see some astonishing mosaics and to learn its history in detail. </p> <p class="align-center"><span><img alt="opening" src="/sites/default/files/issues/175/bishops%20basilica%20of%20philippopolis/bishop%20basilica%20philippopolis%20opening.jpg" /><span title="Click and drag to resize">​</span></span></p> <p class="text-align-center"><em>Visitor centre opening, 18 April</em></p> <p class="text-align-center"> </p> <p class="align-center"><span><img alt="soft opening 2019" src="/sites/default/files/issues/175/bishops%20basilica%20of%20philippopolis/bishop%20basilica%20philippopolis.jpg" /><span title="Click and drag to resize">​</span></span></p> <p class="text-align-center"><em>Soft opening: In 2019, ambassadors and diplomats from 23 countries inaugurated the Wall of Tolerance with messages for peace at the Basilica</em></p> <p class="text-align-center"> </p> <p class="align-center"><span><img alt="volunteers" src="/sites/default/files/issues/175/bishops%20basilica%20of%20philippopolis/volunteers%20bulgaria.jpg" /><span title="Click and drag to resize">​</span></span></p> <p class="text-align-center"><em>Hundreds of volunteers, including Vagabond's team, helped with the digs</em></p> <p> </p> <p class="align-center"><span><img alt="bishop's basilica of philippopolis" src="/sites/default/files/issues/175/bishops%20basilica%20of%20philippopolis/bishop%20basilica%20philippopolis%20night.jpg" /><span title="Click and drag to resize">​</span></span></p> <p class="text-align-center"><em>The Bishop's Basilica of Philippopolis provides an educational experience unparalleled in Bulgaria</em></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="/archive/issue-175" hreflang="en">Issue 175</a> <a href="/taxonomy/term/221" hreflang="en">America for Bulgaria Foundation</a> <a href="/taxonomy/term/276" hreflang="en">Plovdiv</a> <a href="/taxonomy/term/232" hreflang="en">Roman heritage</a> <a href="/taxonomy/term/301" hreflang="en">Archaeology 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="/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=3033&amp;2=comment&amp;3=comment" token="bZdwhJJsO8KzzhEDK-TPfY-EIFinzFPN2QpXXqqeNWk"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Thu, 29 Apr 2021 15:13:40 +0000 DimanaT 3033 at https://vagabond.bg https://vagabond.bg/welcome-bishops-basilica-philippopolis-3033#comments NATURE MEETS CULTURE AT BELOGRADCHIK ROCKS & MAGURATA CAVE https://vagabond.bg/nature-meets-culture-belogradchik-rocks-magurata-cave-3032 <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">NATURE MEETS CULTURE AT BELOGRADCHIK ROCKS &amp; MAGURATA CAVE</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="/user/251" lang="" about="/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">Thu, 04/29/2021 - 17:58</span> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-field-subtitle field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field__item"><h3>Stunning landscapes, morbid legends, prehistoric mysteries and... good wine</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="https://vagabond.bg/sites/default/files/2021-04/strange%20rocks%20belogradchik.jpg"></a> </span> <img src="/sites/default/files/2021-04/strange%20rocks%20belogradchik.jpg" width="1000" height="666" alt="strange rocks belogradchik" title="strange rocks belogradchik" loading="lazy" 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>Abandoned villages, depopulated towns, potholed roads: signs that things have gone horribly wrong in the recent past define the Bulgarian northwest, officially the poorest region in the EU. Vegetation engulfs abandoned factories built during Communism when the economy was subsidised – and left to rot during the turbulent transition to democracy and the open market. As industries failed, locals departed for Sofia and the West. What remained was an ageing population, crumbling infrastructure, crime and despair.</p> <p>The quiet human drama still unfolds against the background of spectacular landscapes. Belogradchik is a case in point. The town's crumbling streets and rundown houses are scattered among one of the most astonishing rock formations in Europe. Nearby, mesmerising prehistoric drawings cover the bowels of the Magurata Cave.</p> <p class="align-center"><span><img alt="belogradchik rocks" src="/sites/default/files/issues/175/treasure%20of%20northwest%20bulgaria/strange%20rocks%20bulgaria.jpg" /><span title="Click and drag to resize">​</span></span></p> <p class="text-align-center"><em>The Schoolgirl is one of Belogradchik's most famous rocks. According to legend, the Schoolgirl was a real girl turned to stone to evade a dervish, who chased her from behind, and a bear which sprang up in front</em></p> <p>Jagged, red and twisted, the Belogradchik Rocks stretch in a narrow 30-kilometre band along the foot of the Stara Planina. Their formation began about 250 million years ago, when silt and sand accumulated on the floor of a shallow sea, which later disappeared. The deposits solidified into reddish sandstone. Erosion then took over and carved them into the phantasmagorical shapes that we see today.</p> <p>A larger-than-life Rorschach test, the Belogradchik Rocks have stirred the imagination of generations of locals. The resulting legends involve terror, envy, doomed love and dark passions.</p> <p>One tells that a rock called Monahinyata, or The Nun, was once a beautiful girl who was forced to take the vows by a jealous monk, but she fell in love with another monk in the neighbouring monastery. When she gave birth to a child, she was forced to leave her convent. In a frenzy of moral indignation, Mother Nature destroyed both religious foundations, and turned the monks, nuns and the young mother into stone. According to another version of the legend the rock known as Konnikat, or the Horseman, also played a part in this tragic tale.</p> <p class="align-center"><span><img alt="rock mushrooms" src="/sites/default/files/issues/175/treasure%20of%20northwest%20bulgaria/strange%20rocks%20belogradchik%202.jpg" /><span title="Click and drag to resize">​</span></span></p> <p class="text-align-center"><em>Oxidised iron explains why Belogradchik rocks are red</em></p> <p>Borov Kamak, or Fir Stone, recalls the sorrow of a Bulgarian shepherd who used to go there every day and play the kaval while looking at the nearby Turkish farm where his beloved was kept as a concubine. One day, the ram of his flock turned against his master and pushed him into the abyss. The sheep followed the shepherd into death – and into legend.</p> <p>The Schoolgirl and the Dervish rocks are the petrified remains of another such story. A Turkish dervish developed an unholy passion for a beautiful Bulgarian girl and lured her into a meeting. The terrified girl ran away from him, crying for help, until both of them were turned into stone.</p> <p>Bliznatsite, or The Twins, were two brothers unjustly killed by local noblemen (amazingly, the villains of this story are not Turks).</p> <p class="align-center"><span><img alt="fortress" src="/sites/default/files/issues/175/treasure%20of%20northwest%20bulgaria/fortress%20bulgaria.jpg" /><span title="Click and drag to resize">​</span></span></p> <p class="text-align-center"><em>When you climb the fortress you realise its strategic importance</em></p> <p>The Belogradchik Rocks have inspired people to create more than just morbid stories. The formation stands on an important route between the River Danube and the Aegean, and in times past needed protection. The Romans were the first to turn one of the most outstanding groups of rock into a stronghold. Later, medieval Bulgarians and the Ottomans continued to use the site, adding new layers of towers, moats and walls. The fortification that today encircles the rocks was built in 1805-1837 by French and Italian experts in line with the period thinking on contemporary warfare. The renovated fort was soon put to use in the bloody suppression of not one, but two Bulgarian uprisings in the region.</p> <p>After that, the fort became redundant and was abandoned. Today, it is a tourist attraction.</p> <p class="align-center"><span><img alt="belogradchik rocks" src="/sites/default/files/issues/175/treasure%20of%20northwest%20bulgaria/strange%20rocks%20belogradchik%203.jpg" /><span title="Click and drag to resize">​</span></span></p> <p class="text-align-center"><em>Belogradchik's surreal landscape can be explored on foot through several designated trails</em></p> <p>While the Belogradchik Rocks blend geology, history and imagination above ground Magurata Cave amalgamates geology, prehistory and imagination underground.</p> <p>Formed 12 million years ago and about 2,500m long, Magurata is one of Bulgaria's longest caves. Its collection of stalactites and stalagmites is spectacular enough, but the prehistoric drawings in one of the caverns are truly unique. They are Bulgaria's only example of cave art: black suns, weird animals and stick-figure humans who hunt, dance, have sex and perform magic or religious rituals.</p> <p>The black suns and the dancing women of the Magurata Cave date to the 5th-4th millennium BC, when living in farming communities and the use of copper tools was the norm.</p> <p class="align-center"><span><img alt="cave art magmata Bulgaria" src="/sites/default/files/issues/175/treasure%20of%20northwest%20bulgaria/cave%20art%20bulgaria%202.jpg" /><span title="Click and drag to resize">​</span></span></p> <p class="text-align-center"><em>Unleash your imagination! No one is sure what the drawings in Magurata Cave depict</em></p> <p>For years, Bulgarians were aware of the existence of the Belogradchik Rocks and Magurata Cave, but few had visited the area, partly because of the inadequate tourist infrastructure and partly because they were busy exploring foreign destinations.</p> <p>The Covid-19 pandemic changed that. As restrictions impeded international travel, lockdown-weary Bulgarians were "forced" to rediscover their own country.</p> <p>Belogradchik was among their first choices. When a Vagabond team visited on a September 2020 weekend, all the B&amp;Bs were booked full and there was an hour's wait to get a table at a restaurant.</p> <p class="align-center"><span><img alt="cave art magurata bulgaria" src="/sites/default/files/issues/175/treasure%20of%20northwest%20bulgaria/cave%20art%20bulgaria%203.jpg" /><span title="Click and drag to resize">​</span></span></p> <p class="text-align-center"><em>The grating on the cave entrance, made sometime in the 1960s or the 1970s, is misleading. We have no data that cavemen have ever inhabited Magurata. The famed drawings were created by a farming community that used elaborate metal tools</em></p> <p>The increased interest of Bulgarians in the wonders of the Northwest coincided with initiatives to boost local tourism, some of them funded by the America for Bulgaria Foundation, such as hot air ballooning. Locals, too, are finally waking up to new opportunities to make some money. Belogradchik's only proper hotel has been closed for some time, but new B&amp;Bs and recreation compounds in and around the town have opened.</p> <p>And there is the local wine. The Belogradchik region has a special terroir and local wineries make the most of it. One of them even uses the Magurata Cave to make naturally carbonated labels.</p> <p>If ever there was a silver lining in this pandemic, one is definitely shining over Belogradchik, but you still need to drive carefully: the potholes have not disappeared. </p> <p class="align-center"><span><img alt="cave art magurata bulgaria" src="/sites/default/files/issues/175/treasure%20of%20northwest%20bulgaria/cave%20art%20bulgaria.jpg" /><span title="Click and drag to resize">​</span></span></p> <p class="text-align-center"><em>Some claim that the cave drawings are actually a calendar</em></p> <p> </p> <p class="align-center"><span><img alt="old mosque" src="/sites/default/files/issues/175/treasure%20of%20northwest%20bulgaria/old%20mosque%20belogradchik.jpg" /><span title="Click and drag to resize">​</span></span></p> <p class="text-align-center"><em>Besides the fortress, an old and abandoned mosque is the only visible trace of the Ottoman heritage of Belogradchik</em></p> <p class="text-align-center"> </p> <p class="align-center"><span><img alt="old fortress" src="/sites/default/files/issues/175/treasure%20of%20northwest%20bulgaria/strange%20rocks%20belogradchik%20archive.jpg" /><span title="Click and drag to resize">​</span></span></p> <p class="text-align-center"><em>The fortress in the 19th century when it was still in use. Engraving from Danubian Bulgaria and the Balkans by Austrian-Hungarian traveller Felix Kanitz</em></p> <p class="text-align-center"> </p> <p class="align-center"><span><img alt="belogradchik" src="/sites/default/files/issues/175/treasure%20of%20northwest%20bulgaria/strange%20rocks%20bulgaria%202.jpg" /><span title="Click and drag to resize">​</span></span></p> <p class="text-align-center"><em>"These giant red pillars, scattered on both sides of the deep road, where on the bottom small waterfalls fling the water of a foaming stream; these trees, hanging from a great distance, as if they were ready to fall; this deep solitude, scarcely disturbed by the flight of eagles and vultures, all of this provokes terror even in the most tempered soul," wrote French Jérôme-Adolphe Blanqui about the Belogradchik Rocks in 1841. He was in the region to investigate for the French government the Ottoman atrocities during the suppression of a Bulgarian rebellion</em></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="/archive/issue-175" hreflang="en">Issue 175</a> <a href="/taxonomy/term/221" hreflang="en">America for Bulgaria Foundation</a> <a href="/taxonomy/term/249" hreflang="en">The Stara Planina</a> <a href="/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="/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=3032&amp;2=comment&amp;3=comment" token="QDxR1lHXIYtBgrJLxzijJnOs1Z1sk0BP2qgjJIwaBmM"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Thu, 29 Apr 2021 14:58:54 +0000 DimanaT 3032 at https://vagabond.bg https://vagabond.bg/nature-meets-culture-belogradchik-rocks-magurata-cave-3032#comments WHAT IS CHITALISHTE? https://vagabond.bg/what-chitalishte-3029 <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">WHAT IS CHITALISHTE?</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="/user/251" lang="" about="/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">Thu, 04/29/2021 - 17:27</span> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-field-subtitle field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field__item"><h3>Tongue-twister has defined Bulgaria's community spirit for 200 years</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="https://vagabond.bg/sites/default/files/2021-04/community%20hall%20bulgaria%202.jpg"></a> </span> <img src="/sites/default/files/2021-04/community%20hall%20bulgaria%202.jpg" width="1000" height="667" alt="community centre bulgaria" title="community centre bulgaria" loading="lazy" 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 chitalishte of Suhindol was established in 1870 and has a library with over 50,000 books, five choirs, a troupe for authentic folklore, a dance troupe and an a</div> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><p>Travel outside Bulgaria's big cities and a particular building will attract your attention. Prominently located in the central square of villages and towns, usually with a grand staircase, a heavy colonnade and a decorated pediment, it radiates importance. It is usually well maintained. Posters for concerts and travelling theatre shows cover the notice boards by the entrance, and a steady stream of people come and go through the only unlocked door (a long-standing tradition in Bulgarian public buildings is to design an entrance with three or five doors, and to keep all of them closed except one). There might be a café, as well. However, sometimes this building is empty, abandoned, derelict, just like the town or village where it happens to be located. Ragged posters for performances are long gone, and fresh death notices for recently deceased local residents cover its dusty glass doors, which are all closed and barred.</p> <p>What are these buildings? The Bulgarian <em>chitalishte</em> is not only difficult to pronounce for non-native speakers. It is also very difficult to define. Literally, it means "reading place." But in reality it also means a library, a community house, an amateur theatre, a meeting place – all at once. Translating it into English is difficult as the institution of a chitalishte does not exist in the English-speaking world. Something similar does exist in Germany, where it is called <em>Mitbürgerhaus</em>, and in Denmark, the great Danish institution of the <em>medborgerhus</em>.</p> <p class="align-center"><span><img alt="library" src="/sites/default/files/issues/175/great%20bulgarian%20institution/library%20bulgaria.jpg" /><span title="Click and drag to resize">​</span></span></p> <p class="text-align-center"><em>The library of the chitalishte of Gumoshtnik village</em></p> <p>Chitalishte, plural <em>chitalishta</em>, is a great Bulgarian tradition. It appeared under particular circumstances, played a specific role in the life of the nation, and remains an institution that is as important as it is often neglected by the general public.</p> <p>It all began in 1848, when a teacher in Lom, a town on the River Danube, arranged his personal library in one of the school rooms, and opened it to the public. He put a sign above the door: chitalishte, or reading place.</p> <p>Alternatively, it all began on 30 January 1856, in Svishtov, another town on the Danube, when four teachers opened a public "chitalishte with museum" in the house of a prominent merchant. Its library was stocked with 800 donated books, and 42 Svishtov locals pledged money for more books in Bulgarian and other languages, newspaper subscriptions, the collecting of antiquities, and also the funding for promising Bulgarians to study abroad, plus book publishing and distribution.</p> <p>Within months, chitalishta began to appear all over the Bulgarian lands, from the Danubian Plain to the Valley of Roses, to Macedonia.</p> <p class="align-center"><span><img alt="kalofer" src="/sites/default/files/issues/175/great%20bulgarian%20institution/community%20hall%20bulgaria%203.jpg" /><span title="Click and drag to resize">​</span></span></p> <p class="text-align-center"><em>The chitalishte of Kalofer, named after revolutionary Hristo Botev, is in a building constructed during the overhaul of the town's centre in the 1970s. The chitalishte itself was established in 1869</em></p> <p>Lom and Svishtov continue to disagree whose chitalishte started it all. Yes, Lom was the first, but it did not start a mass movement as Svishtov did. However, what is more important is why these institutions appeared in the first place.</p> <p>In the 1840s-1850s, after almost five centuries of Ottoman domination one of whose results was isolation from the rest of Europe, change was finally in the offing through the Bulgarian lands. The Ottoman Empire was slowly starting to modernise, and many Bulgarians were gripped by an urge to define their sense of who they were. Largely small-time farmers and artisans, they lacked official representation, but were energetic and confident enough to create their own organisations. They had self-governing municipalities and opened local schools offering a modern curriculum. Yet, they craved for more – especially the Bulgarians living along the River Danube. As they travelled to and traded with Central Europe they were exposed to innovations and new ideas in many areas of life – from business to education to media and entertainment. They wanted to bring these back home.</p> <p class="align-center"><span><img alt="shipka" src="/sites/default/files/issues/175/great%20bulgarian%20institution/community%20hall%20bulgaria%204.jpg" /><span title="Click and drag to resize">​</span></span></p> <p class="text-align-center"><em>Light, as the chitalishte of Shipka is called, was established as early as 1861. It is now housed in the old school as its own building is in danger of collapsing. The local community is trying to raise money for renovation, but so far they have failed</em></p> <p>The mass opening of chitalishta after 1856 was part of this trend. Bulgarians needed spaces to meet, read books and newspapers, discuss politics (and even revolution), and enjoy newly imported European theatre and music.</p> <p>When the Bulgarian state was eventually restored, in 1878, chitalishta remained a much needed provider of culture and education to the Bulgarian nation that was in the process of rapidly modernising itself. Their names, such as Enlightenment, Progress, Spark and Perseverance, reflected the ideals their communities cherished. Tellingly, the chitalishte in Suhindol, a major vintners hub, was called... Sobriety.</p> <p>In 1899, the community of Kazanlak broke new ground when it built special premises for its chitalishte. A year later, Bulgaria's first opera, A Poor Woman, premiered on its stage. Soon, this chitalishte boasted a choir, a museum and an art gallery. Today, it is the largest institution of its kind in Bulgaria.</p> <p class="align-center"><span><img alt="gumoshtnik" src="/sites/default/files/issues/175/great%20bulgarian%20institution/community%20hall%20bulgaria%205.jpg" /><span title="Click and drag to resize">​</span></span></p> <p class="text-align-center"><em>Established in 1927, the chitalishte of Gumoshtnik is still operational. Yet, no villager remembers the last time it hosted a cinema screening or a theatre performance</em></p> <p>When the Communists took over, in 1944, chitalishta had to adapt to fit into the new, overregulated society. State funding and control replaced community initiative and local donations. This meant more money for the construction of new chitalishta buildings (most of the chitalishta you see today date from this period) with well-stocked libraries and stages for theatre performances and movie screenings. This also meant centralised control over their activities and the promotion of propaganda for the Socialist order. Chitalishta in towns and larger villages would often have an amateur theatre troupe and ballet, music and even foreign-language classes for children. A folklore troupe was a must, promoting a sanitised version of Bulgarian traditional music and dance, which were dying out in the villages due to migration to the cities, and the active discouragement of "backward" traditions.</p> <p>Despite these changes, chitalishta remained a pillar of community life, particularly in smaller places where there were no libraries, theatres and cinemas to compete with.</p> <p class="align-center"><span><img alt="svezhen" src="/sites/default/files/issues/175/great%20bulgarian%20institution/community%20hall%20bulgaria.jpg" /><span title="Click and drag to resize">​</span></span></p> <p class="text-align-center"><em>Established in 1868, the chitalishte of Svezhen claims to be the oldest village chitalishte in Bulgaria</em></p> <p>The collapse of Communism, in 1989, hit chitalishta hard. State funding dried up. People started to migrate not only to bigger cities but also abroad. In the worst affected communities, chitalishta with decades-long traditions had to shut down. Their libraries were dispersed, their once gilded stages became ghostly ruins. Where chitalishta remained open, they had to resort to survival strategies such as renting out spaces for cafés, restaurants and Internet clubs.</p> <p>And yet, chitalishta are still around. They are funded by local municipalities, although donations of money or books for the library are always welcome. Many still have a folklore troupe in the best tradition of Communist times, although some have become more interested in authentic folklore and the revival of rites that have been largely forgotten since the mid-20th century. For the children there are art, piano and English-language lessons. The most ambitious have an amateur theatre troupe, but most of the time their stages are quiet, or rented to travelling companies, chalga stars or election campaigns. Movie screenings are no more.</p> <p class="align-center"><span><img alt="kovachevtsi" src="/sites/default/files/issues/175/great%20bulgarian%20institution/kovachevtsi.jpg" /><span title="Click and drag to resize">​</span></span></p> <p class="text-align-center"><em>The chitalishte of Kovachevtsi is named after the village's most famous son, Stalinist dictator Georgi Dimitrov. It was built in his memory and has an exhibition dedicated to him</em></p> <p>In some villages, chitalishta double up as senior citizens clubs. Elderly folk come there to chat with friends, have a cup of tea and some biscuits, and to see their grandchildren in the United States or the UK on the library computers.</p> <p>For almost two centuries, chitalishta have evolved with Bulgarian life, providing culture, education, entertainment and much needed human contact to anyone who needed them. What started with enthusiasm in the 19th century continues its life in the 21st, a good example of how local tradition can overcome the restraints of changing political systems and the chronic lack of funding. </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="/archive/issue-175" hreflang="en">Issue 175</a> <a href="/taxonomy/term/221" hreflang="en">America for Bulgaria Foundation</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="/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=3029&amp;2=comment&amp;3=comment" token="KfLo5Uwyw9M6_KjHfWcOR_vyzkz9lDHp-BP-pVBY2ts"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Thu, 29 Apr 2021 14:27:16 +0000 DimanaT 3029 at https://vagabond.bg https://vagabond.bg/what-chitalishte-3029#comments PEONIES OVER BLACK SEA https://vagabond.bg/peonies-over-black-sea-3027 <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">PEONIES OVER BLACK SEA</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="/user/251" lang="" about="/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">Thu, 04/29/2021 - 17:20</span> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-field-subtitle field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field__item"><h3>Rare plants turn Yaylata Plateau into huge flower bed</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="https://vagabond.bg/sites/default/files/2021-04/wild%20peonies.jpg"></a> </span> <img src="/sites/default/files/2021-04/wild%20peonies.jpg" width="1000" height="667" alt="wild peonies" title="wild peonies" loading="lazy" 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>Endangered, rare and ephemeral; wild peonies are to be found in just a few locations across Bulgaria. At Yaylata Plateau, if you are lucky enough to visit in late spring, you will find scores of them.</p> <p>This corner of Bulgaria is a protected area where wildlife lives in harmony with ancient ruins, and the southernmost corner of the great Eurasian steppes reaches a rugged seacoast full of coves and caves. Located a few kilometres from the nondescript village of Kamen Bryag, Yaylata remains one of the last refuges of nature, history and landscape undisturbed by human presence in Bulgaria. Most tourists come here to take photos, and then rush away to more comfortable places. Few camp inside the caves, because sleeping here comes with the risk of meeting the nasty scolopendra, an aggressive and poisonous centipede that loves hiding in your shoes.</p> <p class="align-center"><span><img alt="sea bulgaria" src="/sites/default/files/issues/175/peonies%20over%20black%20sea/sea%20bulgaria.jpg" /><span title="Click and drag to resize">​</span></span></p> <p>Yaylata remains a place of extremes, of beauty and danger combined. Covering about 75 acres, the rocky terrace rises about 50-60 m above the sea. Shaped by the wind, the sea and the occasional earthquake, its red rocks have become home to a diverse habitat, combining the characteristics of the steppe and the sea. Over 178 bird species use it as a port-of-call during their annual migration to and from Africa, and other endangered species make their home here, including the European shag, the great and the little bustard.</p> <p>Yaylata was settled by humans as early, according to some claims, as the 4th millennium BC. Graves from the 2nd-6th centuries AD, dug directly into the rock, pockmark the highest part of the plateau. About a hundred natural caves were shaped into homes, temples and churches. On a lower terrace stand the remains of a late-Antiquity fortress. Its walls with four towers protected it until the 11th century, when the Pecheneg raids brought about its ultimate destruction and abandonment. People continued to sail by though, and as a result the waters around Yaylata are full of shipwrecks.</p> <p class="align-center"><span><img alt="wild peonies" src="/sites/default/files/issues/175/peonies%20over%20black%20sea/wild%20peonies%202.jpg" /><span title="Click and drag to resize">​</span></span></p> <p>Those who inhabited Yaylata include the long forgotten Goths as well as the better known Byzantines and Bulgarians. The name of the location itself is of Turkic origin, meaning "high-ground grazing plateau," indicating that for generations of locals Yaylata was not a gateway to the sea with its dangers and opportunities, but a pasture. In the neighbouring villages, it is still so: most of them are inland and look towards the fertile Dobrudzha with its wheat and sunflower fields, not to the treacherous sea.</p> <p>By the end of the 20th century, Yaylata was a backwater, far from the best beaches on the Black Sea and not that easy to get to. This started to change when climbers and what passed for hippies in Bulgaria discovered the location. They loved it for its beautiful wilderness, and turned it into a secret place known and cherished by a select few. The situation did not last long, however. In the 2000s, more Bulgarians had the means and the desire to travel and explore, and the more easily reached beaches had become overdeveloped. Facebook and Instagram photos being a vital part of modern life, the masses moved on to Kamen Bryag and Yaylata, and suddenly the quiet celebration of the sunrise on 1 July, a hippy and uniquely Bulgarian tradition established in the 1980s, began to attract thousands.</p> <p class="align-center"><span><img alt="sea bulgaria" src="/sites/default/files/issues/175/peonies%20over%20black%20sea/sea%20bulgaria%202.jpg" /><span title="Click and drag to resize">​</span></span></p> <p>Popularity is not the only thing endangering the tranquility and the undisturbed wildlife of Yaylata. Humans have done even more damage. Gone are the monk seals that used to live on the coast, hunted to extinction by local fishermen.</p> <p>The remains of the fortress were recently "restored" with ugly new stones, in an ill advised attempt to attract more tourists. There are signs of development all around Yaylata, from the new hotels right on the cliffs in neighbouring Tyulenovo village to those springing up closer and closer to the protected territory, in Kamen Bryag itself. Someone has even built an ugly stone shelter around Ogancheto, or The Little Fire, a natural gas outlet that provided light and warmth for countless campers willing to rough it.</p> <p>Yaylata, however, is still just about holding out against these changes. Just make sure to go there when the wild peonies are in full bloom. </p> <p class="align-center"><span><img alt="wild peonies" src="/sites/default/files/issues/175/peonies%20over%20black%20sea/wild%20peonies%203.jpg" /><span title="Click and drag to resize">​</span></span></p> <p> </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="/archive/issue-175" hreflang="en">Issue 175</a> <a href="/taxonomy/term/221" hreflang="en">America for Bulgaria Foundation</a> <a href="/taxonomy/term/254" hreflang="en">The Black Sea</a> <a href="/taxonomy/term/248" hreflang="en">Nature</a> <a href="/taxonomy/term/256" hreflang="en">History</a> <a href="/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="/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=3027&amp;2=comment&amp;3=comment" token="5YKV3S9hMf_SQBrXfB1hnm7kC0beDEhOxDUfJC-cBPY"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Thu, 29 Apr 2021 14:20:18 +0000 DimanaT 3027 at https://vagabond.bg https://vagabond.bg/peonies-over-black-sea-3027#comments WHITE WATER RIDES IN BULGARIA https://vagabond.bg/white-water-rides-bulgaria-3025 <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">WHITE WATER RIDES IN 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="/user/251" lang="" about="/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">Thu, 04/29/2021 - 17:13</span> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-field-subtitle field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field__item"><h3>Rafting on Struma is not just for adrenaline junkies</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="https://vagabond.bg/sites/default/files/2021-04/whitewater%20rafting%20bulgaria%203.jpg"></a> </span> <img src="/sites/default/files/2021-04/whitewater%20rafting%20bulgaria%203.jpg" width="1000" height="667" alt="whitewater rafting bulgaria" title="whitewater rafting bulgaria" loading="lazy" 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>City fatigue is one of the most acute consequences of the Covid-19 travel restrictions. For the weary Sofianite, there is somewhere in Bulgaria that offers rapid relief. An hour and a half drive out of town, the jagged and winding Struma Gorge is hell for motorists and heaven for nature lovers. At this part of its course, the Struma squeezes through narrow bends, flings itself from rocks and creates whirlpools. It is a pleasure to contemplate and take photos, but negotiating it on a raft is much more: an adventure, an adrenaline boost, a much-desired close contact with nature, plus the feeling of belonging to a team striving towards a common goal.</p> <p>This part of the Struma is considered to be the most technically challenging whitewater strip in Bulgaria. For 12 kilometres, the river alternates between rapids and calmer stretches. Under the guidance of an experienced instructor, this extreme sport is accessible to people of all ages, both beginners and experienced rafters.</p> <p class="align-center"><span><img alt="whitewater rafting bulgaria" src="/sites/default/files/issues/175/whitewater%20rafting%20bulgaria/whitewater%20rafting%20bulgaria.jpg" /><span title="Click and drag to resize">​</span></span></p> <p>Commercial whitewater rafting in the Struma Gorge started in earnest in the 2000s, when companies recognised the river's potential and built infrastructure to serve the growing number of visitors ready to pay a fee for a thrilling ride. Today, whitewater rafting in the Struma Gorge is a popular, affordable and accessible way to have fun and get wet with friends or strangers. HRs claim that few activities can compare to whitewater rafting as a means of team building, and while you paddle your way through the gushing water next to your company accountant, avoiding the rocks, muscles straining and heart thumping, you may well agree. After such an experience, company meetings and water cooler conversations are supposed to improve.</p> <p>In short, if you have the opportunity, take it.</p> <p>You can interpret the whole experience as a metaphor for humanity struggling to cope in a turbulent situation, unsure and afraid of what awaits round life's next rocky bend, but nonetheless concentrating on victory, no matter what. You might let yourself go in the experience of being wet and physically active in the company of others. You might just enjoy the feeling of camaraderie, or freedom, or adrenaline coursing through your veins.</p> <p class="align-center"><span><img alt="whitewater rafting bulgaria" src="/sites/default/files/issues/175/whitewater%20rafting%20bulgaria/whitewater%20rafting%20bulgaria%202.jpg" /><span title="Click and drag to resize">​</span></span></p> <p>It does not matter, really. The Struma is there: as white, pristine and turbulent as Sofia is stuck in its dust, congestion and restrictions.</p> <p>Early spring, when the Struma is swollen with the snowmelt from the mountains, is the best time to ride, but – water levels permitting – rafting can take place even in summer and early autumn. </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="/archive/issue-175" hreflang="en">Issue 175</a> <a href="/taxonomy/term/248" hreflang="en">Nature</a> <a href="/taxonomy/term/221" hreflang="en">America for Bulgaria Foundation</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="/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=3025&amp;2=comment&amp;3=comment" token="MUcNTqJvkT9-GSnHxp_NDUZ44RZWQweGXUxnQ6s2OkU"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Thu, 29 Apr 2021 14:13:01 +0000 DimanaT 3025 at https://vagabond.bg https://vagabond.bg/white-water-rides-bulgaria-3025#comments RHODOPE'S CITY OF GODS https://vagabond.bg/rhodopes-city-gods-3023 <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">RHODOPE&#039;S CITY OF GODS</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="/user/251" lang="" about="/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">Thu, 04/29/2021 - 17:01</span> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-field-subtitle field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field__item"><h3>Carved out of rock, millennia-old pagan sanctuary of Perperikon became bishop's seat when Christianity arrived</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="https://vagabond.bg/sites/default/files/2021-04/rock%20city%20bulgaria%20air.jpg"></a> </span> <img src="/sites/default/files/2021-04/rock%20city%20bulgaria%20air.jpg" width="1000" height="666" alt="rock city bulgaria air" title="rock city bulgaria air" loading="lazy" 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 millennia of human settlement have turned Perperikon into an elaborate puzzle of stone that will keep archaeologists busy for many years to come</div> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><p>Deep in the heart of the Rhodope, Perperikon is an ancient town that over the course of millennia perched, Machu Picchu-like, atop a rocky hill. Commanding stupendous views of the valleys below, it covers over 1,200 acres – supposedly the largest megalithic site in the Balkans.</p> <p>People began to come and pray there in the 6th millennium BC. It was nothing spectacular – they filled the crevices with pottery shards as offerings to the unknown deities or spirits they venerated. And yet, they started a trend. Those first believers disappeared from Perperikon and about 1,000 years passed without a trace of human presence there. However, at the end of the 5th and the beginning of the 4th millennia BC, the hill again began to attract worshippers.</p> <p>In the 18th-12th centuries BC, ritual activity changed: people started hewing niches, altars and basins. Gradually, they built a whole settlement, complete with a fortified acropolis, a mighty palace and residential quarters. The foundations of the buildings, the ground floors and even the streets and sewage systems were all cut into the rock.</p> <p class="align-center"><span><img alt="city of gods" src="/sites/default/files/issues/175/city%20of%20gods/rock%20city%20bulgaria.jpg" /><span title="Click and drag to resize">​</span></span></p> <p class="text-align-center"><em>The "Palace" with its supposed Throne Room has a splendid vista of the area</em></p> <p>The most impressive building from this stage of Perperikon's existence is known as the Palace, a labyrinthine construction of more than 50 halls and rooms, corridors and covered staircases. It also had a ritual hall with a large circular altar made of rock. There, a supposed throne was hewn of stone, while the rocks all around were covered with oval, rectangular and circular pits. Some of them were sacrificial, others were storage spaces.</p> <p>Perperikon went into decline in the 4th-1st centuries BC, but when the Romans took over Thrace, activity resumed and new buildings adorned the hill. The fortifications on the acropolis were reinforced.</p> <p>The ancient glory of Perperikon and the evidence that it was a significant religious site has led some historians and archaeologists to speculate that the rock city was where the famed Oracle of Dionysus was located. According to ancient accounts, the shrine of the God of wine and divine madness was immensely popular and predicted the glorious future of both Alexander the Great and the Emperor Augustus. However, ancient accounts are ambiguous on the oracle's exact location.</p> <p class="align-center"><span><img alt="city of gods" src="/sites/default/files/issues/175/city%20of%20gods/rock%20city%20bulgaria%202.jpg" /><span title="Click and drag to resize">​</span></span></p> <p class="text-align-center"><em>These holes were carved into the bedrock to support wood beams forming the walls of less permanent buildings</em></p> <p>No matter whether Perperikon was the home of the Oracle of Dionysus or not, it was still a religious centre of such importance that Christianity simply took it over when it arrived. The adherents to the new faith moved into the empty temples of the old one, and Perperikon became the stronghold of local bishops.</p> <p>The remains of an early Christian basilica are now clearly visible in Perperikon. Close to it are the ghostly remains of a monastic necropolis with graves cut into the bedrock.</p> <p>Life at Perperikon all came to an end in 1362, when the Ottomans invaded and the rock city was abandoned for good. Nature soon swallowed up the remains of the churches and the Thracian shrines.</p> <p class="align-center"><span><img alt="city of gods" src="/sites/default/files/issues/175/city%20of%20gods/rock%20city%20bulgaria%20tower.jpg" /><span title="Click and drag to resize">​</span></span></p> <p class="text-align-center"><em>The remains of medieval tower is the most prominent structure on site</em></p> <p>The site was rediscovered by archaeologists in 1979-1982, but Perperikon only became a household name in the early 2000s, when excavations re-started and the hypothesis that it was the Oracle of Dionysus was promoted as an established fact.</p> <p>Archaeological research on the hill continues to this day and there is hardly a summer without some discovery announced and happily promoted by the media. Interest is growing, with visitor numbers counted in the thousands. Still, the information on the official site is outdated and the tourist infrastructure is hardly sufficient. </p> <p class="align-center"><span><img alt="city of gods" src="/sites/default/files/issues/175/city%20of%20gods/rock%20city%20bulgaria%203.jpg" /><span title="Click and drag to resize">​</span></span></p> <p class="text-align-center"><em>As research continues, Perperikon's appearance changes with each archaeological season </em></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="/archive/issue-175" hreflang="en">Issue 175</a> <a href="/taxonomy/term/221" hreflang="en">America for Bulgaria Foundation</a> <a href="/taxonomy/term/229" hreflang="en">The Rhodope</a> <a href="/taxonomy/term/301" hreflang="en">Archaeology Bulgaria</a> <a href="/taxonomy/term/224" hreflang="en">Thracian heritage</a> <a href="/taxonomy/term/225" hreflang="en">Thracian shrines</a> <a href="/taxonomy/term/232" hreflang="en">Roman heritage</a> <a href="/taxonomy/term/257" hreflang="en">Medieval 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="/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=3023&amp;2=comment&amp;3=comment" token="XgvN_NMoR8i1SLm2GsyBAaSbUsMaolTBtL60yU5C70o"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Thu, 29 Apr 2021 14:01:58 +0000 DimanaT 3023 at https://vagabond.bg https://vagabond.bg/rhodopes-city-gods-3023#comments BULGARIAN HORROR https://vagabond.bg/bulgarian-horror-2993 <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">BULGARIAN HORROR</span> <div class="field field--name-field-author-name field--type-string field--label-hidden field__item">text and photography by Anthony Georgieff</div> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><a title="View user profile." href="/user/251" lang="" about="/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">Thu, 04/01/2021 - 11:31</span> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-field-subtitle field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field__item"><h3>Abandoned hospital belies state of health care system</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="https://vagabond.bg/sites/default/files/2021-04/100121-20138.jpg"></a> </span> <img src="/sites/default/files/2021-04/100121-20138.jpg" width="1000" height="667" alt="abandoned hospital bulgaria" loading="lazy" 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>As you drive up the progressively deteriorating road through the Balkan mountains the scenery changes. From the flats of the Lower Balkan fields northwards you enter an increasingly menacing landscape of steep hills and rocks, with what is known as the Trans-Balkan Railway line (cutting the Balkan mountain range from Stara Zagora in the south to Gorna Oryahovitsa in the north) meandering alongside a tiny river. Then, about 10 miles north of Dabovo, you take a steep road that was once asphalt. Eventually, you end up by a compound of several massive four-storey interconnected buildings that locals will proudly describe as what used to be the "biggest pulmonology hospital in the Balkans." In the past tense.</p> <p><img alt="abandoned hospital bulgaria" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" src="/sites/default/files/issues/174/bulgarian%20horror/261220-3160.jpg" class="align-center" /></p> <p>The buildings, apparently abandoned, do not bespeak a hospital. But when you enter through some broken glass door and start walking the endless corridors you end up in some fully equipped radiology rooms, next to what a tinted glass plate announces as the Men's Ward Canteen. A library that once had at least 2,000 books for the patients to read now sports just gaping book cupboards and some old magazines. Tons of hospital records, including sensitive staff pay slips as well as private medical records and X-rays, belonging to still living people, lie scattered on the floor. The experience is reminiscent both of a Stephen King novel and of Pripyat, the Soviet town that was evacuated within hours after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986. Only this is not the USSR, but Bulgaria, an EU member state. And there was no nuclear blast anywhere in Bulgaria. And there was no need for instant evacuation...</p> <p>The fact is that what once was a major consumption hospital died with a whimper, not with bang. It did so as late as 2015, when Boyko Borisov, Bulgaria's strongman leader, was in power. The final shut-down order was given by his health minister, Petar Moskov, himself a medical doctor. No effort was made to save at least some of the still functioning medical equipment. Nobody was interested in the lab tubes, the emergency cabinets, the X-ray machines, the operating theatre equipment, the plaster and the band-aids. No one cared about the books.</p> <p><img alt="abandoned hospital bulgaria" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" src="/sites/default/files/issues/174/bulgarian%20horror/100121-20258.jpg" class="align-center" /></p> <p>Urban exploration, or UE as it is often abbreviated, is a relatively new phenomenon in Bulgaria. Various groups as well as single individuals have attempted penetrating abandoned buildings such as the bath houses in Bankya and Gorna Banya, both near central Sofia. Sites of UE interest include abandoned and forlorn factories, cinemas, schools and various public buildings. Most were erected during the Communist period and forsaken in the 1990s when Bulgaria attempted to modernise itself into a liberal democracy. The Communist Party House on top of Buzludzha mountain, featured numerous times in this journal as well as on the cover of our book, A Guide to Communist Bulgaria (2020), has become an internationally well-known symbol of Bulgaria, at least in the eyes of the increasing number of building hackers and mousers. Often prepared to risk their health and even lives by venturing in what is sometimes trespassing into abandoned sites, urban explorers are an inquisitive lot. They are set on going to great lengths to find new locations to explore. And Bulgaria in the 21st century offers plenty of opportunities. Its abundance of latterday ruins, including former Warsaw Pact military installations, erstwhile Air Force bases, silos and runways, factories that have terminated production of anything from city buses to attar-of-roses oil, schools that have not been entered by children for at least 20 years and forlorn train stations that fell victim to the state-encouraged coach traffic, is at least enticing for those who dare to take the challenge.</p> <p><img alt="abandoned hospital bulgaria" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" src="/sites/default/files/issues/174/bulgarian%20horror/100121-29709-Edit-2.jpg" class="align-center" /></p> <p>Except for the logistics, one major hurdle modern urban explorers in Bulgaria face is in fact the almost total lack of information about the sites. They are not in any tourist brochure, town and village authorities will not speak about them, many of the locals will be wary when approached with questions even if you were to speak Bulgarian without an accent. Few people have heard of the Ravnets Air Force base (where current Bulgarian President Gen Rumen Radev used to serve) or the Modern Theatre cinema right in the middle of Sofia, this country's first electric cinema and a monument of culture, now a private property and in ruins for over 25 years. Mystery still enshrouds the Panitsite top secret military facility where Soviet personnel reportedly serviced an assortment of nuclear head missiles. Or of the abandoned International Youth Centre in Primorsko at the southern Bulgarian Black Sea coast.</p> <p>The Specialised Hospital for After- and Long-Term Pulmonary Treatment at Raduntsi, as its official name was, in many ways belies not only the way public health care was handled under Communism but also how this country's post-Communists ignored and actively destroyed what might have been put to better use.</p> <p><img alt="abandoned hospital bulgaria" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" src="/sites/default/files/issues/174/bulgarian%20horror/100121-29843-Edit.jpg" class="align-center" /></p> <p>The first medical facility at Raduntsi was founded by none lesser than Bulgarian King Boris III, in the 1930s. Construction started in 1939, but was interrupted by the war. In the 1950s the Communist Party government resumed the effort. The Raduntsi hospital came into being in 1955. It was supposed to treat as many as 700 in-patients.</p> <p>The first trouble for the Raduntsi hospital started in the late 1990s when the government of Ivan Kostov implemented its health care system reforms. The idea at the time was to convert Bulgarian hospital and medical facilities into "commercial companies" to be funded by a national Health Insurance Agency. Those that could break even and make a profit under the new rules survived. Those that did not were shut down and went to seed.</p> <p><img alt="abandoned hospital bulgaria" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" src="/sites/default/files/issues/174/bulgarian%20horror/100121-3459.jpg" class="align-center" /></p> <p>The Raduntsi hospital had patients well into the 2010s when its electricity was cut off over unpaid bills. Locals still remember an electrician who tried to connect some rooms to the power grid of the nearby village to ensure the remaining patients did not have to live in the dark.</p> <p>Since Kostov's reforms, the Raduntsi hospital, which was the only Bulgarian medical facility to treat a variety of rare pulmonary diseases including extrapulmonary tuberculosis, amassed other debts as well, including unpaid wages to staff and outside contractors.</p> <p><img alt="abandoned hospital bulgaria" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" src="/sites/default/files/issues/174/bulgarian%20horror/261220-2966.jpg" class="align-center" /></p> <p>The end came in the mid-2010s when Dr Petar Moskov, one of Boyko Borisov's more eccentric ministers, was in charge of the Public Health Ministry. Moskov, who in a TV interview notoriously misplaced the Raduntsi hospital by a hundred miles, will probably go down in history by what many see as the rather unconventional attempt to have Bulgarians fingerprinted to get medical treatment to make sure they had paid their social security contributions. The idea, which was turned into a law, was later abandoned as it was declared illegal by the courts. But about half a million leva was already spent on procuring the fingerprinting equipment. What has happened to that equipment – and to the cash spent on it – will probably remain a mystery forever. This happened as late as 2015.</p> <p>In 2021, the Raduntsi hospital is still owned by the Public Health Ministry. It has made a few attempts to sell it. The asking price was about half a million leva (250,000 euros). The bid failed as no prospective buyer showed up.</p> <p><img alt="abandoned hospital bulgaria" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" src="/sites/default/files/issues/174/bulgarian%20horror/261220-3006.jpg" class="align-center" /></p> <p>Some local residents led by a computer specialist, who was born in the Raduntsi village and now works from a home office there, make some efforts to at least prevent vandals and thieves from penetrating the ghostly ruin. Valentin Nedkov is usually very happy to tell, in English or German, the story of the Raduntsi Hospital, where his family used to work. He will also take you on a guided tour to what once was a major medical facility that has become a part of Bulgaria's unhappy post-Communist history.</p> <p>Urban exploration remains very far off the radar of any Bulgarian state agency. The government of Ukraine, for instance, is making loads of euros on letting private companies operate guided trips into Chernobyl. It has also turned major Soviet ballistic missile installations and an underground submarine base into museums. Citing safety reasons, however, the Bulgarians keep Buzludzha under lock and key. And anyone will be hard-pressed to finger lesser UE sites like the one at Raduntsi. </p> <p><img alt="abandoned hospital bulgaria" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" src="/sites/default/files/issues/174/bulgarian%20horror/261220-3101.jpg" class="align-center" /></p> <p><u><strong>Important note:</strong></u> We do not encourage any accompanied or unaccompanied visits to the former Raduntsi hospital. Doing so may be hazardous to your health. By entering you may be jeopardising your own life and/or the life of others. This article is meant for entertainment purposes only and is by no means to be interpreted as a guide into what is the property of a Bulgarian state agency.</p> <p><img alt="abandoned hospital bulgaria" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" src="/sites/default/files/issues/174/bulgarian%20horror/261220-3111.jpg" class="align-center" /></p> <p> </p> <p><img alt="abandoned hospital bulgaria" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" src="/sites/default/files/issues/174/bulgarian%20horror/261220-3124.jpg" class="align-center" /></p> <p> </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="/archive/issue-174" hreflang="en">Issue 174</a> <a href="/taxonomy/term/221" hreflang="en">America for Bulgaria Foundation</a> <a href="/taxonomy/term/235" hreflang="en">PostCommunism</a> <a href="/taxonomy/term/222" hreflang="en">Urbex 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="/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=2993&amp;2=comment&amp;3=comment" token="FrBUmwGqMLFIuNHeEEXP275_4bahkpkVEgi-vNA3JKU"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Thu, 01 Apr 2021 08:31:22 +0000 DimanaT 2993 at https://vagabond.bg https://vagabond.bg/bulgarian-horror-2993#comments BULGARIA'S MANY CAPITALS https://vagabond.bg/bulgarias-many-capitals-2990 <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">BULGARIA&#039;S MANY CAPITALS</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="/user/251" lang="" about="/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">Thu, 04/01/2021 - 11:11</span> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-field-subtitle field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field__item"><h3>Explore all towns that were once royal powerhouses</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="https://vagabond.bg/sites/default/files/2021-04/sofia%20night.jpg"></a> </span> <img src="/sites/default/files/2021-04/sofia%20night.jpg" width="1000" height="667" alt="sofia at night" loading="lazy" 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">Sofia at night</div> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><p>Over the centuries after Bulgarians settled in the Balkans, they moved capital more than once – sometimes for political reasons, sometimes for strategy, sometimes out of despair. Some of these places became the beating heart of a state commanding vast territories. Others were the seats of ambitious lords trying to carve their own place out of a contested political map. Here is a list of the most important and interesting official and alternative Bulgarian capitals, in chronological order. They cover, in broad strokes, some 13 centuries of Bulgarian history. As the nation's fortunes and politics fluctuated, some of these are no longer in Bulgaria proper. Ironically, the city that was the official capital of Bulgaria for about 700 years, has never been a part of Bulgaria. How is this possible? Read on. </p> <p><strong>PLISKA</strong></p> <p><strong>When:</strong> 681-893</p> <p><strong>Where:</strong> Northeastern Bulgaria</p> <p>When the horse-riding Proto-Bulgarians, led by Khan Asparuh, came to the Balkans in the late 7th century, they settled at a place called The Onglos. Byzantine historians and archaeological research do not agree on the exact location of The Onglos, but today it is widely believed that it was somewhere in the vast Danube delta. There, in 680, the Bulgarians defeated the Byzantines. The peace treaty signed in 681 is the official beginning of the Bulgarian state. </p> <p><img alt="Pliska" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" src="/sites/default/files/issues/174/bulgarian%20capitals/pliska.jpg" class="align-center" /></p> <p class="text-align-center"><em>Pliska's Grand Basilica was built in the 9th century as part of a huge monastic compound and was among the largest in the Balkans. It was rebuilt in the 1980s and "restored," to much controversy, in the 2010s</em></p> <p>Asparuh's men then crossed the Danube, settled in what is now northeastern Bulgaria and allied themselves with the local Slavs, who had arrived a century earlier. Asparuh chose the open plain as the best place for his new capital, Pliska. The city spread over an area of 6,000 acres and saw 20 rulers in its 212 years as a capital. It was defended by several fortification walls, providing shelter for the ordinary inhabitants, the noblemen and the ruler's inner circle, who lived in a spacious palace with central heating and baths. The capital suffered great damage in 811, when the army of the Byzantine Emperor Nicephoros I pillaged it and massacred the inhabitants, but the city was soon restored.</p> <p>Over the centuries much of the ruins of Pliska were lost as local people salvaged materials to build homes, and British engineers used them for the construction of the Ruse-Varna railway in the 1860s. Pliska was rediscovered in the late 19th century. Its remains, however, were deemed too uninteresting for modern tourists and in the 1970s–1980s parts of the fortifications and the Grand Basilica were rebuilt with dubious accuracy and results.</p> <p><strong>PRESLAV</strong></p> <p><strong>When: </strong>893-971</p> <p><strong>Where: </strong>Northeastern Bulgaria</p> <p>Preslav, at the foot of the Stara Planina mountain range, was chosen as the capital in dramatic circumstances. After proclaiming Bulgaria a Christian state (864), Prince Boris I withdrew from society, leaving the power to his eldest son, Vladimir, in 889. Vladimir decided to bring back paganism. Enraged, Boris left his monastery, dethroned the apostate and had his eyes poked out. Then he installed in his place another son, Byzantine-educated Simeon. In a symbolic breach with the pagan past, the capital was moved to Preslav. The ambitious Simeon turned it into a gem of a city, one that claimed to rival the wealth and beauty of Constantinople itself (it did not, but the endeavour nevertheless produced impressive results). Soon, however, the Byzantines started to prevail in the centuries-long cat-and-mouse game with the Bulgarians. Preslav was sacked by the Russians and the Byzantines in 970-971. The northeast was lost. The centre of struggling Bulgaria moved westwards.</p> <p><img alt="Preslav" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" src="/sites/default/files/issues/174/bulgarian%20capitals/preslav.jpg" class="align-center" /></p> <p class="text-align-center"><em>The Golden Church at Preslav</em></p> <p>By the 19th century, Preslav's ruins were as forgotten and unimpressive as those of Pliska. The area became an archeological site in 1906 and has since produced some artefacts, including an impressive ceramic icon of St Theodore Stratilatos and a gold treasure trove of about 170 objects. As with Pliska, a lack of spectacular ruins led to dubious reconstructions and in recent years a mutra-esque polished black marble plaque of King Simeon appeared beside the concrete walls of the once marvellous Golden Church.</p> <p><strong>SKOPJE</strong></p> <p><strong>When:</strong> 971-991</p> <p><strong>Where:</strong> North Macedonia</p> <p>In the early 970s, the eastern parts of Bulgaria were already under Byzantine rule. Western Bulgaria, however, was still alive and kicking – and nurturing resistance, which was led by n nobleman, Samuil. He chose Skopje to be the capital of the weak King Roman. The city was protected by its fortress and the mountains, but times were hard. In 991, the Byzantines captured King Roman and, as he had no heir, Samuil proclaimed himself king and again moved the capital.</p> <p><img alt="Skopje" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" src="/sites/default/files/issues/174/bulgarian%20capitals/skopje.jpg" class="align-center" /></p> <p>In 1944, Skopje became a capital again, this time of the Yugoslav Socialist Republic of Macedonia. It has been the capital of the independent state since 1991. In recent years the humble remains of the medieval fortress (Macedonians think of King Samuil as a Macedonian king) were heavily reconstructed, although they are surpassed by the over-the-top monuments and neo-Baroque buildings in the centre of the city, dubbed Skopjeland.</p> <p><em>Note:</em> Historical sources are not clear on the exact years the next three cities were capitals of Bulgaria, so the dates cited are arbitrary.</p> <p><strong>PRESPA</strong></p> <p><strong>When: </strong>991-992</p> <p><strong>Where:</strong> Greece, North Macedonia, Albania </p> <p>Prespa is not a city but a mountainous area, including the Prespa lakes and the forbidding slopes of several high peaks, now at the borders of Greece, North Macedonia and Albania. It was the safe haven which King Samuil wanted as a capital while trying to save Bulgaria. He himself died there, in 1014, and was buried in the basilica on St Achilles island, in the Small Prespa Lake. By this time, however, he had already moved his capital even farther from the Byzantines.</p> <p><img alt="Prespa" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" src="/sites/default/files/issues/174/bulgarian%20capitals/prespa.jpg" class="align-center" /></p> <p>The Prespa Lakes are now a transborder UNESCO-listed nature protected area with abundant wildlife that includes the world's largest colony of Dalmatian pelicans. The most spectacular traces of King Samuil's presence are in the Greek part of the area: the picturesque ruins of St Achilles, where the king's grave was supposedly discovered by archaeologists in 1965, and the densely painted medieval church at Agios Germanos village where Samuil buried his parents and a brother. </p> <p><strong>OHRID</strong></p> <p><strong>When:</strong> 992-1015</p> <p><strong>Where:</strong> North Macedonia</p> <p>Ohrid was a place of importance for Bulgarians long before it became (yet another) short-lived capital before the Byzantine invasion. In the late 9th and early 10th centuries, the town on the shores of Lake Ohrid became one of the centres (the other being in Pliska and Preslav) of newly-created Slavic literacy using the Glagolitic and the Cyrillic alphabets. </p> <p><img alt="Ohrid" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" src="/sites/default/files/issues/174/bulgarian%20capitals/ohrid.jpg" class="align-center" /></p> <p class="text-align-center"><em>Perched on a rock over Ohrid Lake, the medieval Church of St John at Kaneo is the ultimate local sight</em></p> <p>Ohrid was never to be a capital again, but during the following centuries it experienced a fair share of history with all its consequences. This has left a mixed, charming and UNESCO-recognised mark on the modern town: medieval churches built by Byzantines and Bulgarians alike, the over-restored Samuil Fortress, 19th century mansions and a lively traditional Albanian quarter. The lake is itself a marvel for its beauty and its delicious trout, and is also the source of the unique Ohrid natural pearls.</p> <p><strong>BITOLA</strong></p> <p><strong>When:</strong> 1015-1018</p> <p><strong>Where:</strong> North Macedonia</p> <p>When Ohrid fell to the Byzantines in 1015, the new Bulgarian king, Ivan Vladislav, who was Samuil's nephew and who took the throne after killing the rightful heir, Samuil's son Gavril Radomir (describing the family as dysfunctional would be an understatement), moved to Bitola. He did not last long, and soon after his death Bulgaria was finally subjugated by the Byzantines, a situation that lasted for nearly two centuries.</p> <p>Besides the famous inscription by Ivan Vladislav, in which he describes himself as the "ruler of all Bulgarians," Bitola has some remains of a medieval fortress, though the town is generally unremarkable. Its most notable sights are an old mosque, a clock tower and an Ottoman era market, from the time when Bitola was a major town in the region.</p> <p><strong>TARNOVO</strong></p> <p><strong>When:</strong> 1185-1393</p> <p><strong>Where:</strong> Northern Bulgaria</p> <p>The Byzantine rule over the Bulgarians ended in 1185 with the rebellion of the Asenevtsi Brothers, noblemen living in a mighty fortress above the meandering Yantra River. They turned this fortress, Tarnovo, into the capital of their kingdom and, in a fashion already seen in Pliska and Preslav, tried to make it a rival to Constantinople. To a point, they succeeded. Beautiful churches rose in Tarnovo. Palace intrigues and the mystic literature of the local school were in the best Byzantine tradition. Tarnovo remained a capital almost as long as Bulgaria remained independent. Besieged by the Ottomans, it fell in 1393.</p> <p><img alt="Tarnovo" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" src="/sites/default/files/issues/174/bulgarian%20capitals/tarnovo.jpg" class="align-center" /></p> <p>In 1879, Tarnovo was where the first Bulgarian parliament after liberation from the Ottomans met to adopt the Bulgarian Constitution. Its members chose Sofia to be the capital of newly-independent Bulgaria.</p> <p>Today, the medieval ruins of Tarnovo are in a state of constant reconstruction. The trend started in the 1930s, flourished in the 1970s-1980s and was given a fresh boost in the late 2000s, continuing to this day.</p> <p><strong>MELNIK</strong></p> <p><strong>When: </strong>1212-1230</p> <p><strong>Where:</strong> Southwestern Bulgaria</p> <p><img alt="Melnik" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" src="/sites/default/files/issues/174/bulgarian%20capitals/melnik.jpg" class="align-center" /></p> <p>Today Melnik is known for its heady wine and the 19th century mansions scattered among yellowish sandstone hills. Few people know that this tourist magnet was the seat of a separatist lord who created a lot of trouble for the Bulgarian kings in Tarnovo. </p> <p>Alexius Slav was a nephew of the Asenevtsi Brothers. When the last of them, Kaloyan, died without an heir in 1207, Slav refused to accept the usurper Boril as the true king. He broke ranks and created an independent princedom whose capital, eventually, settled at Melnik. Slav successfully manoeuvred between Bulgaria, the remains of Byzantium and the knights of the Fourth Crusade who had taken Constantinople. He negotiated not one but two dynastic marriages (not at the same time, of course). Unfortunately for him, he did not leave an heir. It remains unclear how he died, but in 1230 his cousin, Bulgarian king Ivan Asen II, took over his lands.</p> <p>The remains of Alexius Slav's fortress are preserved in Melnik, but most visitors find the local wineries more interesting to explore. </p> <p><strong>NIKOPOL</strong></p> <p><strong>When:</strong> 1393-1396</p> <p><strong>Where: </strong>On the River Danube</p> <p><img alt="Nikopol" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" src="/sites/default/files/issues/174/bulgarian%20capitals/nikopol.jpg" class="align-center" /></p> <p>Nikopol became a capital only because it was the best place that King Ivan Shishman, the last Bulgarian ruler, had left after Tarnovo was lost. In 1396, however, the Ottomans prevailed against the united European armies at the messy Battle of Nikopol. The Bulgarian state ceased to exist for the next five centuries.</p> <p>Nikopol remained an administrative centre until the 17th century. After that, a period of decline began and the trend was scarcely reversed over the following centuries. A church and a much-rebuilt fortress are all that remains of its medieval past.</p> <p><strong>VIDIN</strong></p> <p><strong>When: </strong>1371-1396</p> <p><strong>Where: </strong>On the River Danube</p> <p><img alt="Vidin" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" src="/sites/default/files/issues/174/bulgarian%20capitals/vidin.jpg" class="align-center" /></p> <p>There was a time when there were two Bulgarias with two capitals, because King Ivan Aleksandar did not want to quarrel with his second wife, Sarah, over which of his sons would inherit. So he divided his kingdom. He gave the throne of Tarnovo to Ivan Shishman, his son with Sarah, and presented his eldest son, Ivan Sratsimir, with the mighty fortress of Vidin and the western parts of the kingdom. Understandably, the two princes did not like each other and after their father's death, in 1371, they fell out. This only made it easier for the invading Ottomans. After Shishman's death at Nikopol, Sratsimir accepted Ottoman sovereignty but was captured and disappeared into oblivion.</p> <p>Situated at the northwestern corner of modern Bulgaria, and plagued by unemployment, Vidin today is one of the most depressed cities in Bulgaria. Its fortress still stands on the banks of the Danube, although what you see is not the seat of Sratsimir, but a later Ottoman construction.</p> <p><strong>KALIAKRA</strong></p> <p><strong>When:</strong> the 14th-early 15th centuries</p> <p><strong>Where:</strong> At the northern Black Sea coast</p> <p><img alt="Kaliakra" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" src="/sites/default/files/issues/174/bulgarian%20capitals/kaliakra.jpg" class="align-center" /></p> <p>Bulgaria was never a naval power, except for a short period when the Despotate of Dobrudzha ruled over the northern Bulgarian Black Sea coast. For most of the despotate's existence, its capital was Kaliakra, a fortress on a narrow, precipitous promontory above treacherous waters.</p> <p>The despotate arose in the 1340s, when the central power in Tarnovo was too weak to exercise control over all its lands. It experienced its heyday during the rule of one Dobrotitsa, when it traded and fought with Genoa, Venice and Byzantium. Consequently, it was the last Bulgarian statelet to fall under the Ottomans, which happened as late as 1411. </p> <p>Today Kaliakra is a picturesque albeit over-restored ruin, a must-see for anyone who visits the northern Black Sea coast. The legends of its conquest by the Ottomans still haunt the place: 40 maidens braided their hair together and jumped to their death in the sea to avoid capture, while St Nicholas himself was pursued by the invaders. Reputedly, a new metre of a rocky promontory appeared with each step he made in the water, but then he fell and was killed. </p> <p>The Dobrudzha region where Kaliakra is located is a larger-than-life memorial to the man who made the despotate a player to reckon with. Its name derives from Dobrotitsa. </p> <p><strong>CONSTANTINOPLE</strong></p> <p><strong>When:</strong> 1018-1185 and 1393-1878</p> <p><strong>Where:</strong> Turkey</p> <p>There is one city that Bulgarians still call Tsarigrad, or King's City, and it was never ruled by a Bulgarian. This is Constantinople, modern Istanbul. For a total of seven centuries, while Bulgarians were dominated by the Byzantines and the Ottomans, it was the centre of power that controlled their lives. </p> <p><img alt="Istanbul" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" src="/sites/default/files/issues/174/bulgarian%20capitals/istanbul.jpg" class="align-center" /></p> <p class="text-align-center"><em>Istanbul's Bulgarian community constructed its church, St Stefan, entirely of cast iron. The building was manufactured in Vienna and was then shipped to Constantinople to be assembled on the southern bank of the Golden Horn. Today it is known as the Iron Church</em></p> <p>Many Bulgarian kings dreamt of sitting on the throne of Constantinople. Khan Krum tried to achieve this by force, and so did King Simeon I, adding an arranged marriage into the mixture. In 1912-1913, Bulgarian King Ferdinand also tried to take over Constantinople, ruining Bulgaria in the process. </p> <p>The only Bulgarian ruler who actually had a real chance of becoming a Byzantine emperor was the first to face Constantinople's walls. In 705, Khan Tervel helped a deposed Byzantine emperor to retake his throne, and his troops actually entered the city. Tervel could have played foul, but was intelligent and honourable enough not to usurp the throne. He knew he would hardly last long on it. Later, he even helped the Byzantines against the Arabs who besieged Constantinople. </p> <p>The seven centuries in which Constantinople was King's City for the Bulgarians have left a permanent mark on the national psyche and history. In the 19th century Bulgarians flocked there for its economic opportunities and Constantinople became the city with the largest migrant Bulgarian population in the world. It was a hotbed of Bulgarian nationalism, modern education, business and the struggle for freedom. In 1860, the Bulgarian Church proclaimed its independence from the Constantinople Patriarchate and established the seat of their independent church there. Even the San Stefano Treaty, which ended the 1877-1878 Russo-Turkish War, was signed in a suburb of Constantinople.</p> <p>The Bulgarian heritage in King's City is now mostly lost. Balkapan Han inn, the centre of Constantinople's Bulgarian colony, is now in disrepair, but the beautiful cast iron St Stefan's Church, built in the 1890s for the Bulgarian community, was recently restored.</p> <p><strong>PLOVDIV</strong></p> <p><strong>When: </strong>1878-1885</p> <p><strong>Where:</strong> Thracian Plain</p> <p>Plovdiv claims 7,000 years of uninterrupted history in which it experienced both glory and decline, and changed hands and names many times. However, it was a capital of the Bulgarians for less than a decade.</p> <p><img alt="Plovdiv" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" src="/sites/default/files/issues/174/bulgarian%20capitals/plovdiv.jpg" class="align-center" /></p> <p class="text-align-center"><em>With its amalgamation of ethnicities, religions, cultures and history Plovdiv embodies the spirit of the Balkans</em></p> <p>After the 1877-1878 Russo-Turkish War put the restoration of Bulgaria on the political table, the 1878 Berlin Treaty fixed the issue in a rather sensible way, at least as much as the Great Powers were concerned. Independent Bulgaria would be restored as the Principality of Bulgaria, but in a much smaller territory than the Bulgarians had hoped to see, thus preserving the fragile power balance in the region. The rich Thracian Plain and the Rhodope would form an autonomous Ottoman province, Eastern Rumelia, while the rest of the Bulgarian-populated lands would remain under direct Ottoman control.</p> <p>Plovdiv was the obvious choice for Eastern Rumelia's capital. Located on a vital trade and military route it was large, lively and cosmopolitan: the home of Bulgarians, Greeks, Armenians, Turks, Jews and many others. </p> <p>When the Principality of Bulgaria and Eastern Rumelia united, in 1885, Plovdiv made the ultimate sacrifice: it agreed to become subservient to the much drabber and smaller Sofia. </p> <p>Today the differences and rivalry between the two cities remain. Sofia is now much bigger, but also greyer. Plovdiv, for its part, enjoys a more colourful and relaxed life.</p> <p><strong>SOFIA</strong></p> <p><strong>When:</strong> 1879-present</p> <p><strong>Where:</strong> Sofia Plain</p> <p>Even today there are people who object to Sofia being the current Bulgarian capital. No, they are not separatists, but are really unhappy with its location far from the rest of the country, its air pollution, centralisation and/or the influx of internal migrants who supposedly make it more provincial than it should be. </p> <p><img alt="Sofia street" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" src="/sites/default/files/issues/174/bulgarian%20capitals/sofia%20street.jpg" class="align-center" /></p> <p>When the Tarnovo assembly chose Sofia, a quiet backwater not to be compared to prosperous, bustling Ruse on the Danube, for example, as Bulgaria's new capital, they thought they were being clever about the future. Most Bulgarian-inhabited lands were still under Ottoman control, so when they would be freed, the thinking went, Sofia would find itself at the centre of a new, enlarged Bulgaria.</p> <p> </p> <p>This did not happen, but Sofia remains Bulgaria's capital, with all the positives and negatives this brings.</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="/archive/issue-174" hreflang="en">Issue 174</a> <a href="/taxonomy/term/221" hreflang="en">America for Bulgaria Foundation</a> <a href="/taxonomy/term/257" hreflang="en">Medieval Bulgaria</a> <a href="/taxonomy/term/280" hreflang="en">Bulgarian history</a> <a href="/taxonomy/term/282" hreflang="en">Turkey</a> <a href="/taxonomy/term/291" hreflang="en">North Macedonia</a> <a href="/taxonomy/term/272" hreflang="en">Greece</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="/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=2990&amp;2=comment&amp;3=comment" token="jJ6A719KkBYm_epEj19huUS0n18Q7wuhBguAHJxuKcg"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Thu, 01 Apr 2021 08:11:29 +0000 DimanaT 2990 at https://vagabond.bg https://vagabond.bg/bulgarias-many-capitals-2990#comments BULGARIAN EASTER EATING https://vagabond.bg/bulgarian-easter-eating-2987 <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">BULGARIAN EASTER EATING</span> <div class="field field--name-field-author-name field--type-string field--label-hidden field__item">by Dimana Trankova; photography by Ivo Hadzhimishev</div> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><a title="View user profile." href="/user/251" lang="" about="/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">Thu, 04/01/2021 - 11:01</span> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-field-subtitle field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field__item"><h3>Eggs, lamb, sweet breads fill Bulgarian tables during greatest Orthodox holiday</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="https://vagabond.bg/sites/default/files/2021-04/easter%20eggs.jpg"></a> </span> <img src="/sites/default/files/2021-04/easter%20eggs.jpg" width="1000" height="799" alt="In Bulgaria, no Easter is for real without coloured eggs and aromatic kozunak" loading="lazy" 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">In Bulgaria, no Easter is for real without coloured eggs and aromatic kozunak</div> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><p>In 1956, Chudomir, one of Bulgaria's finest satirists, wrote in his diary: "Sunday, 6 May. Both Easter and St George's Day, but there are neither roast lamb nor red eggs at home. Traditions are fading away, the nice old feasts are being forgotten, disappearing with our generation." Just a few days before this entry, a young and seemingly harmless politician, Todor Zhivkov, had replaced Stalinist dictator Valko Chervenkov as the head of the Communist Party. The years of Stalinism, with its disregard for traditions and religion, were over, but people had yet to feel the change. Hence Chudomir's pessimism on the future of Easter.</p> <p>He had no need to worry. Easter is now widely celebrated in Bulgaria.</p> <p>In reality, under Communism, it was the food – the lamb and the red eggs Chudomir is talking about – which kept Easter, the biggest religious feast in Bulgaria, ahead of the tide of state imposed atheism. Attending Easter Mass was still discouraged, but people continued to eat the traditional sweet bread and crack the coloured eggs. Lamb was rarer, as it was an event to find it in the shops.</p> <p>For many Bulgarians today, Easter food remains the main part of the feast, a time of overeating and overindulging.</p> <p>In the past, however, Easter food belonged to a system of traditions and rituals, repeated for generations. As soon as the midnight church bells rang out and the priest announced "Christ Is Risen," people would go back home thinking of one thing: the 40 days of Lent fasting, during which devout Christians abstain from meaty food and drinks, were over. You can imagine the excitement with which the cracking of the coloured hard boiled eggs in the first hours of Easter was anticipated, and later in the day there would be roast lamb.</p> <p>Traditional Easter food is rich in symbolism. The lamb represents Christ's sacrifice, lavish bread with intricate designs symbolise the revival of nature, and eggs, the colour of Christ's blood, epitomise the idea of rebirth. A legend tells why they are painted red. After the Resurrection, the three Marys met a woman carrying a basket of eggs to the market. She dismissed the news that Christ had risen with indifference: "It is as true as my eggs are red." But then, lo and behold, she looked at the eggs and they were all perfectly red.</p> <p>The tradition of egg colouring perseveres in modern Bulgaria. Usually, they are coloured on the morning of Good Thursday. According to the rite, the lady of the house should rub the first red egg on the cheeks of the children in the family as this will bring them health. This egg is later placed by the family icon; on the following Easter it would be broken and, if it was rotten, bad luck awaited the family, but if it was okay, the family would have a good year.</p> <img alt="Lamb used to be traditional but is now optional Easter food in Bulgaria" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" src="/sites/default/files/issues/174/lamb.jpg" class="align-center" /> <p class="text-align-center"><em>Lamb used to be traditional but is now optional Easter food in Bulgaria © Anthony Georgieff</em></p> <p>Egg fighting, which starts in the first hours after Easter and continues until there are no eggs left unbroken in the house, is a favourite Bulgarian tradition. Whoever has the hardest egg will be, again, healthy throughout the year.</p> <p>Traditions are traditions, but Easter food has changed. It has been modernised. Few people would now slaughter the best lamb in their flock as a sacrifice for Easter: Bulgarians have butcher shops and supermarkets instead, often selling overpriced meat for the feast. The eggs, which used to be only red, are now in all the colours of the rainbow and beyond, although there is a current movement for using only natural dyes.</p> <p>Easter bread underwent the biggest change. The elaborately decorated breads of the past are no more. They have been replaced by <em>kozunak</em>, or sweet bread. A French invention, sweet bread kneaded its way into Bulgaria at the beginning of the 20th century. It is now one of the culinary pillars of the feast. Every year before Easter Bulgarians partake of long discussions on whether to bake or to buy their sweet breads. The home-made option is enticing, as the baking fills the house with a wonderful sweet aroma, but <em>kozunak</em> is a delicate thing, and failure always lurks behind a countertop corner, ever in the kitchens of experienced bakers. The difference between ending up with a fluffy, aromatic sweet bread and something with the look and consistency of a brick with raisins is egg-shell thin.</p> <p>Ready-made <em>kozunak</em> is also risky. The supermarket stuff is uninspiring at best, and one has to order days in advance if they want the gluten-free, or extra-almond and ultra-chocolate <em>kozunak</em> that fancy bakeries produce and advertise on Facebook. For several years we at Vagabond have stuck with a local Turkish baker, who never fails to deliver, and works even on Easter.</p> <p>Preparing your table for Easter could be a challenge, but if your eggs do not crack or turn violet instead of red, if the <em>kozunak</em> is okay and the lamb does not cost as much as your monthly mortgage payment, the result is tasty, satisfying and lasting. Until next Easter, at least, when everything will start all over again. </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="/archive/issue-174" hreflang="en">Issue 174</a> <a href="/taxonomy/term/221" hreflang="en">America for Bulgaria Foundation</a> <a href="/taxonomy/term/227" hreflang="en">Bulgarian traditions</a> <a href="/taxonomy/term/230" hreflang="en">Religions in Bulgaria</a> <a href="/taxonomy/term/299" hreflang="en">Bulgarian food</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="/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=2987&amp;2=comment&amp;3=comment" token="6D7L0dH18q72wsAw3EKoHybt7KMvKnBiJoGAlehTgpg"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Thu, 01 Apr 2021 08:01:42 +0000 DimanaT 2987 at https://vagabond.bg https://vagabond.bg/bulgarian-easter-eating-2987#comments MESSAGE FROM THE TOP https://vagabond.bg/message-top-2949 <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">MESSAGE FROM THE TOP</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="/user/251" lang="" about="/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">Thu, 02/25/2021 - 19:06</span> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-field-subtitle field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field__item"><h3>There is more to Bulgaria's hilltop Communist monuments than famous Communist Party House at Buzludzha</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="https://vagabond.bg/sites/default/files/2021-02/buzludzha.jpg"></a> </span> <img src="/sites/default/files/2021-02/buzludzha.jpg" width="1000" height="667" alt="buzludzha.jpg" loading="lazy" 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 Memorial House of the Bulgarian Communist Party is the best known hilltop monument in Bulgaria</div> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><p>Visual propaganda was key to promoting the Communist regime in Bulgaria between 1944 and 1989, and large-scale monuments on prominent heights played a crucial role. Massive, expensive and impressive they sent a clear message to the citizens of the People's Republic of Bulgaria about the inevitability of Communism, the eternal nature of the Bulgarian nation and its gratitude to Grandfather Ivan, a misnomer used, usually affectionately, for both Russia and the USSR.</p> <p>The grand Communist Party House at Buzludzha is the most famous of these, but there are more to discover, both in urban areas and on mountain peaks far from the crowds.</p> <h4>THE ALYOSHA, PLOVDIV</h4> <p>In Bulgaria, any monument to the Red Army that represents a single soldier is traditionally called Alyosha. Until 1989, many large cities would have their own Alyosha monument at a central and/or prominent location.</p> <p><img alt="plovdiv" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" src="/sites/default/files/issues/173/communist%20monuments/plovdiv.jpg" class="align-center" /></p> <p>The Alyosha in Plovdiv is the most famous of these. The decision to build it was taken in 1948 and the monument was unveiled in 1957. The 10.5-metre-high granite statue looking symbolically eastward, to the USSR, was modelled after a real Soviet soldier, Alexey Skurlatov. Post-1989 a debate on whether to demolish it began. </p> <p>In the 1990s Christo, the US artist of Bulgarian origin, had plans to "pack up" the Alyosha, but he never received permission from the local authorities. In 2013, during a political stunt, the monument was wrapped in a red shroud and a black kerchief was put over the soldier's face. </p> <p>One thing should be kept in mind when considering monuments of Red Army soldiers in Bulgaria. While Bulgaria was an ally of Nazi Germany, it never sent troops against the USSR. When the Soviet forces entered Bulgaria proper and backed up the 9 September Communist coup, they did not meet any resistance. No Soviet soldier died in battle in Bulgaria. Consequently, the Red Army monuments that still dot this country should be seen more as propaganda than as true memorials to actual victims of war. </p> <h4>CREATORS OF THE BULGARIAN STATE, SHUMEN</h4> <p>Supposedly the largest monument of exposed concrete in Europe, the Creators of the Bulgarian State near Shumen features statues of early medieval Bulgarian rulers and a huge mosaic dedicated to the political, cultural and military might of the First Bulgarian Kingdom. </p> <p><img alt="shumen" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" src="/sites/default/files/issues/173/communist%20monuments/shumen.jpg" class="align-center" /></p> <p>The idea of building a monument on top of the Shumen Plateau dates back to 1977, when the government spent lavishly on public projects and festivities to mark the upcoming 1,300 years of the foundation of the Bulgarian state. </p> <p>Shumen was chosen because it was close to the ruins of Bulgaria's first mediaeval capitals, Pliska and Preslav, because the commanding position of the plateau would render the monument visible for miles around and because of the "need" to send a "patriotic" message to the ethnic Turks who made up a large proportion of the local population. </p> <p>The monument is 70 metres high and 140 metres long. 2,400 tonnes of reinforced steel and 50,000 cubic metres of concrete were used in its construction. The most imposing element is the 1,000-tonne lion made of 2,000 pieces of granite that adorns the highest part of the structure. </p> <p>The monument was inaugurated, in the presence of Communist dictator Todor Zhivkov himself, in 1981. </p> <p>After the collapse of Communism funds for its maintenance ran out. In 2006, one of the hooves of Khan Asparukh's horse fell off, but it was later restored. </p> <p>Today, the monument is frequented by locals who walk their dogs and jog around the massive structure, while newlyweds take their wedding photos there. Japanese tourists are ordinarily bemused by the coincidental resemblance of the structures to manga characters.</p> <h4>ARCH OF FREEDOM, TROYAN PASS</h4> <p>Reaching 1,525 metres, the Troyan Pass is the highest in the Stara Planina mountain range. It is so difficult to negotiate by car that it is usually closed in winter. At its highest point the road passes by the 1,595-metre Goraltepe Peak. A giant monument with a shape that some Bulgarians associate with a pair of pants hung out to dry adorns the peak. The larger-than-life statues on it depict "Russian and Soviet liberators," Bulgarian freedom fighters, and beautiful women greeting them.</p> <p><img alt="troyan pass" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" src="/sites/default/files/issues/173/communist%20monuments/troyan%20pass.jpg" class="align-center" /></p> <p>The 35-metre Arch of Freedom looks as if it must be glorifying a crucial battle fought for Bulgaria's independence, but in fact no battle was ever fought there. The sole purpose of building the Arch of Freedom at this particular spot was its impressive and highly visible location.</p> <h4>RUSSIAN LIBERATORS MONUMENT, NEAR YAMBOL</h4> <p>The Bakadzhik heights near Yambol are only 514.6 metres in altitude but the plain around is so flat that they are visible from far away. </p> <p><img alt="yambol" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" src="/sites/default/files/issues/173/communist%20monuments/yambol.jpg" class="align-center" /></p> <p>This was one of the reasons why the 37-metre Russian Liberators Monument was erected at Bakadzhik, in 1987. The monument was to celebrate the 110th anniversary of the 1877-1878 Russo-Turkish War that restored Bulgarian state after five centuries of Ottoman dominance. During the conflict, the Russian army had used the heights as a camp and had set up a military hospital there.</p> <p>A Russian soldier, a Bulgarian freedom fighter, a mother with a child: the allegorical figures on the Russian Liberators Monument emphasise the role Russia played in Bulgaria's freedom and the strength of Bulgarian gratitude a century later. The addition of a Soviet astronaut, called at the time "cosmonaut" throughout the East bloc, is more baffling. It was to mark the achievements of the Soviet and Bulgarian space programmes and science. The young woman that hovers at the top of the monument symbolises Bulgaria's bright future. </p> <p>Blending 19th century Russia with the Soviet Union in a single monument was not unique to Bakadzhik's memorial. It was a common theme in Communist Bulgarian visual propaganda. The message? By invading Bulgaria on 8 September 1944, the USSR had saved the Bulgarians from "monarcho-fascism" (as Communists called the regime of King Boris III), just as Russia had come to the rescue from the Ottomans in 1878. Bulgarians should be eternally grateful for both liberations. </p> <p>It worked. Under Communism, Bulgaria was the USSR's most loyal satellite. Even today many Bulgarians believe that their country can only benefit from stronger ties with Russia – from natural gas supplies to tourism to maintaining "traditional," Eastern Orthodox values.</p> <h4>BULGARIAN-SOVIET FRIENDSHIP MONUMENT, VARNA</h4> <p>Symbolically shaped as a radar installation pointing towards the Black Sea and the Soviet Union, the Bulgarian-Soviet Friendship monument in Varna was built by 27,000 volunteers and inaugurated in 1978. It is 23 metres tall and 48 metres wide, featuring statues of Soviet soldiers and Bulgarian women welcoming them. A bomb shelter was built at its base. </p> <p><img alt="varna" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" src="/sites/default/files/issues/173/communist%20monuments/varna.jpg" class="align-center" /></p> <p>After 1989 the monument was abandoned. The "eternal fire" that used to burn there was extinguished. Today hardly anything is left of the "Friendship From Centuries and for Centuries" inscription. The monument has been vandalised and is sometimes used as a location for political activity. In 2012, colourful hoods were put on the heads of the statues to express support for the members of Pussy Riot incarcerated in Russia. </p> <p>The Bulgarian-Soviet Friendship monument continues to be symbolically charged. The highest flag poles in Europe, at 52.5 metres each, were installed near it and at present the flags of Bulgaria and the EU are raised there. </p> <p><a href="https://vagabond.bg/fsi/123-a-guide-to-communist-bulgaria-eng-2ed"><strong>Discover Bulgaria's Communist-era heritage with our bestselling book, <em>A Guide to Communist Bulgaria</em></strong></a></p> <p><a href="https://vagabond.bg/fsi/123-a-guide-to-communist-bulgaria-eng-2ed"><img alt="A Guide to Communist Bulgaria" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" src="/sites/default/files/issues/173/communist%20monuments/A%20Guide%20to%20Communist%20Bulgaria_eng.jpg" class="align-center" /></a></p> <p> </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="/archive/issue-173" hreflang="en">Issue 173</a> <a href="/taxonomy/term/221" hreflang="en">America for Bulgaria Foundation</a> <a href="/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="/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=2949&amp;2=comment&amp;3=comment" token="OGEJeKcuQL1UEabe7D5wpyou-vQitOA8OpkNvGfle80"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Thu, 25 Feb 2021 17:06:05 +0000 DimanaT 2949 at https://vagabond.bg https://vagabond.bg/message-top-2949#comments