Medieval Bulgaria

ancient and medieval fortress matochina night

BULGARIA'S TOP 10 FORTS

Castle-wise, Bulgaria is nothing to compare with Scotland – and many other European countries. There is little reminiscent of Transylvania's menacing fortifications, Bavaria's fairy tale confections, or the Loire Valley's romantic châteaux. Fortresses were built in Bulgaria from Antiquity to the 19th century and, although many were lost in war-time destruction and postwar turbulence, the country still has several sites that combine stunning scenery with relatively well-preserved fortifications.

Tue, 11/30/2021 - 14:05
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sofia at night

BULGARIA'S MANY CAPITALS

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.

Thu, 04/01/2021 - 11:11
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Madara Horseman

MADARA HORSEMAN

Bulgaria as a country, if not a state, has been around for a while. Established in 681, it was an offshoot of the few viable Barbarian lands and federations that popped up in Europe, wreaked havoc and disintegrated in the tumultuous times between the end of Antiquity and the start of the Middle Ages. In the centuries that followed, Bulgaria experienced both periods of triumph and moments of despair, and it ceased to exist as a political entity for 700 years under Byzantine and Ottoman domination.

Wed, 08/05/2020 - 11:51
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WHO WERE CYRIL AND METHODIUS?

The image of two men, one young and sporting a dark beard and the other older and white-bearded, with books and parchments in their hands, are to be found all over Bulgaria. There are countless statues and posters, church murals and icons. Their images multiply on 24 May, when long processions of students crowd the central streets of every city carrying posters, usually decorated with flowers.

Thu, 04/30/2020 - 08:50
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tsarevets.jpg

FORTIFIED BULGARIA, PART 1

Why there are no old forts and fortresses in Bulgaria on the scale of Romania, Greece, Italy or the Western Balkans is a controversial issue. The sort of answers you will be getting will depend on who does the talking. Some will assert the "Turks" destroyed everything when they ruled over these territories in the 14-19th centuries. Others will, more level-headedly, point out that when the Ottomans were in control the Bulgarians lands were no longer a border zone and consequently forts and fortresses were no longer needed for defence purposes.

Wed, 11/27/2019 - 15:23
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asenova fortress.jpg

FORTRESS ON THE EDGE

Bulgaria's Route 86, that leads from Plovdiv to Smolyan in the heart of the Rhodope mountains, is a slow and winding drive through a maze of rising tops, dense forests, crumbling villages and depopulated towns. It is a route you take to escape from the urban noise into one of the quietest corners of Bulgaria.

It wasn't always so.

Wed, 10/30/2019 - 13:56
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BULGARIA'S FIRST CAPITALS

If power and economy were gravity, the gravitational centre of modern Bulgaria would be Sofia, where the population and the important agencies of the state, the economy and the culture are concentrated. If we go back to the Middle Ages, when Bulgaria was still young, the country's centre of gravity would be elsewhere – in the northeast, close to the city of Shumen. There, the remains of Bulgaria's first capitals, Pliska and Preslav, still survive – next to an astonishing piece of mediaeval art, the Madara Horseman.

Thu, 12/28/2017 - 11:20
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veliko tarnovo.jpg

VELIKO TARNOVO CHURCHES

In the Middle Ages, Tarnovo was not only a political and administrative capital, but also a major religious centre. In and around it were dozens of churches and monasteries, where priests and monks of all ranks were busy with prayer, philosophy, and writing. The Ottoman invasion of the 14th century brought all this to an end, but some of the churches survived. You will find them clustered around Tsarevets hill, where the main fortress of mediaeval Tarnovo used to be. All of them are now museums.

Fri, 06/02/2017 - 12:02
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WHO WAS KRALI MARKO?

For centuries, legends and epic songs were told and sung; they spread, transformed and became more and more elaborate, telling the story of the larger-than-life Krali Marko. The owner of a wondrous spotted horse, he encountered fairies, braved invaders and traitors, participated in heroic competitions, and freed thousands of enslaved men and women. It is hardly a surprise, then, that a number of locations in modern Bulgaria, Serbia and Macedonia bear his name.

Fri, 04/28/2017 - 14:09
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BACHKOVO MONASTERY

Its mediaeval ossuary preserves the only mural portrait of a Bulgarian king. The last patriarch before Bulgaria fell under the Ottomans, Evtimiy of Tarnovo, is believed to have been exiled and to have died there. The fortress-like complex is one of the finest architectural creations of the Bulgarian national revival period, and some of the frescoes are by Zahariy Zograf, the most prominent Bulgarian artist of the 19th Century.

Wed, 05/11/2016 - 12:32
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ASENOVA FORTRESS: MEDIEVAL REMAINS ON EDGE OF RHODOPE

The Asenova Fortress is about 3 km south of Asenovgrad, on the road to Smolyan, and impresses from afar. A tiny church is perched on a steep rock overlooking the narrow gorge of the Chepelarska River. A winding road leads up to the height, where the remains of the castle are. The church, Holy Mother of Christ, is the best preserved building in the complex: a brick-and-mortar confection in the Byzantine style popular across the Balkans in the 12th-14th centuries.

Thu, 09/24/2015 - 13:29
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BELOGRADCHIK ROCKS

In the 1870s, while travelling to Belogradchik, a tiny town in Bulgaria's northwest, Austro-Hungarian traveller and scientist Felix Kanitz was in two minds. Kanitz had read the boastful 1841 description of the magnificent beauty of the Belogradchik Rocks by Frenchman Jérôme-Adolphe Blanqui, and he could scarcely believe it. It sounded too beautiful to be true and the lack of accounts by other Western travellers added to his suspicions.

Tue, 06/03/2014 - 11:07
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GOOD CAPE

Wherever you reach some higher ground in Bulgaria there will be a legend about it. And in 90 percent of the cases it will be about some brave Bulgarian maidens who jumped off it to avoid being "enslaved" by Turks.

Kaliakra is no exception.

Thu, 08/23/2012 - 13:24
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