Tourist crowds tend to spoil places and Begliktash is not an exception. Located near Primorsko, on Bulgaria's crowded southern Black Sea coast, the Thracian megalithic shrine gets crammed in the holiday season. There are package tourists, there are independent visitors, and there are garish and sometimes rather kitschy reenactments of ancient Thracian rituals organised by the local authorities.
There are places in Bulgaria that ancient tradition or modern lore have turned into sites that attract not only people interested in beautiful landscapes and history, but also those who believe that they will discover something otherworldly there. Supposedly haunted villages and sites frequented by UFOs rub shoulders with "miraculous" springs and rocks, memories of dead clairvoyants and rumours of extraordinary events. To these, add in places venerated for centuries by unorthodox religious denominations or modern spiritual movements, plus locations that have inspired urban myths, and you will end up with a fascinating itinerary of mystic Bulgaria.
A short drive north of Primorsko, a resort town on the southern Bulgaria Black Sea coast, you will find a site that challenges the imagination.
The ancient Thracian sanctuary known with the Turkish word Begliktash stands in a meadow that opens up dramatically before you after a 40-minute walk along an overgrown path through the oak forest of the Strandzha. Anticipation builds even before you start on the path because just where it begins is the Dragon's Houses, a Thracian dolmen hidden by a canopy of tree branches.
A good sense of direction in circumstances where maps are of little use, a willingness to ask the way, and an adventurous spirit – if you possess at least two of these qualities, it is time to head to the Eastern Rhodope. Even if you think you know this part of the mountain range, you are certain to come across strange landmarks and strange stories. Some of them are natural, others are man-made, and what they have in common is their ability to inspire the imagination.
About 4,000 years ago the lands of modern Bulgaria were inhabited by people who built fortifications and cities, buried their dead in monumental tombs, drank wine from gold and silver cups, and warred, traded and did politics with the ancient Greeks and Romans, with the Persians, the Scythians and the ancient Macedonians.
These people were the Thracians.