From the Black Sea Coast to the Pirins.
||Summer Residence for
a Romanian Queen in love with a Turkish Prince,
Romanian Queen, Marie, happened to be a granddaughter of Queen Victoria,
an adherent to the Baha'i Faith and someone committed to the reconciliation
of Muslims and Christians (in 2001, the world needs you Queen Marie!).
Balchik lies on the Black Sea coast, just north of Varna, one of the many
interesting places to visit in Bulgaria. Take a look at the photograph
album of my two Czech friends, Roman
and Milena Lebedovi, as they toured the Country with their friends,
Michael Smakal a Jana Pilna, picking-up yours truly and (Uncle) Stefan
on the way for some wonderful hiking in the Pirins.
domed Cathedral of the Assumption, a Varna City landmark reminiscent of
St Petersburg, and like the cathedral there, holds similar internal delights
of craftsmanship and mural painting. It is a good place to start a tour
of the City, with practically everything of interest within walking distance.For
ancient history try walking north-east along the Mariya Luiza until you
reach the Archaeological Museum.
Here one can discover the Chalcolithic Era which existed in Bulgaria 6000
years ago when corpses were adorned with gold ornaments made by highly
skilled craftsmen. Superb decorative work is also to be found from Greek
and Roman times; one should mention particularly, the intricate jewellery
from Greek Odyssos which is quite outstanding.
(Катедралата на Варна)
more history and old photos of Varna's recent past, visit the City Historical
Museum, directly south and close to the sea-front on ul.8 noemvri. Or head
back five minutes walk to the north on the Han Krum to walk among the extensive
ruins of old Roman Baths where restoration is slowly in progress and hopefully
one day will be completed when sufficient funds are available from the
Project,' (a United Nations Development Programme initiative started
in 1997 principally for reducing unemployment.)
Roman Thermae in Varna. When will restoration be complete?
is full of monasteries, but two stand out from the rest, Rila, the largest
and most impressive and Batchkova, not as large as Rila, but still well
worth a visit. The
Rila Monastery dates from the 10th century and although plundered many
times, somehow survived the Ottoman Turks through the long occupation;
it was restored and expanded in the 19th century. Rila nestles in a fertile
wooded valley of the Rila Mountains and can be reached quite easily by
bus from Sofia.
Monastery is to be found in the Rhodope Mountains, was founded in the
11th century and like the Rila has some wonderful frescoes. Batchkova also
suffered from the occupying Turks, being destroyed and rebuilt by Bulgarians
during the 16th century. Buses run from Plovdiv or Asenovgrad. The Rhodope
Mountains are great for walking and south of Batchkova will be found wonderful
mountain scenery and mountain trails through areas rich in wild life. Interestingly,
as one moves into the Eastern
Rhodopes, the least developed region of Bulgaria, the scenery acquires
an almost Syrian perspective; it is the richest area of all for wildlife
with an immense variety of birds, insects and other species, but access
is not so easy for the ordinary traveller and is best undertaken
in the company of specialists.
On April 20, 1876, Todor
Kableshkov launched the abortive but significant rising against the Ottoman
Empire. This is where it started, the Bridge of the First Shot in the small
town of Koprivshitsa (Копривщица) in the upper Topolnitsa valley.
Todor was betrayed and the rising collapsed, but the savagery of Turkish
reprisals against civilians led to withdrawal of Western support and finally
led to Russian intervention and the expulsion of the Turks who had ruled
Bulgaria for nearly four hundred years. Nearby one can find Todor's statue
and in the town, many beautiful houses from the mid-nineteenth century,
the period of national revival.
|Roman Ampitheatre, Plovdiv
Virtually the only surviving
remains of a Roman acropolis destroyed in the third century by the Goths.
Nowadays, kings, queens and prime ministers come here to listen to Shakespeare.
These ruins were discovered when local children unearthed fragments of
stone when the level of the ground was roughly the height of the house
in the background. Excavations subsequently revealed all; restoration and
new staging has made the theatre fit for Hamlet in modern times with wonderful
original acoustics. Sitting on the upper steps and facing south,
one has views of the modern town and far beyond in a blue haze, the Rhodope
Bulgarian meal in Bansko (Банско), to finish a wonderful hike in the Pirins
(picture, courtesy of Roman Lebedev). Many of the mountain peaks
reach nearly 3000m and there are many trails from the fertile valleys below.
Roman has made some great
pictures. Bansko is an agricultural town lying beneath the great Mount
Vihren, the citizens of Bansko are descendants of people who kept Bulgarian
culture alive during Turkish oppression and many of the strongly built
stone and timber houses contain secret cell-rooms for hiding revolutionaries.