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Dates of visit:
September 1 - 20, 2010

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Trip Highlights:
 Meeting Cousins
 Historic Bulgaria
 Roman Ruins
 Nature Reserves
 Rock Churches
 Black Sea Coast


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Bulgaria - Part 0 - Introduction, Portrait & History of Bulgaria
Bulgaria - Part 1 - Rock Curches, Rusenski Lom, Medieval City of Cherven
Bulgaria - Part 3 - Sofia, Rila Monastery, Trigrad, Shiroka Laka, Plovdid
Bulgaria - Part 4 - Nesebar, Balchik, Kaliarka, Yailata Reserve, Tsarevets Hills
Romania - Part 1 - Arges Monastery, Poenari Fortress, Alpine Pass
Romania - Part 2 - Sibiu, Fortified Churches of Biertan and Viscri
Exploring Bulgaria's Cultural Highlights
Roman Town of Nove

Svishtov is situated on the bank of the Danube River, 250 km northeast of Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria. The city is protected by a small mountain, which defines the soft climate in the region all year round. Several mineral springs are situated in close vicinity to Svishtov.

Roman Town of NoveHistory: Svishtov emerges in the place of the Roman and early Byzantium, strongly fortified port center - Nove. During the medieval period the town was known by the name Staklen, later it was called Sidtovo, which is a transcription of Svishtov. The name comes from the word "svesht" (candle), because during the first centuries of the Ottoman rule several cottages lighted the ways of the river boats. The present town was formed around the same cottages.

During the Revival period, Svishtov becomes a port and trade center and a starting point of the goods towards the inner parts of the Ottoman Empire. The economic development influences the cultural life in the town. Schools were constructed, together with churches and many residential houses. Many revival figures worked here. Svishtov is the first town liberated by the Ottoman Rule by the end of July 1877.

Landmarks: Svishtov and its vicinities were inhabited during different epochs from different civilizations until present days, and more than 120 archeological, art and architectural monuments are left until present days. The towns' historical museum is considered one of the oldest in Bulgaria and exposes numerous exponents. The ethnographic museum will tell you interesting facts of the local lifestyle and customs.

Vicinities: Just 4 kilometers east of the town in the Tekirdere site, where the Russian - Turkish liberation war started, a huge memorial monument "The Monuments" was erected. The Kaleto site, where the remains of the ancient town Nove and the medieval Staklen, together with the site "Pisani kamani" (drawing stones) are situated nearby the town.

The ancient Roman town of Nove is 4 km away from the town of Svishtov, and originated as headquarters of a Roman legion. Soon the territory around that military camp developed into a town settlement, which became a significant economic center.

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Gallery - Roman Town of Nove
Roman Town of Nove Roman Town of Nove Roman Town of Nove
Roman Town of Nove Roman Town of Nove Roman Town of Nove

Ulpia Eskus Archeological Reserve

Ulpia Eskus Archeological ReserveThe Ulpia Eskus Archeological Reserve from the 3rd - 4th c. is on the municipal territory very close to the village of Gigen. In archeological terms the town has been researched since the beginning of the last century and the excavation, preservation and restoration work continues until nowadays. The municipality is planning to build a museum and an archeological center in order to make best use of its setting and reserves for the development of cultural, hunting, fishing and rural tourism.

After excavations in the village of Gigen the archeologists discovered not only an early-fortress wall of an ancient town, dating from 2nd century AC, but also a lot of findings and information for the lifestyle of the population, that inhabited that region. One of the most remarkable things discovered in the town of Ulpiya Eskus is the mosaic "Aheitsi". In the Regional history museum monuments, findings from the Roman town Ulpiya Eskus and the early Byzantine fortress of Storgozia are exposed: architecture details, colored floor mosaics, sculptures of Greek - Roman pantheon divinities, and golden ornaments.

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Gallery - Ulpia Eskus Archeological Reserve
Ulpia Eskus Archeological Reserve Ulpia Eskus Archeological Reserve Ulpia Eskus Archeological Reserve
Ulpia Eskus Archeological Reserve Ulpia Eskus Archeological Reserve Ulpia Eskus Archeological Reserve
Ulpia Eskus Archeological Reserve Ulpia Eskus Archeological Reserve Ulpia Eskus Archeological Reserve
Ulpia Eskus Archeological Reserve Ulpia Eskus Archeological Reserve Ulpia Eskus Archeological Reserve

Belogradchik Rocks and Fortress

Belogradchik RocksThe formation of the Belogradchik rocks started during the Permian period, about 230 million years ago, when the tectonic cycle initiated the elevation of the region of Belogradchik. Later on, during the Triassic period, the region represented the bottom of a shallow sea. The new conditions predetermined the intensive erosion of the red lea-stone rocks. At the same time, the destruction of the earlier Paleozoic rocks formed large quantities of gravel, sand and clay. As time passed, the layered materials were firmly glued together by silicic or sand-clay solder. The hot and dry climate at the time caused the formation of large quantities of haematitic pigment, which gives the rocks their rusty color.

Belogradchik RocksMany fantastic rock figures, small valleys and passages with steep vertical slopes have formed for millions of years as a result of the processes of vertical erosion, denudation, freezing, growth of mosses and lichens, and other natural factors.

The rocks are divided in several main parts according to their location.

The red rock-chain begins with the independent group "A Hundred Sheep" near the village of Belotintsi.

Belogradchik RocksAt the foot of the Venetsa region the red leastone is furrowed by deep gorges and canyons, covered with oak and hornbeam trees. The Bea Rock rises up to the west of the village of Falkovets, with the Eagle Rock near it.

North of the village of Borovitsa are the rocks of the Borovika rock group - Dlagnyash and Pine Rock. The vertical red rocks of the Pine Rock end with an inaccessible ridge once covered with centuries-old pine trees. At its foot twists an old road, passing near the colossi of Dolni Krupets, the petrified Dinosaur near the Lepenishki Pech and the hardly-accessible terraces of Markashnitsa.

Belogradchik RocksTo the west of the fortress, near the Skoroshin gorge, in the region Magaza, are located the groups Twins, Sbegove and Erkryuprii.

The red rock-chain reaches the Vedernik summit to the west. The rock groups near the villages of Granichak and Dabravka are very interesting - the legendary Borich and the deep precipice at its foot.

Belogradchik RocksDuring the years many Bulgarian and foreign scientists, travelers and tourists have bowed before the beauty of the unique Belogradchik rocks. During one voyage in the region Konstantin Irechek cried out: "This cannot be described in words. This must be seen!". "I believe that no human soul can approach the surprising Belogradchik scenery and remain senseless to the might of a deep and overwhelming impression", said Felix Kanitz.

Legend of the Belogradchik Rocks

Belogradchik RocksMany years ago, there lived a very old father with his son Dobromar. Under the sky of their vast estate, grow thick oak-tree forests tilled with bird songs, crystal-clear springs, meadows covered with carpets of colorful and fragrant flowers. Among this greenery raised inaccessible and beautiful rocks, with strange forms that puzzled the human imagination. While still alive the father often spoke of a great treasure hidden somewhere.

Belogradchik RocksAfter his father's death, the son frequently roamed these natural beauties looking for the buried treasure. He looked everywhere - in cavities, in caves, in consecrated grounds, but he could not find anything. One day at sunset he found a cave with its entrance covered with ivy. Right outside the cave there was an old man with white hair. When he found out what the young man was looking for, he slowly stroked down his long beard and gently spoke: Come With me. I will show you the greatest and most marvelous treasure on Earth. He grabbed Dobromir's hand and led him in the dark through the centuries-old forest. It was a long walk. Early in the morning, they reached the walls of an ancient fortress. They climbed up and reached its highest point. In this moment, the sun came out and its first beams of light gently colored the rocks in the valley. Then the wise man spread his hands towards the red rocks and said: This is the treasure that you seek. There is no greater, more real or more eternal treasure than this one.

The Belogradchik Fortress

Belogradchik FortressThe Belogradchik fortress is an impressive architectural and historical cultural monument. It is located at 610 meters above sea level, covering an area of 10,200 sq. m. Its slender silhouette marvelously fits in the space surrounded by the red-colored rock massifs rising above Belogradchik.

An incredible panoramic view is revealed from the highest part of the fortress. To the south, the sight strokes the wavy ridge of the Balkan Mountain from Mount Korn to Vrashka Chuka, to the west it is attracted by the sharp-peaked copper mountains and the Carpathian Mountains, and in the valley, it finds peace in the marvel of the Belogradchik rocks.

The Belogradchik fortress is located on a strategic spot between the Balkan passages of "St. Nikola" and "Kadaboaz". It was established in I-III century AD as a small hideout. The architect had skillfully used the inaccessibility of the ellipsoid rock terrace "First Slab" and had organized a facility with defense, observational, security and communication functions. Archeological excavations have revealed wall foundations, ceramic fragments, iron gads of spears and arrows, coins of the Roman emperors Vespasian. Trajan, Septimius Sever, Gordian III, Decius Trajan. There are visible joist beds with rectangular section of light constructions and furrows leading the atmosphere waters to an 85 cubic m reservoir.

The life of the fortress continued during late Antiquity. Its strategic importance was appreciated by the Vidin ruler Ivan Sratsimir (1356-1396). During his rule, the fortress was strengthened and expanded. Two separation walls (to the southeast and northwest) and auxiliary facilities were constructed. The hanging wooden bridges and stone stairs presented better opportunities for fast maneuvering. The name of the fortress was mentioned for the first time by a Hungarian analyst describing the campaign of Ludwig I of Anjou. The chronicle states that three months after the conquest of Bdin (Vidin) on 2 June 1365, all the fortresses in the region were conquered, including the fortress Fehervar (Belogradchik). The garrison settled there was banished in 1369 by the revolting Bulgarians.

In 1396, the Belogradchik fortress was conquered by the Ottomans and partly destroyed. In 1454-1455 eight guards were settled there and a century later the garrison already consisted of 27 soldiers and a dizdar (supervisor). The new masters of the fortress undertook minor repairs and improvements until the beginning of the 19th century. The overall reconstruction and expansion was started in 1805 by French engineers and was finished in 1837 by Italian specialists. The newly erected fortification walls reached a height of 12 meters, a width of 2.5 meters at the base and consisted of well-processed white stone blocks soldered with mortar. Battle paths ensured the speed and mobility of the defenders. There are three inner yards with three gates, strongly fortified with massive iron-studded doors. The defenses were strengthened with three cannon embrasures and three cannon platforms. Right next to them were located vaults for food and ammunitions. The guards were located in three sentry premises equipped with fireplaces and stone seats. The fortress street covered with cobblestone, crossed the whole first yard and had economic functions. Light-constructed houses, artisan workshops and shelters for the cannons were located close to it. A granary, a mill for flour and salt, and a stable occupied the open space of the second yard. A well located in the south part of the middle yard and two reservoirs carved in the stones provided water. The outer defense belt consisting of deeply sunken wooden stakes and baskets filled with rocks and dirt played an important role in the fortress's defense.

The so-called "Suleiman fortification' was erected in 1862 in order to strengthen the western sector of the fortress.

The history of the Belograchik fortress is related to the heroism of the famous haidouk Velko, who managed to apprehend it for a small period in 1809, to the thirst for freedom in the revolt of 1850 and the deeds of the detachment of Panayot Hitov in 1876.

During the Russian-Ottoman war (1877 - l878), the fortress was under siege by Russian and Romanian armies. On 25 February 1878 it was turned over to the allied forces h accordance to the peace treaty. Fate also determined its important role in the Serbian-Bulgarian war of 1885, when Serbian forces passed through the Balkan passages and were defeated under its walls.

The Belogradchik fortress follows inherited and acquired construction traditions. It impresses not only with its monumentality, but also with its right proportions and the aesthetic visions of the architect. The fortification walls smoothly follow the lines of the terrain. Cornices, entrances, cannon embrasures and octagonal cannon platforms relieve their monotony. The gates have wide pilasters ending with pyramidal steeples decorated with stone plastics. The relief decoration consists of niches, solar signs, marble slabs with excerpts from the Koran, stylized images of animals and plants. White and red stone is used in the arches above the gates. The two lion heads further exaggerate the might of the main gate.

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Gallery - Belogradchik Rocks and Fortress
Belogradchik Rocks and Fortress Belogradchik Rocks and Fortress Belogradchik Rocks and Fortress
Belogradchik Rocks and Fortress Belogradchik Rocks and Fortress Belogradchik Rocks and Fortress
Belogradchik Rocks and Fortress Belogradchik Rocks and Fortress Belogradchik Rocks and Fortress

City of Vratsa

City of Vratsa City of Vratsa is one of the most picturesque cities in the Country. It is nestled in the foothills of "Vrachanski Balkan" (Vratsa Mountain), with the Leva River calmly crossing the city, enormous and fearful rocks overhanging the roofs. The city is only 116 km away from the Bulgarian capital Sofia.

The area has diverse and attractive natural features, which together with the opportunities of recreation gives a special charm of the eastern part of the Northwest Bulgaria. Several protected natural attractions and historical monuments are located on the territory of the Vratsa State Forestry.

History ... Vratsa is an ancient city found by ancient Thracians. Vratsa was called Valve ("door of a fortress") by the Romans due to a narrow passage where the main gate of the city fortress was located. Nowadays, this passage is the symbol of Vratsa, and is shown on the town's Coat of arms.

After the fall of Rome, Vratsa became part of the Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantium).

At the end of the 6th century AD, Vratsa was populated by the South Slavic tribes. Even if they came from Pannonia and Dacia on the north, the town remained under Byzantine rule.

In the 7th century, the Bulgarians and the Slavs found the Bulgarian State and the Slavic Vratsa became part of it. The city grew into important strategic location because of its proximity to the South State border. The name of the city was changed from Valve to the Slavic Vratitsa, which has the same meaning and is the source of the modern name. Vratsa became famous for its goldsmiths and silversmith's production and trade, high-quality earthenware and military significance.

In the 8th century, the Bulgarian army captured Sofia, which led to the decreasing of Vratsa's importance because of the better strategic position of Sofia, its more developed economy and larger size. But Vratsa was again key for the resistance against the Byzantine, Serbian and Magyar invasions in the Middle Ages.

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Gallery - City of Vratsa
City of Vratsa City of Vratsa City of Vratsa

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