Kazanlak and Starosel, Thracian tombs and other temples


It seems incredible but there are 36 village museums, 160 monasteries, 330 museums and galleries and more than 40,000 historical monuments in only 2% of Europe, concentrated in that country called Bulgaria that we are touring. Today, in addition, we have entered into something that made us particularly excited, an area of ​​vestiges and legacy of the most ancient, where Starosel or Kazanlak have allowed us to enter tombs and Thracian temples such as Chetinyova Moguila, the latter the greatest treasure ever found

But the route, although it cuts in kilometers, has reached wonderful villages of charm such as Koprivshtitsa or from which we are currently writing, Tryavna, going through a communist "UFO" that deserves a separate chapter.

Chetinyova Moguila, a treasure in Starosel

Breakfast at the Expo Hotel, we have set a route about 40 km north of it (1h). Today we were going to make a route similar to the following ...

Our first objective does not appear in the Lonely Planet that we carry (very very bad on this trip, by the way, although it has long since ceased to be a bible for us) or in the vast majority of internet stories. We had happened to him by chance reading in a documentary article "The archeological sensation has reached the world with the largest complex of the imperial mausoleum that has been found to date"There are more attractions in the surroundings, but we were clear about our objective.

Places to visit in the north area of ​​Plovdiv: If in the south of Plovdiv we highlighted the Assen Fortress and the Bachkovo Monastery as main attractions, today's route through Starosel, Koprivshtitsa or Kazanlak could be added:

- Zhaba Moguila (frog mound) in Draganov Kladenets, a few kilometers from Strelcha.
- Hissar, known for its 16 natural mineral springs and 5 probes and with a Diocletianopolis National Archaeological Reserve that encompasses the ancient fortress and amphitheater, public buildings, Christian basilicas, barracks, houses, bathrooms and a Roman tomb.
- The Thracian architectural complex of the “Kozi Gramadi” peak It was discovered in 2005 and includes a residence, an old fortress, stone sanctuaries, roads, necropolis-mounds and quarries but which is complex to reach, without paved road or organization of visits.

We are in the eastern forest, in Oreshaka, where archaeologists had been studying a total of 120 mounds, and meticulously by the findings 22 of them. Can you imagine the adrenaline that the team of Bulgarian archaeologist Georgi Kitov must have felt the afternoon that discovered a Thracian tomb that would become a worldwide phenomenon?The largest underground temple in the Balkans, along with a mausoleum

A complex dating from the end of the SV or early S.IV BC, obviously far from the estimation of the main pyramids of Egypt (2,500-3,000 BC), but what is believed to be a unique legacy of worship far before civilizations Like the Roman

Visiting hours begin at 9 am (closes at 8 pm in summer) and costs BGN 3 per person. We are in a Starosel Thracian cult set which consists of six temples in total and are located under mounds, four of them unique, as well as several royal tombs, although they continue their excavation work as it is "relatively" recent

What to tell you? Already from the entrance of the temple by the stairs and two pedestals with two lion statues on top, you feel the energy of a place that they claim to be used for ceremonial dances (the visit is in Bulgarian, so all the information we bought before entering a shop) and that leads down a corridor to the royal facade of the temple, meticulously adorned even with "wolf teeth". Their stone blocks are joined together with iron clamps and seated with lead leaving an entrance to the tomb of 1.6 m

A round room with colorful columns in blue and red resting on a slab is associated with the cult of the Great Mother Goddess, her son the Sun and Orpheus. It is a place that really makes you feel chills and more at this time in the morning and it is thought that it can be the tomb of Sitalces Starosel I although they are only theories

It is also said that this is the last house of the powerful ruler Sitalk Odrysia (because of the artifacts found), which, like all Thracians, was a great connoisseur of wine, although in the upper part they are still excavating and there are many mysteries to solve (in this area the passage is prohibited but "we got lost" )

It seems that a gold ring was found with an image of a rider and silver items or armor with arrows. ! A spectacular visit while shocking! that every lover of the "Indiana Jones" adventures should perform WITHOUT ANYONE (not even a tourist) as we have done.

Koprivshtitsa, the charming village "museum"

Before deciding on Koprivshtita as our next route destination we had read a lot about it. In fact it is one of the most famous excursions from Sofia that usually combine with Plovdiv although it is also offered alone (you arrive at 11:30 and return at 14:30). Coming by public transport is almost missing a day although we have read who does it (2h 30 'train to a station 9 km away and link with a bus that is not coordinated for 15 min). We also know who has spent a whole day here ...

Beautiful? The truth is that we were not deceived.Koprivshtitsa has seemed to us a town with a special charm Prepared to receive tourism without problems.

That said, knowing that you are in a "museum town", you have to recognize that Bulgarian Renaissance mansions They are excellently preserved and are part of the country's history. One also very important, because it was the place where the revolutionary Todor Kableshkov made the first uprising against the Turks in 1876

However, a city so important that it had 12,000 inhabitants, it was gradually giving way to merchants, shepherds and intellectuals, leaving today 6 museum houses, including Oslekov, Lyutov and Kableshkov.

Without going into too many details (the town is so small that it does not deserve a map) or in the names of the dozens of revolutionaries or legends of its foundation and the walk is very pleasant at this time in the morning, among old houses, dozens of fountains (all with typical rosettes of hexagonal stars), beautiful landscapes with arched stone bridges over the small rivers that overlook the Topolnitsa River. Beautiful postcards!

The most popular is the "Kalachev Bridge", known as the "First Shotgun" (where the first shot of the Bulgarian uprising sounded) although I lost Paula. Paula, Paula? Ah, a morning coffee before continuing (3 BGN). We are waiting 110 km (1h 30 min) to Kazanlak. previous second refueling at 2.20 (about 1.10 euros per liter). We were going to stop in Karlovo but what we were reading did not convince us too much to put it on a car route through Bulgaria so we decided to continue on our way

Kazanlak, the valley of the Thracian Kings

Kazanlak is not only famous for his Thracian legacy, but also starting point of the routes through the Valley of the Roses. Do you remember the fascination we feel in our first approach to this world of best rose plantations in Ecuador? Well, it seems that 60% of the world's rose oil is manufactured here. It is also one of the cities where there is the greatest ethnic mix, with many mosques, although we know what our goal was?

What can you see in Kazanlak? The atmosphere of Sevtopolis Square, the Kulata Ethnological Complex, the Open-Air Museum or the Rose Museum but, above all, another Thracian sanctuary in the Tyulbe Park where we have parked. We enter another valley ... The Valley of the Thracian Kings!The Thracian tomb of Kazanlak is possibly, next to that of Svechtari, the best known in Bulgaria.

Perhaps the fact that it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site is its justification. However, the number of Thracian burial mounds in Bulgaria exceeds 60,000 and archaeologists discovered 11 graves of the more than 1000 they are currently studying, all concluding that Starosel is the most important (despite the fame)

Places to visit UNESCO World Heritage Site in Bulgaria:

- The Thracian Tomb of Svechtari
- The Thracian Tomb of Kazanlak
- The Old City of Nesebar
- The Rider of Madara
- The rock church of Ivanovo
- The Church of Boyana
- The Monastery of Rila
- 2 protected natural parks: The Natural Park of Srébarna and The National Park of Piri

Even so, who would not be "drunk" for a culture of more than 2,500 years? Open from 9 am to 5 pm and with a price of 3 BGN per person and 5 BGN more for taking photos (as it is noted that it is touristy) per person, we are in a tomb dating from the IV-III century BC. accidentally discovered in 1944 building an air raid shelter. Currently you can see an almost perfect 1: 1 replica that is where we enter

The tomb, to the south of a burial mound, is divided into three fundamental rooms consisting of a rectangular entrance, a narrow brick corridor (dromos) and a funeral brick chamber with a circular plan and flared dome.

Although the tomb was sacked in ancient times, clay vessels, oynohoes (wine jug) or silver jugs and horse bones of great value are preserved, although it owes its worldwide fame to the extraordinary murals of the hallway and the vaulted chamber

In fact, it has nothing to do with what we saw in the morning at Starosel. By its time, after the previous one, it is considered one of the best preserved works of the ancient mural art of the early Hellenistic era, such as warriors among enemy troops in the hallway or fighting scenes, all associated with the life of the Thracian sovereign nobleman buried in the temple

We are, as we said before, in the considered Valley of the Thracian Kings, which includes temples and tombs found in the mounds of Golyama Arsenalka, Shushmanets, Helvetia, Grigones, Svetitsa, Ostrusha and Golyama Kosmatka. Precisely the latter would be our next stop.

Shipka, a Thracian tomb, a monastery, a step and a UFO?

It is already around 3:30 pm, after going through a public toilet (0.50 BGN), when we decided to visit the last Thracian vestige of the day and take the opportunity to get to know the famous Shipka and its surroundings: a monastery, a historical passage and ... a UFO?

The tombs in this area close in summer at 17'00 with which we go directly to the mound Golyama Kosmatka where is the tomb of the Thracian king Seuthes III, discovered very recently (in 2004) and located 1 km south of the city of Shipka and 12 km north of Kazanlak (15 minutes).

We return to the second half of the 5th century BC. and with clear evidence of its authorship since buried they also found the head of the statue of Seuthes, placing belongings and offerings for the life of the grave in a meticulous way ... or so we thought, until we realize that it is remodeling and will not can be today.

Snif! We were excited. The pyramids of Egypt, the Mayan, Inca or Aztec vestiges, the Greek or Roman legacy ... all are well known but excited when you feel them. Here you also feel fascinated to be where a bed and a ritual table. We will have to wait to continue knowing more in future days.

We go back a few kilometers on our steps to take a small detour and reach Budzudzha, the equivalent in Bulgaria to that esoteric place that we always look for as the ghost town of Pyramiden in Svalbard,Rasafa waves dead cities in Syria,Pulemelei Mound in Samoa eaten by the jungle or Kharanaq in the heart of Iran

… But !! WE WILL NOT TELL ANYTHING beyond some photos !! Why? This "UFO" deserves a separate chapter from which we are only going to leave you a little inside. Do you promise? There will be video!

UPGRADE: You can now read our experience in "Buzludzha, visit the abandoned UFO (and we sneak inside)"

We didn't want to leave Shipka without making a stop at the Shipka Monastery that they had told us about (we also believe that it receives the name of St. Nicholas but we have not been able to confirm it). It is relatively recent (1902) and stands out for the splendid golden onion-shaped domes of the Church of the Nativity, Russian influence (its promoters are) without a doubt that we already saw in many places like the same Mount of Olives in Jerusalem wave russian orthodox church of Geneva, without going so far

A bell tower of 53 meters, 17 bells and 4 marble slabs with the names of those killed in the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-1878 are its main features

We have decided to end the day, after some gifts (10 BGN) and some soft drinks (7.30 BGN) in a beautiful town called Tryvna, after passing through the famous shipka pass (1,306 m) where a long staircase leads to the Freedom Monument

This commemorates the 7,000 Russian soldiers and Bulgarian volunteers who died holding back the attack of about 27,000 Turkish soldiers in 1877.! Small battles were mounted here!

A large bronze lion, a symbol of the Bulgarian State, keeps the entrance to where it appears that the bones of Shipka's defenders are stored on its ground floor. Perhaps somewhat gloomy, but an icon of the country that can be seen tens of kilometers away

Small views eh Paula? We're almost there to appreciate the place that will shelter us tonight. His name ... Tryavna

It's around 19:30 when we enter the one where I'm writing these lines right now

Tryavna, between stone bridges and cobbled streets to sleep

We went out for a while to have a walk and have dinner in Tryavna once we were staying. Parking right next to the accommodation has cost us nothing like all this days. Bringing a car in Bulgaria gives you absolute flexibility and does not imply any burden on cities or towns nor do you have to look for complex parkings

It's about a completely restored village of those Bulgarian Renaissance houses that do not leave us these days, stone bridges and cobbled streets with lots of charm

Tryavna is also famous for its craftsmanship (59 BGN), beyond a couple of churches and museum houses, and for its wood carvings for walnut, birch, poplar or oak works (and even from what we see there are courses for tourists).

Paula's notes:

Every time we enter any tourist attraction We cannot avoid thinking how well prepared they are, a concept very different from that transmitted by the guides. Parking, brown signs signaling in English, good access ... What a misinformation!

I've been in Bulgaria for 5 days and still I don't know how to pull the toilet cistern. I am sorry, it is not my intention to be a pig, but I find it impossible even if I look at it and I find it hard ... that someone explains it to me!

It is, however, the square of the Clock Tower (1844) and the main stone bridge (1844) that attracts us most. You know what we like to walk, and here we have also found the best restaurant so far (26.10 BGN), one such Tryavna Beer House where to taste the best homemade beer (4 types: Blond, Amber, Brown and Fruit)

The star dish is a "Chicken in ceramic dish" and consists of chicken, potatoes, bacon, melted cheese and a sauce and is for dipping

Before we retired we did not want to miss the opportunity to take a walk through the clock square already at night but the time of day has come when, already in the room, a catchy song has been played that sounds every night at 22'00. !Magical!

What to say to summarize such a complete day? Thracian tombs, charming villages, golden-domed monasteries, icons on top of the mountain and ...! Even a UFO! We have much to tell yet about this day, but that remains for our return. !More tomorrow! Every day closer to the Black Sea

Isaac and Paula from Tryavna (Bulgaria)

EXPENSES OF THE DAY: BGN 50.90 (approx. 26.10 EUR) and GIFTS: BGN 69 (approx. 35.38 EUR)