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Yambol and Elhovo

The Municipality of Elhovo can be found in the south-eastern part of Bulgaria. Bordering in the south east with Turkey, the area takes in part of the middle valley of the Tundzha River, with its hilly lowland areas, and low mountains. The Tundzha River forms a pretty canyon between the Sakar Mountain and the Dervent Elevations as it flows through the low mountains in the southern part of the region. This area is particularly attractive due to the winding roads and steep valleys.

 

ELHOVO
The Climate:
The region benefits from mild winters (average temperature 0oC), and long, hot and dry summers (average temperature 23oC). The average annual temperature is between 11-13oC.
Maximum rainfall occurs in June and November/Decemeber.
The area can get quite windy at the start of spring, with quick warm gusts blowing in along the Tundzha River valley.

A DIP BACK IN TIME
It is believed that people have lived in this area from as early as 6,000-4,000 B.C. Stone and copper tools, pottery and ornaments from the Neolithic period have been discovered here. The town itself is believed to have been built by the Thracians, under the name of ‘Orouditsa’. Remains of Thracian fortresses, burial mounds and settlements have been discovered, along with artefacts such as pottery, weapons, tools and tablets (bearing pictures of the Thracian Horsemen). Megalithic tombs, known as ‘dolmens’ were also left behind by the Thracians in this area.

After the Liberation (21 January 1878) the town was restored to a provincial centre and workshops and factories sprang to life. Elhovo has had its present name since 18 March 1925 when it was acknowledged as a town under Decree No.86.During the latter part of the 20th century the town confirmed its position as a principal economic and administrative centre.

The Economy
The principal portion of the area’s rural economy lies in plant and crop cultivation - wheat, barley, sunflowers and coriander being the main crops. Vine growing is not as popular in this region of the country, although it does happen to a small extent. Small vegetable plots by private producers can be seen too. The breeding of livestock is also popular in the area - cows, bulls, sheep and goats being the most common, followed by poultry, rabbits and bees. Industry in the area is mostly concerned with machinery construction, food production, tobacco production, and beverage production.

Education in Elhovo
There is: a kindergarten/nursery, a municipal children’s centre, five full-time kindergartens, one special-care boarding school, seven primary schools, two vocational schools, and one secondary school in the municipality. The two vocational schools admit pupils from Elhovo, Bolyarovo and Topolovgrad Municipalities.

Sports Facilities
The ‘Stefan Karadzha’ sports club regularly use and maintain the town’s stadium. At Gyolbounar, 30 kms from Elhovo, there is a half-open shooting range for training and sport shooting. There is also an Olympic size swimming pool, which is unfortunately not in use at the moment because of damage, but several private companies have shown interest in re-opening it.

OUT AND ABOUT
The Specialised Ethnographic Museum (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ) contains artefacts from the whole Strandzha-Sakar region. The museum was opened in 1971 (founded in 1958) and is home to one of the most interesting exhibitions in the country. There are over 20,100 items on display, and are exhibited in the following categories: clothes and ornaments; cloths and embroidery; farming; the house and its interior; hunting and fishing; spiritual culture, customs and folklore; traditional crafts; and transport. There is also an extensive document and photographical archive (over 8,000 exhibits) which charts the development of the region since the Liberation.

The museum is located in the town centre in two single-storey buildings built in 1933, which were amalgamated during the 1960s. The exhibitions take place in four halls, which are preceded by a short history of Elhovo. The first hall contains livelihood displays from the end of the 19th century and early 20th century - tobacco growing, vine growing, agriculture, and some crafts including tailoring and coppersmiths. In the second hall there is a display of a house and its interior from the same period, and also shows the building techniques of the time. Clothing and costumes from south-east Bulgaria are on display in the third hall. Of particular interest are the ladies’ folk costumes which are intricate and impressive. There is also clothing on display from Aegean Thrace and Aegean Macedonia. Traditional holidays and customs are brought to life in the fourth hall. At the end of the exhibition, distinctive fretwork and iconography by local craftsmen is on display. The museum has a separate hall with a regularly changing exhibition. A recent exhibition was ‘The Archaeological heritage of the Elhovo Region’.

Flora and fauna in the region
There are two main reservations in the area. The Dolna Topchia Reservation can be found in the village of Izgrev and covers an area of 538 decares. It is made up of forests, and birds and animals you might see there include pheasants, owls, foxes, hares, wild boar and fallow deer.

The Balabana Reservation is slightly larger at 672 decares. Birds and animals you can expect to see in the forest include egrets, heron, jackals, foxes and hares. The Forest Fund covers a total area of 314,019 decares and is home to a variety of tree species including Austrian pine, cedar, red and common oak, maple, elm, acacia, Chinese ailanthus, walnut, and popular.


 

YAMBOL
The administrative centre of Yambol Municipality is Yambol city. The city lies on both banks of the River Tundzha, 37 kms north of Elhovo, 106 kms west of Bourgas, and 304 kms east of Sofia. The new border crossing with Turkey is only 60 kmsa way. Food, beverage and tobacco production are the leading industries in Yambol.

A brief history of Yambol
Traces of life in the area have been found dating back to The Neolithic, Eneolithic and Bronze Ages. Some of the artefacts that have been found here have made their way to the Louvre in Paris, whilst others are on display in Yambol’s History Museum and the Archaeological Museum in Sofia. The town began life as a Thracian settlement at Kabile (10 kms north-west of the present town), which was an important crossroad. Under Philip of Macedonia’s rule, the town became a fortress. The town was known by several names during the 11-14th centuries - Diospolis, Dianopolis, Yampolis, Dublino, Dimpolis and Hiampolis are just a few of the names!

In the early part of the 20th century, Yambol was famous for its mineral water, horse-drawn rail-tram, Zeppelin hangars, and pheasant breeding. Famous people connected with Yambol include - John Atanadsov (the inventor of the first computer), Stiliana Paraskevova (the embroiderer of the prototype Bulgarian flag), and Atanas Radev (a famous mathematician). Today, Yambol is a twin town of Villejuif in France, Berdiansk in the Ukraine, and Izhevsk in Russia.

Things to see in and around Yambol
Within the municipality there are two protected natural areas. The first is the Ormana countryside, just 2 kms from Yambol city, which is known for meadow-saffron and loddon lilies. The second is the Forestry Park on Borovets Hill.

The History Museum contains interesting displays of artefacts of the region from Neolithic times to the present day (over 100,000 exhibits are one display). The museum is located on Byalo More Str.

There are some examples of Mycenaean ceramics and clay seals on display at Drama Village, 30 kms outside of Yambol.

The St Georgi Church was built in 1737. It contains an impressive wooden iconostasis by maistors of the Debar school icon painters. A monastery school was opened in 1805. During the Russian-Turkish War the church was completely destroyed by fire, but was later restored in 1882. The church is located on St Georgi Str. in the town.

The covered market of Bezisten, in Osvobozhdenie Square, is one of the most well preserved and interesting monuments from the latter half of the 15th century. It was restored in 1970-73 and reorganised into a souvenir palace.

The Georgi Papazov Art Gallery, on Tsar Samuil Str. contains over 3,000 works of art by top Bulgarian and foreign artists. It is housed in an antique building which is interesting in itself.
Yambol also has two theatres - the Theatre of Drama, and the Muppet Theatre.

OUT AND ABOUT
Kabile Monastery lies 6 kms away from Yambol, near the Kabile Archaeology Reserve. The monastery is named ‘The Birth of God’s Mother’, and is known for its well-kept garden with many plants and flowers. Pilgrims are drawn to the monastery’s holy spring, as it is believed it will bring them health and long life. Kabile was a prominent religious centre during the 4-5th centuries. During the reign of Emperor St Constantine the Great, there was also a monastery in the area, about 1 km away from the present day Archaeology Reserve. Legend has it that Queen Elena used to send people to fetch water from the holy spring for her. The present monastery was gradually built around the chapel, construction beginning in 1914 and finishing in 1944.
At the moment the monastery is run by a nun, and has just four other nuns living there. The monastery offers accommodation for up to 50 people.

Kabile Archaeology Reserve can be found 6 kms north of Yambol. Inside the Reserve you can find the preserved ruins of the Thracian town of Kabile. Kabile was built in the region of the Zaychi Vrah peak, which was home to a sanctuary dedicated to the goddess Artemida Phosphoros. The image of the goddess can still be seen on one of the rocks at the sanctuary. During this time, the river Tundzha was still navigable, and Kabile had close contacts with the nearby town of Sevtopolis. Sevtopolis is now under the waters of the Koprinka dam!

The archaeological remains at Kabile are well worth seeing. There is a museum at the Reserve which is open from 8 am - 8 pm in the summer, and 10 am - 4 pm in the winter. There is a bus from Yambol which runs to the museum 9 times a day.

The town of Bolyarovo is located in the southern area of the Yambol District, on the slopes of the Strandzha Mountain. The south of the town forms a 55 kms long border with Turkey. The town is quite small with a population of about 500 inhabitants. It is in a beautiful area of Bulgaria.

The town of Stradldzha is located in an internationally protected area of Bulgaria. There are eleven churches in the area which have been declared as locally important cultural monuments. Many houses in the area have also been declared architectural monuents. Straldzha has an Ethnographic Museum containing many interesting artefacts and exhibits. The area is set in unspoilt countryside, and at the moment is largely untouched by tourism.