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Marvellous Montana

Surrounded by hills at the start of the Balkan Range and the flatlands at the beginning of the Danube Plain, Montana in North West Bulgaria is home to 46,727 people. It lies serenely on the banks of the River Ogosta next to Ogosta Dam at a crossroads between two major European transport corridors; the E4, which connects with Western Europe and the E7 connecting with the Danube and Romania. It is also close to the port of Lom, the Danube’s second largest port and a major link between Western Europe and Russia.
The area is blessed with plenty of mineral spas and the dam lakes of Ogosta and Sretchenska bara. Montana itself is an attractive town sporting a long and rich history; its people are welcoming, the environment clean and it offers much in the way of entertainment and recreation. The surrounding villages are lost in time to an era when man was at one with the land and nature and provide the perfect example of rural Bulgaria.

Getting There

Montana is located on the River Ogosta in North West Bulgaria 50 km from the River Danube, 40 km North West of Vratsa and 30 km east of the Serbian border. The nearest international airport is Sofia, which is 113 km away. The town is connected to the rest of Bulgaria by bus and rail links with regular connections to Sofia, Lom, Vidin, Belogradchik, Pleven and Vratsa as well as to neighbouring villages.

A Dip Back in Time

The countryside around Montana was part of the Roman province of Upper Moesia in 29 BC and there have been many archaeological finds to support this and the fact that Thracian settlements were here prior to that. Around 160, a military camp was set up there and Montana was borne under the name of Municipio Montanensium. Eventually, a fortress was built on top of the hill, as well as public and residential buildings, temples, baths and theatres and Montana became a typical Roman settlement. The local population consisted of affluent landowners who lived in impressive mansions and villas.
Between 440 and 490, the area was frequently attacked by the Huns and Goths. Eventually the Slavs and Avars conquered the town and renamed it Kutlovitsa. Once the Ottomans gained control, the settlement was destroyed and became deserted until 1450 when it was resettled by Turks. A mosque, fountains and other new buildings were erected and it became a strong Turkish ethnic area during the 18th and 19th centuries.

After Bulgaria’s liberation there was huge migration to the area and the town boomed; an electric power plant, a railway station, post office and hospital were built. The town was renamed Ferdinand in 1890 after Bulgarian King Ferdinand, but the name was changed again in 1945 by the Communists to Hristo Mihaylov after an active Communist leader who was born there. One year later the name was changed again to Mihaylovgrad. With the fall of Communism the town’s name was changed once again, this time to reflect its Roman roots and in 1991, after a presidential decree, the town’s name was changed to Montana.

Eating, Drinking and Where to Stay

Montana offers some excellent choice in the way of entertainment and dining, with many small restaurants offering good quality cuisine; the Ezeroto Restaurant and the traditional Nashenci Mehana are well worth sampling. There are also several night clubs with a lively party atmosphere. In terms of somewhere to stay the Zhitomir Hotel Complex offers reasonably priced comfortable accommodation as does the Montana Tourist Hostel in the park zone. Directly in the city centre, the Hotel Balgari, Hotel Ogosta and Hotel Jitomir offer good service. Those who prefer to get in touch with nature can use the camping facilities at Camping Chernila, which is located close to the city.

Photos: www.bulgariaphotos.net