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Mini Break in Haskovo

Haskovo, a town rich in Renaissance architecture and spectacular scenery has a rich historic and cultural heritage. There are many things to see and do here, yet little is mentioned on the pages of guide books and tour brochures to sing the praises of this unique area. Close to the Greek and Turkish borders, Haskovo makes a great stop-over for those intending to journey across the border, however, the town in its own right has much to see and do for travelers of all ages and tastes.

Sightseeing

In 1985, Haskovo celebrated its 1000th anniversary and a new clock tower was erected in the centre of the town where the original 19th century clock once stood, but perhaps the most amazing site in this pretty town is the record breaking Statue of the Mother of God constructed on the Hill of Yamacha. The 32 m high statue of Mary holding baby Jesus was erected in 2003 and holds the world record as the highest monument to Our Lady. It is made of polymer-concrete and weighs 80 tons. There is a small chapel at the foot of the statue with a huge cross attached to it.

Another of the town’s monuments is also well worth taking in; the Memorial to the Unknown Soldier has stood proudly in the city centre for over 80 years. It commemorates those Haskovo soldiers killed in the Balkan Wars of 1912 – 1918. When the statue was erected in 1927, Tsar Boris III came to its inauguration.
The town consists of many beautiful Revival period houses, which were once owned by wealthy traders and craftsmen. Many of them still retain the ornately decorated ceilings and fretwork typical of the 19th century as well as strong French influences with many windows, columns, cornices and oriels.  One of the best examples is the house, which once belonged to a rich trader called Pascal, known today as the Pascal House. It contains many attractive carved wooden ceilings and a semi-circular veranda on the upper storey. Today, it houses a museum showing examples from the town after the liberation. The 19th century Shishman house is also another well-preserved example of this period. This too was once owned by a wealthy local trader, Hritodul Valchev Shishmanov and it also contains an exhibition about the town’s development in the fields of weaving, wool processing, cotton and silk spinning. The Karapetkov’s house and the Garkov’s house are also well worth visiting.

Haskovo is home to the only Nymphaeum in Bulgaria. This Thracian sanctuary is a National Cultural Site. It lies near the village of Kasnakovo In the 2nd century Titus Flavius Esbenerius a Roman citizen of Thracian origin was given a piece of land as a reward for his loyal and dedicated service to Rome. He and his wife chose to erect a sanctuary here to honour the nymphs of Aphrodite. The site has three mineral springs, a large amphitheatre and a shrine. Later, a Christian Church was build here called St. Spas, but nothing remains of this. Local villagers still hold festivals here to honour the Saint and leave gifts and burning candles.

 

Arts and Culture

The artistic life in the town is represented by the newly refurbished Ivan Dimov Dramatic Theatre named after one of Bulgaria’s best actors, the Historical Museum and the art gallery. During April the “Southern Spring” festival attracts poets from all over the country. Each May the “Thrace Sings and Dances” folk festival takes place in the Kenana Park attracting a horde of amateur folk groups. Haskovo was hoe to the famous violinist Nedyalka Simenova and at the end of October, music competitions are held alongside performances by the local Symphony Orchestra and famous guest musicians. The theatre still attracts many big name actors and directors and is one the most beautiful theatres in the country.

Recreation

Haskovo is a town full of greenery with poplars lining the river bank and three major parkland areas dominating the city. The municipality has invested much in making the town a pleasant place for recreation with an aggressive tree planting policy that first started in 1892 when Marin Penchev, an accomplished landscape gardener planted the first trees down by the river. He was also in charge of creating the City Garden and on his death his son Gyula, continued with this project. The park expanded over decades and now houses some of the most amazing flower beds in the country as well as a large greenhouse of exotic plant species.
The Yamacha Park in the southern part of the town was conceived in 1958. Today the park is home to the city stadium, an open-air swimming pool and a children’s playground. Built on one of the slopes of the Rhodope Mountains, the park offers some impressive views of the city and surrounding countryside. The area is renowned for its red oaks, acacias, ash-trees, black pines and conifers. The Kenana Forest Park in the north of the city was established in 1955. Around 70% of the park is covered with a variety of oak trees, flowering ash, lindens, acers and wild cherry. The park is fantastic for recreation with tennis-courts and a zoo.

Pictures courtesy of Nenko Lazarov, www.imagesfrombulgaria.com