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Beyond Haskovo

Haskovo in southern Bulgaria offers a world of beautiful scenery and historic treasures. Any stay here should incorporate a visit to some of the neighbouring towns and villages to see some of the amazing historic sites on offer and to soak up the beautiful mountain scenery; the undulating plains of south eastern Bulgaria and the imposing Rhodope and Stara Planina Mountain ranges. There are also plenty of opportunities for rest and recreation with the Mineralni Bani village of mineral springs 18 km to the west of the town and a number of scenic reservoirs near the town of Harmanlii. Those looking for a more cultural experience should include the Royal Tomb located at the Sborianovo Archaeology Complex where you can see a total of 102 tombs and the remains of ancient civilizations.

Ancient Fortresses

There are many ancient fortresses in the vicinity; Byalgrad Fortress, which lies 2 km from the village of Gugutka in the eastern Rhodopes originates from the 12th century and derived its name from the spectacular white limestone blocks from which it was built. Its inner fortress and the battle tower have been well preserved. Nearby Bukelon Fortress is also worthy of a visit and is noted for its role in the battle of Adrianople when the Romans were defeated by the Goths in 378. Later on in 1205, the fortress received further acclaim when Bulgarian Tsar Kaloyan’s army defeated the Crusaders taking Emperor Baldwin prisoner. The 11th century Mezek Fortress near Slivengrad is well worth seeing. It was commissioned by Aleksei I Komnin and lies on an area of 6.5 decares in a kind of irregular tetragon shape. Close to the fortress there is also a 6th century BC Thracian tomb, which is made from enormous two metre long stone blocks. Archaeologists have unearthed many ancient treasures from this site including some unique ornaments. The largest fortress in the area is the Lyutitsa medieval fortress, which has been declared a national monument. It was once a stronghold of the now deserted village of Rogozino and was mentioned in literature from medieval Bulgarian history.  Today only the ruins remain covering 26 decares. In its day this fortress was irregular in shape something like ellipse with 10 m high walls spanning 600 m in length. There were 12 towers, 8 of which have been preserved along with the ancient sewerage system, the inner fortress, the foundations of two churches, and a necropolis containing 15 graves. Amongst many of the archaeological finds which include many ceramic pieces, archaeologists also found a rare coin of John IV Palaiologus, which was minted as a special issue. This type of coin has only been found at other cultural sites in Pliska and Preslav.

NoteworthyTowns

Dimitrovgrad is a new town founded during the Communist regime in 1947. Despite its youth there are many noteworthy sites including the 19th century Church of St. Dimitar from which the town gets its name, Most of the icons in the church were painted by some of the country’s leading icon painters from the Sarnokov Art School. The frescoes in the bell tower are also worthy of a mention as are the unique inscriptions in the Holy Glagolitic alphabet. The town is home to several attractive parks. The Nikola Vaptsarov Park in the Slavianski quarter covers 800 decares and is home to a lake and some attractive forestland. It is also home to the Jordano Bruno Astronomy Planetarium, which was the first ever planetarium in the country. The Maritsa Park on the banks of the Maritsa River is decorated with lots of trees and flowers and also contains a children's swimming pool, whilst the Penue Penev Park on the outskirts of the town contains some interesting monolithic stones engraved with verses the poetry of Penue Penev. This park contains several artistic displays as well as some remarkable landscaped gardens. There are also a number of museums in the town including one dedicated to the poet Penue Penev and a History Museum, which details the foundation of the town.

Svilengrad is home to the Mustafa Pasha Bridge, which straddles the Maritsa River. It is 259 m long and 6 m wide with 21 impressive arches.  At night it is illuminated with many coloured lights and quite justly so; this bridge is a UNESCO heritage site – the oldest surviving Ottoman architectural monument in the country. Without it the town would not exist as it was part of an intricate system of bridges across the Arda, Maritsa, and the Tundzha Rivers linking present day Turkey with Bulgaria. It was constructed in 1529 to honour Suleyman the Magnificent and used to be known as Suleyman Bridge although today it has adopted the name of its true founder true builder Vizier Mustafa Pasha, who was the local governor at this time. The bridge contains a plaque in Arabic to hour the Sultan.

The quaint historic town of Harmanli lies 33 km east of Haskovo, where the Harmanliiska River joins the River Maritsa. The town is 500 years old and is believed to have been established by wandering nomads on their way to Turkey. At that time this was such a busy crossroad between Europe and Asia that writer Gencho Stoev, "Harmanlians have no need to travel, because the world travels through them". Noteworthy sights in Harmanli include the old bridge, its famous Church of St. Anastasias and the imposing Gerganina fountain, which dominates the town centre. There is also a museum It is perhaps most famous for its abundance of reservoirs particularly with fishermen, the most noteworthy being the  Kyumuluka Reservoir and Dam on the outskirts of the town, the micro-reservoir in the village of Nedezhden and the Kazala Reservoir. The area has plenty to offer outdoor lovers with some particularly interesting caves located in the surrounding area, perhaps the best is the Karakolyvata in the village Dripchevo.

Historic Villages

Klokotnica lies close to Haskovo and is famous for the Great Battle of March 1230. The battle took place between Bulgarian tsar Ivan Asen II and the Byzantine Greek tyrant Theodore Komnin of Epirus. There is not much to see commemorating the battle but the scenery here is beautiful and its place in Bulgarian history should not be forgotten; Bulgaria’s success in this battle made it the largest medieval country on the Balkan Peninsula. The 10th century rock churches close to the villages of Matochina and Mihalich are the best examples of churches of this type in Bulgaria, whilst Lubimetz contains settlements, which date back to 6000 BC. The Thracians legacy is particularly well marked in this including an ancient Thracian religious settlement near to the village of Malko Gradishte, which is full of rock tombs and sanctuaries. Lubimetz is also home to a section of the Ivailovgrad Dam, which provides an ideal location for recreation and water sports. he Nymph Sanctuary is well worth visiting and this lies close to the village of Kasnakovo. It is one of the best-preserved examples of a second century Thracian mineral spring. The sanctuary was dedicated to the goddess Aphrodite and the nymphs. The complex also includes the ruins of an amphitheater as well as other buildings. Finally, the Golden Plain Protection Grounds by the village of Zlato Pole,which belongs to the part of the Murtvitsata Reservoir and represents one of the largest bodies of water formed by the Maritsa River is worth taking in. Today it provides a rich source of plant and animal life being home to 8 rare bird species.


Mustafa Pasha Bridge picture courtesy of  Ihsaniye Arslan

Harmanlli picture courtesy of Petar Iankov www.imagesfrombulgaria.com

Dimitrovgrad pictures courtesy of  www.bulgariaphotos.net