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Checking Out the Kyustendil Region

Tucked away in the scenic, lush countryside, at the base of the wonderful Osogovo Mountain, Kyustendil enthralls visitors with its innate beauty and ancient history. This is an area where the springtime brings an array of colour from the fertile green valleys in their carpet of colourful wild flowers to the rich array of fruit orchards. For the visitor it offers year round entertainment from relaxing spa treatments at one of 40 mineral springs to hiking and skiing in the nearby mountains as well as a wealth of cultural sites.

Around Town

The town’s Vladimir Dimitrov Maistora Art Gallery is of significant importance; not only is the exterior architecture amazing, but the interior also enthralls its guests as do the works of the artist to whom the gallery lends its name. Kyustendil Historical Museum is another great landmark. Built in 1897, it is divided into sectors with each one representing a different period in history with everything from the period of Ottoman rule and the post liberation period being accounted for, in fact there are many monuments dotted around the town paying homage to those heroes who contributed t the towns liberation during this time. . Perhaps the most interesting site in this town is the 2nd century Asclepiads of Pautaliya, a Roman spa and religious site dedicated to Asclepiad the god of medicine. Many sophisticated construction methods were used in the building of the spa, which contains a heating and drainage system. Adjacent to thermal baths there is an interesting medieval defense tower, the Pirokovata Tower. It is 15 m tall and played an important role during the Middle Ages in protecting the town from regular onslaughts.

The town has several churches worthy of a visit; the 12th century St George’s Church, the 19th century St Bogorpditsa andSt. Dimitar churches are all intriguing and hold their place in the overall history of this enchanting town; St George’s contains some amazing 10th century frescoes, which survived the Ottoman destruction of the church in the 15th century.  The Ahmed Bey Mosque is well worth seeing and is home to many regular exhibitions. There are also some fantastic examples of Bulgarian Renaissance architecture, many of which have been turned into house museums. Emfedjiev’s House is home to an ethnographic exhibition telling of the life of wealthy Kyustendil citizens during the late 19th century. The house, which was formerly, inhabited by Ilio Markov, known as Ilio the Voivode and one of the key players in the Bulgarian National-Liberation Uprising. His house now exhibits a lucid account into the National Liberation Movement in the region. One other outstanding museum-house is that of Dimitar Peshev, a former 1940’s Bulgarian Prime Minister who saved many Bulgarian Jews from the Nazi holocaust. The house contains stories about his life and work. The 4th century Hissarluka Fortress is located in a park of the same name. The fortress ruins pay tribute to the town’s long history. It was used extensively during the creation and protection of the First and Second Bulgarian state, but was destroyed during the Ottoman invasion. Today there are around 14 towers still standing as well as several buildings attached to the fort. The park itself is a wonderful area for recreation and is only a short walk from the town.

The Mineral Springs

The town is renowned for its warm mineral springs and there are over 40 of them. The springs are renowned for their healing properties in particular for the successful treatment of locomotion and gynecological disorders.  The water contains high sulphide compounds yet it is clear with an agreeable taste and only a slight whiff of hydrogen sulphide. Perhaps the most famous mineral spring in this area is that located in nearby Sapareva Banya, which is famous for its hot mineral geyser, which reaches temperatures of 103 degrees.

Out of Town

Beyond Kyustendil there are many places of interest as well as areas ideal for recreation. The Tri Buki region located 20 km from the town consists of a lengthy ski piste, serviced by a drag lift. Nevestino village, 13 km southeast of the town is home to the 15th century Kadin Bridge, which spans the Struma River. The village of Shishkovtzi is also worth seeing. It is 10 km north of Kyustendil and is home to a large collection of paintings by local artists Vladimir Dimitrov Maistora. A little further north lies the Zemen Monastery, which contains some impressive 14th century frescoes. A further 22 km from the village of Zemen there is an amazing gorge, the Zemenski Gorge, carved by the fast flowing Struma River. The wonderful creation has also given rise to many waterfalls including the 50 m high Polish Skakavishki waterfall.

Another spectacular natural wonder are the Stob Pyramids near the village of Stob. They consist of amazing rock formations weathered by time and reminiscent of towers, chimneys and even people. Perhaps the best time to visit is at sunset when the sunlight casts its ray of colours over the majestic rocks.

Photographs: www.bulgariaphotos.net