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A plot of land with area of 44 472 sq.m in a complex of two golf courses in progress near Haskovo city. PRICE: 12 EUR per sq.m
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Central Southern Bulgaria
Asenovgrad
The town of Assenovgrad (52116 inhabitants; 180 M above sea level) is situated in the western part of the Gornotrakiiska (Upper Thracian) Plain, in the northern foots of the Western Rhodopes, at a place where the Chepelarska River runs from the mountain into the valley.
Batak
The town of Batak (4488 inhabitants; 1036 meters above sea level) is situated at the northern foothill of the Batak Mountain (Western Rhodopes), along the two banks of the Stara Reka River.
Bratsigovo
The town of Bratsigovo (5074 inhabitants; 420 meters above sea level) is situated in the northern foothill of Ravnogor Hill (Western Rhodopes), along the two banks of the little Umishka River.
Chepelare
The town of Chepelare (6067 inhabitants; 1100 m above sea level) is situated in the heart of the Rhodope Mountains, in a small valley, along the two banks of Chepelarska (Chaya) River.
Chirpan
Chirpan (20 468 citizens; 180 meters above sea level) is located in the central part of the Gornotrakiiska (Upper Thracian) Plain mostly along the left bank of Tekirska River.
Devin
The town of Devin (6018 inhabitants; 710 m above sea level) is situated on the two banks of Devinska River, in a small hilly valley in the very heart of the Rhodope Mountain.
Dimitrovgrad
Dimitrovgrad (45 918 inhabitants; 100 meters above sea level) is a town in the very heart of the Gornotrakiiska (Upper Thracian) Plain on both sides of the Maritsa River.
Haskovo
Haskovo (population: 80 870; 200 meters above sea level) is located at the banks of Haskovska River, among Haskovo Hills at the foothills of the Eastern Rhodopes.
Hissarya
The town of Hissarya (9308 inhabitants; 364 meters above sea level) is situated in a small valley among the southeastern outskirts of Central Sredna Gora Mountain.
Kalofer
The town of Kalofer (3991 inhabitants; 600 meters above sea level) is beautifully situated along both banks of Toundzha River, in a small valley in the eastern foot of the Strazhata Hill (The Sentry) (a natural connection between the Balkan and the Sredna Gora Mountains.
Karlovo
The town of Karlovo (25 715 inhabitants; 520 meters above sea level) is situated in the valley of the same name, which is part of the famous Rose Valley, along the two banks of Stara Reka River, left feeder of Stryama River.
Kazanluk
Kazanluk (54 021 inhabitants; 350 m above sea level) is a town located in the centre of the valley bearing the same name, whose eastern part is known beyond the boundaries of Bulgaria as the Valley of the Roses.
Koprivshtitsa
The town of Koprivshtitsa (2935 inhabitants; 1050 meters above sea level) is situated along the two banks, within the upper course of the Topolnitsa River in the heart of Sushtinska Sredna Gora Mountain.
Kurdzhali
Kurdzhali (45 729 inhabitants; 240 meters above sea level) is located in the very heart of the Eastern Rhodopes, along the two banks of the Arda River, on both sides of which are the two big dams - Studen Kladenez Dam to the east and Kurdzhali Dam to the south.
Pavel Banya
Pavel Banya (about 4000 inhabitants; 350 m above sea level) is a town located in the Kazanluk valley to the east of the illustrious Valley of the Roses and on the banks of the Tundzha River.
Pazardzhik
The town of Pazardzhik (79 476 inhabitants; 205 meters above sea level) is located in the fertile Gornotrakiiska (Upper Thracian) Plain, along the two banks of the Maritsa River.
Peroushtitsa
The town of Peroushtitsa (5565 inhabitants; 205 meters above sea level) is situated in the fertile Gornotrakiiska (Upper Thracian) Plain, immediately below the most northern slopes of the Vurhovrushki hills of the Western Rhodopes.
Plovdiv
The city of Plovdiv (340 638 inhabitants; 160 m above sea level) is situated in the western part of the Gornotrakiiska (Upper Thracian) Plain, along the two banks of Maritsa, the largest river, springing out in Bulgaria, and scattered upon six unique syenite hills (called "tepeta"- hillrocks).
Smolyan
The town of Smolyan (33153 inhabitants; 850 to 1050 m above sea level) is picturesquely scattered in the narrow gorge of Cherna River (Black River), in the most beautiful part of the Rhodope Mountains.
Sopot
The town of Sopot (12 119 inhabitants; 520 meters above sea level) is situated in the fertile sub-Balkan mountain valley of Karlovo (which is the western part of the legendary Valley of the Roses), immediately under the steep southern slopes of the Troyan Balkan Mountain (Central Balkans).
Stara Zagora
Stara Zagora (143 989 inhabitants; 190 meters above sea level) is situated in the northern part of the Gornotrakiiska (Upper Thracian) Plain, immediately under the southern slopes of Surnena Sredna Gora.

Batak (top)
Intro:
The town of Batak (4488 inhabitants; 1036 meters above sea level) is situated at the northern foothill of the Batak Mountain (Western Rhodopes), along the two banks of the Stara Reka River.

Full text:
It is situated 36 km south of Pazardzhik, 16 km south of Peshtera, 26 km south-east of Velingrad, 51 km north of Dospat, as well as at the distance of 156 km south-east of the capital Sofia. The name of this little town is sacred for every Bulgarian. It is a symbol of martyrdom and self-sacrifice in the name of freedom!

History. In spite of the ruins of ancient fortresses and towns, it cannot be stated with certainty when today's Batak originated. Its name was mentioned for the first time in 1592 on the stone embedded in the drinking fountain (cheshma) at the Krichim Monastery. The settlement grew up substantially after the Bulgarians from the region of Chepin River and its mountain valley migrated escaping from the forceful conversion to Islam. During the pogroms by the kurdzhalii (Turkish brigands) it was repeatedly ruined and rebuilt again, in 1819 Priest Konstantin wrote that it was "a little timber village with 100 houses". According to the traveller A. Vikenel, in 1847, the village numbered 1000 houses and in 1865, Zakhary Stoyanov indicated that it had "400 houses, a lot of inns, a multitude of cuttings and 1500 inhabitants". It can be stated with certainty that as of the end of the Ottoman Rule Batak was already a big and wealthy settlement with over 9000 inhabitants. In 1813, the citizens of Batak built St. Nedelya Church, which was to enter the tragic history of Batak and Bulgaria 63 years later. The school was opened in 1835 and Nayden Ivanovich was the first teacher in it. The name of the town is related most of all to the April Uprising. On 21 April 1876, its inhabitants announced the beginning of the uprising. Like everywhere else the initial enthusiasm and exultation were followed by an utter defeat but the defeat in Batak was more than terrible and reckless! Five thousand people died, the doom of the 2 thousand men, women, and children who found their death in the small St. Nedelya Church, which turned out to be their last stronghold, hope and tomb, too, being exceptionally dramatic and tragic. The stories of unparalleled heroism, self-sacrifice and inexorability told by the few people who survived this sanguinary Bacchanalia added up to dozens. The brightest intellects of humankind raised a voice of protest and indignation in answer to this outrageous occurrence - Victor Hugo, William Gladstone, Makgahan, Dostoevski, Lev Tolstoy. Zakhary Stoyanov wrote: "Kneel, kind readers, hats off! Batak with its ruins is in front of us. I summon everyone who is thoroughly Bulgarian, everyone who is honourable and homeland loving, to be with us here at this Bulgarian sanctuary, at this sacrificial altar to our Freedom, where, the blood of thousands of martyrs, saints, of about a hundred little children, of countless innocent lasses and lads was shed. Batak, glorious and unfortunate Batak! Should a Bulgarian heart be ever found not to palpitate at the sole pronunciation of your own name? I am standing in awe before your magnificence; History shall pay reverence to you, too." The people's poet Ivan Vazov added: "The Cheops Pyramid would be insufficient as a memorial to Batak." Those who remained alive in Batak welcomed the Russian Army of Liberation on 20th January 1878.

Landmarks. In the first place, this is the already mentioned little stone church of St. Nedelya, turned into a museum and charnel house. Even nowadays, the bones of the heroes, chopping-log, the traces of yataghans and bullets remind of those terrible and grandiose days. It is situated in the centre of the little town. The town Museum of History is located in a new building and houses over 500 exhibits of the history of Batak. The several old Batak. houses restored and proclaimed as cultural monuments are of interest, too.

Accommodation. Bulgaria Hotel (in the centre of the town); Kolarov's House Tourist Hostel (at the distance of 300 meters from the centre of the town, 2, Karlushka Street); private lodgings.

Tourist information: at the hotel, in the tourist hostel, at Batyovtsi Tourist Association (1, Osvobozhdenie Square, tel.: 03553 2285) or in the town hall.

Transport. The town is connected with the remaining part of the country solely through bus transport. There are regular bus lines to Sofia, Plovdiv, Peshtera, Pazardzhik, Velingrad, Dospat and other smaller settlements within the region. Town bus station - tel.: 03553 2328.

Surrounding areas. Batak Dam Lake, which was turned into a recreation and sports zone, spreads out at the distance of 3 km north-west of the town. The dam-lake offers superb opportunities for camping sites, water tourism, fishing, water sports, hiking, and recreation. The Tsigov Chark Resort offering greater opportunities for accommodation and entertainment than the town itself is situated on the south-west bank of the dam at the distance of about 8 km west of Batak. The complex of the Orbita Bureau of Youth Tourism is situated here with two hotels (2- and 3-star, tel.: 03542 3385, 3386, fax 03542 3200). The Orpheus Hotel (tel.: 03542 2094, 2255, fax 03542 2255). The regularly running buses to and from Rakitovo and Velingrad stop there. The area of the four dams is another magnificent site for recreation, sports and tourism: Golyam Beglik Dam (the biggest), Shiroka Polyana Dam (Wide Meadow) (the most beautiful), Beglika Dam (the smallest) and Toshkov Chark Dam. They are located along the road Batak -Dospat (51 km), in the middle of the distance, amongst the ravishing Rhodope countryside. There are a lot of established recreation bases, country houses, forest management, fisheries, and a camping site. The conditions for hiking and water tourism, fishing, herbs and forest fruit (raspberries and strawberries) harvesting or just recreation among the magical scenery here are more than wonderful. A whole resort originated here, which is scattered upon quite a large area amongst the dam lakes. One can find accommodation in the holiday homes or in the camping site with their own bivouac facilities. There is a road to all dam lakes. All regularly running buses between Batak and Dospat stop here. Hiking tours along marked routes may be started from here in the direction to: Teheran Chalet (4 hours), the village of Surnitsa (3.30 hours), Mt. Malka Syutkya (about 3 hours), Mt. Golyama Syutkya (about 5 hours), etc. Batak itself is a good starting point for various hiking tours into the Western Rhodopes (Batak Mountain). The route to the former Teheran Chalet (see the Rhodope section), passing by the first underground hydroelectric power station in our country and on the Balkan Peninsula (at the distance of 3 km south of the town) is the most popular one.

Bratsigovo (top)
Intro:
The town of Bratsigovo (5074 inhabitants; 420 meters above sea level) is situated in the northern foothill of Ravnogor Hill (Western Rhodopes), along the two banks of the little Umishka River.

Full text:
It is situated at the distance of 139 km south-east of Sofia, 7 km east of Peshtera, 25 km south of Pazardzhik, 23 km north-east of Batak and at the distance of 40 km south-west of Plovdiv. It is one of those historical towns, which uphold the national spirit of Bulgarian people. A climatic and balneological mountain resort and a tourist site.

History. Historical records prove the existence of Bratsigovo as of the 16th century. It was the continuation of the destroyed by fire and ruined settlement of Prevren. Evidence was found during excavation and construction works in the town and its surrounding areas according to which these sites were inhabited by Thracians and Slavs - coins of the time of Philip of Macedonia and Justinian II, a bronze statuette of the Goddess Athena Palada, a Roman road. During the 17th century, Bulgarian people from the region of Nevrokop moved to Bratsigovo to work in the mines (mulvatsite). Emigrants from the Kostur region (Macedonia) came here at the end of the 18th century, too. A monastery school was opened in the town in 1831 and a new mutual aid school with secular training opened its gates in 1848. Gradually later on a girl's school and an intermediate secondary school were opened as well. Bratsigovo little by little turned into a big Rhodope settlement with well-developed crafts. The citizens of Bratsigovo demonstrated particularly notable skills in the field of construction creating their own Bratsigovo School of Architecture and leaving long-lasting traces in the architectural appearance of a lot of settlements in the Balkan Peninsula. It goes without saying that the masterpieces in the town of Bratsigovo itself add up to a lot more than one or two in number. The Trendafil (Rose) People's Chitalishte (reading room or community centre) was created in 1874 under the management of Vassil Petleshkov turning into the second centre of enlightenment in the town. The first women's society Nadezhda (Hope) was founded the following year, too. The April Uprising commenced here with enthusiasm and full of great hopes, too (21st April 1876). In spite of the exceptionally good military organization, forces were unequal and after 18 days of desperate resistance, the revolutionary committee concluded an armistice with Hasan Pasha. The hopes for survival were in vain. The Turks were not as good as their word and they started a campaign of mass terror within the little town. 141 revolutionaries were slaughtered, 252 were banished to Anadola. The leader of the Uprising in Bratsigovo -Vassil Petleshkov was captured, too. Positioned over the fire stake he responded: "I am all alone, there are no others. I was the one who led the struggle, I was the one who commanded - do not seek for anyone else!" He was taken more dead than alive to Tatar Pazardhik and the Ottoman bayonets stabbed the great son of the nation in the locality of Murgita. Bratsigovo welcomed the Liberation at the early January 1878.

Landmarks: The Town Museum of History (1, KosturStreet, entrance A, tel.: 03552 2035). Vassil Petleshkov Park-Monument is situated in the old centre of the town where during the month of April 1876 there was a revolutionary position and the Apostle of the Uprising Vassil Petleshkov died a heroic death. An unpretentious monument to the martyr was erected here and his bones were placed at its foundation. A humble park was formed around it. Sindzhirli Bounar - a square, surrounded by Revival Period houses. It is in this square that Petleshkov announced the beginning of the April Uprising and Ana Gizdova handed the flag she made for the revolutionaries. The memorial plate is a reminder of that event and the bounar itself is an interesting architectural monument, too, erected in 1813. The home of Petleshkov - a fascinating architectural monument in which the great patriot was born on 14.01.1845. The house is arranged as a museum. The building of chitalishte (reading room or community centre) Trendafil - a priceless relic of the Revival Period time. During the preparation of the Uprising, the building was used by the revolutionary committee for meetings and as a warehouse for arms, ammunitions and foodstuff. The place of death of V. Petleshkov - along the road to Pazardzhik, at the entrance to the town stadium, where a modest monument was erected. The house of Nikola Boyanov - an architectural and historical monument. It was in it that on 22nd February 1876 Georgi Benkovski founded the revolutionary committee of Bratsigovo. Dzhambov's House (1840) - with it architectural design in the style of Plovdiv's bisymmetrical house is an attention-grabbing architectural monument in itself. Damov's House (1835) - an uncommon architectural monument, a complex of residential and agricultural buildings. There is a rose-distillery in the courtyard. St. Yoan Predtecha Church (1833) - one of the last creations of the master-builders from Bratsigovo. The belfry is 28.61 meters in height and the width of the tower adds up to 4 m. The town clock is on the third floor. Acoustics related pots were built-in in the walls of the church. A printed Gospel of 1572 was found in it. The house of Priest Sokol (1849) -Chairman of the Revolutionary Committee of Bratsigovo. The following sites are of interest, too: Karamanov's House, Lukov's House, Popov's House (1847), Kunchev's House, the Russian Monument and others.

Accommodation: Damov's House Hotel Complex (30, Bratya Popovi Street); NEVE Hotel Complex (31, Slavi Dishlanov Street). Private lodgings are on offer, too. There are several fascinating public catering establishments offering typical Bulgarian cuisine: the Rhodopski Chanove Tavern (17, Danail Dimenov Street, working hours from 11. 00 Am. to 23.00 p.m.), the Markovs' Tavern (17, Bratya Gachevi Street, working hours from 11.00 a.m. to 14.00 p.m. and from 17.00 p.m. to the last customer) and others.

Tourist information - at the hotels, in Atolouka Tourist's Association, in the town hall (6, Atanas Kabov Street, entrance A, tel.: 03552 2026, 2052, 2053, fax: 03552 2101, telex-46494).

Transport. Bratsigovo is linked to the other settlements of the country through bus and railway transport. There are regular bus connections with Plovdiv, Pazardzhik, Peshtera, Batak and other smaller settlements within the region. The bus station is located at 79, 3rd of Mart Street (tel.: 03552 2022). The town is also a point of the railway line Stamboliiski - Peshtera. The railway station is near the bus station - at 85, 3rd of Mart Street (tel.: 03552 2460, 2113).

Surrounding areas. The town is developing as a balneological centre, too. There is a cold mineral water spring (18°-26°C) with the flow rate of 120 liters per minute at the distance of 500 meters west of it. There is a balneosanatorium built up here. The mineral water treats some skin diseases, the nervous system, kidney diseases and others. There is a nice park and a country-houses zone around it. The village of Ravnogor is situated at the distance of 16 km south of Bratsigovo. Vassil Petleshkov Mountain Resort, better known as Atolouka is near it. One can get there by regularly running buses from the town and on foot from the village of Rozovo (2.30 - 3 hours). Zhaba Krepost (Frog Fortress) - ruins of a Bulgarian military fortification with the length of the walls of 65 m and the width of 55 m, their thickness being between 1.50 and 2 m. One can get there by diverting at the 4th km along the road to Peshtera along a mountain path and for a 20 to a 30-minutes walk the visitor shall face the ruins of the fortress. Various short and long hiking tours in this part of the Rhodopes may be started from Bratsigovo but the marked tracks are few.

Peroushtitsa (top)
Intro:
The town of Peroushtitsa (5565 inhabitants; 205 meters above sea level) is situated in the fertile Gornotrakiiska (Upper Thracian) Plain, immediately below the most northern slopes of the Vurhovrushki hills of the Western Rhodopes.

Full text:
It is situated at the distance of 147 km southeast of Sofia, 24 km south-west of Plovdiv, at the distance of 12 km south of Stamboliiski and at the distance of 7 km east of Krichim. Its name is one of the symbols of the April heroic events of 1876.

History. The assumptions related to the origin of the name of the town are various. Most plausible seem those, which consider that it originated from Peristitsa - the name of a medieval Bulgarian fortress whose ruins were left over the steep rocks south of it. There was a system of two fortresses here - a lower one (Gradishteto) and an upper one (Momino Kale). It is assumed also that the town is the direct inheritor of the Slavonic town of Dragovets. Ruins of Thracian and Roman settlements were found in the surrounding areas of Peroushtitsa. This proved that the settlement is very old and its beginning dates back to ancient times. The St. Archangels Gavrail and Mihail church (1847) and the famous Danov School in which the first teacher was the prominent Bulgarian enlightener - Hristo Danov who introduced the mutual training method in 1850 were built in Peroushtitsa during the Revival Period. It was one of the first co-educational schools in our country. In 1869, Vassil Levski set up a revolutionary committee in Peroushtitsa headed by Peter Bonev. The citizens of Peroushtitsa took an active part in the April Uprising (1876). They courageously stood at defence against the numerous bashibozouk (Turkish armed volunteers) hordes and the regular army of Rashid Pasha for five days. They ended their resistance only when the cannon grenades destroyed the roof of the revolutionary fortress - the St. Archangels Gavrail and Mihail church, in which about 600 old people, women and children were gathered. The Turks plundered the settlement and burned down 350 houses. 348 people headed by Peter Bonev - a companion and associate of Rakovski and Levski in the Belgrade Legion and leader of the Uprising in the town died there. His associate Kocho Chestimenski demonstrated an unparalleled heroism and self-sacrifice. Seeing that there was no salvation whatsoever in the church already defenceless from the attacking bashibozouks (Turkish armed volunteers), he killed his wife and children and committed suicide himself. Others followed his example, too. The remaining leaders of the Uprising died heroically as well as Spas Ginev, Father Tikev, and Dr. Vassil Sokolski. The bones of those martyrs were gathered and buried in the same church so that people could remember them. The citizens of Peroushtitsa were of the first who stood for the union of the Principality of Bulgaria with Eastern Roumelia in 1885.

Landmarks: The St. Archangels Gavrail and Mihail church - museum in the centre of the town. The Town Museum of History is housed in a new building in the central Peter Bonev Square. Danov's School. The majestic monument on the Vlasovets Hill, south above town, in favour of the revolutionists who took part in the April Uprising and who found their death in it in a martyr-like manner. The unpretentious monument of Peter Bonev erected next to the historical church. Chervenata Cherkva (The Red Church) - a unique architectural monument is located at the distance of 1 km southeast of the district of Pastousha and is also known under the name Perushtenska Starina (Peroushtitsa antiquity). It was built during the early Middle Ages (5th to 7th centuries) with a skilful combination of the antique Greek with the new Byzantine style. Its imposing and eccentric architecture is amazing; it was proclaimed a monument of culture of national importance.

Accommodation: A big and modern tourist hostel in the centre of the town (78, Ivan Vazov Street) offering 70 beds in two suites and rooms with 2, 3, 6 and more beds.

Tourist information - at the tourist hostel, in the Vurhovruh Tourist Association, located in the tourist hostel, at the town hall.

Transport. The sole transport of the town is bus transport. The town has regular bus connections with Plovdiv (every 30 minutes), Stamboliiski, Krichim and several other smaller settlements within the region.

Surrounding areas. Peroushtitsa is a good point from which to set out on walks following numerous hiking tracks in the Vurhovruh Hill (Chernatitsa sub-part of the Western Rhodopes); from where one can continue in various directions (see the Rodopes related section).

Pazardzhik (top)
Intro:
The town of Pazardzhik (79 476 inhabitants; 205 meters above sea level) is located in the fertile Gornotrakiiska (Upper Thracian) Plain, along the two banks of the Maritsa River.

Full text:
It is situated at the distance of 114 km (along the new Trakia Motorway fewer km in number) south-east of Sofia, at the distance of 36 km west of Plovdiv, 20 km north of Peshtera and 43 km south of Panagyurishte. It is located within a rich agricultural region. It is a regional administrative centre.

History. It was founded 5 centuries ago as a market settlement, which gradually turned into an important economic and administrative centre. The road Istanbul - Sofia - Western Europe on which the town was a road station contributed to it as well as the fact that it turned into a port - warehouse on the Maritsa River for cereals, rice, wine, timber from the Rhodopes and iron from Samokov, which were transported by rafts to Istanbul (through Enos). Many Bulgarians settled down in Pazardzhik who changed its ethnic appearance, too. Many European and Turkish travellers spoke enthusiastically about it. The town flourished during the 19th century and competed with Plovdiv and Sofia. In 1865 the town had 33 mahali (quarters), 3420 houses, 1200 shops and approximately 25 000 inhabitants. The Holy Virgin Church was built in 1837, a unique monument of Bulgarian architecture, woodcarving and icon painting. Other churches were also built for the individual Bulgarian quarters. There were five boys' schools with 400 students and 2 girls' schools with 100 students in them in the middle of the 19th century. The famous clock tower preserved up to date was erected as early as in the 18th century, too. Chitalishte (reading room or community centre) Videlina was founded in 1862. Many of people's enlighteners related their names with Pazardzhik - Bishop Dionisii Agatonikiiski who founded the first Bulgarian school in 1823 with his own funds, N. Popkonstantinov, Yu. Nenov, Hadzhi Tatyana - the first woman teacher in the town. The foundations of theatrical activities and of Prosveta Women's Society (Enlightenment) were laid in 1870. Levski founded the first revolutionary committee here chaired by G. Konsulov, but the detentions before trial on the part of the Turks frustrated the outburst of the Uprising. On 2 January 1878, the Army of General Gourko liberated Pazardzhik.

Landmarks - the Town Museum of History, located in one of the newest and most representative buildings of the town (15, Konstantin Velichkov Sq., tel.: 034 22505). The Ethnographic Museum, whose exhibition is housed in the biggest residential building in Pazardzhik of the Revival Period (the house of Nikolaki Hristovich), proclaimed as a cultural monument (8, Otets Paisii Street). The cathedral church of St. Bogoroditsa (the Holy Virgin) (located at Otets Paisii Street) - one of the most valuable artistic architectural monuments in the country erected in 1837 of pink rhyolite. The greatest piece of art in it is the wood-carved iconostasis in the traditions of the well-known School of Debur, remarkable for its exquisite open-worked woodcarving, recreating figured compositions and plant ornaments. There are solely two similar matchless examples-works of masters of Debur and they are located in the Republic of Macedonia (in the St. Spas church in Skopje and the Bigor Monastery, not far from Debur). The monument to Stanislav Dospevski is in the courtyard of the church, work of the sculptor Ivan Blazhev. Stanislav Dospevski House-Museum (50, Knyaginya Maria Louisa Blvd.), in which the prominent Bulgarian painter and revolutionary from Samokov of the Revival Period lived from 1864 to 1877. The building was erected in 1864 by builders-masters from Bratsigovo in the so-called Istanbul style and was one of the most beautiful houses in the town at that time. Dospevski himself painted some of its premises. Stanislav Dospevski Art Gallery - a specialised state cultural educational and scientific institute of fine arts (15, Konstantin Velichkov Street). Konstantin Velichkov House-museum (5, Teodor Trayanov Street) built in 1850. The atmosphere, in which the distinguished writer lived and created, was preserved. It was in that the sister of Konstantin Velichkov - Teofana sewed the banner of the Pazardzhik Revolutionary Committee in 1876 and on 21th April Vassil Petleshkov brought the news about the beginning of the Uprising from Panagyurishte. The Synagogue (the Jewish Church) - erected in 1850 by the master from Bratsigovo Stavri Temelkov. Quite interesting are the arcs of the ceiling ornamented with beautiful woodcarving - an engraved sun with several round colourings and interlaced designs of geometrical figures. The internal walls are with mural paintings. It is located at 5, Assen Zlatarov Street Hadzhistoyanov's House (1, Republica Street), whose wood-carving is one of the best achievements in the Bulgarian residential architecture from the middle of the 19th century. The following are noteworthy, too: St. Petka Church of 1852, St. Archangel Church of 1860 with the icon of the same name painted by Stanislav Dospevski, St. Sotir Church (1862). The monument to Aleko Konstantinov is situated amidst a picturesque park on the island of the Maritsa River. Pazardzhik is a town with defined cultural traditions. Three theatres function in it nowadays: the Theatre of Drama "Konstantin Velichkov" (Konstantin Velichkov Sq.) - one of the best provincial theatres in our country. The Theatre of Music "Maestro Atanasov" (Konstantin Velichkov Sq.) and the Puppet Theatre (42, Georgi Benkovski Street).

Accommodation: Trakia Hotel (2, Bulgaria Blvd.). The Elbrus Hotel-Restaurant (1, Konstantin Velichkov Blvd.).

Tourist information: at above-mentioned hotels and in the Aleko Tourist Association (19, Kliment Ohridski Street tel.: 034 27320 and for reservations at the chalets in the Rhodopes - Milevi Skali Chalet (Milev's Rocks), Dobra Voda Chalet and Livadite Chalet - tel.: 032 274016).

Transport. Well developed bus and railway connections with the remaining part of the country. It is situated on the busiest road, motorway and railway line in Bulgaria - Sofia - Plovdiv that predetermined its development as a big transport centre. Further to being connected to each station of the country through the national railway network, Pazardzhik has regular bus lines to Sofia, Plovdiv, Velingrad, Panagyurishte, Blagoevgrad, etc. The bus station is situated in the central part of the town, at 6, Georgi Benkovski Blvd. (tel.: 034 26315). The railway station is in the southern part of Pazardzhik (tel.: 034 26520). There is a well-organised town bus transport functioning, too.

Surrounding areas. The place of death of the great Bulgarian writer and democrat Aleko Konstantinov, founder of the organised tourist's movement in our country is situated at the distance of 14 km south, past the road to Peshtera, in the proximity of the village of Radilovo. It was in this place that on 24th May 1897 on his way back from the celebrations of the National Holiday in Peshtera he was shot by a hired assassin. An unpretentious monument was erected here and a beautiful park was formed around it. The regular buses running between Pazardzhik and Peshtera may stop there upon request. Bessaparskite Ridove (Bessapar Hills) (at the distance of some 10 km east) - the archaeological research carried out indicated that the main town of the Thacians -Besapara was situated here. 8 burial mounds were preserved here. The pre-historic settlement Maltepe and the Tri Voditsi karst spring with the flow rate of 900 liters per second are situated near it. These sites may be reached by car in about 20 minutes or by a passenger train, stopping at the railway stations of Sinitevo and Hadzhievo and at Ognyanovo Station.

Koprivshtitsa (top)
Intro:
The town of Koprivshtitsa (2935 inhabitants; 1050 meters above sea level) is situated along the two banks, within the upper course of the Topolnitsa River in the heart of Sushtinska Sredna Gora Mountain.

Full text:
It is situated at the distance of 110 km southeast of Sofia, 80 km north-west of Plovdiv, 27 km south-east of Pirdop and 24 km north of Strelcha. It is a town-museum and unique settlement in Bulgaria, which preserved in compact over 250 patterns of the Revival Period architecture. A cradle of the April Uprising (1876). A tourist centre and a mountain resort.

History. Koprivshtitsa originated as a settlement during the 14th century. Its population dealt with cattle-breeding, manufacturing of aba (coarse homespun woollen cloth and upper men's garment made of it), furriery, dyeing and other crafts. The citizens of Koprivshtitsa proved to be good merchants, too reaching as far as Istanbul and Alexandria. The wealthy and urbanised settlement was plundered and destroyed by fire by kurdzhalii (Turkish brigands) three times and rebuilt from ashes to reach its greatest prosperity during the 19th century, when it had over 1000 houses and a population of nearly 12 000 inhabitants. Spacious houses, schools, churches, drinking fountains, bridges were built there. In 1837, Neofit Rilski (Neophyte of Rila) opened a mutual school and 9 years later Naiden Gerov founded the first in Bulgaria independent boys' intermediate school. In 1864, a girls' intermediate school was opened here and three years later Todor Kableshkov opened the students' society Zora (Dawn). In 1869, the chitalsihte (reading room or community centre) was opened here. In the same year, Vassil Levski established a revolutionary committee in it. During that time, Lyuben Karavelov who was born in Koprivshtitsa headed the foreign Bulgarian Revolutionary Central Committee (BRCC) in Bucharest. On 20th April 1876 the first shot of the April Uprising against Ottoman Rule rang out here, which started the heroic April epic of Bulgarian people. Todor Kableshkov announced the Uprising. It was headed by another citizen of Koprivshtitsa - Gavrail Hlutev, known to the generations to come as Georgi Benkovski - the adamant and ardent leader of the people's rebellion, who died heroically in the Teteven Balkan Mountain. Unlike Batak, Bratsigovo, Peroushtitsa and other settlements-martyrs, the Osmanli Turks had mercy on Koprivshtitsa. The wealthy men of Koprivshtitsa paid for it and thanks to them Bulgaria today is in possession of its most treasured architectural wealth, untouched by the centuries. The town is the birthplace of many functionaries of our Revival Period and renowned Bulgarians - Bogdan Voivoda, Doncho Vatah Voivoda, Detelin Voivoda, Dobri Voivoda ("voivoda" meaning leader of revolutionary detachment of volunteers), Dimcho Debelyanov, and Nayden Gerov.

Landmarks. Koprivshtitsa is one of the few thoroughly preserved architectural urbanized ensembles of the Revival Period. The Revival Period houses with colourful courtyards, surrounded with high stonewalls and gates, the disorderly built curved and narrow cobblestone streets and plots, the numerous stone drinking-fountains, the arch-shaped little stone bridges over the mountain brooklets and the fragrance of geranium, box shrub, peony and pelargonium contribute to the attractiveness of the little town. The greatest wealth of Koprivshtitsa is its Revival Period houses, parts of which were turned into museums: Oslekov's House - the most famous architectural, ethnographic site in the town, ownership of a rich merchant from Koprivshtitsa in the middle of the 19th century. The artistically carved ceilings, the beautifully painted with geometrical figures walls, the exotic mosaics, the ancient engravings and the exquisitely elaborated applied decorative articles indicate the living standards and the spiritual wealth of the well-off citizens of Koprivshtitsa. The home of Georgi Benkovski - the leader of the April Uprising. The wooden gun, the banner of the Flying Detachment of armed volunteers sewed by Raina Popgeorgieva (Knyaginya) (the Princess) and the arms of the Voivoda are the priceless relics of that tempestuous time. The house of Lyuben Karavelov acquaints us with the revolutionary and journalistic activities of one of the most prominent sons of Koprivshtitsa and Bulgaria. The house of Todor Kableshkov exhibits the activity of the 25-years old young man who organized the rebellion in the town, the author of the famous Bloodstained letter by which it was announced to the Main Revolutionary Headquarters in Panagyurishte that Koprivshtitsa had raised in arms. Lyutovs' House Museum hosts an exposition on the subject of "Treasury of Bulgarian Construction Genius". The House of Dimcho Debelyanov - the life and the literary activities of the most lyrical Bulgarian poet are reflected in it. Like in the other houses-museums, here the atmosphere, in which Dimcho Debelyanov lived and created his poems, was preserved, too. The following houses are of interest to the visitor, too namely the houses of Gencho Stoykov, Naiden Gerov, Desyovs', Gurkovs', Mluchkovs', Yotovs', Madzharovs', Markovs', Dogans', Pavlikyans' and the Vakarel's house (the oldest houses in the town with over 300 years of life) and dozens of others. The Uspenie Borgorodichno Church (Assumption Church-1817) with an iconostasis of 1821 and icons painted by Zakhari Zograph and loan Samokovli (1837-1838) is of a high architectural and artistic value. The St. Nikola Church (1842-1844) is worth seeing as well. There are many monuments in the town, too: 20th April Mausoleum-Charnel House (in the central 20th April Sq.) of those who died during the April Uprising. The First Gun Memorial past the old little stone bridge where the rebel Georgi Tihanek fired the first shot of the April Uprising. The monument to Todor Kableshkov, the memorial complex with the key figure of Georgi Benkovski. One of the most moving monuments in our country – ‘’mother waiting for her son to return’’ was placed on the grave of Dimcho Debelyanov. It is the work of the sculptor Prof. Ivan Lazarov.

Accommodation: The Koprivshtitsa Hotel (high above the right bank of the river, opposite the centre of the town). The Hadzhi Gencho Hotel (in the central part, on the left bank of the river). The Dalmatinets Hotel-Restaurant (62, Georgi Benkovski Street). Voivodenets Tourist Hostel (in the centre of the town, at the former Pranzhev's House, 33 beds in rooms with 2, 6, 7 and more beds). Bogdan Tourist Hostel (in the restored Roussekovs’ House, 33 beds in rooms with 2, 3, 4, 7, and 9 beds). Private lodgings are on offer, too, information being available at the Accommodation Bureau.

Tourist information - in the Tourist Information Centre, 2077 Koprivshtitsa, 1, Lyuben Karavelov Street, tel./fax: 07184 2191, e-mail: koprivshtitza @hotmail.com; at the Council of Tourism (2090 Koprivshtitsa, 15, Lyuben Karavelov Street, tel: 07184 2759 and 2104), in the above mentioned hotels, tourist's dormitories, the Accommodation Bureau as well as in Detelin Voivoda Tourist Association (tel.: 07184 2145) and in the town-hall.

Transport. The key transport through which the town is linked with the remaining world is the railway transport. Koprivshtitsa is at the principal railway line Sofia - Karlovo - Bourgas but it is situated at the distance of 10 km north of the town itself. It is connected to it through a bus line servicing each passing train. Koprivshtitsa maintains regular bus lines to Plovdiv, Panagyurishte, Strelcha and Pirdop.

Surrounding area. The town is a key point from which to out on hiking tours in the highest and beautiful part of Sushtinska Sredna Gora Mountain. Marked tracks start from it in the direction of: Bogdan Chalet (3 to 4 hours), from where one can climb the highest peak of the Sredna Gora Mountain Mt. Bogdan in less than an hour (1604 meters above sea level), Manzul Chalet (Pavel Deliradev: 3.30 - 4 hours), Krustyo Cholakov Chalet ( 2.30-3 hours, 11 km along a truck road), the Barikadite Chalet and Hotel (4-4.30 hours, 18 km along a road). A hiking tour to the Central Stara Planina (the Teteven Balkan Mountain) can be started from the railway station of Koprivshtitsa. It takes 6 to 8 hours to get to the Vezhen Chalet along the marked tracks (on the northern side of the ridge), passing by the peak of the same name (Mt. Vezhen, 2198 m).

Sopot (top)
Intro:
The town of Sopot (12 119 inhabitants; 520 meters above sea level) is situated in the fertile sub-Balkan mountain valley of Karlovo (which is the western part of the legendary Valley of the Roses), immediately under the steep southern slopes of the Troyan Balkan Mountain (Central Balkans).

Full text:
It is situated at the distance of 5 km west of Karlovo, 136 km east of Sofia, 63 km north of Plovdiv and 61 km south of Troyan. It is the birthplace of the Patriarch of Bulgarian Literature Ivan Vazov.

History. There is information about the settlement dating back to the Ottoman Rule. During the Revival Period, it was called Altun Sopot (Golden Sopot), because of its flourishing development, thanks to the crafts and trade. The citizens of Sopot manufactured aba (coarse homespun woollen cloth and upper men's garment made of it), braids, fur and leather of high quality and traded them predominantly round the Ottoman Empire. The town was destroyed by fire during the struggle for liberation (1877), and its population was slaughtered or expelled. The town was named Vazovgrad between 1950 and 1965 after which it obtained its present name again.

Landmarks. In the first place this is the house, in which Ivan Vazov was born, located at the downtown Ivan Vazov Sq. (tel.: 03134 2070). The initial house was destroyed at the end of the Ottoman Rule but at the initiative of admirers of the poet, it was rebuilt in 1932 and proclaimed as house-museum. A special exhibition hall was built next to the house, which exhibits key moments of the public and literary activity of the people's poet Ivan Vazov (1850-1921). A memorial to the poet was erected at the central square named after him. Presentation of the Blessed Holly Virgin Nunnery (located near the central square - north of it) which was founded in 1665 next to an old church from the beginning of the 15th century. In 1877, it was almost destroyed by fire. Solely the veranda with the hiding place of the Apostle Levksi (the Apostle repeatedly found a secure shelter there), the little church and the drinking fountain in the middle of the yard survived and were preserved in their initial appearance up to date. All the remaining buildings were restored to their initial appearance. The museum corner "Rada's School", the cell of Hadzhi Rovoama and Lay Sister Rada Gospozhina - characters of Ivan Vazov's novel "Under the Yoke" are here, too. St. Spas Sopot Monastery (at the distance of 2 km north-west of the centre) is located immediately at the foothill of the Stara Planina slopes, on the left bank of the Manastirska River. The date of its origin is unknown. It was repeatedly devastated and destroyed by fire. Its present appearance dates back to 1879. During the Revival Period, there was a monastery school and a singing school functioning in the Monastery and it was a centre of revolutionary life, too. In 1858, Vassil Ivanov (Levski) was ordained for a Deacon here. The countryside surrounding the Monastery is extraordinary. The initial station of the open-seat lift is near it, too. Dyado Stoyanov's Water-Mill (The mill of grandfather Stoyanov), described by Ivan Vazov in his novel "Under the Yoke", is located next to the road leading to the initial station of the open-seat lift, in the north-western end of the town. The following places of interest are worth seeing, too: the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul church of 1846, Hadzhi Kotyov's House, Hadzhi Stoilkov's House, Hadzhi Stoynov's House, Kirkovs' House, Kopanovs' House, Konov's Bakery and others.

Accommodation: Stara Planina Hotel Complex (in the central Ivan Vazov Sq.). VMZ Hotel Base. In the St. Spas Monastery (next to the initial station of the open-seat lift.

Tourist information - at the hotels and in the town hall (26, Ivan Vazov Blvd., tel.: 03134 2050, 2052).

Transport. Sopot is a point of the main road and railway line Sofia - Karlovo - Bourgas. There is a town bus line is functioning at short time intervals between it and Karlovo. It maintains bus connections with some of the smaller settlements within the region, too. The bus station is located at 75, Ivan Vazov Blvd. The railway station is situated at the distance of 1 km south of the town and there is a town bus going to it (tel.: 03134 2346, 2022). Not all express trains stop at it.

Surrounding areas. The ruins of Anevo Kale ("kale" meaning a fortress, stronghold) are situated above the Anevo Quarter, on the southern slopes of the Balkan Mountain, at about 900 meters above sea level. One can walk to it from the town for about 1.30 or 2 hours. Sopot Kale is located northeast of the town, too. Sopot is used as a point of departure to the Troyan Balkan. The open-seat lift located in the north-western part of the town (tel.: 03134 2677, 3428) takes you at the altitude of about 1600 m in a little more than 30 minutes, at a 5-minutes walk from the institutional Nezabravka Chalet. The lift has an interim station in the locality of Pochivaloto (about 1350 metres above sea level) - a favourite place for take off delta and Para gliders. One can walk to the Nezabravka Chalet from Sopot, too along a marked track starting from the lift (3-3.30 hours). Marked tracks start from Nezabravka Chalet to various directions around the Troyan Balkan Mountain: southeast towards Dobrila Chalet (1 hour), joining the Kom - Emine ridge route. Mt. Ambaritsa (1.30 hours) may be climbed from the Dobrila Chalet and one can continue in the direction of Mt. Botev (about 6 hours more) along the most beautiful and Alpine ridge of Stara Planina. It takes 4 to 4.30 hours of hiking to get to Ambaritsa Chalet and 4 to 5 hours to reach Vassil Levski Chalet. One can set out north-west from the Nezabravka Chalet to the Dermenka Chalet, too (about 3 hours) and continue westwards along the ridge.

Karlovo (top)
Intro:
The town of Karlovo (25 715 inhabitants; 520 meters above sea level) is situated in the valley of the same name, which is part of the famous Rose Valley, along the two banks of Stara Reka River, left feeder of Stryama River.

Full text:
The town is located 141 km east of Sofia, 58 km north of Plovdiv, 55 km west of Kazanluk, 66 km south of Troyan, 5 km east of Sopot and 17 km west of Kalofer. It is the birthplace of the greatest Bulgarian - The Apostle of Freedom Vassil Levski.

History. Karlovo's remote past is not well explored. The village mounds, remains of Roman roads and constructions that were found in its vicinity cannot be related to certain names and events. Today's town is a relatively new one. It originated on the right bank of Stara Reka River right after the Ottoman invasion in Bulgaria, as an administrative centre and a residence of the local Turkish Feudal lords, close to the old village of Sushitsa. The village was named Karlovo after the local Turkish feudal lord. The beginning of the 19th century for Karlovo was a time of rapid economic boom, cultural uplift and revolutionary ardour. Hundreds of weaving shops and watermills worked near Stara Reka River. Rich merchants bought what the skilful master coppersmiths, goldsmiths, manufacturers of woollen braids and aba (coarse homespun woollen cloth and upper men's garment made of it), leather-workers had created and traded with distant countries - Egypt, Albania, Dubrovnik, Romania, Vienna. Karlovo became a big and bustling village with a distinct centre, town clock and nice houses. The Russian-Turkish War of Liberation put an end to the wealthy life in the town, despite the gained liberty. In 1877, the bashibozouks (Turkish armed volunteers) plundered and set Karlovo on fire. 813 people were slaughtered; most of the survivors ran away through the Balkan Mountains. Fortunately, the surviving parts of Karlovo have kept their original identity. The town is the birthplace of the teacher Botyo Petkov, father of Hristo Botev; Dr. Ivan Bogorov, (writer from the period of Bulgarian National Revival, publisher of the first Bulgarian newspaper Bulgarski Orel (Bulgarian Eagle) in Leipzig in 1846-1847); the brothers Evlogi and Hristo Georgievi (distinguished representatives of the emerging Bulgarian bourgeoisie and patriots, who donated 6 million golden Levs for a Bulgarian institution of higher education - The University), Braiko Hadzhigenov, Hristo Popvassilev and others. Also a native of Karlovo is the famous Bulgarian mountaineer Hristo Prodanov, first to climb a peak higher than 8000 meters -Lhotse (8516 m) and the first Bulgarian to set foot on "The roof of the World" - Mt. Everest (8848 m, 20 April 1984), he remained forever in its frozen embrace. Its greatest fame, however, the town owes to the fact that it is the hometown of Mother Bulgaria's greatest son - the Apostle of Bulgarian Freedom -Vassil Ivanov Kunchev - Levski.

Landmarks: The Town Museum of History (Bulgarian National Revival and Ethnography, next to Levski Monument, 2, Vuzrozhdenska Street, working hours: 9.00 a.m. - 12.00 a.m. and 2.00 p.m. to 5.30 p.m., tel.: 0335 4728) in the house in the Old School - a valuable architectural and historical monument of culture since 1871. Vassil Levski House-Museum (57, General Kartsov Street, working hours: 9.00 a.m. -12.00 a.m. and 2.00 p.m. - 5.30 p.m., tel.: 0335 3489). The original house was set on fire during the War of Liberation. The stairs to the cellar and the hideout are all that survived. In 1937 under the initiative of Bulgarian patriots, the house was restored. In the yard, there is the monument of Levski's mother - Gina Kouncheva. A spacious exhibition hall has been built, featuring materials and exhibits of the Apos¬tle's life and revolutionary activities. From this life, everyone can learn something – no matter if you are a Bulgarian or a foreigner, rich or poor, banker or politician. From the humble father's house to immortality on the gallows, Levski teaches us pure and simple things, shows us the path as nation and humans' The Monument to Vassil Levski (V. Levski Sq., in the old part of the town)- the figure of the Apostle in life-size, on a high base, with a pistol in his hand and a lion next to him. At the lower part of the base, there are bas-reliefs. One can always find fresh flowers here, left by ordinary people. The St. Nicola Church (next to Levski's monument). In the northern part of the yard is the grave of Levski's mother. The Holy Virgin Church (built in 1847) 32, Vassil Levski Street, it has a nice stone drinking fountain near the entrance. The Chitalishte Vassil Levski (reading room and community centre) with a permanent art gallery (20th July Sq., working hours: 9.00 a.m. -12.00 a.m. and 2.00 p.m. - 6.00 p.m., tel.: 0335 3391). The Alexandrov’s House (V. Levski Sq), Beliyat Dvor (The White Yard) (1, Sokolova Street), Zoevs' House (1, Evstati Geshov Street), Koprinarovs' House (11, Rakovska Street), Patevs' House (45, Vassil Levski Street, opposite Levski's monument), Ploshtakovs' House (8, Verkovitch Str.), Poulevs' House (The Union of Bulgarian Artists - 5, Dimitur Sabev Street, Sumnalievs' House (1, Dragoman Street). The bust-monument of Hristo Prodanov is in the town park, in the northern part of Karlovo.

Accommodation: Hemus Hotel (3-star, 87, V. Levski Str). Rosova Dolina Hotel (2-star, 1, 20th July Sq.). BeshBounar Hotel-Restaurant. Tourist Hostel (500 meters north of the town centre, 23, Vodopad Str). There are interesting restaurants with original Bulgarian cuisine in Karlovo, too: Vodopad Tavern (86, Vodopad Str), Mazite Tavern (9, Verkovitch Str, working hours - 2 p.m. - 3 a.m.), etc.

Tourist information - available at the Tourist Information Centre - 4300 Karlovo, 35, Vodopad Str., tel.: 0335 5373, e-mail: inforcentre@mbox.digsys.bg; in the hotels, the tourist hostel, at Vassil Levski Tourist Association (1, Todor and Anna Pulevi Street) and in the town-hall (1, Petko Sabev Street).

Transport. Karlovo is a large transport centre. It is a main station of the main road and railroad lines Sofia-Karlovo-Bourgas. It provides regular bus lines (public and private) to Plovdiv, Kalofer, Sopot, Pazardzhik and other smaller villages in the area. The Central Bus Station is near the railway station, 77, Vassil Karaivanov Str, tel.: 0335 3155. There are also two private bus agencies: Roza-Express, whose bus station is at Subota (Saturday) Marketplace and Private Transport Agency, its bus station is opposite the railway station. The railway station (2, Teofan Rainov Blvd., tel.: 0335 4641 and 4320) is in the southern part of the town. Besides being on the main Sofia-Plovdiv railroad, Karlovo is also the last station of the Plovdiv-Karlovo line. Public bus transport is also functioning.

Surrounding areas. The 15-metre-high Kar-lovski Waterfall (Suchurum) is located 1 km north of the town, at the foot of the Balkan, above the hydroelectric power station - a favourite place of the people of Karlovo for sunbathing during the summer heats. 11 km south of Karlovo, at the village of Banya are the Karlovo baths - a balneotherapy resort of national importance. The mineral water temperature is 35°-54°C and its flow is 30 liters per second. It cures diseases of the muscular-skeletal system, gynecological diseases and disturbances of the peripheral nervous system. There is also a mud-cure bed and the mud is used for treatment of various diseases. Besides the resort's polyclinic, there is a sanatorium, recreation facilities, an open-air beach and many villas. There is regular bus transport to Karlovo. About 15 km southeast of Karlovo is the Domlyan Dam near the village of the same name. It is a great place for hiking and camping. There are regular buses from the town. Karlovo is a starting point of tourist routes all over the Central Balkan Range (see Stara Planina related chapter).

Kalofer (top)
Intro:
The town of Kalofer (3991 inhabitants; 600 meters above sea level) is beautifully situated along both banks of Toundzha River, in a small valley in the eastern foot of the Strazhata Hill (The Sentry) (a natural connection between the Balkan and the Sredna Gora Mountains.

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Above it, spreading its mighty shoulders stands the highest peak in the Balkan Range - Mt. Botev. The town is located 17 km east of Karlovo, 158 km east of the capital city Sofia, and 38 km west of Kazanluk, 75 km north of Plovdiv. It is the birthplace of the great Bulgarian poet and revolutionary Hristo Botev.

History. Its name cannot be found in the ancient or the medieval history of our lands. Alternatively, this place there was once thick, impassable and desolate woods. To the west, in the Valley of Byala Reka River, was the old town Zvanigrad, from which there is not a trace left today. Due to the strong resistance, the Turks wiped out the town, but the proud and sturdy defenders remained unconquered. A group of 40 heroes, led by Kalifer Voivoda ("voivoda" meaning leader of a group of armed revolutionaries), roamed for long throughout the area, defending their fellow Bulgarians and arousing horror in the Ottomans. The Turks were powerless to deal with the detachment and so the Sultan gave the voivoda permission to settle in the woods along with his men, giving them privileges to establish a settlement with the statute of derventdzhii (special guards of the roads and passes in the mountains, appointed by the Turks). The haidouti (armed revolutionaries, volunteers, members of a detachment) kidnapped house cleaners from Sopot, which was famous for its beauties, and that is how the town of Kalofer originated. It is not by chance that the history of the town during the long Turkish yoke is full of names of famous revolutionaries, haidouts and rebels - from Kalifer Voivoda, Old Man H/llachko, Chono Chorbadzhi, Dobri Voivoda and Gulub Voivoda to the great poet and revolutionary Hristo Botev. Twice the kurdzhalii (Turkish brigands) ruined the town - in 1799 and 1804, but it quickly recovered and grew wealthy. During the first half of the 19th century, Kalofer, like all our towns south of the Balkan Range, reached its zenith. Travellers notice that in it there were more than 1000 loom sites for woollen braids, many mills for processing wool and dye-houses. The artisans and merchants of Kalofer traded with Constantinople, Vienna, Odessa, and Braila. They did not call the town Altun Kalofer (Golden Kalofer) for nothing. In 1845, a big new school was built, and in 1871, a school for girls was built, too. All kinds of educational societies were formed. A lot of renowned writers and public figures are natives of Kalofer - Ekzarh Yossif I, Dimitur Mutev, Elena Muteva (the first Bulgarian poetess), Hristo Tupchileshtov, Ivan Shopov (a student of folklore and the first Bulgarian bibliographer) and others. Many people of Kalofer enrolled in the detachments of Panayot Hitov, Phillip Totyo, Hadzhi Dimitur and Stefan Karadzha, Bacho Kiro. At the end of the Turkish rule there were as much as 15 haidout detachments roaming in Kalofer's vicinity. Over 500 natives of Kalofer were members of haidout detachments and groups. During the War of Liberation (1877-1878), Kalofer shared Karlovo and Sopot's fate - it was plundered and set on fire by the bashibozouks. Almost nothing is left of the pre-liberation Kalofer.

Landmarks. First of all, there is the Hristo Botev House-Museum (downtown). It is not his native house, which burned to ashes when the town was ruined. In 1942 the house where Hristo Botev's father - the teacher Botyo Petkov had lived later, was restored. A new museum building in folk-style was added in the yard. There is a marble bust of the poet and a sculpture of his mother. Close to the centre, in its upper part, the restored building of the school of the teacher Botyo Petkov can be found. On its lower floor, an Art Gallery has been arranged; featuring pictures, dedicated to Kalofer and Hristo Botev, and the second floor hosts a Museum of Education. In front of the building is preserved the stone, on which young Botev makes his fiery speech against the Turkish rule on 24th May 1867, after which he is forced to leave Bulgaria. Next to the building, a bust-monument of the teacher Botyo Petkov was erected. Further in this direction is the old revival Holy Virgin Church. In its yard was the simple church cell that gave shelter to Botyo Petkov, when he came to teach in the little town. Hristo Botev was born in it. Now there is only a memorial plate there. Monumental stairs lead from downtown to the Memorial Complex in the foot of the mountain, in the centre of which stands a granite statue of the Bulgarian genius, who has outspoken the prophetic words "One, who falls fighting for Freedom, doesn't die" and confirmed them himself. In the north-west end, a glorious monument of Kalifer Voivoda stands. Other interesting sites in the town are: the stone bridges from the revival period over Toundzha River, some of the old houses, The Maiden Monastery, built in 1738, St. Atanas Church, the rose-distillery, and the beautiful park called Botev's meadow, etc.

Accommodation: Roza Hotel (downtown), Tintyava Tourist Hostel (about 500 metres west of the centre, 58, Georgi Shopov Street). There are many places in town, where you can have fun and taste original Bulgarian cuisine.

Tourist information is available in the hotel, at Haidout Tourist Association, which is housed in the tourist hostel, and in the town hall (downtown).

Transport. The main road Sofia - Karlovo -Bourgas passes through the town. There are busses to Karlovo (every 30 minutes), Plovdiv and other smaller villages in the area. The bus station is downtown. The railway station (2, 5 km south-east of the town, a bus line connects it to the town) is on the Sofia - Karlovo -Bourgas line and all train stop there.

Surrounding areas. 6 km north of Kalofer, along both banks of Toundzha River, the Panitsite Resort is situated. It has many recreational facilities, mostly for children. It is a starting point for the Kalofer Mountain (see Stara Planina related chapter). During the summer, twice daily, there is a bus from the town. The Kalofer Maiden Monastery can be found on the right bank of Byala Reka River (White River), at about 6 km north-west of the town. Founded in 1640, it was set on fire twice (in 1799 and 1804) by kurdzhalii (Turkinsh brigands), rebuilt in 1819, with a big monastery church. During the War of Liberation, it was again plundered and burnt to ashes. Today's church was built in 1880 on the foundations of the old one. The rest of the buildings are newer. One can stay for the night in the monastery against minimal payment. However, there is no regular transport to it. The Byala Reka Inn is located near the bridge across the river Byala Reka (White River), with a small summer resort near it. It is a few kilometers west of Kalofer and all buses between Karlovo and Kalofer stop there. The upper part of Byala Reka has cut through the Balkan the fantastic South Dzhendem Canyon, declared a Nature Reserve. It is accessible only with mountaineer equipment. Near the Alpine Rai Chalet (Paradise) is the highest waterfall in Bulgaria - Raiskoto Pruskalo (The Heavens' Sprayer) (124 m), whose waters fall down the stony walls of Mt. Botev (2376 m) - the highest peak in the Balkan Range. One can get to this true paradise only on foot - about 4 hours from the Panitsite Resort. Besides for the Central Balkan Range (see Stara Planina related chapter), Kalofer is also a starting point for the Surnena Sredna Gora Mountain. From the railway station, along a marked tourist track, one can get to Svezhen Chalet in about 5 hours. The chalet is above the village of the same name, where Colonel Serafimov - a hero of the Balkan War, was born. One can also reach the village by bus from Karlovo. From Svezhen Chalet one can continue eastward along the ridge of Surnena Sredna Gora, to the Bratan Chalet and Kavakliika Chalet.

Hissarya (top)
Intro:
The town of Hissarya (9308 inhabitants; 364 meters above sea level) is situated in a small valley among the southeastern outskirts of Central Sredna Gora Mountain.

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It is located 167 km east of Sofia, 43 km north of Plovdiv, 26 km south-west of Karlovo and 57 km east of Panagyurishte. It is a world famous balneotherapy resort and one of the biggest in Bulgaria.

History. The modern health resort, with its more than 20 mineral springs and mild climate, has an ancient past. During the Roman rule the town (called Augusta and Sevastopolis) was a wealthy resort centre with Emperor's palaces, wide stone streets, marble baths, a sewage system and many statues of Roman gods. Sick people from all over the Balkan Peninsula, Asia Minor and the Aegean Islands crowded here. The white-as-marble town could be seen from far away, like a dream among luxuriant vegetation, it was famous for its mineral springs throughout the Roman Empire. After being burnt down by the Goths in the 3rd century, it was rebuilt in the beginning of the 4th century, this time with massive and high defensive walls. During the 5th and 6th centuries, the town reached its zenith, being part of the Byzantine Empire. After the 6th century, it slowly started to decline. Almost all the time between the9th and 14th century, it is within the borders of Bulgaria and is known by the name of Toplitsa. When the Turks invaded Bulgaria, the town put up a rugged resistance, for which it was completely destroyed and the population was massacred. It was in the 17th century when the Turks finally appreciated its natural assets and re-populated the ex-resort, giving it its present name - Hissarya (fortress) because of the many fortress remains in it. While in Hissarya the population was mainly Turkish, in the nearby villages Verigovo and Momina Banya (now quarters of the town) there lived enthusiastic Bulgarians who took an active part in the struggle against the Ottoman rule. In 1868, Vassil Levski founded a revolutionary committee in Verigovo, 15 members of which took part in the Grand People's Gathering at Oborishte. The village rose in rebellion against the Turkish rule in April 1876 together with other villages in the area, but it was devastated when the April Uprising was suppressed - the village was burnt down, many people were slaughtered, others sent on exile to Cyprus Island, some were driven away. Present. Today Hissarya is a flourishing town and resort of national importance. The mineral water's temperature is 24°-49°C and its output is 40 liters per second. It cures diseases of the kidneys, liver, gallbladder, gastritis, diabetes and many more. The most famous spring is the one in the Momina Banya Quarter (Maiden Bath) with its radioactive alkaline water. There is also a mud cure establishment, which increases the quality of the therapy. There are some mineral drinking fountains, balneotherapy establishments, many sanatoriums, and few dozens of recreational facilities, hundreds of private and departmental villas, a mineral water beach, many parks and gardens.

Landmarks: The Archaeology Museum with a rich archaeological (mainly) and ethnographic exposition (8, Al. Stamboliiski Street, working hours 8.00 a.m. - 12.00 a.m. and 1.30 p.m. - 5.30 p.m. all week round, tel.: 0337 2796). The Hissarya Fortress has the shape of an irregular tetragon with an area of 300 decares. Its 4th century walls still look impressive and are some of the best-preserved fortress defences in Bulgaria. Their total length is 2315 meters, the walls' thickness is about 2, 5 to 3 meters and their height is 10 meters. The fortress was strengthened with 43 quadrangle turrets. One could enter the town through four gates, the main of which was the southern, called Kamilite (The Camels). The northern side has two walls, the outer of which is 10 meters away from the inner one, in front of the southern wall there was a 4-metres deep and 10-to-12-metres wide moat. Inside and outside the fortress different kinds of buildings from the ancient town were found - barracks, ancient Roman baths, a late-Roman building (with a colonnade), churches, necropolises. Out of the 5 late-ancient tombs, found in the area, the so-called Hissarya Tomb, also known as the 3rd tomb, is the biggest and most famous. It is a late Roman (from the 4th century) family tomb, consisting of an overarched passage, a staircase and a burial chamber. The walls of the chamber and the passage are decorated with colour frescoes, and the chamber's floor is covered with a 4-colour-mosaic. Other interesting sites are the banski buildings (baths) at the springs of Havuza, Momina Banya and Indzheza, the Old-Christian Basilicas from the 5th and 6th century, the Church-Tomb from the 10th-12th century, the Holy Virgin Temple in the Momina Banya Quarter, the St. Dimitur Temple in Verigovo Quarter, the St. Pantaleimon Temple (4, Augusta Street), St. Peter and Pavel Church and many more.

Accommodation: Augusta Hotel (3-star, 3, Gen. Gourko Street). Krepost Hotel (13, Gen. Gourko Street). Natalis Hotel (20, Geo Milev Street). Apriltsi Balneological Complex (66, Ivan Vazov Blvd.). Ministry of Health's Balneological Complex (12, Gladston Street). Hissar Balneological Complex (2, Gen. Gurko Street). These balneology complexes operate as balneal-hotels. There are many private lodgings available through the Accommodation Bureau. As a resort centre, Hissarya offers a wide variety of restaurants and places where one can eat and have fun.

Tourist information is available at the hotels, the balneotherapy hotels, the Accommodation Bureau, and at Orela Tourist Association (16, Augusta Street, tel.: 0337 2592).

Transport. Hissarya has regular bus lines to Plovdiv, Karlovo, Panagyurishte, Strelcha, the village of Krastevitch and other smaller villages in the area. The town is the last station of the local railway line Dolna Mahala - Hissarya (a deviation of Plovdiv -Karlovo railroad). The bus station (tel.: 0337 2069, working hours: 5.40 a.m. - 7.45 p.m. all week round) and the railway station (tel.: 0337 2256, 2094) are located next to each other in the western outskirts of the town.

Surrounding areas. Hissarya is a starting point of tourist tracks through the Central Sredna Gora Range. From here there are marked tourist routes north-west to the Orela Chalet (from Verigovo Quarter it takes 5 hours on foot through the short cut or 22 km along trucks road, for reservations tel.: 0337 2592 in the Tourist Association). From the chalet one can proceed to the Chivira Chalet (3 hours), Bogdan Chalet (5 hours), or one can climb Mt. Alexitsa (1 hour), Mt. Fenera (20 min), Mt. Kozya Gramada (20 min). Another tourist route heads southeast to the Voden Kamak Chalet (9 km along a stony road, tel.: 0337 2534, it is 5 km away from the village of Gorna Mahala). In 2000 during archaeological excavations in the region of the village of Starossel (25 km west of the town) was discovered the grandiose Thracian Temple (5th -4th century BC) ever found. It is surrounded by stonewall (up to 5 m high and 240 m long) made of huge stone blocks. The Thracian temple has one front and two side stairs, a long corridor between 5 meters high stonewalls. The actual temple consists of a facade, a rectangular premise and a round premise with an unknown ceiling construction - a unique semi-cylindrical arc and dome. The entrances were closed with massive stone gates. Tens of burial mounds were found nearby, some of them containing tomb-mausoleums of Thracian rulers of the 5th and 4th centuries BC. The tombs contain extremely valuable articles - golden jewelry, a set of silver adorning as part of horse ammunition, full armament and other pieces of high scientific, art artistic and museum value. The cult complex is a unique evidence of the Thracian orphic belief in our lands. The complex became attractive for tourists long before its final arrangement and opening.

Plovdiv (top)
Intro:
The city of Plovdiv (340 638 inhabitants; 160 m above sea level) is situated in the western part of the Gornotrakiiska (Upper Thracian) Plain, along the two banks of Maritsa, the largest river, springing out in Bulgaria, and scattered upon six unique syenite hills (called "tepeta"- hillrocks).

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The town is located 150 km south-east of Sofia, 270 km west of Bourgas, 140 km north-west of Svilengrad, 58 km south of Karlovo, 19 km north-west of Assenovgrad, 102 km north of Smolyan, 37 km east of the town of Pazardzhik, 90 km south-west of Stara Zagora, 75 km north-west of Haskovo. It ranks as the second Bulgarian city in population, size and significance, after the capital Sofia. The city is an important cultural, historic and tourist centre. It is a regional administrative centre, as well.

History. Being a cross point of major roads from Western and Central Europe to the Middle East, from the Baltic to the Mediterranean region and from the Black Sea to the Adriatic, Plovdiv has ancient millennial history. The most ancient inhabitants of these areas date back to the New Stone, Stone-Copper and Bronze Ages. Later, during the 1st millennium BC, nearby the three eastern hills (Dzhambaz Tepe, Taxim Tepe and Nebet Tepe) which were practically a natural defence fortress, the Thracians founded the ancient settlement of Eumolpias. In 342 BC, the town was conquered by Philip II, the Macedonian, renamed Philipopole and turned into a fortress. Later on (3rd-1st century BC, the town already being known as Poulpoudeva, was subject to on-going invasions of the Celts. Since 1st century, it was under Roman rule and quickly grew into a key economic, cultural and political centre of Thracia Province. The town rapidly developed and occupied the entire area around the Three-hills, because of which the Romans named the town Trimontsium.
After the year 395, when the Roman Empire had fallen apart, the town remained in its eastern part - Byzantine. During the next two centuries, the town was many times ruined and set on fire by the Huns and the Gothic tribes. The Emperor Justinian (527-565) turned it into a strategic fortress along the northern Byzantine border. At the end of 6th century the Slavs populated the area and named the town Puldin (originating from the ancient name of Poulpoudeva). In 815, Khan Krum included the town within the borderlines of Bulgaria. From this moment on until it fell under Turkish rule, Plovdiv (already named so) was subject to numerous takeovers, frequently being under the rule of either the Bulgarians or the Byzantines. In 1364, the Ottomans conquered the town and called it Phillibe. Being left far in the back area of the Ottoman Empire, the town lost its strategic location and gradually declined. It was only during the Revival Period that Plovdiv regained its glorious name of a large economic and cultural centre. A new class of artisans and merchants was established, having a newly formed national spirit and wellbeing. A large number of residential housings and public facilities preserved as cultural monuments, date back to that Revival Period. Prominent Revival enlighteners, cultural and political figures - Naiden Gerov (a writer, enlightener and Consul of Russia in Plovdiv), the icon-painters Zakhari Zograf, Dimitur Zograf, Stanislav Dospevski, the wood-carver Ivan Pashkula and many others worked in the town at that time. The residence and the inn of the Turpevi Brothers gave shelter to our national Apostle Levski several times, and in 1870, a local revolutionary committee was founded. The troops of General Gurko liberated the town on January 17, 1878. At that time, this was the biggest Bulgarian town. After the Berlin Congress (1878), Plovdiv was proclaimed capital of Eastern Roumelia. It promoted an intensively diversified public and cultural life. Ivan Vazov, Konstantin Velichkov, Zakhari Stoyanov and some other reputable Bulgarians lived and worked in the town for some time. A great number of refugees came to the town from the areas of White Sea Thrace, Aegian, Pirin and Vardar Macedonia. The town hosted the proclamation of the Reunification of the Principality of Bulgaria and Eastern Roumelia on September 6, 1885 - an extraordinary in its significance revolutionary act, proving the strong and irreconcilable Bulgarian spirit in pursue of its national ideal. It is by no chance that this date 6th September - is currently an official holiday of the Republic of Bulgaria. Present. Today Plovdiv is a very beautiful city, coming from the past and striving forward to its future. The hills of Plovdiv are noticeable from quite a distance. This is an area of a vast flat plain and all of a sudden, hills pop up! Besides the three hills already mentioned (Dzhambaz Tepe, Taxim Tepe and Nebet Tepe), around which the ancient town has been founded and which host the most interesting and precious remains of our past, stone breasts are rising Sahat Tepe, also known as the Danov's Hill (within the centre of the town, with the clock tower dating back to 16th century), Bunardzhika Tepe (west of the city centre, with the statue of a Russian soldier), and Dzhendem Tepe (The hill of Youth, further to the west). The six hills, as well as the old town of Plovdiv bring specific colour and atmosphere to the town and shape up its unique view and nature. Maritsa River, splitting the city into two uneven parts connected by six bridges, occupies its relevant place and has its significance for the city of Plovdiv. On the area of the smaller, northern part of the city, along the riverbank, the so-called Fair City is located (37, Tsar Boris III Blvd, tel.: 032 553120). The first Bulgarian exhibition was organized back in 1892, which later on turned into International Plovdiv Fair. Currently the fair is conducted twice annually - in the beginning of May the fair is dedicated to consumer goods and commodities, while the fair organised in September focuses on industrial goods. Plovdiv is famous as being a centre of rich agricultural area and its numerous marketplaces are exuberant with great variety of cheap fruit and vegetables. The city plays the role of a big cultural centre. In addition to the regular opera, theatre, Muppet-show and other performances, Plovdiv hosts traditional festivals, art exhibitions, biennials, some of them internationally recognized: June - International Chamber Music Festival, end of May, beginning of June - Opera days at the Amphitheatre, end of June - Verdi Opera days at the Amphitheatre, beginning of August - International Folklore Festival, September - International Muppet-Show Festival, September - "The old town of Plovdiv" National Autumn Art Exhibition. Plovdiv is also a university centre with one university and a couple of higher educational establishments.

Landmarks. The first ranking landmark is the Old Town of Plovdiv Architecture Reserve attracting visitors from all over the world; it covers the Three-hill area, which is the original location of the town. Almost all of the most interesting history-related sights are within the old town area: cult, residential and public housings, archaeological monuments and museums, narrow cobble-paved streets. The Holy Virgin Church dating back to 1844 (6, Suborna Street, working hours: 7.30 a.m. - 7.00 p.m. all the week round). St. Constantine and Elena Church dating back in 1832, St. Marina Church (1856) with a very interesting wood-carved iconostasis are also situated there. Ancient (Roman) Amphitheatre is situated close to the Southern entrance of the fortress, above the road tunnel. The marble amphitheatre, built up by Emperor Mark Aurelius during the 2nd century is the best-preserved monument of those times in our lands. It frequently hosts various performances. Nebet Tepe Archaeological Complex - remains within the Northern part of the Three-Hill area. Philipopolis fortress walls can be seen within the central part of the Ancient town. Hissar Kapiya (the eastern gate of the fortress, built more than 2000 years ago). The Yellow School built in 1868 (Todor Samodumov Street), the first building constructed to serve as an educational facility in Plovdiv. The House and cellar of Hadzhi Dragan from Kalofer -1848-1854, 32, PR. Slaveikov Street, currently serves as a branch of the National Cultural Monuments Institute). The house of Andrei Georgiadi (The Hadzhikalchov's House) dating back to 1831; 6, Mitropolit Paisii Street, currently houses the creative fund of the Union of Research Workers. The House of Argir Koyumdzhiouglu built in 1847 by the master Hadzhi Georgi, presently hosts the Ethnographical museum (2, Dr. Chomarov Street, working hours: 9.00 a.m. -12.00 a.m. and 2.00 p.m. - 5.00 p.m., closed on Monday and Friday morning). House of Artin Gidikov from 1848, now houses the ninth regional mayor's office (15,4th January Street). The House of Birdas from 1856, now serving as official acceptance hall of the Mayor of Plovdiv (45, Suborna Street). House of Veren Stambolyan (built in the second half of 19th century) now housing the creative fund of the Union of Bulgarian Artists (15, Cyril Nektariev Street). The House of Georgi Mavridi, where the French poet Lamartin lived in 1833, now hosting the creative fund of the Union of Bulgarian Writers (19, Knyaz Tseretelev Street). House of Dimitur Georgiadi (1848), now turned into a Museum of the Bulgarian Revival (1, Tsanko Lavrenov Street, tel.: 032 223350, working hours: 9.00 a.m.-12.00 a.m. and 2.00 p.m.-5.00 p.m., closed on Sundays). House of Dr. St. Chomakov (1860), now hosting the Art Gallery exhibition of Zlatyu Boyadzhiev (18, Suborna Street. House of Nicola Nedkovich -1863 (3, Tsanko Lavrenov Street, tel.: 032 626216) currently serving as Museum of the Urban Revival Style - a small romantic palace, located on the Three-hill area, painted in frescos and wall-paintings, exuberantly decorated with wood-carvings, columns, arches and bows. The Balabanov's House (the house of Hadzhi Lamisha, currently also functioning as Museum of the Revival Traditions). The House of the Ritor from the mid 19th century now turned into a hotel-restaurant complex (8, Todor Samodumov Street). House of Hristo G. Danov from the second half of 19th century, now serving as Tourist House (5, PR. Slaveikov Street). These locations comprise only a small portion of the interesting sights in the Old Town of Plovdiv. Archaeological Museum (1, Suedinenie Sq., tel.: 032 224339) accommodating the most valuable - Panagyurishte Golden Treasure consisting of wine set masterpieces, the weight of which equals 6.169 kilos of pure gold. History museum - "Modern History" Exhibition (14, Angel Boukoureshtliev Street, tel.: 032 222014). History Museum - "Reunion" Exhibition (1, Suedinenie Sq., tel.: 032 260252, 269959, working hours: 9.00 a.m. - 12.00 a.m. and 1.00 p.m. - 3.00 p.m., closed on Saturdays and Sundays). Museum of Natural History (34, Hristo G. Danov Str., tel.: 032 226663). Art Gallery - temporary exhibition (15, Kniaz Alexander I Str, tel.: 032 224220). Art gallery - exhibition of icons (22, Suborna Str., tel.: 032 226086). Art gallery - permanent exhibi¬tion (14A, Suborna Str., tel.:032 267790). The Roman Stadium (located in the pedestrian zone of Kniaz Alexander I Street, in the proximity of Sahat Tepe. It was constructed during the 2nd century reproducing the layout of the stadium in Delphi, Greece, and the marble seats accommodated 30 000 spectators of games and gladiator fights. The Roman Forum (located at the central city square, against the Central Post Office Building). Remains of stone-paved streets, foundations of administrative and agricultural buildings and marble columns were found out from the centre of the ancient major town of the Roman province of Thrace. Theatres: Theatre of Drama (36, Kniaz Alexander I Street), Opera House (1, Gladstone Str., tel.: 032 225553), Muppet-Show Theatre (14, Hristo G. Danov Blvd, tel.: 032 223985), Plovdiv Philharmonic Orchestra (1, Central square

Accommodation: Old Plovdiv: The Lamartin House Hotel (19, Kniaz Tseretelev Str, at the cross-section with Zora Street, avails of 2 suites, 2 singles, 2 double rooms, open from April to October, and accommodated in an old Revival house) Hebros Hotel (4-star, offers 4 double rooms it is accommodated in an old Revival house)' House of the Ritor Hotel-Restaurant Complex (8, Todor Samodumov Street, is accommodated in an old Revival house). Tourist House (5, R R. Slaveikov Str, in an old Revival house). Downtown (beyond the boundaries of the Old Town): Novotel Plovdiv (2, Zlatyu Boyadzhiev Street, 9-storied building, located at the bank of Maritsa River). Trimontsium Hotel (2, Captain Raicho Street, at the downtown square). Royal Hotel (in the downtown). Sankt Petersburg Park-Hotel (97, Bulgaria Blvd.). Bulgaria Hotel (13, Patriarch Evtimii). Leipzig Hotel (70, Ruski Blvd., 11-storied building). Rhodopes Hotel - 3-star. Maritsa Hotel (42, Tsar Boris III). Phoenix Hotel (79, Captain Raicho Street). Outside the central part of the city: Plovdiv Recreational Complex (2-star, 3, Osvobozhdenie Blvd.). Dounav Hotel (100, Dounav Street). Plovdiv has many unique and interesting restaurants and facilities, but the most pleasant ones are those, located in the old town. List of a small portion of them is provided herein: Alafrangite (17, Cyril Nektariev Street, working hours: 11 a.m. until midnight). Trakiiski Stan (5, Puldin Street, working hours: 11 a.m. - 01.00 a.m.). Philipopolis (56B, Konstantin Stoilov Street, working hours: 11 a.m. until midnight). Restavratora (The Restorer) (32, Slaveikov Street, working hours: 11 a.m. - 11 p.m. all the week round). Puldin (8, Kniaz Tseretelev, working hours: 11 a.m. until midnight).

Tourist information is available in every hotel and museum.

Transport. Plovdiv is the second significant transport centre in the country after our capital city Sofia. Two types of transport - bus and railway - connect this city to the rest of the country. There is also an existing air transport infrastructure, but currently there are no flights to and from Plovdiv. Motorway connects the city with Sofia, while major motorways connect it with Pazardzhik, Assenovgrad, StaraZagora, Bourgas, Station Sever Haskovo, Kurdzhali, Karlovo, and Smolyan. The city has 3 major bus stations: Bus (North) (2, Dimitur Stambolov Street, close to Philipovo railway station, tel.: 032 553011, 553705, servicing the lines to the north of the city in the direction of Rousse, Pleven, Troyan, Koprivshtitsa, etc.). Bus Station Yug (South) (47, Hristo Botev Blvd., close to the east of the central railway station, tel.: 032 626937, 226937, servicing the lines and routes to the southern part of the country - Blagoevgrad, Batak, Peshtera, Sliven, Svilengrad, Pazardzhik, etc.). The Express Transport Private Association is next to this Bus station (45, Hristo Botev Blvd., tel.: 032 265787, specialized in express bus transport services between the cities of Plovdiv and Sofia, having only a few bus stops in the capital, the last bus stop being at the railway station). There are some other private companies, servicing the routes to Hissarya and Karlovo. RhodopesBus Station, (Macedonia Street, across the central railway station - a tunnel connects the two stations) services the region of the Rhodope Mountains, namely: Assenovgrad, Bachkovo Monastery, Smolyan, Chepelare, Pamporovo, Devin, Kurdzhali, Haskovo, etc. Close to Trimontsium Hotel, in the foyer of the Plovdiv Philharmony (1, Central Sq.) one can buy tickets from the City Transportation Company for bus transport to Greece.

Railway transport. There are railway lines from Plovdiv to Sofia, Bourgas, Svilengrad, Karlovo, Panagyurishte, Peshtera, Hissarya and Assenovgrad. There are two railway stations and numerous railway stops: Central Railway Station (44, Hristo Botev Blvd., tel.: 032 222729, 552730, 222940, info on departing trains: 032 175). Philipovo Railway Station (in Philipovo Quarter, tel.: 032 23433602). The City Railway Bureau is located in the centre of the city (29, Maria Louisa Blvd., tel.: 032 622732, working hours: 8.30 a.m. -12.00 p.m. and 1.00 p.m. - 5.00 p.m., closed on Saturdays and Sundays). Rila International Railway Bureau is located opposite the Central Railway Station (31A, Hristo Botev Blvd., tel.: 032 446120, working hours: Monday through Friday, 8.00 a.m. -6.00 p.m., Saturday - 8.00 a.m. to 12.00 p.m. and Sunday - day off). The Airport (no regular flights for the time being) is at a distance of 18 kilometers away from the city (tel.: 032 226173). International Transport Ticket Bureau (4, Gladstone Street, working hours: Monday through Friday, 8.00 a.m. -6.30 p.m.). Gebray Company Ltd. - Airlines Ticket Bureau (94, Vassil Aprilov Blvd., tel. / fax: 032 452166). It is possible to rent a car from the following rent a car agencies: Trakia Autotransport (82, Hristo Botev Blvd., tel.: 032 264040), Niko Car (5, Maria Louisa Blvd., tel.: 032 222369). For first class cars, Herz Company should be contacted (located in Sankt Petersburg Hotel, tel.: 032 554409). Plovdiv has a well-organized public and private buses and trolley transport.

Foreign Countries Consular Sections. General Consulate of the Russian Federation (20, Ivan Vazov Street, tel.: 032 224767, fax 032 230098). General Consulate of Greece (10, Preslav Street, tel.: 032 232003). Consular Section of the Republic of Turkey (10, Philip Makedonski Str, tel.: 032 239010).

Surrounding areas. The powerful shapes of the Rhodopes rise 10-12 km south of Plovdiv. Its vicinity and accessibility turn the mountain into a favourite site for recreation and tourism for all the citizens of Plovdiv. The existence of two resorts (Studenets and Byala Cherkva), numerous chalets (Zdravets, Ruen, Chernatitsa, Rhodopski Partizani and more distant ones) as well as hundreds of kilometers of roads into the Chernatitsa sub-part of the Western Rhodopes, the dozens of kilometers of marked alleys and tracks, catering facilities and other tourist infrastructure, promote the frequent visits to the wonderful mountain sights. Public buses start from the Rhodopes Bus Station to the villages in the foot of the mountain (Kouklen, Hrabrino Gulabovo, and some others,) which serve as starting points for various hiking tours or trips by car (see the Rhodopes related section).

Asenovgrad (top)
Intro:
The town of Assenovgrad (52116 inhabitants; 180 M above sea level) is situated in the western part of the Gornotrakiiska (Upper Thracian) Plain, in the northern foots of the Western Rhodopes, at a place where the Chepelarska River runs from the mountain into the valley.

Full text:
It is 169 km south-east of Sofia, 19 km south-east of Plovdiv, 84 km north of Smolyan, 96 km west of Haskovo and 81 km north-west of Kurdzhali. This is the most sacral Bulgarian town. A town with extremely interesting history.

History. This fact is explained by its favourable geographic location - the attractive combination of the mountain and the valley, its mild climate, fertile soil and the fact that here is the entrance of the most convenient passage through the Rhodope Mountains connecting Thrace with the Aegean Region. There was an ancient (Thracian) settlement on the territory of this town, and later on, a medieval village was founded there. Within its surroundings, more than 100 Thracian mounds with many objects were found. The town played its significant role in the medieval period as a strongly fortified site, which witnessed severe battles. The town is first mentioned under the name of Stanimahos in the statute (1083) of the Bachkovo Monastery, whose founder, the Byzantine military commander of Georgian origin Grigorii Bakuriani, had conquered the town shortly before that. Later on, the chronicles of the successive crusades within the period 1096 -1204 gave it the names of Stanimako, Estanimak, and Skribentsion. Under the name of Stanimaka (from the word of Greek origin "stenimahos" meaning fortified narrow place) the town left its deep traces in history. In 1230, Tsar Ivan Assen II fortified and expanded the strong Stanimaka's Fortress, called Petrich, which act was celebrated by putting an inscription, carved above its entrance. This is the reason for the fortress to be renamed to Agsenova Krepost (Fortress), and the town of Stanimaka, located below it - to be renamed to Assenovgrad in 1934. Later on the town was either Bulgarian or within the Byzantine Empire. In 1364, the town was conquered by Tsar Ivan Alexander and remained within Bulgarian territories until his death when it was regained by the Turks. During the long Turkish Rule Stanimaka had lost its significance and gradually declined. The town was plundered and put on fire by the kurdzhalii (Turkish brigands) three times. Its inhabitants made their living mainly by growing vineyards (production of Mavrud type of wines) and silkworm breeding (production of silk). After the Liberation, this was a small agricultural town, which remained within the borders of Eastern Roumelia as long as 1885. At the end of 19th century, the phylloxera spoiled the vineyards and mass tobacco planting and growing commenced thereon. The glory of Assenovgrad as a sacral centre, formed during the Eneolite and existing as such until now, explains the presence of so many cult-related buildings in the town and its surroundings - 5 monasteries, 12 churches and more than 50 chapels.

Landmarks: The Museum of History (1, Trakia Square, tel.: 0331 22150) is in the centre of the town with its three sections: Archaeology, Revival Period and Ethnography. Ethnographic Exhibition on Lifestyle in the Old Town (31, Stanimaka Street) is accommodated in a Revival style building dating back to 19th century, presenting the domestic style of living and culture of a wealthy family in the town. The working hours for the two museums are from Monday to Friday from 9.00 a.m. to 12.00 p.m. and from 2.00 p.m. to 5.00 p.m. There is also a Paleontology Museum, established as a branch of the Bulgarian Academy of Science in 1995. It is housed in the ex-youth house in Badelema Area. The exhibits include skeletons and fossils of animals, having lived 7-8 million years ago. A major sample is that of Dinoterrium Giganteum - a giant animal, quite similar to the elephant. This is the only skeleton of such an animal, found in Bulgaria, which is very well preserved. Tel.: 0331 23736, working hours: Monday through Friday, 9.00 a.m. - 12.00 p.m. and 2.00 p.m. - 5.00 p.m., Saturdays - 9.00 a.m. to 4.00 p.m., Sundays - closed. Vine and Winery Museum (6, Bulair Street). Extremely valuable church in the town is St. Joan Predtecha Church (The Precursor) dating back to 13th-14th centuries, which has one nave, with three-wall abcide without narthex. St. George (Ambelinski) Church (Georgi Benkovski Street in Ambelino Quarter) looks like a natural continuation of the steep mountainous hills, with stone columns and three domes, one of which has a 12-wall shape and a high belfry. Constructed by master builders, this church is one of the most representative and imposing temples of the Revival Period. Another remarkable church is St. Georgi (Metoshki) Church erected in 18th century on the foundations of an old church from 12th century. The highly artistic wall paintings are drawn by Zakhari Zograf. He is also did the wall paintings in the temple and spring St. Joan Predtecha (The Precursor), next to the St. Holy Virgin - Annunciation Church (1836). The Holy Virgin Church (2, Radi Ovcharov Street), the so-called "The Deep Church", built in 1765 on the foundations of an older church, destroyed by the Turks. It has a marvellous wooden iconostasis of walnut tree, carved and painted by the masters of art from the Debur Art School. St. Dimitur Church was built in 1866. Special interest deserves the D. Shterev's piece of art - "Noah's Ark" because of its extremely rare iconography. The town has several old houses of the Revival time with original architecture and beautiful woodcarvings (for example, the houses at 30, Stamenka Str. and at 2, Bachkovska Street).

Accommodation: Assenovets Hotel Complex (3, Trakia Sq., in the centre of the town, 3-star). Art Hotel (10, Kresna Street, family type hotel, with 5 rooms). Hotel "M" (24, Slavyanska Str, 3-star, family type of hotel). Kalamandi Hotel (54, 6th January Street, on the road to Smolyan, 2-star, 5 rooms, family type of hotel). Hotel "RITZ-IV" (27, Macedonia Str, in Gorni Voden Quarter, 1 -star, family type of hotel, 5 rooms). Perun Hotel (8, Gotse Delchev Street, 1 -star, family type of hotel, 5 rooms). Santo Kiriko Hotel Complex (2 km away from the town). The Forty Springs Sports Complex (4 km in the direction of the town of Kurdzhali, offers a hotel, bungalows, restaurant, swimming pool). Tourist hostel (1, Kostur Street, the cheapest lodging in town). There is even greater variety of catering and entertainment establishments.

Tourist information - available in the hotels tourist agencies, Bezovo Tourist Association (6, Trakia Sq., tel.: 0331 23867).

Transport. Assenovgrad is connected to the rest of the country mostly by bus transport and by railway. There are regular bus lines to Plovdiv (every 30 minutes), Smolyan, Chepelare, Pamporovo, Bachkovo Monastery, Haskovo, Kurdzhali and a lot of other smaller villages and settlements within the region. The bus station (8, Vassil Levski Blvd., tel.: 0331 22862, 24853) and the railway station (10, Vassil Levski Blvd., tel.: 0331 23029, 22970, 22870) are located next to each other on the left bank of Chepelarska (Chaya) River. The town is the last station of Plovdiv -Assenovgrad railway line. Public bus transport is also available in the town.

Surrounding areas. 2 km south of the town, above the road to Smolyan stands the historical Assenova Krepost (Fortress), which had existed even during the Thracian ages, but became strategically important in medieval ages after the battle at Klokotnitsa (1230). The feudal castle of the fortress with the tower and the two water reservoirs are thoroughly studied and conserved. The relatively well-preserved building - the church "Holy Mother of God from Petrich" was restored in 1934 and 1985, and the restoration of the wall paintings was completed in 1991. The same year the church was awarded a statute of functioning temple. There is a guide, whose working hours are from 8.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m. Wednesday to Sunday. 11km south of Assenovgrad, along the road to Smolyan, is located the second large and significant Bulgarian monastery - Bachkovo Monastery St. Assumption of the Holy Virgin (refer to the Rhodope Mountains related chapter herein). This extremely interesting cultural and historical centre amazes with its architecture, wall paintings, icons and precious church plate. The guides are available from 8.00 a.m. to 4.00 Assenovgrad is the St. Kirik and Yulita Monastery (Gornovodenski Monastery) Built up in the Middle Ages its impresses with its architecture, the valuable wall paintings and icons, which made it remarkable cultural monument. 8 km east of the town, along the road to Parvomai, close to the village of Zlatovruh, is situated St. Nedelya Arapovski Monastery - one of the few monasteries, located and built up in the open fields. It was erected in 1856-1868 and as early as 1868; a Bulgarian school with the monastery opened its gates. The wall paintings in the church and the chapel, dating back to 1864, are very precious. In the yard of the monastery, the well-known haidoutin Angel Voivoda had built a stone tower with beautiful bow-window rooms above it, which served as a watchtower and defence facility. There is a regular bus stop of all the buses to Parvomai. One of the most interesting prehistoric sights in the neighbourhood of Assenovgrad is found in the village of Dolnoslav (13 km southeast, on the road to Kurdzhali) - the Lopkite area. There is the only cult centre, well studied and described, which had satisfied the religious and other spiritual needs of the prehistoric inhabitants of present South Bulgaria and North Greece. To visit this sight one may take the buses running in the direction of Kurdzhali. The Thracian rock sanctuaries are extremely interesting; the most mysterious of them is that of Belantash (in the Rhodope Massif of Dobrostan, close to Sini Vruh quarter). There was found a silver votive tablet of Hercules, presented as Dionisius. Four sanctuaries dedicated to the Thracian mounted warrior were found nearby Assenovgrad. 9 km away from the town, east of Bachkovo Monastery, is located the world famous Chervenata Stena Biosphere Reserve (The Red Wall) of a total area of 3029 hectares. More than 600 spices of plants grow there, large part of them being endemites and relicts, included in the "Red Book of Endangered Species" of Bulgaria. 45 kwi south of Assenovgrad, in the proximity of the town of Luki and above the village of Belitsa, in Gradishte Mountain (western part of the Rhodope Mountains), is located one of the most honoured Christian holy places -Krustova Gora (Forest of the Cross). Close to Mt. Krustov Vruh (1413 M), there was a Christian monastery, which was burned by the Turks and the monks were killed. The place is considered a holly place - if someone overnights there, there is a chance for him to be cured, if ill. Of course, this is valid for truly religious persons. Now there is a church and always lots of people crowd there, especially on September 14th - day of the Holly Cross. There is a regular bus transport to the village of Borovo. From there one may set out by car or on foot (11.30 hours). Assenovgrad is a key starting point for tourist hikes across the Dobrostan Massif of Western Rhodope Mountains (refer to the Rhodope Mountains related chapter herein).

Chepelare (top)
Intro:
The town of Chepelare (6067 inhabitants; 1100 m above sea level) is situated in the heart of the Rhodope Mountains, in a small valley, along the two banks of Chepelarska (Chaya) River.

Full text:
It is 222 km south-east of Sofia, 72 km and 53 km south of Plovdiv and Assenovgrad respectively, some 30 km north of Smolyan and about 10 km north-east of Pamporovo Resort. This is the town in Bulgaria situated at the highest altitude. It is a typical resort centre, mostly winter resort.

History. The valley has been populated since ancient times, which was proved by the urns with burnt bones, heads of arrow and spear, different ornaments and other objects, considered to be of Thracian origin and found in the locality of Batalski Kamuk. Some Bulgarian Christian tombs dating back to 12th-14th century were found on the neighbouring land of the town, yet there is no absolute proof as to the existence of an ancient and medieval settlement on the territory of the present town. An ancient Roman road from Plovdiv to the Aegean region passed through the Chepelarska river valley. The first inhabitant of this place was Belyo Kehaya, who built his house in 1705. Inhabitants from the neighbouring villages followed his example. In 1726, the newcomers bought the land and became owners of the valley and the surrounding hills. So the settlement of Chepelare was founded. Its name comes from the Gyumyurdzhi village of Chepeli, which translates into Bulgaria as stormy, cold. The basic occupation of the inhabitants was animal breeding and some artisanship, while some of the men, living there used to travel in the Aegean region working as anglers or bricklaying masters. The kurdzhalii (Turkish brigands) often invaded the settlement, but they faced organised and severe defence. In 1836, Chepelare inhabitants built St. Atanas Church and three stone turrets within 40 days, supported by a troop of soldiers, sent by the Sultan to guard against the Bulgarian-Mohammedans (pomaks), who opposed the construction. Later on, a school was built up, while in 1867 a second temple - Holy Virgin - was inaugurated. The Caucasus Cossacks brigade of General Cherevin liberated Chepelare on 18th January, 1878. The same year Captain Petko Voivoda with his detachment settled there to defend the Bulgarian Christian population against the rebels of Sinclair. The Berlin Treaty made Chepelare a borderline village and it frequently gave shelter to the members of the detachment of Peyo Shishmanov Voivoda, who fought for the liberation of the enslaved parts of our Motherland. After the union of Eastern Roumelia with the Bulgarian Principality in 1885, the south border with Turkey was closed and the path of thousands of sheep herds to their winter pastures were barred. Then Cheperale people butchered a large number of sheep and started cutting the surrounding woods in order to provide pastures for the reduced number of sheep herds. Within the period 1879-1886 about 30 000 decares of wonderful coniferous forests surrounding Chepelare were cleared. This brought in the new occupation for the town woodcutting and -wood-processing. The timber was transported along the river to Stanimaka (Assenovgrad). In 1922, one of the first water power stations in the country was constructed in the region. Gradually, with the beginning of the 20th century and especially during the 30s and the 40s, Chepelare was turned into a resort site.

Landmarks: St. Atanas Church (5A, General Cherevin Streeet), the Holy Virgin Church (Chaya Street). More information about these two churches is provided in the history section on Chepelare, provided above. Museum of Speleology and Bulgarian Karsts (9A, Shina Andreeva Str., in Peshtemyak Tourist House, tel.: 03051 2289, 2041, 3041, working hours: 9.00 a.m. to 12.00 p.m. and 1.30 p.m. to 5.30 p.m. except Mondays) - it is a unique museum not only for Bulgaria, but also for the Balkan Peninsula and Europe. Rhodopska Iskra Chitalishte (Rhodope Sparkle Community Centre) (21, Vassil Dechev Street).

Accommodation: Plenty of accommodation facilities exist in Chepelare, yet throughout the winter months of January, February and March it is necessary to book in advance. The family type 2- or 3-star hotels prevail in this small town (their number exceeds 20), and they are associated in Chepelare Tourist Association.

Tourist Information - Tourist Information Centre - 4850 Chepelare, 2A, Mourdzhovska Street, tel.: 03051 3273; Chepelare Tourism Association (tel.: 03051 2246, 3545, fax 03051 3475). Studenets Tourist Company (9A, Shina Andreeva Street, housed in Peshtemyak Tourist House, tel.: 03051 2289, 3251, 3261); at the hotels.

Transport. The only available transport to Chepelare is by bus. There are regular bus lines to Plovdiv, Assenovgrad, Sofia, Smolyan, Pamporovo, Devin, Shiroka Luka, and other smaller villages within the region. The bus station is located on the left bank of the river (Chaya Street, tel.: 03051 2023).

Surrounding areas. 1.5 km south of the town, near the road to Smolyan and Pamporovo is the first station of the two-chair lift. It is 2471 m long, its transportation capacity is 600 persons per hour, it takes the skiers, and tourists for 17 minutes to Mt. Chala (1873 M) in the Chernatitsa sub-part of the Rhodopes, where the starting points of the ski runs are located. Their total length is equal to 8400 meters. The first ski run is 3150 m long and 50 m wide, with a variance of 720 m, while the second ski run is 5250 m long and 25 m wide. The long distance ski run is 30 km. 10 km south-west of the town is one of the largest and most famous winter resorts in the country - Pamporovo (refer to the Rhodope Mountains related chapter herein). Being situated in the heart of the Rhodopes, Chepelare serves as a starting point for numerous tourist routes in the mountain of Orpheus (refer to the Rhodope Mountains related chapter herein). At a road distance of 15 km (6 km deep in the Rozhen Saddle), south-east of the town, high on top of Mt. Mechi Chal (Karamanitsa). Rozhen Observatory is located, which is open for tourist visits against a modest entrance fee. There is no regular transport to this place, but one can climb up from Chepelare to the observatory for about 2-2.30 hours. The white building, which can be seen from the entire Western Rhodope Mountain, seems as if it has perched on the mountain ridge. Chelepare is a beautiful mountainous small town, but even more beautiful and appealing is the nature surrounding it - a mixture of century old coniferous forests, luxuriant green meadows, exuberant in flowers, vigorous mountain springs, and the endless "sea" of the mild Rhodope peaks!

Smolyan (top)
Intro:
The town of Smolyan (33153 inhabitants; 850 to 1050 m above sea level) is picturesquely scattered in the narrow gorge of Cherna River (Black River), in the most beautiful part of the Rhodope Mountains.

Full text:
It is about 260 km southeast of Sofia, 103 km south of Plovdiv, 87 km west of Kurdzhali, 46 km south-east of Devin and 16 km south of Pamporovo Resort. This is one of the most beautiful Bulgarian towns. It is a regional administrative centre.

History. On 18th June 1960, the three neighbouring villages of Smolyan, Raikovo and Ustovo merged in a town, which was named Smolyan, and presently each one of the villages is its quarter. Smolyan Quarter (at the highest altitude) is the successor of the vanished village of Ezerovo, which was situated 3 km above the town, amidst the Smolyan Lakes. During the period of the attempts to convert the native population to Islam (17th century), its inhabitants strongly opposed this act and the Turks completely destroyed the village. Some of the inhabitants were killed, others ran to the mountains and those who adopted the Muslim religion populated the areas along Cherna River, where the modern quarter lies. The Turks named this new settlement Pashmaklu. This is the name mentioned by the French traveller Dr. Paul Luka (1706) and it is recorded in the inscription of the Overarched Bridge (Beiska Kupriya), built in 1716. The name of Smolyan was given to this neighbourhood after the Liberation and it came out of the name of the Slav tribe of Smoleni. Raikovo Quarter (the quarter in the middle) was divided in the early ages into Gorno (Upper) and Dolno (Lower) Raikovo. A legend tells us that the fellow of Momchil the Hero, Raiko founded this settlement. During the attempt to convert the population to Islam, its inhabitants strongly resisted, paying for that with more than 200 victims, but they preserved their religion and village. The first written document about this settlement dates back to the inscription on a stone of the Mazolska drinking fountain (1572). It developed as artisanship village. Its aba (coarse homespun woollen cloth and upper men's garment made of it), woollen cloths and rugs were famous throughout the Ottoman Empire. Its economic power during the Revival Period revealed in the building of nice houses of typical Rhodope architecture, churches and schools. Ustovo Quarter (the lowest) is an old settlement. Its name is linked to "ustie" (estuary) or "ushtelie" - i.e. it originated from the geographical location of the settlement. It is situated on an important crossroad - this was the crossing point of the old roads from Plovdiv to Xanti and Gyumyurdzhina and from Drama through Nevrokop (modern Gotse Delchev) to Kurdzhali and Odrin. This predetermined largely its economic and historic development. Ustovo became an important market centre and significant artisanship settlement. Crafts like coppersmith, tinkering, shoe making, goldsmith, and furriery, homespun wollen cloths and tailoring and others were well developed since early ages. Their products had good market, most of all in Istanbul and Smirna (Izmir). At the beginning of 19th century, the village achieved great economic and cultural boom. Almost all of the interesting sites and buildings date back to that period. In 1830, the first monastery school was founded. Priest Gligorko, one of the prominent defenders of Bulgarian population, lived and worked in Ustovo. This is the birthplace of some prominent Bulgarians, such as Sava Stratiev, fighter against Phanariotism and Stoyu Shishkov, a teacher, ethnographer and a man of letters. After the Liberation, the entire Smolyan region remained under Turkish Rule until 1912.

Landmarks. In Smolyan Quarter: The Revival Period houses - Meramovs', Sarievs', Prissadovs' etc. The overarched bridge (Beiska Kupriya) across Cherna River, built in the beginning of 18th century. Chinar Nature Reserve has sycamore-tree - a 250-years old. The Planetarium (20, Bulgaria Blvd., tel.: 0301 23074) is the biggest in Bulgaria. The Museum of the History of Mid-Rhodope Mountains (New Centre Complex, tel.: 0301 24603), houses more than 150 000 exhibits. The Town Art Gallery (New Centre Complex, tel.: 0301 23268) accommodates thousands of masterpieces of artists and sculptors. In Raikovo Quarter: Pangalov's House - valuable architectural monument of culture dating back to 1860, Alibeev Konak - an old residential and agricultural complex in the upper part of the quarter. The Cheshitev's House in the Cheshitska area - housing interesting typical Rhodope houses from the Revival Period in Dolno Raikovo. Memorial and Charnel House in honour of the inhabitants of Raikovo, who died for freedom. St. Nedelya Church (1836 2.) has a rich collections of icons. Mazolev's Drinking Fountain bears the inscription, evidencing the first mention of the village. In Ustovo Quarter: Mednikarska Charshiya (the old coppersmith marketplace), Hadzhiivanov's House, which provided shelter to the headquarters of the Russian troops in the region during the War of Liberation (1877-1878). The Sheremetev's, Takov's, Hadzhichonov's Houses are also within this area. The Kelyav's House bears the inscription of sergeant Parhomenko, which informs that some Cossacks from the First Squad of the II Regiment stayed there. St. Nikola Church is remarkable with its plentiful, rich wall paintings and original architecture. The new, modern centre of the town is a skilful combination of local traditions and existing environment. Its construction was completed in 1983. The Rhodope Theatre of Drama (Bulgaria Blvd., tel.: 0301 25178) is successfully functioning in this nice town. The town is also a university centre - it houses the Pedagogical Faculty of Plovdiv University "Paisii Hilendarski".

Accommodation: Smolyan Hotel (3-star, in the centre of the town, 3, Bulgaria Blvd.) is the biggest in the town. Cypress Private Hotel (31, Sokolitsa Street). Markelov Private Hotel (14, Nikola Philipov Street). Mechta Hotel (within the region of Smolyan Lakes). Ezerata Hotel (within the region of Smolyan Lakes, transport provided by bus line No. 4). Sokolitsa Hotel (47, 1st May Street, next to the bus station). Boarding house of the Pedagogical Faculty (32, D. Petrov Str.). Esperanto Tourist Complex. Smolyanski Ezera Chalet (Smolyan Lakes) is situated in the area of Smolyan Lakes. It has 43 beds. The public bus line No. 4 stops close to the chalet. Smolyan offers a wide variety of catering and entertainment facilities, yet one of the most authentic is Beni Tavern in Raikovo Quarter.

Tourist Information: Tourist Information Centre, 4700 Smolyan, 80, Bulgaria Blvd., tel. /fax: 0301 38055, e-mail Rhra@mbox.digsys.bg (Union of Rhodope Hoteliers and Restaurateurs); Regional Tourist Information Centre (4700 Smolyan, House of the Youth, TIC, tel. / fax: 0301 25040); Council on Tourism (4700 Smolyan, 12, Bulgaria Blvd, tel.: 0301 28758, 24751, 22023/235). Tourist Information Centre (in Smolyan Hotel, 3, Bulgaria Blvd., tel.: 0301 24643, fax 0301 24631, email: ticsmo@mbox.digsys.bg). Tourist Information & Reservation Centre (80, Bulgaria Blvd., tel. /fax: 0301 38085, e-mail rhra@mbox.digsys.bg). Karluk Tourist Association (57, Rhodope Street, tel.: 0301 21292, 21056) as well at the hotels.

Transport. Bus transport is the most popular for Smolyan. There are regular bus lines to Sofia, Plovdiv (every hour), Kurdzhali, Devin, Assenovgrad, Chepelare, and Pamporovo (every hour) and to other smaller villages within the region. Public bus stations: Smolyan Bus Station (located in Smolyan Quarter, at the western end of Bulgaria Blvd., tel.: 0301 34251). Bus Station Iztok (East) (in Ustovo Quarter, tel.: 0301 45161). Bus Station Yug (South) (tel.: 0301 45826). Private buses servicing long-distance lines start 7:00 a.m. from the parking lot opposite the Planetarium. 6 public bus lines are regularly functioning within the boundaries of the town. Radio-cab is also available (tel.: 0301 35059).

Surrounding areas. 16 km to the north, up above the town is one of the biggest Bulgarian winter resorts - Pamporovo (refer to Rhodope Mountains related chapter herein). 10 km west of the centre of the town is the region of Smolyan Lakes, known as the "emerald eyes of the Rhodope Mountain". They totalled 20 in number, but presently there are only seven lakes. The largest one of them - Bistroto Ezero, the so-called "clear lake" - is also the deepest and the most beautiful. The whole region forms a natural park of forests, meadows, hotels, a chalet, chapels, lanes, open-chair lift to Mt. Snezhanka, Pamporovo), picturesque vertical rocks. Bus line No. 4 travels to this region. Smolyan Waterfall - on Kriva (Curved) River, which is the left tributary of Cherna River. The waterfall is 20 meters high and is in the immediate surroundings south-west of the town. 27 km south of Smolyan, in the valley of Arda River is the village of Mogilitsa. It has beautiful Revival Period houses, but the most interesting building is that of the Agoushev's Konak, built in 1843. It was intended for all the year round living (in opposition to the summer Agoushev's Konak in the Chereshovo Area). It has 221 windows, 86 doors and 24 chimneys. It is artistically decorated inside and outside, with woodcarvings on the ceiling, cupboards, railings and shelters. The Konak tower is flower-painted, and the internal and external architectural design, all in pine, walnut and cherry-wood is splendid piece of art of an unknown Rhodope master. According to the legend, his right hand was cut by Agoush, the owner of the Konak, to make sure that the master will not build another similar masterpiece of art. This is the only preserved medieval feudal castle on the Balkan Peninsula. There are some 20 caves near the village, the most interesting of them being the Ultsata (Uhlovitsa) Cave (3km east of the village) noted for its miraculous cascade lakes. The cave is easily accessible. There is regular bus line from the town of Smolyan to the village. 10 km north of the town is located the extremely interesting village of Momchilovtsi. Its authentic Rhodope architecture, the local historic-ethnographic museum, the interesting habits and traditions, its mild and pleasant climate in all seasons, the delicious local culinary gourmets, its fantastic nature, the availability of a number of family type of hotels and other appealing features turn the village into a special site of domestic and international tourism. There is a regular bus line to Smolyan and Chepelare. For further information and hotel reservation one should contact the Momchilovtsi Tourist Information Centre (tel.: 03023 2212, fax 03023 2833). In the middle of the road connecting Smolyan with Roudozem (28 km) is located Mt. Srednogorets (1262 m), called the Rhodope Mt. Shipka. In 1934, a 16-metre high magnificent memorial charnel-vault was erected in honour of the soldiers of the 21st Sredna Gora Infantry Regiment commanded by the legendary Colonel Vladimir Serafimov. During the Balkan War, the above-mentioned military unit, jointly with the population from the neighbouring villages led a heroic battle against the numerous regular Turkish troops, which were times more than the Bulgarians. Colonel Serafimov disobeyed the order of the Chief Command Unit to withdraw, declared: "I will never betray to the enemies the villages, which have welcomed me as a Liberator just one day ago!” St. Atanas Monastery and the legendary peak of Kralyov Kamuk are located to the south in the Rhodope Ridge of Kainadina. Smolyan serves as a starting point for a number of tourist routes in the neighbouring hills and ridges of Western Rhodope Mountains (refer to the Rhodope Mountains related chapter herein). The town is also a centre of the emerging national recreation and tourist complex Orpheus, enclosing in its boundaries a significant part of the most beautiful Western Rhodope landscapes.

Devin (top)
Intro:
The town of Devin (6018 inhabitants; 710 m above sea level) is situated on the two banks of Devinska River, in a small hilly valley in the very heart of the Rhodope Mountain.

Full text:
It is 196 km south-east of the capital city, 46 km north-west of Smolyan, 57 km and 82 km south of Krichim and Pazardzhik respectively, and 40 km north-east of Dospat. The town is a well-known balneology resort.

History. As early as the Thracian period an ancient settlement and a sanctuary existed at that place. The ancient settlement was situated in the present boundaries of Selishte Area, on the left bank of Vucha River and was then called Diove. When the Slavs came, they gave it the name of Dyovlen, meaning most probably a small valley, narrow lowland. The village was desolated during the attempts to convert the Bulgarian population to Islam in 1666-1671. Some of the inhabitants of the old village moved to the Vlas’ huts, where they laid the foundations of the present town. A Medieval necropolis dating back to 13th-14th century was found in the centre of the town. The names of the surrounding localities and peaks prove that this land was populated by Bulgarians ever since. The most ancient document, which mentions the name of Devin, is of Turkish origin and represents a list of dzhelepkeshani (cattle breeders) in 1576. There are no other documents on the remote past of the settlement - most probably, they were destroyed during the two devastating fires, which burnt almost everything to ashes in 1904 and 1912. The town was under Turkish Rule until the year 1912. After 1912, many newcomers moved from the surrounding villages to Devin and thus they helped its economic growth. The town was named Dyovlen up to 1934. Present. There is no other town in Bulgaria and on the Balkan Peninsula with so many healing mineral springs. At the same time its microclimate is one of the healthiest climates at all – the rocky and green hills prevent the town from the strong and cold north-west winds, there is a great number of sunny days within the year, the winter is extremely mild, the summer is cool and there is not a single industrial polluter. The proximity of the beautiful coniferous forests, the rivers, exuberant in trout, the wild ghosts (a scene, quite seldom for the Rhodope Mountains) and last but least, the hospitality of the local mountain dwellers give a final touch to this favourable picture. All these predetermine the development of the town as an extremely promising balneology and mountainous resort of national and international significance. This resort is strongly popular in the Scandinavian countries. It has its balneology sanatorium and open-air mineral beach.

Landmarks: The Town Museum of History (40, Osvobozhdenie Street, in the central part of the town). St. Georgi Chapel dates back to 18th century (in the western part of the town, close to the stadium). St. Joan Rilski Church (10, Drouzhba Street, in the central part of the town).

Accommodation: Grebenets Hotel (2A, Drouzhba Str, in the central part of the town) is the largest hotel in Devin. Manolov Hotel (50, Osvobozhdenie Str, in the central part of the town). There are family type hotels in the town as well as private lodgings, available for tourists and visitors. There are also sufficient catering and entertainment facilities.

Tourist Information: Tourist Information Centre, 4800 Devin (5, Osvobozhdenie Street, tel.: 03041 4161, fax: 03041 3902). Orpheus Tourist Association (46, Osvobozhdenie Street, tel.: 03041 2751), as well as at the hotels.

Transport. The only public transport available in Devin is the bus transport. It has regular bus lines to Pazardzhik, Plovdiv, Krichim, Smolyan, Dospat, Gotse Delchev, Shiroka Luka, Pamporovo and other smaller villages within the region. The bus station is at the very entrance of the town, on the right bank of the river (24, Osvobozhdenie Street).

Surrounding areas. 22 km to the southeast is the Village of Shiroka Luka Architecture and Ethnographic Reserve (refer to the Rhodope Mountains related chapter herein). Only 8 km away from the town, in this same direction, are the Bedenski Mineral Baths - all the buses to Shiroka Luka, Smolyan and Pamporovo have stops there. 30 km south of Devin one can see a cluster of miracles of the Rhodope Mountain. Against the flow of the Vucha River one can reach the place where its two springs merge - Trigradska and Bouinovska Rivers. For million of years the two rivers had cut out some fantastic canyons, each of them "garnished" by a magnificent cave. The right tributary (viewed along the flow of the river) is the Trigradska River, which had deeply cut in the marble rocks the famous Trigrad Gorge, several kilometers long. Before entering it, the river falls into the Dyavolskoto Gurlo (Devil's Throat) - a fantastic cave, where, along the following 7000 meters, the water forms some 18 waterfalls and passing through the enormous Roaring Hall exits into the canyon. This miracle of nature is electrified and can be visited against a symbolic fee. 1.5 km south of the town is the Trigradski Skali Chalet and one can make a reservation at the Tourist Association in Devin. Visitors can use the regular bus line from Devin to the village of Trigrad, which has a bus stop close to the chalet. The other river, the Bouinovska, had created not the less beautiful Bouynovsko Gorge, and a little far above it, close to the cross-section to the village of Yagodina is the Yagodinska Cave, famous for its unique shapes - cave pearls and stony roses. The cave is electrified. For this tour, one can use the regular buses from Devin to the village of Yagodina. Within a 2-hour walk from the town of Devin against the flow of Devin River one can reach the ruins of the Kaoursko Kale - an old, inaccessible Bulgarian fortress (built in 8th-10th century), which remained unconquered for entire 40 days in the battles with the Ottoman invaders. From the kale the path goes along the entire gorge (15 km) passing close to the Minaretash - a vertical rock on the left bank of the river, with a diameter at its basement of 30 meters and some 150 meters height, and reaches the famous Kemerov Bridge. There are some fisheries and premises, and along the road passing there, one can reach the village of Borino or climb up the marked track to the Orpheus Chalet (about 2 hours). Devin serves as a starting point to other marked hiking tracks in the Velish-Videnish sub-part of the Western Rhodopes (refer to the Rhodope Mountains related chapter herein).

Pavel Banya (top)
Intro:
Pavel Banya (about 4000 inhabitants; 350 m above sea level) is a town located in the Kazanluk valley to the east of the illustrious Valley of the Roses and on the banks of the Tundzha River.

Full text:
The northern slopes of the Surnena Sredna Gora start to the south of it. The town is 185 km from Sofia, 22 km to the west of Kazanluk, 24 km from Kalofer, 54 km south from Gabrovo, 86 km to the north of the city of Plovdiv and only 4 km from the main Sofia-Karlovo-Bourgas motorway. It is a balneological and mineral water centre of national and international importance.

History. Historical data on the settlement is scarce but excavations (during the construction of the new sanatorium - 1939-1940) brought to light remains of a Roman bath and an ancient Christian church, which seem to indicate that local mineral waters were in active use as early as the days of the Roman Empire. The settlement, as it is today, was founded during the Russian-Turkish War of Liberation. Present. Pavel Banya owes its popularity to the healing mineral waters it is endowed with. They spring from seven natural and drilled-in sources, all having similar chemical composition. Their total output rate is 16 liters per second at the temperature of up to 63°C. Such water is excellent for healing degenerative disorders and inflammations of the joints, chronic rheumatism, infectious arthritis, deforming osteoarthritis, the Behterev syndrome, inflammation of the tendon, of the joint "pockets", post-traumatic and orthopedic conditions, post bone-fracture conditions, post dislocation and post sprain conditions, anchylosis of the joints, inborn problems of the pelvis joints. Treatment results have been particularly effective in cases of deformations resulting from spine problems and the peripheral nervous system, blocked movements of the spine joints with painful and limited ability to move, discopathic states of all kinds - plexus, radiculitis, etc. Diseases of the central nervous system, gynecological problems are successfully treated. One characteristic feature of the Pavel Banya Sanatorium is that it treats - with particular success - disc hernia. The resort hosts a big recuperation centre with more than 500 beds and modern medical equipment. There are many other balneological and supporting facilities. It also has 200 decares of park of various broad-leaved and coniferous trees, close to which there is an open-air sport and beach complex (an Olympic size swimming pool).

Accommodation: The recuperation complex has a 2-star hotel (22 double rooms, 2 single rooms and 2 suites). The Knyaz Pavel Hotel (120 beds in double rooms). Varna Hotel (1, Goze Delchev Str, 16 beds, a snack bar). Zdravets Hotel (10 beds). Motel (40 beds, 4 suites, coffee bar and canteen with a kitchen). The resort has a sufficient number of catering and entertainment facilities.

Tourist information. At the hotels and at the town hall (tel.: 04361 2260, 3260, 2264, 2148, fax 04361 2094 and telex: 88496).

Transport. Bus and railway lines connect Pavel Banya with the remaining part of the country. Hourly buses to and from Kazanluk. Bus routes to following destinations have a stop at the town: Sofia, Plovdiv, Rousse, Sevlievo and Stara Zagora. The bus station is in the very centre of the town. Pavel Banya railway station (4.5 km north of the town, connected with it by regular bus and private van transport) is a stop along the sub-Balkan Sofia-Karlovo-Bourgas railway line.

Surrounding areas. Two kilometers west is the Dubravata Area, covered with mixed fo¬liage and beautiful meadows. Extremely soothing to the heart and the coronary system as well as the lungs with a healing effect long proved. Two kilometers south is the Izvora (the spring), the waters of which have a most healing effect on the excretory system. The village of Touria (another 4 kilometers south) is the birthplace - and house - of the Bulgarian writer Choudomir and the Nashentsi Ethnographic Hall (Our Folks). 6-7 km to the south is located the village of Gabarevo with Dzhananov's House where Vassil Levski established a revolutionary committee in 1869. At present, the house is hosting exhibition of paintings dedicated to the Apostle of Freedom, as well as an exposition of private belongings of Petrana Klissourova - a graphic painter and poetess. In the neighbouring village of Turnichane, there is a branch of the Kazanluk Art Gallery exhibiting works of the famous painters Dechko Stoev, Stefan Yankoulov, Hristo Forev, the sculptures of Ivan Topalov, as well as the permanent exhibition of the natural wood-plastics of the artist Hristo Yotov. In the village of Gorno Sahrane (7 km to the north) is the "Bate Mitko" entertainment establishment (bar, discotheque, an open-air pool and an exotic zoo, giving home to crocodiles, a jaguar, turtles, roes, deer, mountain goats, parrots etc. Some 10 kilometers to the south on the way to the town of Rakovski and the city of Plovdiv one can see a rare tree (an interesting natural phenomenon) -the Kichest Gabur Tree (the branchy hornbeam tree), now 160 year old. Pavel Banya is the starting point of numerous tourist tracks, which lead throughout the Stara Planina and Sredna Gora Mountains. From the village of Touria one may follow the track to the Sredna Gora chalets- Bratan Chalet (4 hours) and Kavakliika Chalet (3-hour walk, 17 km by car). Stara Planina can be challenged from the village of Skobelevo (about 10 km north of Pavel Banya) for reaching the Mazalat Chalet (4.30 hours), the Sokolna Chalet can be climbed from the village of Gabarevo (2.30 hours). From the village of Tuzha (15 km northwest of Pavel Banya) one can reach the Roussalka Chalet (2.30 hours, 13 km truck road) and Tuzha Chalet (6 hours walk, 25 km truck road).

Kazanluk (top)
Intro:
Kazanluk (54 021 inhabitants; 350 m above sea level) is a town located in the centre of the valley bearing the same name, whose eastern part is known beyond the boundaries of Bulgaria as the Valley of the Roses.

Full text:
It is about 200 km east of Sofia, 55 km east of Karlovo, 48 km south of Gabrovo, 75 km west of Sliven, 35 km north-west from Stara Zagora and 108 km north-east of Plovdiv. Kazanluk is an important industrial, historical and cultural centre. The town is the Capital of the Roses (rose growing) in our country.

History. The first settlement on the territory of today's Kazanluk was founded in Neolithic times. During the Eneolith and the Bronze Age, life in the settlement went on. It was during the 5th-4th centuries BC that the Thracian town Sevtopolis, bearing the name of the Thracian King Sevt III (now the ancient settlement is under the waters of the Koprinka Dam, 7 km to the west of the town) was announced capital of the Thracian state of the Odrissi (a rich civilisation of the Tonzos valley - today's Toundzha River). From those days are more than 12 burial tombs already found, the most important of which is, by no doubt, the Kazanluk tomb, offering a unique insight into the life of the ancient Thracians. Today's town of Kazanluk was established at the beginning of the 15th century. By the end of the 19th century, Kazanluk had become well known for its production of rose oil, copper plates and household articles, abi (coarse homespun wollen cloth and upper men's garment made of it), gaitani (braids). Due to the loss of markets throughout the Ottoman Empire after the Liberation, the crafts declined to give way to contemporary economic activities.

Landmarks. The Kazanluk Thracian Tomb (dated back to the end of 4th and first half of the 3rd century BC) was excavated in 1944. It is one of the 9 cultural, historic and natural sites in Bulgaria included in the UNESCO list of monuments of global importance. Indeed, it is a masterpiece of the Thracian architecture and painting. It is considered to belong to the "dome-shaped" type of tombs. The tomb is located in the northeastern part of the town in the Tyulbeto Park. It consists of a lobby, corridor and a round-shaped dome-roofed burial tomb. The system of ornaments in the corridor is complex and extremely interesting. The walls are covered with shining, fine plaster and a beautiful fresco - characteristic of the times - of interwoven leaves encircle its upper part. Scenes of war are depicted and in the centre of each one can see two warriors and two more coming from both sides, all of them in their battle attire and weapons. Warriors on horseback are also shown with the particulars of their battle gear and armament. This theme relates to the military and political activities of the deceased. The focal point is the main composition, which describes a burial feast. It is there that one can see a married couple of obvious eminence, painted with great skill and care. They are placed sit but next to them stands a tall woman, presumed to represent the Goddess of land and fertility - Demetra. Numerous figures of wildly galloping horses and battle carts add to the width and depth of the scene. The tomb is embedded into a special protective building, equipped with all the necessary air-conditioning systems for preserving the frescos. Near to the original, a one-to-one copy has been built for mass visitation with working hours 8.00 a.m. - 6.00 p.m. Monday through Friday. Telephone for information: 0431 24700. Another notable tomb is the Muglizh Tomb -3 kilometers west of the small town of Muglizh (regular busses from Kazanluk). It dates back to the 3rd century BC and has an overall length of 23 meters. Iskra Town Museum (Iskra Street, 15) was founded in 1901, exhibits more than 70 000 objects and is one of the oldest in the country. |n 1930 director of the museum became the well-known Bulgarian writer Dimitur Hristov Chorbadzhiiski - Choudomir. At present, it is divided into 5 thematic sections. The Town Art Gallery (located in the same building with the museum) is one of the oldest and richest in the country especially when one takes into account that Kazanluk is the birthplace of such painters as Dechko Uzunov, Nenko Balkanski, Ivan Milev, Choudomir and a number of others. Apart from great pieces of art, the gallery possesses a collection of icons and engravings form the Revival Period as well as a small collection of works from the sphere of the ornamental and applied arts. Branches to the gallery are the nouses of Prof. Nenko Balkanski, and of the national painter Dechko Uzunov both exhibiting unique pieces of art. Choudomir Museum of Literature and Art has a year-round art exhibition called "The life and works of Choudomir" and a picture gallery - appreciation to many talents and nationally important works of Choudomir. The Choudomir Festivities are held in Kazanluk each year from 25th March (the birthday of the author) until the 1st April (Humour and Jokes Day). The Museum of the Rose. The oil-yielding rose was imported in Bulgaria during the 18th century from the Middle East and found the most favourable conditions for growing in the valley of the Toundzha River - between the Stara Planina and the Sredna gora mountain ranges - the valley was later called "Valley of Roses". Founded in 1969, this museum is unique of its kind not only in Bulgaria. It working hours: 8.30 a.m. - 5.00 p.m. all the week round. Each year during the first weekend of June it becomes the focus of attention during the traditional annual Festival of the Rose - the most colourful event in the Town of the Roses. Koulata Ethnographic Complex (the Tower) is located in the oldest quarter of Kazanluk at Knyaz Svetopoli-Mirski Street. Two restored houses were turned into permanent ethnographic expositions - a traditional village house of the sub-Balkan region as from the 19th century and a typical town house (the Hadzhienov's house) of mid 19th century illustrate with their interior the way old Bulgarians lived in this part of the country. St. Joan the Precursor Church was built in 1844. In 1877 the greater part of the frescoes were destroyed. Stefan Ivanov, Nikola Marinov and Dechko Uzunov restored the wall paintings in 1936. Now it exibits two medallions, painted by Choudomir and Mara Chorbadzhiiska as well. The Holy Trinity Church - 1834. St. Iliya the Prophet Church of 1866. In 1877, the bashibozouk (armed volunteers) of the army of Sulleiman Pasha slaughtered more than 200 citizens of Kazanluk, seeking refuge in the church. Their bones are exhibited in the churchyard. The Nunnery Convent (1828) was a hospital for Russian soldiers and Bulgarian volunteers during the Russian-Turkish War of Liberation of 1877 - 1978, many of which were buried in its backyard.

Accommodation: The Kazanluk Hotel (2, Rozova Dolina Blvd.) - 3-star hotel and the biggest in town with its 350 beds. Arsenal Hotel (52, P D. Petkov Str.) - 3-star hotel, offers 2 suites and 21 rooms. Both hotels have their own restaurants. The Moshi Tourist Complex - Krunsko Hanche Motel (3 km north of the town) has 12 double rooms and 4 suits, a restaurant and a bar. Apart from these, the town has many other establishments offering traditional local cuisine: Starata Kushta Restaurant (The Old House) (4, Dr Baev Street), Kestenite Restaurant (The Wallnut tree) (10,19th February Str.) and many others.

Tourist information. Tourist Information Centre - 6100 Kazanluk (4, Knyaz Alexander Batenberg Blvd. - tel.: 0431 24917). Orlovo Gnezdo Tourist Association (10, Acad. P. Stainov Str.), at the hotels.

Transport. Kazanluk is an important transport centre. It is cut across by major motorway Sofia-Karlovo-Burgas and the respective railway line but also by main motorway from Rousse through Veliko Turnovo and Gabrovo in the direction of Stara Zagora, Plovdiv, and Haskovo. There are regular bus routes connecting the town with Gabrovo, Stara Zagora, Karlovo, Plovdiv, Lovech, etc. The bus station (tel.: 0431 22383) and the railway station (tel.: 0431 22012) are close to one another and are located in the southern part of the town.

Surroundings areas. Shipka-Bouzloudzha National Park-Museum was founded in 1956. It includes the Birth of Christ Memorial Church (the Sipka Monastery) nearby the town of Shipka (12 km north of Kazanluk, regular bus line), The Memorial to Freedom on Mt. Shipka (above the Shipka Pass through the Balkan Mountain, 26 km. northwest of Kazanluk, all Kazanluk-Gabrovo busses stop there), and the historical sites nearby - the Monument to Victory and the adjacent park close to the village of Sheinovo (11 km north-west of the town and 3 km south of the town of Shipka, regular bus lines) and the historical places at Mt. Bouzloudzha (17 km north of the town and 12 km to the east of Shipka Pass, no regular bus lines) in the Balkan Mountain. In the surroundings of the town of Shipka, on the southern slopes of the Balkan, Bulgarians have built the Birth of Christ Memorial Church in honour to the heroes of the Russian-Turkish War of Liberation of 1877-1878 - Russian soldiers and Bulgarian volunteers. Its gold plated domes and beautifully ornamented facade stand out against the mountain and attract the attention of all heading for the Shipka Pass. Sanctified on 27 September 1902, the memorial church is built in the Russian clerical architectural style of the 17th century with an entrance fewer than 3 arcs, over which there is a high and impressive belfry. The names of the Russian regiments and the soldiers who gave their lives for the liberation of the country are engraved on 34 marble plates. In the church, one can enjoy Slavic spiritual music and see the permanent exhibit of icons and church plate. Working hours: every day from 8.30 3 m. to 5.30 p.m., Professional guides are available on demand. The Memorial to Freedom stands proud on Mt. Stoletov (1326 meters) to the south of the Shipka Pass in the Balkan Mountain. A stairway of 894 steps gets visitors from the pass to the memorial, built in 1934 with the voluntary support of the whole nation. It is 31.5 meters high and over its main entrance, one can see the proud figure of a bronze lion. The other three sides of this entrance bear inscribed the names of Shipka, Sheinovo and Stara Zagora - the battlefields reminding us of the heroes of war and the feats of Bulgarian volunteers. Working hours: every day from 9.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m. Professional guides available on demand. The Memorial of Freedom is amidst Shipka National Park-Museum. Indeed, few are the museums situated in the very real theatre of battles and Shipka is one of them. It includes all the places and points of interest related to the defence of Shipka Pass and is a complex of memorials, remarks of strategic positions once held, trenches and batteries. The historical and most noted, rocky cliff - Mt. Orlovo Gnezdo is nearby. It became the arena of the decisive and dramatic battle for the pass from 21st to 23rd August 1877, which later inspired the national poet Ivan Vazov to write the immortal poem "Opalchenzite na Shipka" (The Defenders of Shipka) Each year on 3rd March (Bulgarian National Holiday) and on 23rd August (the most dramatic day of the battles and of the whole Russian-Turkish War) national festivities are held. As a result, a whole tourist settlement has emerged through the years. The feat of Russian and Bulgarians during the Russian-Turkish War of Liberation has been honoured by yet another monument - the memorial at the village of Sheinovo. It is built exactly on the spot, where the spontaneous parade of victory was held on 28th December 1877 to mark raising of the white flag by Veissel Pasha and the surrender of his army of 30 000. It is in the form of a sword 15.6 meters high - blade up. The memorial bears engraved the names of Russian and Bulgarian participants in the battles and texts of gratitude as well. Under the historic Mt. Bouzloudzha in the Balkan, stands the memorial to Hadzhi Dimitur and his volunteers, erected on a small meadow on the northern slope of the peak, where all found their death on 2nd August 1868. It is a sculpture of the leader in front of a wall of 28 stone blocks, bearing the names of the dead warriors. There is a whole tourist settlement, including two chalets with the same name - Bouzloudzha. Other points of interest around the town of Kazanluk include St. Paraskeva Church in the village of Enina (4 km north of the town, regular buss line) built during the reign Tsar Assen II - about 1237-1238 and considered the oldest in the district. Several times partially burnt and recovered it owes its notoriety to the manuscripts found therein. St. Nicolai Monastery is close to the town of Muglizh (15 km east of Kazanluk and 2.5 km north of its centre, regular bus lines). It is situated on the bank of Muglizh River and represents an immortal bastion of Bulgarian spirit. The Koprinka Dam is only 6-7 km to the west of the town. There are recreational and tourist facilities built around it - a wonderful place for leisure and sports out in the open air. It is easily accessible by regular bus lines from the town. Kazanluk Mineral Baths (Ovoshtnik) are located 5 km to the east of the town and 2 km south of Ovoshtnik in the immediate vicinity of the Toundzha River. There one will find an open-air mineral beach. Some of the villages adjacent to the town of Kazanluk are departure points of several marked tourist tracks crossing the Shipka Balkan (refer to the Stara Planina related chapter herein).

Stara Zagora (top)
Intro:
Stara Zagora (143 989 inhabitants; 190 meters above sea level) is situated in the northern part of the Gornotrakiiska (Upper Thracian) Plain, immediately under the southern slopes of Surnena Sredna Gora.

Full text:
Along with Kazanluk and Gabrovo, it stands nearly at the ideal centre of the country. The town is located at the distance of 231 km east of Sofia, 90 km north-east of Plovdiv, 70 km south-west of Sliven, 48 km north of Dimitrovgrad and 35 km to the south-east of Kazanluk. Apart from being one of the most ancient towns in Bulgaria, it is a big and important regional industrial and cultural centre.

History. Mostly due to its central position, this town has a rich and most interesting history. In the 6th century BC, it was a major Thracian settlement called Beroe. In the 2nd century the Romans built the town and call it Augusta Trayana (to the name of the emperor Trayan), which is soon to become one of the greatest and most famous towns in Roman Thrace. At the beginning of the 6th century, the town was destroyed, later on to be populated by incoming Slavic tribes, who named it Vereya. For some time in the mid of 8th century was conquered by the Byzantine Empire and renamed again, this time in honour of the Empress - Irinopolis. In the 9th century, the town became an administrative centre of a vast district under the name of Borui. It was as late as the 12th-14th century that the district was named Zagore wherefrom much later its contemporary name derived. Under the Turkish Rule, it was known as Eski Hisar (old fortress) and after 1488 - as EskiZaara ("zaara" meaning a fertile area). During the Revival Stara Zagora is an important economic centre populated by Bulgarians mainly, extremely active in the sphere of Bulgarian educational revival and national liberation movement. Among the teacher in the five-class primary school of 1859 are the esteemed enlighteners Neofit Rilski, Ivan Bogorov, P. R. Slaveikov and among the pupils, one reads the names of Vassil Levski and Raina Popgeorgieva. A revolutionary committee was established in town and it was headed by Kolyo Ganchev, Georgi Apostolov and the Zhekov Brothers under the leadership of Stefan Stambolov and Georgi Ikonomov but due to treason, the planned uprising failed before it was to start. For the third time in its history, Stara Zagora was put to the torch and turned to ashes during the Russian-Turkish War of Liberation. After the Liberation, the town was built yet once again in the fashion of straight geometrical system - straight streets crossing in perpendicular. The Czheck urbaniser Loubor Bayer worked out the town plan. The principles laid therein are further observed in the construction works, which makes the town unique in Bulgaria. Stara Zagora is the birthplace of the poets Kiril Hristov, Nikolai Liliev, Vesselin Hanchev, of the singer Hristina Morphova; of the painters Anton and Georgi Mitovi, Atanas Mihov, Mario Zhekov. It is commonly known as the "town of lime-trees and poets".

Landmarks. The Town Museum of History (11, Graf Ignatief Str., tel.: 042 44081, 23931). The Bereketska Mogila (Hill) (west of Kolyo Ganchev Quarter) is the biggest prehistoric settlement excavated in Bulgaria. It is 17 meters high; its diametrical dimensions at the base are over 250 meters. Close to the District Hospital (16, Armeiska Street or Bareiro Street), scientists have found the biggest dwelling mounds in Bulgaria. Therein were the remains of two ancient dwellings dated back to the neolith - the middle of the 6th millennium BC and they are the best preserved such finds in Europe to date. Working hours: 9 a.m. -12 a.m. and 2 p.m. - 5 p.m. Tuesday to Friday. The antique forum Augusta Trayana (The Bishop Methodi Kousev Blvd., on the back of the Law Court) is one of the most monumental facilities built in the Roman city of Augusta Trayana. Working hours: 9 a.m. -12 a.m. and 2 p.m. - 5 p.m. Tuesday to Friday. Late antiquity floorage mosaic – 4th century (Gen. Stoletov Street, behind the Opera House). Preserved is only the guest hall of a rich house, situated in the centre of Augusta Trayana. Only the floor has stood up to the decay of time and it is in an impressive and lavishly ornamented square hall of about 10 x 10 meters. The composition, the colours chosen and the craftsmanship employed make it one of the most impressive examples of provincial Roman art of the 6th century. Working hours: 9 a.m. -12 a.m. and 2 p.m. - 5 p.m. from Tuesday to Friday. Late antiquity municipal building with mosaics (4th – 6th century) can be seen in the cash hall of the Central Post Office, where archaeologists have excavated a big building of the southeastern end of Augusta Trayana in the immediate vicinity of the city walls. The floor of this official building is covered with a colourful mosaic, which employs allegorical and zoological symbols to represent and illustrate the seasons of the year and the endless spiral of life. Working hours: 9 a.m. - a.m. and 2 p.m. - 5 p.m. Tuesday to Friday. The Defenders of Stara Zagora 1877 Memorial Complex is a 50-meter high monument erected in 1977 on the historical Chadar Hill to commemorate 100 years from fierce battle for the liberation of the country during the Russian-Turkish War of 1877-1878 when the Bulgarian volunteers, waving the national colour - the sacred Samara Flag - went to their maiden battle. It stands proud in the Bulgarsko Opulchenie Park on the outskirts of the town. Youri Gagarin Astronomic Observatory and Planetarium (located on the top floor of the High School of Foreign Languages "R. Rolane"). The Art Gallery (110, Tsar Simeon the Great Blvd., tel: 042 22843, 21380) hosts more than 4000 works of art from all genres. The golden fund of the gallery keeps a rich collection of medieval Bulgarian icons and prints as well as works from Georgi Danchov, Stansilav Dospevski, the Mitov Brothers, Ivan Penkov, Tseno Todorov, Vladimir Dimitrov - the Master, David Perez, Dechko Uzunov, etc. (Working hours: 9 a.m. -12 a.m. and 2 p.m. - 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday). The Hilendar Convent ( tel.: 042 32086) is a reconstruction of the original convent with the Hilendar Monastery at Sveta Gora, which actually functioned in the town before being finally burned down when the town was put on fire. In those days, Levski lived there for three years. A central place has the exhibition "Levski in Stara Zagora". (Working hours: 9 a.m. -12 a.m. and 2 p.m. - 5 p.m. Tuesday to Friday. The House-Museum "Town Life in the 19th century( close to the centre of the town) is located in Hadzhiangelov's House, which was built in 1883 by a master-builder from Debur and is a typical representative of the later type of symmetrical architecture with no portico. (Working hours: 9 a.m. -12 a.m. and 2 p.m. - 5 p.m. Tuesday to Friday. Geo Milev House Museum (37, Geo Milev Str., tel.: 042 23450) is a rich, modern and well arranged museum to visit. (Working hours: 8.30 a.m. - 4.30 p.m. Monday through Saturday). Metodii Koussev Park (Ayazmoto - the Spring) is a big, artificial green park arranged over the slopes of the Sredna Gora in the northern part of the town. Its creator was the notable restoration activist Bishop Metodii Koussev and planting began in 1895. Today the park spreads over an area of 2600 decares and is a true botanical garden with various kinds of trees and flowers from all over the world. In the park there are the St. Theodor Tiron Church, the memorial to Aleko Konstantinov, a zoo, jogging alleys, sport facilities and is an excellent place for outdoor recreation among exotic nature. Metodii Koussev Memorial (1838-1922) is the work of the sculptor Valentin Starchev and the architect Tanko Serafimov. The opening ceremony was held on 1 November 1996. Stara Zagora is a big cultural centre. The Geo Milev Theatre of Drama (Bishop Metodii Koussev Blvd.) stages its plays in the beautiful building of the Old Theatre House in the centre of the town. The State Opera House (111, Gen. Stoletov Street, tel: 042 24416, 29584, tel. /fax: 042 41015). The State Puppet Theatre (46, Gen. Gourko Street). Stara Zagora is a university centre, as well.

Accommodation: Ezeroto Complex (60, Bratya Zhekovi Street). Vereya Hotel (100, Tsar Simeon the Great Street, in the centre, the biggest hotel in town). Zheleznik Hotel (1, Peter Parchevich Street) Char Hotel (12, Kamenev Street). All hotels have restaurants offering national cuisine.

Tourist information. At the Council on Tourism (6000 Stara Zagora, 107, Tsar Simeon Blvd., tel.: 042 39603, 26864), at Surnena Gora Tourist Association (62, Tsar Simeon Blvd., tel.: 042 38435).

Transport. Being an important transport junction the town maintains contacts with the other parts of the country by road and rail. Regular bus lines to the towns (Plovdiv, Kazanluk, Sliven, Chirpan, Nova Zagora, Dimitrovgrad, and Haskovo) and the villages in the region. The major motorway Sofia - Plovdiv - Bourgas and the road from Rousse to Kurdzhali cross the town. The bus station (64, Slavyanski Blvd., tel.: 042 22145, 22149) and the railway station (20, Gerasim Papazchev Str, tel.: 042 50145, 26752) are near-by each other in the southern part of the town. Railway routes to Plovdiv and Sofia, to Bourgas and Toulovo start from the town, from where one can join Sofia - Karlovo - Bourgas railway line. Stara Zagora Airport (no regular flights at present, Kolyo Ganchev Quarter) is located at the very outskirts of the town. Stara Zagora has a very well organised inter-city transport.

Surrounding areas. Stara Zagora Mineral Baths is a balneological resort, 15 km northwest of the town with an open mineral pool and numerous opportunities for recuperation and rest, boarding and entertainment. In the immediate vicinity a Roman bath from the 2nd century (161 163) was found, which the citizens of ancient Augusta Trayana used. In the area of Mechi Kladenets (Bear's Well) archaeologists have discovered old copper mines (from the Copper-Bronze Age - the 4th millennium BC), which are one of the oldest and biggest of their kind in Europe. The resort is a departure point for a whole-day hiking tour to Kavakliika Chalet in the Surnena Sredna Gora Mountain. The baths are reached by regular town bus line. The resort village of Yagoda is located 20 kilometers north of Stara Zagora - it has an open-air mineral pool. One can get to it by passing through the 14-kilometer long historical Zmeevski Pass, by the famous village of Zmeevo known for its excellent zmeevski white pelin wine. All buses between Stara Zagora and Kazanluk can be taken, as well as the train for Toulovo.

Chirpan (top)
Intro:
Chirpan (20 468 citizens; 180 meters above sea level) is located in the central part of the Gornotrakiiska (Upper Thracian) Plain mostly along the left bank of Tekirska River.

Full text:
It is located 201 km southeast of Sofia, 51 km east from Plovdiv and 39 km south-west of Stara Zagora. It is the birthplace of the great Bulgarian poet Peyo Yavorov.

History. Chirpan is considered the heir to the Roman settlement Sherampol, which was established close to the Roman town of Pizus (the Hissarluka Area close to the village of Rupkite, 7 kilometers to the north of today's Chirpan). It has been accepted that Sherampol (translated "the city of nice friends") was established by fleeing refugees. The present name of the town is supposed to derive from the Roman Sheramnol although today’s town emerged at a much later stage - most probably in the 17th century around Tekira Springs under the name of Dzherpan. During the Bulgarian Revival (18th – 19th century) the settlement grew as a town with well-developed agriculture and crafts. During the struggle for independence of the Bulgarian Church, it was the people of Chirpan who gave the first sacrifices - Velko Boyadziyata and Kaba Ivan. After the Liberation, crafts were in decay due to the loss of markets in the Ottoman Empire but in their place, vine growing and winemaking underwent a rapid development. The town was severely hit by the earthquake of 1928. It is the birthplace of the great Bulgarian lyric and revolutionary Peyo Kracholov Yavorov, of the painter Georgi Danchov - Zografina, one of Levski's comrades, of the painter Nikola Manev known far beyond Bulgarian borders and of the poet Dimitur Danailov.

Landmarks. There are several museums - The Museum of History and Archaeology; P. K. Yavorov House-Museum (22, Kracholovi Street, in the centre of the town). Among the personal belongings are the inkpot and the watch of the poet as well as a part of his library. The house of G. Danchov (the centre of the town, now an entertainment establishment offering Bulgarian cuisine) is a supreme example of Bulgarian Revival Art. Tyankov's House and Manchev's House stand out with their exceptional architectural design of the past century. One of the few remaining horse-driven mills in the country is preserved in the yard of the latter. Both houses are now modern restaurants with authentic 19th century interior, which make them unique attractions to all visitors. One of the most interesting and best-preserved houses from the beginning of the 20th century now hosts Bulbank Office. The Holy Mother Church, built in 1846 is one of the four oldest churches of its kind in the town. Every year Chirpan celebrates January Days of Yavorov - a festival of literature and art in honour of the great poet. Every odd year the town hosts the Atanaska Todorova National Contest for Country Music Performers in memory of the great Chirpan-born singer.

Accommodation: Chirpan Hotel (3-star, 9, Yavorov Str.). The town has good restaurants and entertainment facilities among which one may note the 3-star Park Tavern, located in the town's central park.

Tourist intormation - at the hotels, at the Town Hall (1, Suedinenie Blvd. at the very centre of Chirpan) as well as at Srednogorets Tourist Association (in the centre, tel.: 0416 2425).

Transport. Chirpan is located on the major motor- and railway line Sofia - Plovdiv -Bourgas and maintains regular bus connections with Plovdiv, Stara Zagora, Dimitrovgrad, Haskovo, Purvomai and other towns in the region. The bus station (Industrial Quarter, R K. Yavorov Street) and the railway station are near in the eastern part of the town. All express and passenger trains stop at Chirpan railway station.

Surrounding areas. Merichleri Balneological Resort is located 17 kilometers to the east of the town. Its mineral waters have a temperature of 34°C and an output rate of 12-15 liters/min. The water is excellent for curing intestinal diseases, liver and gall disorders. One can reach the resort by the regular bus or by the train to Dimitrovgrad. 8 km northeast of Chirpan, one can visit the remains of the Roman fortress (Sherampol -see the text above). The Granitski oak-tree is the oldest tree in Bulgaria (over 1600 years of age) and stands in the village of Granit (20 kilometers north-west of the town, easily accessible by regular bus). The Kamenna Svatba (the "stone wedding") is a natural phenomenon of stone 25 km north-west of Chirpan and 2 km from the village of Medovo with regular bus lines. Yagach Hunting Park (5 km west of the town) is an excellent place for recreation, sports and hunting. There is a municipality owned villa where - against modest prices -one may check-in for the night. The Ethnographic Museum in the village of Spassovo (8 km to the north with regular bus lines) is another point of interest; the key is hold at the mayor's office) – all of them situated in the centre of the town

Dimitrovgrad (top)
Intro:
Dimitrovgrad (45 918 inhabitants; 100 meters above sea level) is a town in the very heart of the Gornotrakiiska (Upper Thracian) Plain on both sides of the Maritsa River.

Full text:
It is located at the distance of 48 km to the south of Stara Zagora, 78 km east of Plovdiv, 13 km north of Haskovo, 215 km west of Bourgas and 220 km to the southeast of the city of Sofia. It is an important industrial centre and one of the youngest towns in Bulgaria. It is also a regional administrative centre.

History. The birth date of this town is well known - 3 April 1947, when the villages of Rakovski, Mariino and Chernokonyovo (earlier called the "Small Batak" due to its suffering from the Ottoman invaders) were united to place the foundations of what Dimitrovgrad is today. It was named after Georgi Dimitrov. The vast deposits of lignite and lime as well as the proximity of the waters of the Maritsa River were the base for the construction of cement and chemical plants. Thousands of young people, called "brigadiri" came to participate in the construction works and populated the town. Apart from being a centre of industry, Dimitrovgrad developed as a powerful vegetable-producing region - the second in the country after Plovdiv. In 1957, the town elected a representative, participated in the Constituent Congress of the World Federation for the Fraternity of Towns, and became one of its founders. The town is also associated with the esteemed poet - Penyo Penev, called the poet with the "vatenka" (a coarse thick upper garment usually worn by builders).

Landmarks. The Museum of History (7, St. Climent Ohridski Street, working hours: 9 a.m. -12 a.m. and 2 p.m. - 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, no entrance fee). The Penyo Penev House-Museum is situated on the floor of the building, where the poet lived and exhibit shows his life and works (9, D. Blagoev Blvd., working hours: 9a.m. – 12 a.m. and 2p.m. – 5p.m., Monday to Friday, no entrance fee). The Apostol Karamitev Theatre of Drama (13, D. Blagoev Blvd., opposite the railway station, P.O. box 88). Jordano Bruno Planetarium is the first such facility in the country, opened in 1962 (Vaptsarov Park, tel.: 0391 26180, no entrance fee). St. Dimitur Church was built in 1880-1884. It is a three-nave basilica, which can be visited every day from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. It is located at Rakovski Blvd., in the very centre of the town. Interesting because of its architecture is the Rotunda- a modern building touching the town hall. It is located at the downtown square. Dimitrovgrad is one of the greenest towns in Bulgaria. There are more than 4 500 decares of parks and gardens. The Maritsa Park is on the right bank of the river, the oldest is the Vaptsarov Park, while the most interesting and picturesque one is the well-known Penyo Penev Park. Every two years since 1970 the town hosts the so-called Days of Poetry, during which poets contest for the prize "Penyo Penev". It is interesting to note that the first winner of this prize was the poet Damyan Damyanov. Since 1980, Dimitrovgrad also hosts the Bulgarian Theatrical Poster Exhibition and Contest.

Accommodation: The town has two 3-star hotels - Moskva Hotel (11, D. Blagoev Blvd. in the centre, opposite the railway station) and Aphrodite Hotel (in Vaptsarov Park). The least expensive and unpretentious is the Trakons-FZS Hotel (2, S. Stambolov Blvd., opposite the central bus station and close to the well-known Sunday Marketplace). All three hotels have their own restaurants and coffee bars. Penyo Penev tourist house offers 64 beds in two suites and double rooms (15-minute walk from the railway station into the park).

Transport. Dimitrovgrad maintains regular bus lines to Sofia, Plovdiv, Varna, Bourgas, Stara Zagora and Haskovo as well as to the smaller towns and villages in the region. The Group Transport Company maintains bus routes to many countries in Europe, as well. The central bus station (D. Blagoev Blvd., tel.: 0391 23687, 23861, 23187; the bus station to Haskovo (D. Blagoev Blvd., next to the police office). Dimitrovgrad can be reached through the Sofia - Plovdiv - Svilengrad and Rousse - Toulovo - Podkova railway lines, as well as their international extensions. It has well-organised bus transport.

Surrounding areas. The Sanctuary of the Nymphs is located 15 km southeast of the town (nearby the village of Kasnakovo). It is a Thracian monument of culture of great national importance and consists of cult-related buildings (2nd century), an inn (3rd century), amphitheatre (4th century) and an interesting architectural decision uniting the three natural springs. Regular bus line is available. 16 km to the northwest of the town one can visit the Merichleri Mineral Spring (refer to Chirpan section herein). Regular bus line from the town is available. The Izvora Na Belonogata Tourist Complex (The Spring of the White-legged Maiden) is located 35 kilometers southeast of Dimitrovgrad (near the town of Harmanli). Regular bus and railway transport available. 20 km to the south-west one can visit Haskovo Mineral Baths (refer to Haskovo section herein), accessible by regular bus lines.

Haskovo (top)
Intro:
Haskovo (population: 80 870; 200 meters above sea level) is located at the banks of Haskovska River, among Haskovo Hills at the foothills of the Eastern Rhodopes.

Full text:
The town is 225 km and 75 km to the south-east of Sofia and Plovdiv, respectively; 64 km and 16 km south of Stara Zagora and Dimitrovgrad, respectively; 50 km north-east of Kurdzhali and 70 km north-west of Svilengrad. It is one of the oldest settlements is Bulgaria (in 1985 Haskovo celebrated it 1000th anniversary). It is a regional administrative centre.

History. The first settlement on this territory dates back to around 7 000 years BC in the neolith period. Throughout its existence, the town experienced innumerable periods of revival and decay. During the first half of 13th century near Haskovo, history witnessed one of the most successful battles in Bulgarian history - the Battle of Klokotnitsa (nearby the village bearing the same name). On 9th March 1230 Tsar Ivan Assen II (1218-1241) inflicted a smashing defeat of the Byzantine Empire, which had violated the peace treaty. The battle at Klokotnitsa later proved to have been an event of immense importance for the entire future of Bulgaria. The town developed into a settlement of artisans although much smaller than the near village of Uzundzhovo, which hosted a big fair. In fact, during some time Haskovo was called "Haskyoi by Uzundzovo". The town was liberated on 19 January 1878 by General Gourko's army. After the Balkan Wars, the population of the town grew rapidly because of the incoming refugees from Aegean Thrace. Gradually, it developed as the tobacco-producing centre in Bulgaria. The town is the birthplace of the noted Bulgarian scientist and social activist - Prof. Assen Zlatarov and the famous violin player Nedyalka Simeonova.

Landmarks. The Museum of History (Svoboda Sq., tel.: 038 32067) exhibiting sections in: "Archaeology", "Ethnography "The Revival and the National Liberation Movement", "19th Century Town Life (in the Paskalev's House, 9, Bratya Minchevi Street), "Home Crafts - up to the end of 19th century" (in the Shishmanov's House), and "Prof. Doctor Assen Zlatarov". Working hours: 9 a.m. -12 a.m. and 2 p.m. 5 p.m. The Gourkov's House, now the Composers' Club (59, Benkovski Street). The Museum of Literature (32 Dobroudzha Str., tel.: 038 24241, 29877). St. Archangel Mihail Church (Tsar Osvoboditel Street) with precious frescoes and woodcarvings. St. Holy Mother Church built in 1837 (Bratya Minchevi Street, working hours: 7 am- 7 p.m.). The Art Gallery (43, Tsar Osvoboditel Street). Haskovo has two theatre houses - Ivan Dimov Theatre of Drama (40, Otets Paisii Street) and the Puppet Theatre "Kutsoto Petle" ("the lame cockerel"). The town is a university centre and hosts the Territorial Systems and Administration Faculty with the University of National and World Economy, Sofia.

Accommodation: Aida Hotel Complex (3-star, 1, Svoboda Blvd.). Romantika Hotel (3-star, in Kenana Park). Klokotnitsa Motel (3-star, northwest of the town, on E 80 motorway). Drouzhba Hotel Complex (in Kenana Park). The Rhodopes Hotel Complex (39, Bulgaria Blvd.). Andy Motel (210, Osvobozhdenie Blvd.). Oscar Hotel (20A, Tsar Osvoboditel Street). Tony- M Hotel (32, Suedinenie Blvd., Entr. A, Apt. 15). Hadzhi Passeva Hotel (1, Aleko Konstantinov Street); Kenana Tourist House (in the Kenana Park, offering 100 beds in rooms with 2, 3, 4 and 5 beds). Haskovo has many establishments, offering traditional Bulgarian cuisine. Some of the best known are Aida Restaurant (4-star, 1, Svoboda Sq.). Gourkova Kushta Restaurant (3-star, 6, Gen. Gourko Street). Divo Kozle Restaurant (3-star, in the Kenana Park).

Tourist information. Aida Tourist Association (2, Sredna Gora Street, tel.: 038 32120, 24858) and at the hotels, as well.

Transport. Haskovo has bus and railway transport facilities. This is a stop along the Trans-European motorway to the Middle East. Over 54 bus lines ensure the transport connections with Dimitrovgrad, Harmanli, Lyubimets, Svilengrad, Stambolov and many other towns and villages in and outside of the region. The bus station is located at 11, Suedinenie Blvd. (tel.: 038 22393, 42452) and not far from there is the railway station (27, Suedinenie Blvd., in the eastern part of the town, tel.: 038 24125, 29787). The town is a station along the Rousse - Toulovo - Podkova railway line. Apart from the central railway station, there are several other stops on the territory of the town. 11 regular bus and trolley inter-town lines line operate within Haskovo.

Surrounding areas. Kenana Park is a beautiful natural park adjacent to the town offering excellent opportunities for recreation, sports and tourism, located 2 kilometers south-west of the town. The Haskovo Mineral Baths is a balneological resort of national importance, located 15 kilometers west of the town (regular, hourly bus line to Haskovo). The 12 mineral water springs have a temperature of 48.5°C and an output rate of 35 liters per second. The water is excellent for joint and other bone-structure (spinal) disorders and some gynecological deceases are cured, as well. There is an open-air mineral pool. The resort is a starting point for hiking tours along marked tracks through the Eastern Rhodopes (refer to the Rhodope Mountains related chapter herein). From the Baths, one can reach the Sharapanite in about an hour walk. The Sharapani are unique Thracian wineries - enormous grape vessels carved out in plain rock and connected with channels for transporting the fluid (1st millennium BC). 7 kilometers to the north-West of the town and 2 kilometers from the village of Klokotnitsa one can find the remains of the Assenova Krepost (Hissarya) (The fortress of Tsar Ivan Assen II) as well as the memorial in honour of the battle of 1230, when Tsar Ivan Asen II captured the Despot of Epir - Theodor Komnin. Close by is a big tourist complex. Regular bus lines to Haskovo. 20 kilometers away from Haskovo, nearby the village of Alexandrovo, immediately by Maritsa Motorway connecting Europe with Asia, the scientists have excavated a domed Thracian tomb dating back to the second half of the 4th century BC. The wall is covered with paintings displaying hunting scenes with 7 riders, 4 people on foot, 2 deer, 2 wild boars and 9 hunt dogs. The scenes are of unique artistic value, true, expressive, and unparalleled in the Thracian art up to now. The Sanctuary of the Nymphs is located 10 kilometers to the north-west of the town, near the village of Kasnakovo (refer to Dimitrovgrad section herein). Izvora na Belonogata Tourist Complex is 37 km east of Haskovo (4 km east of Harmanli). Remarkable is the old drinking fountain built in 1585 the legend of which inspired the great Bulgarian poet R R. Slaveikov to write the poem of the same name, translated as "The spring of the white-legged maiden" which gave the name of the tourist complex. Accessible by regular bus lines.


Kurdzhali (top)
Intro:
Kurdzhali (45 729 inhabitants; 240 meters above sea level) is located in the very heart of the Eastern Rhodopes, along the two banks of the Arda River, on both sides of which are the two big dams - Studen Kladenez Dam to the east and Kurdzhali Dam to the south.

Full text:
The town on the Arda River is situated at the distance of 250 km, 100 km and 81 km southeast of Sofia, Plovdiv and Assenovgrad, respectively, 66 km and 50 km south-west of Dimitrovgrad and Haskovo, respectively, and only 15 km north of Momchilgrad. Kurdzhali is a regional administrative centre.

History. This place had been a settlement as early as 6 000 years ago. Prehistoric remains of human life as well as ample examples of the presence of Thracian, Roman and Byzantine culture have been found plus medieval Bulgarian and late-Ottoman remains. The first historical finds are associated with the Thracian tribe koelaleti, subdued by the Romans during 1st century. Then the Slavic tribe of Smoleni came. During the Middle Ages the settlement frequently shifted under Bulgarian or Byzanitine rule. Bulgarian presence is proved by the unique 3-navel Bulgarian basilica found in Vessel-chain Quarter of the town dated to the 11th-12th century. This town quarter is heir of medieval Bulgarian town Munyak demonstrating an architectural style, similar to that of Preslav, Messemvria and Turnovo. In the 14th century the settlement was conquered by the Turks, and in 1379, it was populated by colonists from Asia Minor. In the middle of the 17th century, the town was ruled by Kurdzhi Ali - a noted army leader. It is supposed that the town was named after him. During the 18th century bloodthirsty kurdzhalii gangs (Turkish brigands), which ruined not one and two prospering Bulgarian villages, used to gather in the town, in January 1878 the Don Cossacks of General Chernobouzov liberated the town, which was to remain within the Eastern Rumelia part of the country, as agreed under the Berlin Treaty. In 1886, it is given to Turkey again as a compensation for the Union (1885). On 8th October 1912 the soldiers of colonel Delov's regiment liberated the town for the second and last time. Gradually, Kurdzhali became the "tobacco warehouse of the Eastern Rhodopes" and later a centre for the development of Bulgarian non-ferrous metallurgy.

Landmarks. The Bulgarian Basilica St.Joan the Precursor (11th-12th century) is located in the Vesselchane Quarter of the town. At the end of 1998 during continuing excavations a unique find was brought to the surface in it - the burial tomb of a senior Christian bishop (dated back to end of the 12th or the beginning of the 13th century) wearing his gold-knitted clerical attire. There are only three more dresses of this kind in the world but this has proved to be the first find of its kind in a burial tomb. A fantastic archaeological find! In the former konak (the Turkish town hall built around 1870) with its interesting exterior architecture one can visit the Museum of History (4, Republikanska Street). The Picture Gallery (Republikanska Street, working hours: 9 a.m. -12 a.m. and 2 p.m. - 5.30 pm.) hosts the works of such painters as Vladimir Dimitrov - the Master, Kiril Tsonev, Rachko Uzunov, Svetlin Roussev, V. Decheva, Q. Kirov and others, as well as icons, prints and church plates. Kurdzhali has two theatres - the Dimitur Dimov Theatre of Drama (1, Bulair Street) and the Puppet Theatre (17, Trakia Blvd., tel.: 0361 22013). There are several senior schools in the town for teachers, nurses and midwives.

Accommodation: Arpezos Hotel Complex (on the left bank of the river, 46, Republikanska Street). Oustra Hotel (1, Gen Delov Street, not far from the stadium).

Tourist information can be obtained at the hotels and at Mircho Spassov Tourist Association (Otez Paisii Street, Block 2, tel.: 0361 26719, 24859, 25629).

Transport. Bus and railway lines connect Kurdzhali to closer and far-off towns, cities and villages in Bulgaria. There are regular bus lines to Plovdiv, Haskovo, Smolyan, Ardino, Momchilgrad, Kroumovgrad, Ivailovgrad and other smaller towns in the region. Through the Makaza Pass, the town is connected to the Greek Mediterranean. The bus station (94, Bulgaria Blvd.) and the railway station (98, Bulgaria Blvd., tel.: 0361 24095) are close by in the southeastern part of the town. Kurdzhali is a stop along the Rousse - Tulovo - Podkova railway line.

Surrounding areas. The two big dams on both sides of the town are excellent places for recreation, sports, tourism and entertainment. Numerous rest homes, country houses, catering establishments, roads, and a tourist chalet (Borovitsa Chalet on the Kurdzhali Dam, 18 km out of town, tel.: 0361 26719, 24859, 25629 in the tourist association). Several tourist entertainment ships cross both dams... After the wall of the Studen Kladenets Dam (Cold Well), one can see the incredibly narrow canyon of the Arda River, called Devil's Bridge (one can get there by bus or enjoy the sight from a ship). Close to the village of Zimzelen, 5 km north-east of the town, visitors can see another of natures wildest whims - the natural earthen Kurdzhali Pyramids They are scattered on a steep slope over a wide area and are of most different size and shape (Gubite - The mushrooms, Vkamenenata Svatba - The stoned wedding, etc.), coloured in white, pink and green. Tuff based they have acquired these shapes due to weather conditions in the course of millions of years. The village can be reached by regular bus lines. The medieval fortress of Perperek is located in the valley of a small river, only 7 kilometers to the southeast of town (in the direction of Haskovo). This was the most powerful fortress in the Ahridos region and during 13th – 14th century was a bishop's and fortified Bulgarian town. The Turks met fierce resistance during their invasion of the country in the 14th century and this is why after conquering it, they slaughtered the greater part of the population, others took in slavery and the destroyed the fortress. It now stands in ruins. Only the hexagonal tower of carved stone is partially preserved. Remains of the settlement are also preserved - they were owned by the bolyar Momchil. A unique Thracian rock sanctuary was discovered nearby - an expression of the ancient dwellers' mystic belief in the Sun. The picturesque valley of the Borovitsa River (together with Arda, one of the two main rivers flowing into the Kurdzhali Dam) can be seen to the north-west of the town and while being there, one has the feeling of being somewhere in the American wild West. The feeling one experiences while crossing the canyon cannot be explained. It is accessible by the regular bus line to the nearby villages in the direction of the Bezvodno village.

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