A time travel through the history of Bulgaria

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The history of Bulgaria begins with the Old Great Bulgaria in the middle of the 7th century. The area of today's Bulgaria has been used by people for a significantly longer time. Caves like the Magura show that people lived here over 50,000 years ago. During this unbelievable period of time, people have, of course, left their trace over and over again, making Bulgaria an absolute must for those interested in history.

Historical Park in Varna

Historical Park in Varna would like to offer you a very good introduction to the history of Bulgaria. The park itself is not a historical city, but it tries to bring the history of Bulgaria down to the smallest detail.

It starts with some houses from the Neolithic period (around 10,000 BC). The replicas in Historical Park try to resemble the historical buildings. Therefore one works closely with historians to make the buildings as authentic as possible.

In fact, you quickly feel like you are back in time and get a first impression of what people were like back then.

The history of Bulgaria continues with the Thracians. In a historic throne room, you can see copies of found gold treasures and accessories in addition to original clothes. Again, it is faithfully reproduced. Lifelike figures breathe additional life into the scenery. By the way, two Thracian tombs can also be admired.

Historical Park sees itself as the largest historical museum in the world and here we speak not only of the area covered (about 500 hectares) but also of the time span (after all, over 10,000 years).

In addition to exhibits, there are workshops, archery, food, cooked with ingredients from the respective eras and much more for young and old.

The park will open in several phases, starting this year with the Neolithic and Thracian. Next year, the park will be expanded to include the First Bulgarian Tsardom. The entire area with its own riding center and even more history will follow by 2023.

The park does not see itself as a competition to the "real" historical places in Bulgaria, but as a supplement and overview of the Bulgaria‘s history. And indeed, after a visit to Historical Park, you immediately want to learn more.

During our visit a lot was still under construction, but the attention to detail could be spotted already at this point. Due to its proximity to Golden and Sunny Beach, the park is also a perfect addition to a beach holiday or a day trip.

Pliska - the first capital of Bulgaria

Pliska was the capital of the First Bulgarian Tsardom and, with its 25 km², was the largest city in Europe. The city has, like Bulgaria, experienced many ups and downs in its history. Pliska was completely burned down in 811. With the reconstruction, Christianity slowly entered the city. Over time, the city lost its political and later economic importance and many of the stones that were previously used for the splendid buildings of Pliska were given new uses.

Today you can only see the floor plans of Pliska, but that alone shows how big the city must have been then. There is also a museum on the site, where you can see various excavations.

Madara Horseman - World Heritage Site

The Madara Horseman is only 10 km away from Pliska.

The rider is located as a relief in about 23 meters and was carved out of a steep rock face.

 Appointed a World Heritage Site in 1979, the monument still leaves many questions. What is certain is that it is the oldest monument of its kind in Europe - over 1200 years in age. But who is this rider and why is he right here? To date, these questions have not been fully resolved and make this place so magical.

Other traces of history can be found in the rock of Madara. Traces of bones and weapons have been found in small caves at the basis of the rock wall, which go back as far as 200,000 years. The Thracians had also settled here.

Tsarevets fortress - insight into the history of Bulgaria

My journey continues to Veliko Tarnovo, a city with around 65,000 inhabitants. The city was once the capital of the Second Bulgarian Tsardom and lies almost exactly between Varna and Sofia.

In addition to many churches, interesting monuments and the university, the fortress Tsarevets shapes especially the cityscape.

The fortress, which lies on the hill with the same name, was built at the beginning of the 12th century (although the hill was populated before) and is still reminiscent of the great period of the „Brother Assenevtsi“tsars. In a guided tour, you will learn a lot about the history of the Second Bulgarian Tsardom and the fortress itself. For example, there was a judge's rock. Anyone who was sentenced to death at the time was plunged from there.

Various events such as operas and theatrical performances take place in the fortress in summer.

A special highlight is a nightly sound and light show in which the fortress is accompanied by classical Bulgarian music and litten in various colours and tells of the fall and rise of Bulgaria. The light show can be seen from all over the city or you can book seats on a roof terrace. The show takes place once a month.

Tuida Fortress - open air museum

After visiting Veliko Tarnovo, we continue to Sliven. The city in the foothills of the Balkans with around 90,000 inhabitants was first mentioned in a document in the middle of the 12th century, but here too, lies a thousand years old history.

This becomes most clear when you visit the Tuida fortress.

The open air museum is located on the foundations of a fifth century fortress. In an exciting tour you can learn all sorts of things about life in those days. For fans of the Middle Ages, there are some old armour to marvel at and when comes to archery, everybody gets their turn.

The grounds of the fortress are well maintained and invite you to linger. In summer, the site is also used for concerts and other performances. So I could watch a queen cover band in this beautiful location.

At the same time, research is still being carried out in the area of the fortress. There are collaborations with universities and there are always new insights into the fortress.

You quickly notice that the museum team is really into the history of the fortress and Bulgaria.

Thracian tomb in Kazanlak

A final stop on my little time travel through the history of Bulgaria is the Thracian tomb in Kazanlak. This tomb represents countless small and large graves that can be found everywhere in Bulgaria. In central Bulgaria alone there are hundreds of such graves. Everywhere in the region I discovered small elevations that remind of gigantic molehills. These are mostly Thracian burial mounds. The rule applies: the larger the hill, the more powerful the dead was.

Many of these graves are open to the public today. The graves are often adorned with murals and contain various treasures. Since not all graves have been found to date, there are actually “Tomb Raiders” in Bulgaria who, like Indiana Jones, are looking for lost treasures. Theft from such graves is, of course, prohibited and every now and then there are reports and legends about the grave robbers.

The Kazanlak Thracian tomb is about 2400 years old and is located in a brick vault. In 1979 the tomb was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. After the tomb was initially opened to the public, one had to consider whether the new visitors would be more harmful to the well-preserved wall paintings. The problem was solved in a simple and at the same time bizarre way. The tomb was simply rebuilt directly next to the original and so you now visit "the copy" of the original tomb.

The paintings in the grave show a couple making a sacrifice. There are various interpretations of the meaning and our guide approached the topic with a wonderful humor. Today no one knows what people wanted to say with their drawings back then, but that should not prevent us from using our heads and looking for answers in history.

Of course the history of Bulgaria does not end here.

In this report I could only introduce you to a small part of places steeped in history. With Plovdiv, for example, Bulgaria has the oldest city in Europe and in addition to the Rila Monastery there are an infinite number of other time travel places to discover in Bulgaria. And if you want to experience nature or plan a road trip through Bulgaria, we have the right reading for you.

Disclosure: My tour of Bulgaria was created in collaboration with Historical Park.

Author: Katja und Kai