Belogradchik

Myths, legends and even traces of the ancient Thracians await the visitors of Belogradchik – the small “white” town in Northwestern Bulgaria, picturesquely situated at the foot of the Balkan Mountains. The territory of the municipality of Belogradchik is inhabited by the tribal community of the Triballi and their rich history has left this region its numerous myths and traditions and even today the important dates of the ancient Thracian calendar are celebrated as festivals.

Natural heritage:

This place is abundant in fascinating natural features owing to its geology, which is the reason for the existence of a network of interesting rock formations, including the jewel in the crown – the Magura cave. It is located in the area of the village of Rabisha, 25 km from Belogradchik and is the largest cave in Bulgaria. It has galleries and halls that will attract even the most experienced speleologist or spelunker.

The Triumphal Hall, the Bat Gallery, the Stalagnate Hall, the Drawings Gallery, the Fallen-pine Hall, the Poplar Hall, the Throne Hall, the Festive Hall, the Fiord Corridor – interesting names attracting the visitors to go underground. This Paleolithic cave is famous for its unique rock drawings filled with bat guano, which date back from the Epipaleolithic (10 000 B.C.) to the Early-Bronze age as well as for its fossils of wild prehistoric animals. Open all year round, the cave is well lit and the paths winding across this underground world are well maintained and secured by means of safety banisters. They can be used by pedestrians and cyclists.  

If you suddenly feel a fit of claustrophobia, you can find a relief watching the stars in the astronomical observatory located among the Belogradchik rocks. It offers a romantic escape from the daily routine and is a place where you can watch the moon, the rings of Saturn, the satellites of Jupiter, the crescent phase of Venus, comets, stars and galaxies.

For those who prefer the natural sciences to geology and astronomy, Belogradchik is the town where the only natural science museum in Northwestern Bulgaria can be found. It has over 3 000 exhibits that will acquaint the visitors with the most attractive part of the wide biological diversity in this part of Bulgaria. Interesting lectures will familiarize the visitors with interesting facts about the living organisms.

Folklore:

One of the major annual events is the three-day folk festival “From Timok to Iskar – following the footsteps of the Thracians”, which is held in September.

The festival begins with a Thracian march starting from the popular Belogradchik fortress with the accompaniment of bagpipes and other musical instruments, while the participants, dressed in traditional Thracian costumes, are walking through the town. A mysterious touch is added to this event with the appearance of participants dressed in costumes, wearing masks and torches in their hands. Those who are willing to join will be given free masks, costumes and torches.

The Thracian Goddess Bendida is honoured by means of a feast held near the rocks in Panairishe area, in which the legend about the goddess is recreated along with performances like Orpheus and the Fossilized Wedding or Tamiris and the Muses, under the lights of the fires and the torches.

The battles between the rival tribes are also recreated, using improvised weapons such as spears, swords, bows, shields and sticks. The festival also includes other sports competitions – javelin and disk throwing, archery, horse racing and jumping over fires. The winners in these competitions are given a crown by a young woman acting as Goddess Bendida. In Panairishe area there is also a special place for pottery, where the craftsmen can demonstrate their skills and the secrets of this art.

Art and culture:

The Belogradchik fortress was built among the inaccessible rocks prior to the creation of Bulgarian nation and was used as military facilities by the Serbo-Bulgarian War in 1885. The visitors today can easily understand why this place was used as fortification if they climb to the highest part of the fortress – the first plate. Bulgaria spreads before their eyes, from the ridge of the Balkan Mountains southwards to the Copper-age Carpathians in the west. Below them there are rock formations which seem to be even more spectacular when watched from this place.

The historical museum called Panovata kashta /Panova house/, build around 1810, is a typical example of western Bulgarian architecture. It was turned into a museum after being restored in 1970. The exposition of 8 000 exhibits shows the lifestyle, the activities and the battles of the population.

Historical architecture and a reflection of the lifestyle of the population in the past can also be seen in the Anishte area – remains of a destroyed ancient settlement, collected artefacts, including fragments of clay pots, jewellery and coins from the III century.

Hadzhi Huseun mosque is another sight which is worth visiting as in it you can see the best examples of Bulgarian woodcarving. It is also the only mosque in the country whose ceiling has been made of Bulgarian carved wood.

Wine-production:

The region is famous for its wine and wine tasting is an important part of the traditions of the local people. The Thracians believed that wine can lift people to the sky and the local people and tourists in this area are likely to put this theory into practice.

A curious fact:

One of the most interesting formations to be found in the Magura cave is the so called “cave milk”.

Events:

June – the traditional folk festival “From Timok to Iskar – following the footsteps of the Thracians, which has been held since 1968. The first day of the festival is always dedicated to Thracian themes and usually includes a recreation of legends from the Thracian mythology and a march of young people carrying torches along the central streets of the town. The following days of the festival include performances of folk singing and dancing groups from Belogradchik and the region.

Today, the main objectives set by the organizers of the forty-year old festival are:

• to continue to preserve, popularize and develop the folklore of Northwest Bulgaria;

• to play an educational role in the development of the young generation;

• to attract tourists and guests of the municipality and connoisseurs of cultural tourism