To the west of Varna lies much of the early history of Bulgaria, as well as countless testimonies of ancient civilizations that inhabited these lands.
The second week of this 66 day trip around Bulgaria took me to Varna, after an unforgettable adventure in the North Black Sea Coast and the surrounding area. This was also the starting point for the beginning of the third week of this country tour.
I headed west, towards Shumen, but before that there were many interesting points that I had previously selected. I admit, I did not know much about this region except what I read in the textbooks. It was here, in this region, where the Bulgarian state was originally founded, back in 681, an area of great strategic importance both during the First and the Second Bulgarian Kingdom.
From the point of view of natural resources, these lands are no less attractive. For example, Shumen and Madara highlands offer exciting opportunities for nature walks and explorations.
I did not have much time, but I had previously selected some places and sites that I could not miss. There was one which stood out from all the rest because of its scale and importance and it deserves a separate chapter.
History Park: Although at the time of the visit there were still some finishing works still in progress, much of the first phase of the large-scale project is already a story. History, that’s what a great group of enterprising people have been able to recreate in the world’s largest Historical Park, a great way to get to know our own past.
In this first phase we will have the opportunity to explore buildings (such as a palace, fortress and tomb), illustrations and artifacts, testimonies of the Thracian presence, as well as of the earlier settlers in these lands represented by Neolithic and Chalcolithic settlements. In the next phases we will be able to learn more about Romans, Proto-Bulgarians and Slavs, the first and second Bulgarian kingdoms.
There are also many exceptional experiences for the guests of the park, such as horse riding, medieval duels, ritual wine drinking. There will be also hosting events and festivals that will take us back in time, showing us with the customs and traditions of the various civilizations that lived in our lands.
“Prisoe” Winery: a lovely family cellar (located right next to the Stone Forest “Pobiti Kamani”), which truly inspired me; a wholly family-owned winery where they will walk through the vineyards, will introduce you to the whole process of wine producing and will offer you a tasting of its most delicious varieties. It is highly recommended to go with a driver.
The Stone Forest “Pobiti Kamani”: an exceptional natural phenomenon, the origin of which still has no specific explanation; its name (translated from Bulgarian) derives from the stones being buried in the ground (some of them at a depth of 100 meters)
Ovech Fortress: a truly majestic fortress (see picture above), located in Provadia, established in Roman times, because of its strategic location and of great significance during the period of the Second Bulgarian Kingdom.
It is said that this place is the third or fourth most important energy field in the whole of Bulgaria. It is not by accident that here are created some of the most impressive buildings from ancient Bulgarian history.
Madara Horseman: this is the only rocky relief in Europe since the early Middle Ages, and one remains stunned by how someone has succeeded in making such a unique sculpture, 23 meters from the base of the rock – undoubtedly well-deservedly awarded with the inclusion in the World Heritage List of UNESCO.
Madara Fortress and Caves: in the same place one can not miss to visit the medieval fortress built during the First Bulgarian Kingdom on the Madara rocks, as well as the unconventional caves including a built-in Christian chapel.
Guest House “Kumanovi Kashti”: created with the extraordinary dedication and love of Madara, if there is a place where you can truly feel the energy that this place creates, it’s is exactly this little heaven.
Bulgarian Old Capitals
Exploring this region would be incomplete unless it includes a visit to the first two Bulgarian capitals, Pliska and Preslav.
Pliska: I was personally impressed by the size of the archaeological reserve, which speaks about the size of the fortress and the city created by our great-grandfathers, the most impressive of which is the Basilica built by Tsar Boris at the end of the 9th century.
Preslav: The archeological complex of the second Bulgarian capital, an extremely important cultural center at that time, has an interesting history; the most impressive part is the museum, where one can see the oldest and most significant golden treasure from the early medieval times found in our lands.
Unfortunately, I did not manage to take the time to explore in depth the region, but at least I visited one of the most impressive Bulgarian villages: the village of Osmar.
Village Osmar: Here is made the best pelin (a very particular type of wine with a bitter, refreshing taste) of the whole Bulgaria, so delicious that the legend tells when back in the time Khan Krum ordered the grubbing up of all vineyards, he wanted to keep only those in the village of Osmar for personal use.
Kostadinov Monastery: If you are from the adventurous ones, it is worthwhile to go to this rock monastery near the village, as the view from the top is the best reward for climbing.
Although it is very close to Varna, with an airport that is visited by millions of tourists each year, as well as in close proximity to the highway that is taking so many tourists to the sea, this region stays on the shadow of the sea and the beach that attract all the attention.
The historical sights of this area are not only national but also world treasures. This is also the place where the Bulgarian state has been created, hiding amazing stories that must be preserved and transmitted.
The potential for the development of cultural and historical tourism here is enormous and can fill an entire weekly program. An additional boost in this direction will give History Park, through which people can go back in time and really dive into our history.
In the vicinity of the park there are wonderful hidden gems that are yet to be explored and be included in the bicycle rides as well as horseback riding routes to be organized. Together with one of the responsible people in the park I had the pleasure to visit one of those wonderful places, a rock monastery not far from Devnya . I believe that this place has the potential to attract many tourists, which will help the region’s sustainable development and lasting visitor growth especially off-season.
Not far from Varna there are many places that testify to the rich history of these lands, stories that will continue to be told for centuries.