Saturday, June 28, 2008

24-29 June – Bulgaria

We crossed the Danube and came into Bulgaria at the town of Ruse. We are sweating now in 35+ degrees and blistering sun. Communist housing blocks greeted us and I remembered reading that in 1973, Bulgaria considered applying for membership in the Soviet Union.

Clearly, we have now entered into a different cultural and ethnographical region. Bulgaria has a very turbulent history and was (among other difficult things) under Ottoman rule for five centuries until its liberation (with Russian support) in 1878.

We started our exploration of Bulgarian history by walking around the impressive remains of Veliko Tarnovo. This was the capital of the second Bulgarian kingdom (1185-1393) until the fortified town was captured by the Turks.

We continued to Kazanlak to explore the tombs of the Thracian rulers. We saw some very impressive tombs, 2500 years old, with highly skilled masonry and well preserved paintings.

Next we jumped into the Roman era and enjoyed the old town of Plovdiv and its impressive Roman theatre. Once it could seat 3000 spectators. This evening, a few hundred were expected to come and listen to the Traviata opera.

We have now escaped the heat of central Bulgaria and instead ventured into the high Rodopi Mountains in the south of the country. We are camped among apple trees and high grass in a beautiful valley. There is a small stream where we are swimming and playing. We can see remains from an old Roman road next to the stream. A woman is growing potatoes nearby. It is idyllic.

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