Rhodope Mountains on the border with spring – Part One
History in the bosom of the Rhodope Mountains
Ah, the Rhodopes, this is my first thought when I know that I will take a trip to my favourite mountain. Therefore, with great joy I was off to the next adventure with the task to travel to significant places at this part of Bulgaria.
Our first stop was the town of Peshtera, which is located 132 km away from Sofia. Our main goal in Peshtera was to visit the fortress “Peristera” which in Greek means “dove.” It is located at the beginning of the city (if you are coming from the direction of Pazardzhik) on the hill “Sveta Petka“. The fortress dates back to the IV century and it is believed that it functioned until the VII century. Before being ravaged by enemies of the Byzantines. Playing the role of a citadel, which contained of inner city and defense gate with a total area of about 15 acres.
Thanks to modern architecture and prolonged archaeological studies today visitors of the fortress can walk in to the completely reconstructed fortification system of the citadel of “Peristera“. The new reconstruction is fully authentic version to the late ancient facility. At the same time you can see various open artifacts from the site, such as: pottery, used for storing food, as well as the typical of the time military clothing.
To reach the town of Peshtera you must take the road Sofia-Pazardjik and after that Pazardjik-Peshtera, the total distance is 132 kilometers;
Once you have reached the city there are well-marked signs that will direct you to Peristera;
The opening hours of the fortress:
Tuesday – Thursday: 9:00 to 18:00
Friday – Sunday: 9:00 to 20:00
Day off: Monday
November to April:
Tuesday – Thursday: 9:00 to 16:30
Friday – Sunday: 9:00 to 17:00
Day off: Monday;
Entrance tax: 4 lev
For children under 18, students, seniors and adults with disabilities: 2 lev;
The place has a wonderful and rich flower garden and several pavilions where you can sit and enjoy the view to the vast Rodopi Mountains;
The staff are very nice and kind;
There is a large parking in front of the fortress, where you can leave your car;
After a nicely spent time in the town of Peshtera, we headed to another historical point in the area. It’s the town of Batak and its dramatic story that marked the Bulgarian history forever. We headed to the church ossuary “Sveta Nedelya“, which is located in the city center. The structure is entirely built of stone, with oak doors and is surrounded by high stone walls. It was built in 1813 for only 75 days with labour from the entire population!
As you may know, Batak remained forever in the history of Bulgaria with one of the bloodiest events, the Batak massacre. So to this day at the very entry into the church you can feel light and oppressive coldness that is intertwined with drama and sadness on the walls of the church. A reinforcing effect of the whole atmosphere play spots of blood on the walls and bullet holes on the stone pillars.
The church can also be seen a rutted “hole” that represented a well where mothers were desperately looked for water for their children during the three-day encirclement by the Turks. The most defeating moment is when it comes to the two coffins filled with the remains of those Bulgarians who died in the name of Bulgaria.
All whole of this epic story demonstrates not only to Bulgarians but also to people beyond our borders that our ancestors possessed strong spirit and values for which they fought at the cost of their life. This historic moment will be remembered as a symbol of rebellion and courage.
But most importantly, it will always remain the church that does not impress with its high architectural value or with murals, and has become “the little church of Batak, which you enter with your head down or the big church of Bulgaria, from which you come out with head up!“
The distance from Sofia to Batak is 147 km, and take the road Sofia-Pazardjik-Peshtera-Batak;
The car can be left it in the center and walk to the church;
Opening times vary between seasons:
Summer: 9:00 to 5:15 p.m.
Winter: 8:00 to 12:00 and 13:30 to 17:00
Admission is free to all;
Ossuary church “St. Nedelya” has become a symbol of national freedom and serves to recall and prove to us and to the generations after us the strength of our national spirit;
I will allow myself with a modest request to speak to everyone reading this: at the shop on the front entrance are sold candles, buy one and light it at the temple in order to show your respect for the fallen Bulgarians in the name of freedom and values of our people;
The pictures are in collaboration with Ergyun Musov