Eastern Rhodopes part 1

Published by Kristian Dimitranov on

The idea of a tour in this part of the Rhodopes has been in our mindes for a long time.

We leave on Friday before noon in the direction of Plovdiv. Around Ihtiman we moved on the old road. After a short lunch in Asenovgrad we continue to Ardino, and near before Narechenski Bani we turned on the road through Lucky. Momchilovtsi, Banite follow and at 17:00 we are in Ardino. The road is mostly narrow and twists between the trees for miles. What’s even better is that we hardly see cars on the road.

We head to the Devil’s Bridge. The last few hundred meters are a dirt road, but nothing to worry about.

The bridge was built in the early 16th century by order of Sultan Selim I as part of a road connecting the Upper Thracian Plain with White Sea Thrace and the Aegean Sea. In place of today’s bridge there was once a Roman bridge, part of the important ancient road Via Ignatius, connecting the Aegean Sea and Thrace through the Makaza Pass. By order of Sultan Selim I, the bridge was rebuilt to continue trade links between the two geographical areas. He was known as Shaitan Kyupriya.

For centuries, the bridge has been shrouded in legends and mysteries. Almost nothing is known about its construction, but according to legend its creator is Master Dimitar from the nearby village of Nedelino. He accepted the challenge of building a bridge over the raging river, even though everyone before him had failed. He did a great job in record time, but died soon after. Here the beliefs whisper that Satan had a hand in the construction of the bridge. The devil promised the master to share a secret that would make his creation forever if he could complete it in 40 days. If he failed, however, he would take his soul. Dimitar coped with the devil’s task and Satan fulfilled his promise, but soon after the gifted master died and took the secret knowledge to the grave.

It is said that from the Devil’s Bridge you can see the face of Satan if you look at the waters of the Arda River between 11.00 and 12.00 at noon, when the bridge and its reflection form a circle. Besides, according to some, one of his stones shows the imprint of the Devil’s footsteps!

After spending the night in Kardzhali we set off for Perperikon. Perperikon is an early historical, ancient and medieval Bulgarian stone complex in the Eastern Rhodopes. When visiting, I strongly recommend using the services of a guide. Most of them have participated in the excavations and can share details from the “kitchen” during the tour.

There is more information below the photos.

Next is a tour of the historical museum in Kardzhali, where some of the original artifacts found during the excavations of Perperikon and Tatul are kept. You can also see a lot about the Bulgarian way of life and culture in the region.

We head to Tatul. There is no option for a guide (at least at the time of the visit) and we look at the pile of stones. I took out the information here later.

Tatul is a rock-cult complex near the village of Tatul. Tatul is a prehistoric cult site, on whose territory is located one of the most puzzling megalithic monuments in Bulgaria – a sarcophagus in the shape of a truncated pyramid, which has no analogue among the many megalithic monuments registered by archaeologists in Bulgaria and around the world. This is the best preserved temple complex carved into a monolithic rock.

We find a place to sleep in Ivaylovgrad. The road from Kardzhali to there is again calm and in good condition. Watch out for turtles !!

In the morning we want to visit Villa Armira, but it turns out that it was closed by order of the mayor, because of COVID-19. We quickly return to Kurdzhali and decide to visit the petrified wedding and the stone mushrooms.

According to scientific hypotheses, the “Petrified Wedding” began its formation 40 million years ago as a result of underwater volcanic activity, which formed the rhyolite tuff rocks. Later, after the sea receded, the rocks were exposed to rain, wind and sun, and these elements shaped their present forms. Different minerals in the rock are the reason for the variety of colors and shades.

Most impressive are two 10-meter cliffs, resembling embraced newlyweds. Of course there is a legend about the formations:

A local boy fell in love with a girl from a neighboring village. Only her blue eyes shone on her veiled face, which no one had seen. The boy lost sight of the girl’s beautiful eyes. Then his father went to the village and managed to buy it for a pot full of coins. A big wedding took place and the procession with the girl went to Zimzelen. Suddenly a wind blew, blew off the towel and found the bride’s face. Her father-in-law was dumbfounded by her beauty. Wicked thoughts went through his head. Then something terrible happened. The whole wedding froze for a moment. Only the groom remained, numb with grief and terror. He asked the wind to petrify him as well. His request was heard. Only the small puddle formed by his tears, which still exists today, survived at his feet.

The mushroom-shaped rock formations are sculpted in rhyolite volcanic tuffs. The pink color is due to the mineral cloinoptilolite, and the blue and black spots are from manganese nodules. Greenish color comes from the mineral celadonite. The rocks themselves are up to 2.5 – 3 m high.

And the legend:

According to legend, the coal miner Raduil had 4 daughters. One day they went for water, but were chased by a horde of invaders. The girls frightened the driver’s horse, which fell to the ground and was torn by the girls.

The four were caught by the deceased’s friend – Omur. He swung his scythe and cut off the head of the first of them, but as soon as it touched the ground, it instantly turned into a stone mushroom.

He swung and mowed the other two sisters, but the same thing happened. Omur got scared and got off his horse, but before he killed the last girl, her head turned to stone on its own.

Terrified, he jumped on his horse and ran away, but on the first step he turned into a black rock. People still call the lonely rock near the Karatepe mushrooms (black hill).

To be continued.

Sources: Internet.

Categories: Bulgaria