Thursday, November 14, 2013

Scenes from "Valley of Thracians": Belogradchik

One of my most memorable trips while living in Bulgaria was to Belogradchik in the northwestern part of the country, not far from the Serbian border. Belogradchik, a town whose name literally means "small white town," is famous for the nearby Belogradchik Rocks formation and the medieval Belogradchik Fortress, which was built in and around the massive rock cliffs.

I was so impressed by what I saw that I knew that I would have to include a scene in Belogradchik in the suspense novel I was writing. I wasn't sure if I would be able to capture the unique, striking beauty of this natural wonder, which served as Bulgaria's candidate in the 2009 New 7 Wonders of Nature competition.

Belogradchik is a must-see destination for any tourist coming to Bulgaria, but like much of the country, it remains off-the-beaten track for most visitors. Join me now on a virtual tour of Belogradchik, where one of the pivotal scenes of Valley of Thracians takes place, with accompanying texts from my novel.

“Belogradchik was originally built by the Romans. The Byzantines also fortified this hill. Much later it was an important fortress in the fourteenth century under Tsar Ivan Strasimir, who ruled out of Vidin on the Danube. The Ottomans eventually captured Belogradchik and refortified it.”

“So these walls date back to the fourteenth century?” Simon asked.

“No, most of these walls are from the 1800s, when the Ottomans used this fortress as part of their efforts to put down our revolts and attempts to gain independence. The fortress was called, and is still known by many, as the Kaleto, which is a Turkish word.”

Set against a natural wall of spectacular rock massifs were the outer fortifications of the ancient garrison. This fortified outpost, built atop a windy remote peak, was assigned the task of guarding the roads crisscrossing the region that led to the plains along the Danube River. Only two walls were needed to secure the post, to the northwest and to the southeast. The other sides were naturally protected by inaccessibly steep rock cliffs that provided an impenetrable defensive barrier.

The view ahead could have been lifted straight from a Disney fantasy cartoon. Even seeing it repeatedly couldn’t depreciate the stunning sight of a fortress wall with a slightly arched stone gate at its center, crowned by a backdrop of rocky red pinnacles stretching dozens of meters into the cloudless sky and carpeted halfway up with green brush. Looking closely, one could see that some of these needle-like protrusions were connected by a stone wall. The unique feature of Belogradchik Fortress was the fact that it had been built as a combination of human efforts and natural elements.

The panorama visible from atop the Belogradchik Fortress was absolutely breathtaking. Sophia looked out at the carpeted forest, spotted with the protruding rocky buttes, each topped with the illusion of sculpted heads and statuesque figures.

I hope one day you will be able to visit Belogradchik, a very special place in Bulgaria.

Please also read the other articles in this series, which will take you on visits to:

* Varna
* Sofia
* Veliko Tarnovo
* Rila Monastery 
* Plovdiv


  1. Your shots have captured it all, this is the place not to miss.

  2. Nice Ellis, nice! Feeling proud that you dedicated a book about Bulgaria.

  3. Absolutely breath taking. Thank you for sharing.