After breakfast on day three in Bulgaria with VisitBulgariaOn, we set off to a close village to see the restored monastery and visited the famous monastery of St. Kuzma and Damian which is open for people to stay over and enjoy the fabulous peace and quiet as well as the magnificent views overlooking “The Valley Of The Thracian Kings”. As we were leaving, we checked the mountain water at the so-called ayazmo which is said to cure eye diseases.
Our trip continued with the fascinating Asen’s Fortress which is located on the top of a cliff. There is a scenic route to the fortress branching off the road just south of Asenovgrad heading toward Smolyan. The natural cliff massif where the fortress is situated comprises an area of 12 hectares. With drops that are almost vertical and at times even overhanging above the river below, it is impregnable on three sides. Its strategic location and natural defenses explain why it has been used since the days of the Thracians, who fortified it in the 5th century BC. It probably features one of the scariest churches in Bulgaria because of the vertical drops as if hanging in the air.
Approaching lunch time, we were then taken to the famous Bachkovo monastery to see the famous icon of the Holy Mother which had been hidden by a monk for over 500 years, in a cave, in order to save it during the Ottoman occupation of Bulgaria from 1370 – 1876.
We then drove further in the marvelous Rhodope Mountains to see the Wonderful Bridges. They are a rock phenomenon also known as the Skalnite Mostove (The Rock Bridges). They are situated in the karst valley of the river Erkyupriya in the West Rhodope mountain perched 1450m above sea level.
A legend speaks of the creation of the Wonderful Bridges. Many years ago, there were a lot of shepherds in and around the village of Zabardo. A dragon appeared out of nowhere and began to ravage their herds. For many years, the shepherds suffered from the dragon’s raids. Finally, they came up with a way to outwit him. They loaded a donkey with tinder set it on fire and sent it towards the dragon. The dragon swallowed the donkey together with the tinder which was burning slowly but surely. The dragon went crazy and desperately tried to escape and finally found a small hole in the ground. Its huge body opened the crack. Years later, when the dragon bones decomposed, the large arched bridges remained. This is how the Wonderful Bridges appeared according to the legend.
The two large bridges are safeguarded however tourists are allowed over and under them.
Afterwards, we drove to the European Capital of Culture Plovdiv 2019. Plovdiv is a place that totally marries the old with the new. We were introduced to Professor Trak who guided us through his museum for Thracian and Roman history called Trakart. It was quite breathtaking to see artifacts dating back 7,000 years from the Thracian era; this is 3,000 years before the Egyptians had even considered building a pyramid.
Plovdiv has a wonderful mix from the young to the old, locals and tourists, old town and the cosmopolitan new town where street artist performs. In the old town, you can walk in house museums, from the first pharmacy in Bulgaria dating back to 1835 to houses where you can watch a Bulgarian wedding performance.
We started off at the Roman stadium after watching a 3D show to get an insight of this ancient and glorious city. Then, we visited the Roman amphitheater which has a breathtaking view towards the new town and the main market street of Plovdiv. We continued on to the cobbled streets to explore the first Pharmacy in Bulgaria, which was an experience to remember especially with the rusty and old American cash register at the till. Our last two sights were Balabanov and Hindlyan houses which represent typical premises of the tradesmen of the time with absolutely stunning wood carvings and paintings.
In the new town you could grab a KFC or even a Big Mac and sit in part of the coliseum, (built by Emperor Hadrian) that has been preserved and imagine chariot racing, archery contests as well as running races.
Our final dinner surprised us with a mix platter of mixed meat, shopska salad, lutenica dips, spicy peppers, and home made cake. It was accompanied with the local variety of Rakia and house wines.
We were all left with a smile on our faces as we were already thinking about the next day’s adventure starting at 5:00 am, but before that we took our time to stay a little bit more in the traditional Bulgarian tavern of the hotel.