"On The Road" - News & Stories

Off-the-beaten-path in Southern Bulgaria

November 2016

It is November again and in accordance with our little tradition, here we are in the Eastern Rhodope again, discovering new places and exploring more of the ones we already knew.

Professor Atanas Orachev was once again the head of our group and the goal this time was to examine the Kovil plateau in detail and search for the lost Thracian sanctuaries in the vicinity of Sladkodum village as well as find the Pop Martinova hole and go through the legendary Paroriiski monastery

Here is a list of what we visited:

- Pop Martinova hole - there is a legend that the hole was a hiding place for the legendary Pop Martin, who was a leader of a gang of Bulgarian rebels during the Ottoman domination. Another theory says the place is a Thracian tomb, but in reality this is probably the smallest early Christian rock church in Bulgaria. The inside shows a clear apse pointing East and 2 icon stands carved in the rock. We also managed to recognize some old writings, but unfortunately badly damaged by treasure hunters

- Kara In - the place again is mistaken for a tomb, but it was probably a monastic cell of a hermit.

- Shan Kaia and Kazan Kaia - both places are close to each other, just off the southern edge of Sladkodum village. While Kazan Kaia is without a doubt a Thracian "sharapana" and by the way quite deep, so Shan Kaia is known to be a Thracian sanctuary, but we could not get a proof of it, as it is very, very difficult to get to. From the distance Shan Kaia looks like a huge rock with a hole going through it. A local guy said it was once believed that if a woman that can not get pregnant goes through the hole, so she will have a baby soon. Only 3 women managed ...

- Kovil plateau - seems the place will prove to be a mountain Asclepeion (temple dedicated to the God of Medicine - Asclepius). We managed to trace the ancient dromos (corridor) to the temple, as well as the holy wells. Few pools with healing water and few "sharapana's"

- Harman Kaia - ceramics from 5000 years B.C were found there, which means the place served as sacred since then. There are huge semi-circles carved in the rocks and they seem like sundial at first glance, but actually this could be a well designed draining system to collect the "Water of God". There are few "sharapana's" and stairs cut in the rock and leading to the ruins of a room that was maybe serving as a temple. We also located a "vagina" cave which is formed in such a way, so the sun rays "penetrate" it to the bottom during the Spring Equinox and so the Sun "impregnates" the Mother Earth.

- Paroriiski Monastery - a unique place which probably existed as a temple of Goddess Artemis or God Mithra since the ancient times. Then in the V century it was converted to a church in a shape of a cross and the underground levels were used a a crypt?
Later in the middle ages a monastery was build there and the church was massively enlarged, so it had 6 naves ....

- Dolmen near Hliabovo village - typical megalith structure probably used as a tomb. Dates back to about 1000 years B.C. and it is the best preserved in South-Eastern Europe. In some places they call the dolmens "Dragon Houses" and this is related to the myth for Orpheus.

The entrance to the Pop Martinova hole

The dromos to the Asclepeion at the Kovil plateau

Huge sharapana at the Kovil plateau

The Thracian sanctuary at Shan Kaia

The sharapana at Kazan Kaia

The hermit cell at Kara In

The draining system at Harman Kaia

Well carved sharapana's at Harman Kaia

The entrance to the underworld of the legendary Paroriiski monastery

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