Although the weather relaxes its hot embrace and the day gets shorter, autumn is one of the best seasons to discover new places. Put on comfortable shoes, pack your backpack with water and a jacket and choose your route for the upcoming weekend.
In this article, the team of the only digital guide under the hills will virtually take you through the fortresses around Plovdiv and will reveal their history and secrets.
The fortress has existed since the time of the Thracians, it was rebuilt by Byzantium in the IX century to guard the gate of the White Sea Pass and to provide the Byzantine border in this area. The first written information about the fortress is from the eleventh century and was obtained from the statutes of the then built Bachkovo Monastery. From this information it can be seen that Asen's Fortress had its own security and administration. It was conquered by the Crusaders during the Fourth Crusade. It existed until 1410, when it was destroyed by the invading Ottoman troops.
It is named after Tsar Ivan Asen II, who in 1231 made a number of repairs to it in order to strengthen it.
Studies on it began in the distant 1970s, and until 1978 were devoted mainly to the western part of the rock, which covers the acropolis of the fortress. For these nearly 8 years the fortress walls, the inner fortress tower, the reservoirs, a small fortress church, residential premises were revealed. In 1991 the church St. Our Lady of Petrich was reconstructed and consecrated, thus completing the most massive renovation of the site, and it still performs its function of an Orthodox church.
Today the fortress is renovated. At one of the highest places in the acropolis is a telescope, through which you can observe the city below for free. The site at the top is most of the length of the cliff and allows a 360-degree panorama of the area.
It is located immediately after the exit of Asenovgrad, and if you travel on the road to Smolyan and Bachkovo - look up and you will see it "landed" on the highest point of the rocks.
The restored early Byzantine fortress Peristera near the town of Peshtera is located very close to the center and you can easily find it by following the signs located on the main road that enters the town. The hill on which it is located is known as St. Petka, and the name Peristera means dove, a dove place. To this day the fortress has preserved the history and spirit of several eras . It is believed that this was the first settlement of the Thracian tribe Bessi, who lived here more than 2000 years ago. Peristera is strategically located and has been attacked repeatedly. The first arson dates back to the 5th century. After the fortress was rebuilt, the entrance was deliberately narrowed to 85 cm and the walls were further strengthened. It is assumed that the wall was 14 meters high. Traces of the fire can still be seen today. The ancient medieval fortress with battle towers-churches is unique with its composition. In the temples, medieval warriors prayed before battle and thanked God after victory. These are the only churches found in Bulgaria in fortress towers. They are believed to have been converted into churches during the reign of Justinian I and are an absolute precedent in early Byzantine construction. The south tower has been turned into a three-story museum, and the open-air museum is located on the north side. Visitors can light a candle in the two churches - St. Petka and St. Forty Martyrs which existed in the Middle Ages. The other interesting thing that can be seen are the 45 pithos - the jars in which wheat, olive oil and other products needed to feed the soldiers guarding the fortress were stored.
We give you another idea for a not so well-known defensive wall in the region. Krichim Fortress offers a breathtaking view from above to the city, and wherever the eyes reach, the Rhodopes are revealed around you. The city itself is in the lowlands, and unfortunately there is not much left of the fortress itself. In the past, it had a strategic function during the battles between Asenevtsi and Byzantium. It bears the name of the notorious Ivanko, who in history is associated primarily with intrigue and insidious actions, but later because of his cunning and family ties, he was appointed governor of Plovdiv region. He chose Krichim as its capital.
On the descent from the fortress, be sure to follow the signs to the famous Asen stone, on which, according to legend, he stood while conquering the fortress immediately after the battle of Klokotnitsa.
It is located near the villages of Dorkovo and Velingrad. During the Middle Ages Tsepina was one of the most famous Rhodope fortresses. It entered the borders of the Bulgarian state in the middle of the IX century. In the 11th century it was conquered by Byzantium, but during the reign of Tsar Kaloyan (1197-1207) Tsepina was again brought back to the borders of the Bulgarian state. When Kaloyan appointed his nephew Alexius Slav as governor of the Rhodopes, Tsepina became the seat of the despot's domain. After the assassination of the tsar in 1207, despot Alexius Slav declared himself independent. In the period 1246 - 1254 Tsepina was the property of the Nicene Emperor John DucVatacius, but Mihail II Asen managed to regain it. In 1373, the fort was conquered by the Ottoman invaders. It is one of the last to fall under their authority. For nine months, its inhabitants have been able to withstand the raids of the troops and surrender mainly because of their provisions. The monastery complex continued to operate even after the fall of Tsepina under Turkish rule until 1666, when the mass rampage of the Rhodopes took place. Today's most well-preserved (and restored) ruins in Tsepina, which attract the interest of tens of thousands of tourists, are the foundations of 3 churches and 4 deep water reservoirs, the inner and outer fortress walls, and the foundations of the citadel. In one of the churches were found 2 marble altar reliefs depicting the apostles Peter and Paul, which are today exhibited at the Hermitage in St. Petersburg.
Fortresses around Kuklen
Remains of fortress walls can be found even closer to the city under the hills - mainly around Kuklen. Such is the medieval and late antique Vanisa/Banishte /Banitsa in the Plochata area. It is built on a hill with very good visibility to the Thracian lowlands and with relatively accessible slopes. There are many springs in the eastern, northern and western foothills of the hill, including a mineral spring from where the name of the fortress comes. The fortification was built on the ridge of the hill and has a rectangular shape. The fortification is one of the strongholds of the Latin baron Rene de Trie, who received Philippopolis and the surrounding fortresses in the division of defeated Byzantium in 1204.
Again in the area is a medieval fortress Golyamoto Kale. It is located on the peak of the same name. It is built on a hill with very steep slopes from east and north. From the west, the place is protected by 10 meters of sheer cliffs. The only access is from the south through a narrow saddle. On the south side (at the entrance) there are preserved sections of the walls up to 2 m high. From the fortress there is a very good view north of Thrace.