Pliska, Madara and Shumen

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We were collected in the morning and moved on to a mini-bus that I named Dennis. Not quite as comfortable as a full

Dennis

Dennis

sized coach but adequate.

We left Varna and headed to Pliska, the capital of the first Bulgarian state, dating from the 9th or 10th century. Here we visited the ruins of the mediaeval palace complex. We assembled outside the city gate, in the shade of spreading walnut tree. Our local guide, Angol told us we should not do this as it is bad luck. We learnt that a lot of things are bad luck in Bulgaria. Naturally we moved.

The ruins have a small museum with artefacts archaeologists have recovered.

Bordello?

Bordello?

Anna found a wall with indications to the bordello just like Pompeii, only featuring female bits this time. Outside was a  Central Asian yurta.  No idea why. The ruins are quite extensive and interesting and well signposted in Bulgarian and English.

 

Our next stop was the “Madara Rider”. This world heritage site is quite amazing. A life size relief has been cut into the side of a cliff. It is unique in

Madara Rider

Madara Rider

Europe. The visit required climbing 260 steps. It was over 30C so thankfully the ascent was in shade.

Back onto Dennis, we traveled to the Shumen mosque, “Tombul”, the largest and most beautifully decorated in Bulgaria. Of course it is undergoing renovation, like the rest of Eastern Europe. Inside they were preparing for the end of Ramadan, cleaning, setting up and practising the chants. I felt a little like I was invading their private space but they did not appear to mind.

Shumen mosque, “Tombul”

Shumen mosque, “Tombul”

Staying in Shumen we visited the museum of the composer Pancho Vladigerov, renown as the Bulgarian Chopin. It is set in the house where he lived. The museum is typical of the class. They had a couple of interesting relevant items padded out with other stuff. We were then treated to a young lady music student who played four piano pieces for us. Wonderful. We were also given a glass of local champagne. Simply awful.

After lunch we continued on to the Interhotel Veliko Tarnovo, the biggest hotel I have ever seen to this point. Anna and I had a room on the mezzanine floor which was very handy. The best thing about this hotel was the beer garden. It sat over the River Yarntra looking towards the Town Hall across the gorge. The food was excellent and the beer and wine cold.