In search of Thracian sanctuaries and stone mushrooms

As there was no snow in Varna this winter, I decided to go to the Rhodopes for a weekend to enjoy the snow. The route included the Historical Museum of Kardzhali – Thracian sanctuaries Harman Kaya and Tatul – Zlatograd – The Stone Mushrooms close to Beli Plast village and Haskovo.

Day 1: Our trip began with Kardzhali and the Historical museum of the region.

I’ve never been to Kardzhali, but I know that the region is rich in natural landmarks and Thracian artefacts.

First stop: Historical Museum of Kardzhali

It’s a massive building that was supposed to be a madrasa (Islamic religious school) at the beginning of the last century. It’s a three-floor museum separated into departments for archaeology, nature and ethnography.

The Archeology section is situated on the first floor and preserves archaeological finds from the Neolithic to the Bulgarian Middle Ages. The Nature section is housed on the second floor and exhibits photographs of some of the region’s natural landmarks like “The Stone Wedding”, “The Stone Mushrooms”, “The Fossil Forest”, “The Broken Mountain”, “The Devil’s Bridge” and others. On the third floor is located the Ethnography department. It contains a reconstruction of a dairy farm and a coal workshop as well as objects related to the basic livelihoods of the population in the region. Many traditional folk costumes and ornaments are exposed in a dedicated room on this floor.

Historical Museum of Kardzhali

Kardzhali Historical Museum is impressive and I will recommend you to not bypass it when you are in the region.

Next stop: Thracian sanctuaries Harman Kaya and Tatul.

Well, it’s easier to get to both sights in the warm season, but the trail looks mind-blowing under the snow and the sun rays.

Walking in the snow

Both sights – Harman Kaya and Tatul are Thracian sanctuaries. Thracians have chosen special spots for their rituals – places that are located high on rocks and mountains. However, the main reason to choose these areas was that both sights are exposed to the sun during the sunrise and the sunset. All Thracians’ rituals were related to the Sun. They wanted to capture the first and last sun rays. It’s a pity the only legacy Thracians left us are their sanctuaries and tombs as they were busy making war and celebrating their victories afterwards ):

Thracian sanctuary Tatul

After the winter walk on the sun, we headed to the hotel in Zlatograd. Zlatograd is located in 4km from the Greek border and is a famous town for its Ethnographic Areal Complex.

Day 2: Zlatograd, Stone Mushrooms and Haskovo

Early birds we are, we were in front of Zlatograd Ethnographic Areal Complex at 9.00 am. Zlatograd museum is tiny and shows artefacts about the history and the lifestyle of the locals. After the museum, I continued down the street and strolled along the little craftsmen shops – there is a pottery shop, a silver shop, a tailor, a button-making shop, a copper crafts’ shop. You can see how all the items are hand-made in front of you and buy some souvenirs to bring to your family and friends.

Zlatograd Ethnographic Areal Complex

Highlight of the trip: The Stone Mushrooms.

The Stone Mushrooms are something that I put on my Bucket list for 2020 and I am happy to could tick it!

I saw plenty of pictures of The Stone Mushrooms on Instagram, but I’ve never imagined that I will visit the landmark in the winter. Et voilà… The Stone Mushrooms under the snow!!! The natural park is free to the public (for the time being). Amazing place, I will come back in the summer.

The Stone Mushrooms near Beli Plast village

The last attraction on the weekend escape list was: Monument of the Holy Mother of God in Haskovo

I’ve heard a lot about this grandiose statue, but I’ve never imagined it so splendid and impressive. The monument is 31 meters high and is recognised by the Guinness Book of World Records as the tallest statue of the Virgin Mary with the Infant Jesus in the world. Climbing the stairs located behind the statue and watching at it, I got the feeling that the Holy Mother is looking down the entire city and protects its citizens. Take the time to walk around and to admire the monument from different angles. It’s stunning!

Monument of the Holy Mother of God in Haskovo

After a long drive back home, I was glad to have some rest and go to a spa for a few days…

Have you been to the Rhodopes?

Thanks for reading!

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