In search of Thracian sanctuaries and stone mushrooms

As there was no snow in Varna this winter, I decided to go to the Rhodopes to enjoy the snow in search of Thracian sanctuaries and Stone Mushrooms. 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 sanctuaries.

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 with archaeology, nature and ethnography departments.

The Archeology section on the first floor preserves archaeological finds from the Neolithic to the Bulgarian Middle Ages. The Nature section on the second floor exhibits photographs of some of the region’s natural landmarks. For example – “The Stone Wedding”, “The Stone Mushrooms”, “The Fossil Forest”, “The Broken Mountain”, “The Devil’s Bridge” and others. The Ethnography department contains a reconstruction of a dairy farm and a coal workshop. You can also see many traditional folk costumes and ornaments in a dedicated room on this floor.

 Historical Museum of Kardzhali
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
Walking in the snow

Both sights – Harman Kaya and Tatul are Thracian sanctuaries. Thracians have chosen special spots for their rituals – places 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 legacies Thracians have left us are their sanctuaries and tombs as they were busy making war and celebrating their victories afterwards ):

Thracian sanctuary Tatul
Thracian sanctuary Tatul

After the winter walk on the sun, we headed to the hotel in Zlatograd. Zlatograd is in 4 km 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 with 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
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 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 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
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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