One hour drive from Raduil one reaches the Balkan mountain Range
The Balkan Mountains are the backbone of Bulgaria and the longest ridge in the Balkans. They stretch over nearly 600 km from the Varna region to the Black Sea coast to eastern Serbia. If we try to imagine Bulgaria in human form, then the Rila Mountains are the head, the Rhodope Mountains are the heart, and the Balkan Mountains are the backbone, where the Bulgarian spirit lives. Human settlement in Bulgaria started on both sides of the Balkan Mountains. It is a very Karst region where the ancient man had already settled in caves, and with the beginning of agriculture, the first agricultural villages were established more than 8,000 years ago.
The Balkan Mountains are the heart of Bulgaria. Here were the historical capitals in the days of the first and second Bulgarian empires, in the towns at the foot of the Balkan Mountains the Bulgarian revival movement appeared, and at the end of the Ottoman period the buds of rebellion and independence sprouted in those towns.
Ancient Civilizations Route in the Balkan Mountains
The long Mountain range can be divided into three main areas: in the west are the hills of Belogradchik, ancient rock temples, prehistoric caves, the cliffs of Vratsa, the canyon of the Iskar River, the Cave of the Eyes of God and the sites next to it. In the center is the Valley of the Roses, also known as the Valley of the Thracian Kings, the Sun Gate in Bozevgrad, the Starosel site and the beginning of the settlement in the Sredna Gora Mountains. On the other (northern) side of the Mountains is the area of Veliko Tarnovo, Dryanovo Monastery and Cave, the sites of the Rusanski Lom Gorge, and ancient settlements along the Danube. In the east we find the Thracian site of Sveshtari, Teke Demir Baba, the ancient City of Stara Zagora, Sliven and the important archaeological site of Karanovo in the south.
Here are some of the important sites in random order from west to east:
Here are some of the important sites in random order from west to east:
Belogradchik is an area of mysterious sand hills in northwestern Bulgaria, which covers several hundred square kilometers and is somewhat reminiscent of Cappadocia. In the heart of the area is a town called Belogradchik and at the heart of it is an ancient citadel, whose foundations are Thracian, and on which the Romans, Bulgarians and Ottomans built. The citadel is somewhat reminiscent of Meteora in nearby Greece. The citadel was founded in the 3rd century, but there are ancient quarries of burial pits and very ancient places of worship on the rock.
Kiril Kirilov is the head of the Belogradchik Archaeological Society and a local guide. According to his words, the name “Bel”, which is the beginning of “Belogradchik”, is related to the ancient sun God “Biel”. He found in the surrounding Mountains many rock temples proving that the place was sacred to the Sun God, as well as to the Mother Goddess. According to his claim, the Cro-Magnon man arrived 40,000 year ago to the Balkans, then something happened to the people and history began. They recognized themselves as human beings and began to think differently. The change took place in Belogradchik and was commemorated in paintings found in the nearby Magura Cave.
Either way this is a special place; Belogradchik rocks are quartz crystals and can contain energy, the landscape is lunar and truly “out of this world” and man has added to it a series of rock-hewn temples organized them in a round shape with the letter T in the middle, like the Greek letter Taphos – this is the womb of the Goddess. Some of the rocks were designed to have astronomical Orientations. According to Kiril, the area is semi-artificial, reminiscent of the Begliktash site on the Black Sea coast.
According to his claim, the straight line connected to the letter T in the heart of the circle is directed towards the sunrise on the longest day of the year and puts energy into the circle (just like at Stonehenge). All the temples have goblets – holes in the rock, which are sometimes aimed – connected to each other.
In the town of Belogradchik there is a historical and anthropological Museum, several hotels and restaurants that provide a relaxed Bulgarian atmosphere. Various spiritual groups in Bulgaria and Russia consider the entire region to have mystical energies.
Near Belogradchik there is a large and beautiful stalactite cave called Magura. The place is a very impressive world heritage site. The importance of the cave is in the rock paintings in it, which according to most archaeologists are 10,000 years old or even less, but some claim that some of them are 40,000 years old, and this is based on the degree of preservation of the color and other similar cave paintings in Europe.
The paintings show scenes of dance, ceremonies, hunting and fertility. There are over a thousand human figures and many animals, which were drawn with the help of the remains of bird droppings (bats) on top of a white rock, and also according to those who delay their time; they are the oldest of their kind in the world. They may contain the codes of an ancient language using geometric shapes and symbols, as shown in the Gradeshnitsa Tablets found in nearby Vratsa.
The humans are drawn in worship positions, the human figures are often drawn with hands above the head in the shape of a heart or semicircle and a body in the shape of an hourglass, the shape of the body reminds of the shape of the constellation of the hunter (Orion) in the sky. There are four types of paintings: Ethnomorphic, zoomorphic, geometric and symbolic. In one of the inner rooms there is an astronomical calendar with a large sun in the center.
According to Kirilov, the area of the cave paintings is an ancient prehistoric library, a kind of halls of knowledge and initiation. The paintings depict the movement of the earth around the sun, the distance to the sun, the phases of the moon, the development of the fetus in the womb, and contain letters and alchemical symbols in twelve languages. The times in which they were drawn are the Cro-Magnon human migrations from the east to Europe 40,000 years ago. Similar finds were found in caves in southern France (ah valley) – people with their hands raised in the shape of a crown above their heads. In the paintings you can see a giraffe – which proves that they are at least 12,000 years old.
According to Kirilov, the people in the paintings are the height of the giraffe, hence they were just as huge as the Atlanteans. He also notes paintings in which scenes of ritual sex are seen, dedicated, according to him, to the Goddess and the relationship between humans and Gods, a kind of rebirth. The most important room in the cave is the room where the painting of the sun is found and where there is astronomical information about the solar system.
According to Kirilov, 10% of the paintings, according to geological findings (the degree of rock disintegration), are from 40,000 years ago. There are rooms in the cave where there are paintings but there are no traces of smoke and soot on the ceiling. So, the question arises, how they lighted the place.
Kirilov claims that Magura Cave represents a spiritual School. All the paintings are related to the Mother, the regenerator of the human race after the disasters of Atlantis. A disaster that happened 24,000 years ago almost made the human race extinct, then the mother Goddess appeared and nurtured us. In the silo there is a prophecy of the development of the human race according to periods, and this appears in the scale drawn above the figures that symbolizes chronological time. It has ancient writings that foreshadow the Phoenician, Celtic, Cyrillic, alchemical and Turkish script. In other words, the symbols in the cave appear all over the world, they are related to the script found at the Vinca site a few hundred kilometers away, on the banks of the Danube in Serbia.
Not only Kirilov refers to the paintings in Magura Cave, another person named Alexey Stove claims that there is a code of lines and dots in the cave paintings, which could be numbers or letters.
According to Maria Gimbutas, stalactite caves were places of worship of the Goddess, burial places, sacred sites representing a womb, a connection of the male with the female. The caves had large halls, narrow passages with water and inner rooms opening into sacred galleries. Later they developed into hewn artificial caves with round spaces, which are like a womb, connected by a system of canals – passages. The same is the case with Magura: it is a very long cave, which can be entered from one side and exited from another, a distance of 2,000 meters away. At the beginning there are huge halls that were used for the dwellings of the ancient man. When you go further inside, there is a turn to a side ravine whose entrance is through a narrow passage between sentinels and stalactites, a kind of hidden door, behind which a wonderful world is revealed where there is a white corrugated ceiling, widening corridors and a long gallery of different types of paintings, ending in the room with the painting of the sun and human history. The figures are quite large; some of them are a meter tall or even more.
Remains of human habitation were found in the cave: tools, bones, metals, ceramics and places for fire from 40,000 years ago in the Paleolithic period – hunters, and also 10,000 years ago at the beginning of the Neolithic period – agriculture.
When you leave the Magura Cave, you will discover under the hill where it is located a small lake called Ravisha, which is the only tectonic lake (resulting from the movement of the land plates) in Bulgaria and is deep and abundant with fish. According to the legend, a monster with a bull’s head lives in the lake, which is the child of a dragon buried in one of the halls of Magura Cave, so it is recommended to be careful, especially when there is a local winery in the last part of the cool cave.
Vegina Cave in Lepenitsa
Near Magura Cave there are other temple caves, the most important of which is Lepenitsa Cave in the Belogradchik area, which is a kind of womb directed towards the sunrise on the shortest day of the year. The front of the cave is a wonderful huge semi-circular opening in the rock wall overlooking the landscape (like the Tatul site in the Rhodope Mountains). It is a cave with two floors, at the entrance of which are the remains of a prehistoric settlement, and on its second floor is a large hall suitable for ceremonies and dances. At the top of the surrounding cliffs there are many altars, stairs leading to heaven, cups and designs of stones.
Lepenitsa Cave can only be reached on foot, half an hour’s walk from the road is not particularly difficult, and in any case the effort is worthwhile because this is the real temple. The cave and the approach to it are somewhat reminiscent of the Utroba Cave (vagina) in the Rhodope Mountains.
About 100 km east of the Belogradchik hills one finds the wonderful cliffs of the Vratsa Canyon and the town of Vratsa, which is a regional center and home to an important historical Museum, where the Gradeshnitsa tablets with signs of a 6,000-year-old script are housed, as well as the most important gold and silver treasures from the Thracian period which were discovered in a nearby village – Rogozen Treasure.
In this area lived Thracian tribal tribes who were considered excellent warriors. The area was a gateway to the passes of the Balkan Mountains and therefore of strategic importance for them. In addition to the Museum, the town has the remains of an ancient settlement, half an hour’s drive from there is the ice cave – Ledenika Cave, one of the most beautiful stalactite caves in Bulgaria.
Eyes of God (Prohodna)
“Eyes of God” is the name of the passage cave of Prohodna which is also a prehistoric site, located 500 meters from the banks of the Iskar River. It is a cave with two openings on both sides, a sort of hall of passage, the longest of its kind in Bulgaria (262 meters), in the middle of which there are two eyes in the ceiling (Karst openings) called “the eyes of God”. The feeling inside the passage/archway/cave is amazing, especially while the sun or moon circle appears through the eyes (holes) in the ceiling. Near the cave, along the banks of the Iskar River, there are rock-hewn Churches, a cave hotel (Petar Tranteev National Caving House), ecological trails (Panegia), and houses of stone gnomes (The Stone Houses).
In connection with the caves, it is worth mentioning that not far from the Prohodna Cave, near the beautiful City of Lovac, is the Devetashka Cave, which is one of the most amazing natural phenomena in Bulgaria. It is a kind of huge rock arches that create huge halls with large openings in the ceiling that let daylight inside. A River flows through the massive halls and there are vegetation and walking paths in them, a kind of “Jurassic World”. This place has also always been a prehistoric human settlement, and important findings were found there.
Another cave and a little closer is the Saeva Dupka cave, located on the main road to Veliko Tarnovo, the special feature of which is the excellent acoustics and the stalactite setting, thanks to which it is used as a home for musical concerts.
Near the Prohodna Cave and near the lower channel of the Iskar River, not far from the town of Lukovit, there is a prominent rock column, a kind of huge tower towering over its surroundings, and like in the movie “The Lord of the Rings” there is an eye at the top – a large round opening. The place is called Provertenika Tower. This is an ancient solar observatory that no one knows if it is natural or not and who used it, but what is clear is that the sun shines through the opening of the eye on the longest day of the year and at its base there are signs of a place of worship. It is a huge cliff towering over its surroundings, its top is flat and it is 20 meters long, is several meters wide, the base expands and emerges from the rock cliffs near the River. The height of this cone column is over 50 meters. To the eye inside it you have to climb the rock itself, the opening of the eye is about a meter in diameter. You can see the impressive rock column from anywhere in the vicinity.
The feature of an opening in a prominent rock in a high place, which receives the sun on the longest day of the year, is a feature of other places of worship throughout Bulgaria. A rock wall with an eye opening at the top through which the sun passes on the longest day of the year is found in the Thracian sacred complex Tsarevi Porti, near the village of Kuvacvica. The sun passing through the opening on the longest day of the year connects the eye with a prominent Mountain called Popova kappa. In the Valley of the Roses, above the town of Buzovgrad, there is a gate made of huge rocks, it is not clear whether it is natural or man-made, through which the sun sets on the longest day of the year, and also in the Rila Mountains there is a similar gate at the Markov Kamak site that we expanded on earlier.
10 km south of Kazanlak, in the foothills of the Sredna Gora Mountains, on a hill bordering the valley, there is a gate built of huge rocks, inside of which there is an opening through which the sunlight shines on the longest day of the year. According to the interpretation of the archaeologists, this is a temple in honor of the Goddess – Mother, which was established 6,000 years ago and by the people of the Goddess culture and adopted by the Thracians when they came to the area about 4,000 years ago. The gate symbolizes the female genital organ, through which the sun rays which symbolize the male power penetrate, and thus there is a connection between heaven and earth. In addition to the direction towards the sunset, the gate is also directed towards the high Mountain in the Balkan range (Triglav Peak), where the sources of the Tundzha River are located, which was a sacred River for the Thracians and the most important in the region.
Near the gate there are engravings of depressions in the rock that probably symbolize constellations, and not far from it is a group of rocks in the shape of a male genital organ, several altars and a royal chair. It is a complete Megalithic array which is the apex of a sacred triangle referring to the temple tomb of Kosmetka and the holy City of Seuthopolis as the other vertices.
Since the gate is oriented towards the sunset, it can be assumed that the worship at the place was related to the passage to the world of the dead. For this reason, the important Thracian archaeologist Alexander Paul requested that his ashes be scattered at the site and a commemorative tablet can be seen in his honor.
The rocks are reminiscent of similar sites in Bulgaria and Europe as in Begliktash, and there is a debate between those who claim that they were artificially shaped and placed and those who claim that their formation is natural. Be that as it may, the place serves as a meeting place for the followers of the “New Age” and is called by them the “Gate of the Goddess”.
In the east of the Balkan Mountains is the town of Sliven is located, which was a center of rebels against the Ottomans, the local Hayduk who found refuge in the Mountains and the blue rocks above it. Today there is a long cable car that takes hikers up to these beautiful Mountain heights.
Among the Blue Mountains is the Karandila Mountain with a cliff inside of which is a ring-shaped opening called Halkata, through which the sun’s rays penetrate in mid-July. The rock has healing properties and is sacred to the Karakachani people living in Bulgaria, who celebrate their annual festival in this place at the time of the conjunction of the sun’s rays and the Mountain. It is an ancient Megalithic site whose sanctity has passed between times and cultures.
Stara Zagora is an ancient and large City in Bulgarian terms (140,000 people) located in the north-east of the Thracian plain. Neolithic villages were discovered near it, the most important of which is Karanovo. The fertile plain was the center of the agricultural revolution that appeared at the beginning of history. During the Bronze Age, copper mines were developed near the City, so naturally the Thracians established an ancient City here in the 5th century BC.
In the heart of the City there is a Museum with many findings from the Neolithic period (Goddess culture), in one of its branches called Topolnitsa Archaeological Park there are two restored houses from 8,000 years ago which the Bulgarians claim are the oldest houses in the world. You can also see the contents of the house and some Goddess figurines.
The Romans rebuilt Stara Zagora on a large scale according to hippodamian design plan in the 2nd century AD and it became one of the main cities in the Roman province of Thrace. Impressive remains can be seen from this period such as: the ancient forum, baths, the walls of the old City, mosaics, streets, tombs and gates, an auditorium and a theater. The City has several beautiful Churches and cultural institutions (including an opera house), and at the heart of it is a beautiful park combined with a pedestrian street.
This is the largest archaeological mound in Europe and contains seven layers of settlement, starting from the 7th millennium BC until the Thracian period. It is located near Stara Zagora, at the foot of the old Sredna Planina Mountains south of the Balkan Mountains. At the beginning of the settlement in the place (7th millennium BC) about 100 residents lived there in 18 houses, but after a few hundred years there were already thousands of people living peacefully together.
The mound is a reference point for the dating of all prehistoric excavations in Eastern Europe. It was studied in depth and especially the ancient layers from the time of the Goddess culture, where pottery vessels were found with unique characteristics that gave the name to an entire culture. Goddess figurines were also found – seated figures of women in which the legs and pelvis become a chair. In the Karanovo culture figurines the nose looks like a beak, and is created by pulling and pinching the clay out.
In the excavations, a seal was found with the oldest writing in Europe, which has not yet been deciphered. Most of the findings can be seen in the National Museum in Sofia. Not far from the mound is a Thracian tomb with a chariot from the 1st century BC and a kind of Museum that was built around it.
Near Lake Varna is a nearly 7,000-year-old cemetery that is considered one of the most important prehistoric sites in the world. Worked metals of copper and gold, obsidian glass, ceramics, and jewelry representing an ancient prehistoric culture called “Varna culture” were found there. About 6 kg of jewelry and gold tools were found in one grave.
“Varna gold treasure” is the oldest gold in the world that has large quantities of it. The grave is of a male surrounded by many gold ornaments arranged in a way that represents the chakras (energy centers), and the human energy field (around each person there is a field called an aura). The findings can be interpreted as related to energy centers in the body and that the man is a shaman, and they can be interpreted differently; that the man was a warrior and the wealth of the grave indicates the beginning of male dominance and inequality (a wrong interpretation in my opinion). The gold treasure of Varna is now on display in a Museum in Sofia.
In addition to the cemetery, the remains of many Neolithic villages were found in the Varna area, the findings of which are displayed in the archaeological Museum of the City. According to Gimbutas, the Varna culture is the first stage in the transition from a Goddess – woman culture to a male culture, and this is manifested in the presence of warrior graves.
Another settlement where gold treasures from the same period – the Varna culture were discovered – is Durankulak, which is the most northeastern settlement in Bulgaria, close to the Romanian border. In this place, the remains of an ancient temple to the Goddess Sibel were found. It is located on the shores of a lake and is an open prehistoric Museum, and is called (for some reason) “Bulgarian Troy”.
Varna today is the resort and beach tourism center of Bulgaria, few of its visitors are aware of the fact that it is one of the oldest cities in the world. The City became a Thracian Greek polis in the 6th century BC, and was the place of contact and bridge between the Thracian culture and tribes and the emerging Greek culture, after that it was an important Roman and Byzantine City.