Bulgarian History and Hospitality

Posted on Apr 18, 2018 in Bulgaria, News

The morning broke with our best weather yet in Bulgaria. We left Gorna Oriahovitsa immediately after breakfast with a plan to stop at 3 historical sites on our way to Haskovo.

Our first stop was Gorna Oriahovitsa, deep in a gorge in the Balkan Mountains. The 900 year old monastery was incredibly peaceful. We were the only people touring he grounds as the fog faded to soft morning sunlight. Our tour started with a monument to the Bulgarians that protected the monastery to last man from the Ottomans and stories of others that hid in nearby caves and starved rather than submit to the invaders. We purchased candles from a monk in the chapel and lit them for the health of our families before walking the grounds and purchasing gifts at the small market outside the walls.

We drove deeper into the mountains for our next stop – the Etar Architectural-Ethnographic Complex. This small village showcases traditional Bulgarian life and craftmanship from the time of the Bulgarian National Revival (Late 1700’s to late 1800’s). We were amazed at the ingenuity of the town’s construction and its occupants. The village is situated in a valley, on a river and the inhabitants used water power for whetstones and flower mills, among other things. The skill of the craftspeople in leather work, wood carving, and metalsmithing was incredible. We purchased a bunch of souvenirs.

Our last stop on the way to Haskovo took us high in the mountains to Shipka Pass, the site of a major victory over the Ottomans by a combined force of Bulgarian volunteers and Russian soldiers. The monument to this victory dominates a windswept peak atop 999 stairs. The panoramic views, the artifacts recovered from the battlefield and the history lesson from our guide helped us understand the importance of this place to the Bulgarian people.

Our drive to Haskovo brought us down the mountains to valleys lined with agricultural fields and dotted with small villages. We stopped along the way for the best meal we have had so far. A group of Petar’s friends had spent the morning preparing a barbecue for us that included traditional Bulgarian salad and meats. But the highlight of the meal was the whole lamb roasting over a fire when we arrived! We all thoroughly enjoyed our meal and the boys had a chance to do some fishing.

After the barbecue we checked into a beautiful hotel in Haskovo and made our way to Dimitrovgrad to practice with one of the most accomplished clubs in Bulgaria. Ever since our dual meet two years ago, they have been very welcoming to us. The boys worked on their finishes to leg attacks, front headlock scores and ankle laces. The practice was hard with a lot of up-tempo drilling and live wrestling but the team recognized it was exactly what we need as we prepare for our tournament in Greece Saturday.

Practice finished after 8 so it was a late dinner at one of Haskovo’s best restaurants and then right to sleep because we have morning practice tomorrow and then head for Greece.