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BLAGOEVGRAD

Blagoevgrad is the largest commercial and cultural centre in the Pirin region. It is situated at the foot of the Rila Mountain near the place where the Bistritsa River comes down from the mountain.
The modern town is the successor to the old Thracian settlement called Skaptopara (market town). The name of Gorna Dzhumaya (upper market) is first mentioned in a document of the Rila Monastery in 1502 as a large open market on the upper Struma River; there was also a Barakli Dzhumaya on the lower Struma. During the Ottoman Rule, the settlement was an important roadside fortress. During the second half of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th century, it won recognition as a large crafts and commercial centre. The Bulgarian Varosha Quarter was a seat of enlightenment and cultural life. After the Congress that wrote the Treaty of Berlin it remained within the territory of Turkey and became a centre of resistance against the foreign rule. The population took part in all of the major events of the battle for national liberation - the April Uprising (1876), the Russo-Turkish War of Liberation (1877-1878), the Kresna-Razlog Uprising (1878-1879). The town was liberated in 1912. After three wars - the Balkan (1912), the Second Balkan (1913) and First World War (1914-1918) - many refuges from the Aegean and Vardar regions of Macedonia immigrated here.

LANDMARKS
• Restored buildings in the National-Revival Varosha Quarter:
The childhood home of Georgi Izmirliev-Makedoncheto (The Little Macedonian).
The State Puppet Theater.
The Stoyan Sotirov Art Gallery.
The Vavedenie Bogorodichno (Presentation of the Holy Virgin) Church (1844), a cultural monument of national significance due to the precious murals and iconostasis - the workmanship of Dimitar Zograf and Dimitar Molerov of the Bankso School of art.
The Historical Museum, which houses interesting expositions from the entire Pirin region.
• The old town centre - Makedonia Square, where the monument to the revolutionary Gotse Delchev is situated, and the reconstructed cultural clubs, in which the Chamber Opera is situated.
• The new town centre, where the administrative buildings - along with the Nikola Vaptsarov Drama Theater, the American University, the Neofit Rilski Southwestern University, the regional library, etc. -are situated.
• The Natural History Complex, situated in a beautiful forestry park approximately 30 minutes' walk from the old Varosha Quarter, including zoo and botanical garden with rare and valuable species and exotic greenery.
• The Bachinovo Park near Blagoevgrad.
• The centuries-old forest of Parangalitsa 35 km from the town, declared a biospheric reserve by the UNESCO.
• The Stob Pyramids - picturesque earthen pyramids with a variety of forms on the territory of the village of Stob on the western foothills of Rila. People have called the separate groupings by various names - the Dolls, the Hammers, the Nymphs' Chimneys, etc. The most famous grouping is the In-laws. The Stob Pyramids are especially beautiful at sunset or in moonlight.
• The Resurrection of Christ' church near the village of Pokrovnik, St. Archangel Michael's church near the village of Leshko (there are also ruins of an ancient fortress here), St. John church the Precursor's and St. George's church in the village of Bistritsa.
• Remains of an ancient fortress near the village of Gabrovo. Ancient fortress near the village of Klisura.
• The Markov Kamak cliff south of the Tsarev Peak.
• The black boulder on the bank of the Blagoevgradska Bistritsa River.
The Rila Monastery. The largest Bulgarian stauropegial (autonomous from the jurisdiction of the local bishop and directly subjected to the Patriarchate of Constantinople) monastery and spiritual centre was founded in the 10th century by St. Ivan Rilski. Its restoration and expansion date from the middle of the 14th century and was financed by the Bulgarian feudal lord Hrelyo. In 1335 he built a war tower in his own courtyard, and in 1343 a church. After the country was overtaken by the Ottoman Turks, the monastery was burnt out and ransacked a number of times. At the beginning of the 16th century it began its activities once again and became a main scholarly and spiritual centre. The actual zenith of the cloister was during the 18th and 19th century. All of the main monastery wings, as well as the auxiliary and commercial buildings, were built up until 1816. A fire in 1833 destroyed a large section of the complex. Its reconstruction began immediately. In 1834, on the site of the small church, Pavel - a master builder from the village of Krimin - began to construct the large Holy Virgin's Temple. Its decorative murals were entrusted to icon painters from Samokov and Bansko. The frescoes of Zahariy Zograf take a special place here. Among the remarkable attributes of the temple is the imposing wood-carved iconostasis.

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