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CHEPELARE

The highest town in Bulgaria is situated in the heart of the Rhodope Mountains, on the upper reaches of the Chepelarska (Chaya) River.
The first settlers were stockbreeders and farmers. Later residents leaned towards handcrafts - tailors, masons, carpenters - and, during the winter months, a large portion of the men headed to Aegean Thrace to make a living. The commercial caravan trail between the Plovdiv Plain and the Aegean goes through the valley of the Chepelarska River; this ensured the economic stability of the region from the end of the 18th century to the beginning of the 19th century. The Russo-Turkish War (1877-1878) dealt a harsh blow to the local economy. While the military action was still going on, the Ottoman troops, retreating through the plain, looted and burned down everything in their path. After the division of Bulgaria via the Treaty of Berlin, Chepelare remained in the vassal Eastern Rumelia. During the 1930s and 40s the city attained its position as an attractive resort centre. Tourists prefer it for its beautiful surroundings and some of the best ski runs in Europe - Mechi Chal (mechi - bear's, chal - tur. mountain pasture). The #1 run is 3150 m (2 miles) long, 50 m (160 ft.) wide, with a descent of 720 m (2360 ft.). The #2 run is 5250 m (over 3 miles) long and 25 m (80 ft.) wide. There is also a 30 km (nearly 19 miles) long distance run. There is a two-seat chairlift with the capacity of 800 people. Chepelare is the sunniest town in Bulgaria - recording 270 days of sunshine per year. During the winter the snow cover holds for 80-120 days, the average depth of which is 50-80 cm (during January and February). More than 15 hotels and private accommodations offer every convenience for winter recreation.

LANDMARKS
• The unique Rhodope architecture.
• Works of art by master craftsmen (thick bed covers, fleece rugs, goat-hair rugs, and woolen rugs), which have become the symbol of the Bulgarian talent, skill and imagination.
• St. Athanasius' Church (1836), built by the residents of the town in just 40 days with the help of a detachment of soldiers, sent by the Sultan as guards.
• The Holy Virgin's church (1867).
• Museum of Speleology (caving) and Bulgarian Karst, which presents the beauty of Bulgarian caves and exhibits from the dawn of human history.
• The museum collection of skis and the sport of skiing.
• The sole factory on the Balkan Peninsula for the production of skis and snowboards - Pamporovo Ski.
• The Chudnite Mostove (Wondrous Bridges, a.k.a. Er Kyupria - Devil's Bridges) natural phenomenon. A rock phenomenon, a protected territory, consists of two naturally formed marble bridges with a length of 96 and 60 meters (315 and 197 feet) respectively. They are situated on the Aydarsko Dere Stream, at the crest of the Chernatitsa ridge. They were probably formed during an earthquake, which can have caused the collapse of a cave, assumed to exist in the past. They can be reached by automobile via a road that turns off of the Asenovgrad - Smolyan Highway.

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