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SAMOKOV

The town of Samokov is situated at the northern foothills of the Rila Mountain, on the plain of the same name. The Iskar River, the longest Bulgarian river at nearly 168 km. runs through the town on its way to flow into the Danube.

Samokov emerged during the 13-14th century on land, which had been inhabited back to prehistoric times. The medieval town was built on the site of a Roman settlement. It became known for the mining and working of iron. During the Ottoman rule, it was under the protection of the Sultans, as quality iron mining was a valuable asset for the Turkish Navy and Army. The blacksmiths' shops were equipped after the Western European model with large fans and big hammers (called samokovs, which is where the name comes from), moved by water-power. From district centre (Turkish kaaza) near the middle of the 19th century, Samokov became an independent military district (sancak in Turkish). During the National Revival era the town was one of the larger trade, crafts, cultural and educational centres. In 1771 Otets (Father) Aleksi Velkovich made a copy of Slavo-Bulgarian History, the writing and distribution of which was a real accomplishment for those times (when the author, Otets (father) Paisiy of Hilendar, was living). The following year, a nunnery was constructed with a cell school, in which Konstantin Fotinov studied; he was to publish the first Bulgarian-language magazine - Lyuboslovie - in Smyrna. In 1834 Nikola Karastoyanov imported and installed the first printing press and laid the beginning of literature printing in Bulgaria. The famous Samokov Art School (icons, painting, and carving) was formed at the end of the 18th and the beginning of the 19th century; it determined the appearance of Bulgarian National-Revival art. Some of the best-known Bulgarian icon painters - Hristo Dimitrov and his sons, Dimitar and Zahari Zograf, Stanislav Dospevski (the son of Dimitar Zograf), Ivan and Nikola Obrazopisovi, etc. - were born or worked in Samokov. The inhabitants of Samokov took an active part in the battle for church and national independence. During the time of the Russo-Turkish War of Liberation 50 of its residents fought among the lines of the Bulgarian militia. The present-day town is a national and international resort centre in the area of sport and tourism, the entranceway to the Rila Mountain for tourists, rock climbers and skiers.

LANDMARKS
• The Town Historical museum, which preserves material connected with ore mining, as well as a rich collection of embroidery, fabrics and stitching from Samokov.
• The Metropolitan Church of the Assumption (1790-1791) - the work of local masters: builders, woodcarvers and icon painters - a remarkable architectural and artistic monument.
• Belyova Church of the Birth of the Virgin (15-16th century) - a cultural monument with precious murals, and St. Nicholas' Church.
• Bayrakli Mosque (built during the 16th century and rebuilt in the mid-19th century).
• Nunnery (convent). Founded by local residents during the 1770s. The Holy Virgin's Church was built in 1839. The masterful fretwork, with which the iconostasis and bishop's throne are decorated, is of particular interest.
• The large drinking fountain (a.k.a. the earring fountain) from the 17th century.
• Belyova House, Sarafska, Zografska, Drenska, Mandrova houses among others.
• The Otets (Father) Paisiy cultural club, a National Revival monument.
• Monuments: to the fallen in the wars of 1912-1918, to the fallen in the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-1878, to the first printer Nikola Karastoyanov, to the first publisher Konstantin Fotinov, etc.
• St. Spas' monastery (3 km from the village of Alino), founded at the beginning of the 17th century. Its small single-corpus church has preserved a large amount of murals from that time (1626). which are of high artistic value.
• Belchinskite Mineralni Bani (Mineral Baths) - a balneological resort near the Palakaria River with a water temperature of 41.5°C (106.7°F). Mainly diseases of the muscular-skeletal system are treated here. The baths are situated 10 km from the Alino monastery of the 16th century.
• Dolna Banya resort with many holiday centres and children's camps. The temperature of the mineral water is 56.3°C (133.3°F).
• The mountain resorts of Borovets, Malyovitsa and the village of Govedartsi are nearby.

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