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SMOLYAN

One of the most beautiful towns in Bulgaria is situated on both banks of the Cherna River, in the most picturesque part of the Rhodope Mountains. It was formed by the union of three villages - Smolyan (Ezerovo or Pashmakla), Raykovo and Ustovo, which are its separate present-day quarters.
The earliest archaeological evidence in the region dates from the end of the Bronze Age - 13th century B.C. Thracians, Slavs and Proto-Bulgarians lived in these lands. Because of its geographic location Smolyan was successively under Byzantine, Ottoman and Bulgarian rule. The Slavic tribe of Smoleni gave it its current name. It was an autonomous possession of Rhodope despots, autocrats and Voivodi (militia leaders). The entire Smolyan region remained within the borders of the Ottoman Empire until 1912. After the Liberation it reached its economic and cultural zenith and became one of the most attractive Bulgarian winter resorts - the pearl of the Rhodope Mountains.

LANDMARKS
• In the Smolyan Quarter
- National-Revival houses: Meramova, Sarieva, Prisadova among others.
- The arched bridge (Beyska Kyupria) on the Cherna River, built at the beginning of the 18th century.
- The Chinarat Nature Reserve - a 250-year-old sycamore tree.
- The Rozhen National Observatory - the largest planetarium in Bulgaria, a member of Planetary Society, the international organization created by Carl Sagan.
- The Rhodope Drama Theater.
- The Central Rhodope Historical museum with its extremely rich archaeological and ethnographic collection - more than 150 000 exhibits.
- The Town Art Gallery.
• In the Raykovo Quarter
- The Pangalova House and the Ali Bey Konak ( Ottoman police and administrative headquarters) in Gorno Raykovo. National-Revival houses: Cheshiteva, Milyon-Cheshiteva and Gyordzheva among others in the Cheshitska Neighbourhood; Cheshitska Fountain in Dolno Raikovo.
- The memorial ossuary to residents of Raykovo who died for freedom.
- St. Nedelya's Church (1836) with precious icons.
- The Mazoleva Fountain.
• In the Ustovo Quarter
- Mednikarska Charshia (the old coppersmiths' marketplace).
- Hadzhi-Ivanova House, where the Russian army housed its headquarters during the War of Liberation.
- National-Revival houses: Sheremeteva, Takova, Hadzhi-Chonova, Vidrova, and Kelyavska.
- St. Nichols' Church (1836) with valuable icons by Stanislav Dospevski and Dimitar Zograf; the Holy Virgin's church.
• The Orpheus Folklore Ensemble for Children and Youth, created in 1970, which takes pride in its great contribution to the teaching, preservation and popularization of the rich legacy of folklore in the Rhodope Mountains.
• The Traditional Orpheus Children's Folklore Celebrations.
• Cultural, historical and attractive natural objects in the vicinity of Smolyan:
- The resort of Pamporovo 16 km north of the town.
- Early Christian basilica in the locale of Mogilata near Smolyan (4-6th century) - archaeological monument of national significance.
- Srednogorets (a.k.a. Kavgadzhik) Peak, connected with the epic battles for the liberation of the central Rhodope region from the Ottoman rule in 1912.
- The historic locale of Rozhen, connected with the passage of the Russian army at the time of the Russo-Turkish War of Liberation and with the defensive actions of the Rhodope revolutionaries and rebels. For more than 100 years the famous national folklore festival has been held here in Rozhen.
- The historic locale of Haidushki Polyani (rebels' meadows) 15 km northeast of the village of Slaveyno, connected with the battles for national liberation in the region.
- The village of Mogilitsa 27 km from Smolyan with its interesting National-Revival houses, architectural and ethnographic complex, Agushevi Konatsi - one of the largest and most interesting feudal residential ensembles (not just for the Rhodope region, but for the entire Balkan Peninsula). It consists of two residences and a few commercial buildings. They were constructed between 1820 and 1842. They contain not only the marks of a feudal aristocratic residence, but also characteristics of the National-Revival style of local Rhodope masters. In its most representative section, a museum
exhibition, traditional folk weaving from the Central Rhodopes, is displayed. In the covered area of its central inner yard, tools and instruments used in the main occupations of the population of the Central Rhodope region - sheep breeding and agriculture - are displayed.
- The Uhlovitsa Cave 3 km from the village of Mogilitsa with its beautiful cascading lakes - one of the oldest caves in the region. Nature has carved out in its bosom beautiful crystal forms, which resemble sea coral, a true spectacle of coralites and helictites. The underground palace culminates in seven magnificent lakes; a waterfall sweeps down from the largest of them. The temperature of the cave is 10-11°C (50-52F) all year round.
- The Smolyan lakes in the valley of the Cherna River. In the past, the lakes had been around 20 in number, but today only 7 still remain well-formed, the others have become marshland. In some of these spots small, temporary lakes recur in the spring and autumn. Other lakes have been turned into fish hatcheries; one is at the bottom of a small dam. The emerald eyes of the Rhodopes - Keryanovia Gyol, Milushevia Gyol, Silazha, Osmanovia Gyol, Lagera, Trevistoto (grassy) Lake, Bistroto (clear) Lake (considered the most beautiful), Mutnoto (muddy) Lake, and several smaller ponds which sometimes dry up in the summer - are sprinkled throughout this natural park, among the forests, meadows, hills, and paths.
- The 20-meter-high (65 feet) Smolyan Waterfall on the Kriva River, tributary to the Cherna River.

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