Cradle of Medieval Slav Culture

At the time when the alarming events described above were taking place in Great Moravia, Bulgaria was the biggest and most powerful Slav state. Moreover, because of the reasons we have already mentioned, she was in great need of an alphabet and of a Christian clergy to preach in the Slav language. The persecuted disciples of Methodius were fully aware of the needs and possibilities of the Bulgarian state, and after their teacher’s death they set out for Bulgaria, which at that time had common frontiers with Great Moravia. The local district rulers in Bulgaria gave them a hearty welcome and sent them to the capital, where Prince Boris was eagerly awaiting them. Methodius’s best known disciples who came to Bulgaria were Clement, Nahum and Angelarius. Clement was dis-patched to the south-western parts of the country as Bishop of Ohrid, while the other two remained in the capital. In only a few years, hundreds of young people, thirsty for knowledge, were taught to read and write in the Slav-Bulgarian language and were then sent as priests and administrators to all parts of the country. Scores of religious books were translated from the Greek and ousted completely the Greek language from the church services.

Grand Council of Boris

In 893 Prince Boris organized a Grand Council in the capital of Preslav, which adopted important decisions. Boris’s younger son Simeon ascended to the throne instead of Vladimir, the opponent to Christianity. The capital was transferred from heathen Pliska to Preslav. The Slav (old Bulgarian) language was proclaimed as official state and church language instead of Greek, while the numerous Greek clergy was replaced everywhere by Bulgarian priests. The sound foundations for the rapid development of an original Slav-Bulgarian culture were laid and the most important channels of Byzantine influence were cut off. The catalysts which were to speed up the process of merger between Slavs and Bulgarians, a process which had been going on for more than two centuries had been found.

The reign of Simeon, the greatest ruler of mediaeval Bulgaria, was marked with brilliant military victories which put the very existence of the Byzantine Empire to trial and turned Bulgaria into an empire. In a number of decisive battles, the biggest one at Acheloe (not far from present-day Nessebur), Simeon succeeded in crushing the military might of the Byzantines. He then led his armies in two victorious marches to the walls of Constantinople (in 921 and 923-924) which placed the Byzantine Empire on the brink of annihilation. The Bulgarian state extended from the Carpathian mountains in the north to the Aegean Sea and Central Greece in the south, from the Adriatic coast and present-day Croatia in the west to the Black Sea in the east, in other words, it occupied almost the entire Balkan Peninsula and present-day Hungary.

Land of Civilizations

Bulgaria is not a big country on land. But definitely it is a big country on culture history and culture.

Bulgaria occupies a territory of 111,000 square kilometres, has a population of 9 million and is situated in the heart of the Balkan Peninsula. It is a country of roses, staunch revolutionaries, famous singers and dancers. Its people are famous for their industriousness and hospitality.

A land of Ancient Civilizations

The Bulgarian state was founded in the year 681. Bulgaria is not only one of the oldest European states, but also a land in which man has appeared very early – some 150,000 years ago. Not far from the city of Stara Zagora (beginning of the rose valley only 35 km away from Kazanlak with the rose festival), Central Bulgaria, the world’s oldest and biggest copper mines have been discovered. They were exploited in the late 5th and early 4th millennium B. C. Metal tools ensured a labor productivity which was 30 times higher than that of stone tools, and their appearance brought about a veritable revolution in the development of human society. Besides, favorable climatic conditions made possible the comparatively early appearance of animal husbandry and plant-growing, which enriched the diet and made surer the existence of primitive man. Wheat was grown in the Balkans as early as the end of the 7th millennium B. C. and it was from here that it was spread to the rest of Europe.

The good climatic and material conditions determined the appearance on the territory of present-day Bulgaria of some of the earliest civilizations in history. Recently a gold trove was unearthed near the city of Varna, dating from the end of the 5th and early 4th millennium B. C. It is a proof not only of a high level of development of the crafts but also of an advanced stage of social stratification. The clay tablets with written signs on them found near the town of Vratsa, North-western Bulgaria, date back to approximately the same period.

The Thracians

The Thracians were the first population inhabiting the territory of present-day Bulgaria, known to science. In the works of the ancient Greek authors they are described as a numerous people, and Thrace – as a land of abundance and merriment. Thrace was the native land of the mythical musician Orpheus and of Spartacus, the leader of the slaves’ uprising which shook the Roman Empire early in our era. During the past few decades Bulgarian archaeologists have unearthed imposing tombs with magnificent frescoes, impregnable strongholds, workshops and exquisite gold jewels and vessels.

After the 7th century B. C. a considerable number of colonies of the Greek poleis (city-states) were founded along the Thracian Black Sea coast. They started an animated trade and cultural exchange with the hinterland, thus creating a second cultural layer on the present-day Bulgarian territory – of another brilliant ancient civilization – that of the Greeks.

Cultural Development in Arbanassi

Naturally, not all of the people of Arbanassi were involved in trade, but with prosperity came the demand for goods and services, and many craftsmen and women made their way to the town to provide the required foodstuffs, clothing, shoes, ceramic products, gold and silver smithing, jewelry making, decorative and other forms of art. Due to the comparative wealth of its citizens, most of the surviving artifacts from the time indicate an emphasis on quality, and this would have only enhanced the reputation of the town within the region.

Most importantly, people require places to live in, and so architects and builders were in high demand in Arbanassi, and this is the most visible legacy that remains today of this unique town.

In 1640, Catholic Bishop Peter Bogdanov writes in a letter that – ” There, up in the mountains from which you can see Turnovo, there are at least 1,000 fine houses of good construction”.

In the tradition of the times the houses were massively built with stone, with high stone walls around the perimeter, which then formed the narrow labyrinth of streets around the town. The town itself has no defined centre, or village square within its layout, but notable public areas are the public fountains and springs, laid in stone, which in a society where the horse was highly valued, would have provided an area for casual meetings and discussion while watering the horses. Two of these places well preserved are the “Konska Chishma” and the “Parzarska Chishma”

The architectural look of the houses in Arbanassi is a practical mixture of Balkan building traditions to suit the climate, the everyday requirements of the times for food storage and animal stabling, and the blending of the many cultural aesthetic influences particular to the region.

The main house is sited within the walled perimeter, with other structures.

It is facing a large courtyard. Entry to the courtyard was through heavy wooden gates in two parts, the smaller for pedestrian use, the larger for horses, carts and livestock. Just inside the gates were small niches for guards and watchmen.

To one side of the courtyard would be the agricultural buildings and stables, the other the main residential structure. The house was usually of a two story design, with the ground floor massively constructed of stone, providing the cellar, pantry and storage areas, and hidden or secret rooms for hiding goods and even people in times of danger. The second floor is a large spacious area functional for family living, reached by two types of staircase, one more formal the other for services. The rooms were divided into again formal and service types, with bedroom and guest rooms set apart from the rest of the house. (Some houses having both summer guest rooms and winter guest rooms.) Heating was provided by large built in fireplaces contained within the walls. Decoration was varied, with carved wood popular, or rendered walls providing the backdrop for wool, fabric and ceramic ornaments.

The best surviving examples

From the period, the best surviving examples are – Konstantcalievata, Hadgilievata, the homes of Kandilarovi, Nuku Kultuki, Na Baba Kali  Hadji Pop Paniot  and of these Konstantcaleivata is the most original. Built in the 17th century, with some slight alterations in later times, the huge ground floor contains guard and hiding rooms, cellars, stables, main and secondary staircases. The main door is a massive metal and wood framed structure, with special locks against intruders. The second floor contains formal rooms – salon, dining room and sitting room, all of which are interconnected, the large dining room itself being connected with the kitchen, pantry and bakery, bathrooms. The bedrooms are placed around a central corridor, and at the farthest part of the house is a purpose built maternity room. The interior walls are rendered in a soft white plaster framed by wood carvings, providing space for numerous handmade weaving, the floor coverings also being colorful handmade wool weavings.

It is a great example of how life in the 17th century could have obviously been very comfortable in a house such as this.

SOFIA

 GOOD TO KNOW

Sofia is one of Europe’s youngest national capitals. It only became the Bulgarian capital in 1879, when the country broke away from the Ottoman Empire after 500years of foreign rule.

  • Borisova Gradina, largest of Sofia’s numerous parks, covers an incredible 90.5 hectares, roughly equivalent to 127 football fields.

-In 2010, more than 400,000 viewers went to the cinema to watch “Mission London”, the screen version of Alek Popov’s angry satire about the political classes in Bulgaria: that’s 5.4% of the entire population.

HOTEL

The trendiest hotel in town is the designer hotel Les Fleurs (Vitosha Boulevard 21, T +359/2/810 08 00), located at the very heart of the city. This is particularly true of the luxurious Panorama Suite up on the 7th Floor, which boasts its own vast roof terrace; there’s nothing quite like it anywhere else in Sofia. As well as this, the hotel is home to the highly recommendable restaurant Le Bouquet.

RESTAURANTS, CAFES & CLUBS

Generally you can eat very well (and amazingly cheaply) in Sofia. The Pri Orlite (Dyakon Ignatiy ll/17th Floor, T +359/2/98150 00) serves excellent lamb, and the amazing view is a highlight in its own right.

You can eat very elegantly at Opera (GeorgiS. Rakovski 113, T+359/2/988 2141). For a lighter break, we recommend the guest gardens of the Flocafes (Sveta Nedelya Sq. 3, T +359/2/950 66 45), the Art Club Museum (Saborna 2, T +359/2/980 66 64) or Toba&Co (Moskovska 6, T +359/2/98946 96), behind the National Art Gallery, which mutates into a good dub in the evenings. Another classic for night owls is the Yalta (Tzar Osvoboditel 20, T+359/897/870230).

SHOPPING

Sofia is a shoppers’paradise, thanks not so much to the shopping centres that have sprung up everywhere in recent years as the numerous small boutiques and original shops in the districts sandwiched between ulica Tzar Asen and Boulevard Tzar Osvoboditel.

A handful of interesting addresses: Octopus Industries (Tzar Asen 69,T +359/889/038 809,); Paradise Garage (Karnigradska/corner of Tzar Asen, T +359/889/438 815); and Chaika (Georgi 5. Rakovski 122, T +359/898/471467,  Another interesting shop if you’re after Bulgarian designer fashion is Ivan Asen 22 (Ivan Asen 22, T +359/888/399506). The collections of Garderob can be purchased in Sofia directly from the designers by appointment (T +359/899/878207).

ART SCENE

The Sofia Art Gallery (Gen. Gurko 1, T+359/2/9872181) exhibits some interesting positions on contemporary art, as does its offshoot, the Vaska Emanouilova Gallery (Boulevard Y. Sakazov 15/to the rear of the park, T +359/2/94411 75, ). Also recommended is the ICA (Boulevard Vasil Levski 134/entrance via Ekzar Josif, T +359/887/510 585), run by Nedko Soiakov and others, and artspace The Fridge (Ovche Pole 122,T +359/889/858 088, ). You can also see works by Levko Soiakov in Vienna in May: the well-known Bulgarian artist opens his exhibition on 12 May at the Georg Kargl Box.

READING

To set the mood for a trip to Sofia in the most entertaining way, read “AdvancedLevel”, Alek Popov’s collection of angry short stories, published by Residenz.

Shopper’s Paradise

Objects With Usage Value

Erwin Wurm, one of the most successful of contemporary international artists, has developed an intervention at the MAK collection of contemporary art entitled “Schoner Woh- nen”. The exhibition, which can be seen until 4 September, continues the “Kunstler im Fokus”series. The exhibits have been specially conceived for the MAK. Starting out with nothing but discarded “finds”, Wurm succeeds in transforming pieces of furniture into works of applied sculpture. In so doing, the artist focuses on the paradigmatic shift between art and design.

Summer In The City

Thisyear, Vienna’s summer locations are inviting visitors to lay back and enjoy the open air once again. One particularly popular meeting point for gourmets, art lovers, athletes and fans of great live concerts is the summerstage beside the Danube Canal, while the Herrmann beach bar near the Urania offers a holiday feel like no other – complete with sand, deckchairs, sunshades and cocktails awaiting its guests’arrival. The bathing ship Wien (a floating open-air swimming pool), is pulling in the crowds with its combination of sun, pool and a two-crown restaurant, Holy-Moly! Austria’s largest‘city beach dub’, SandintheCity, has already opened its doors, bringing southern flair to the heart of the city. Summer relaxation and leisure fun is hotter than ever, of course, on the Old Danube and Danube Island.

Top Trips With Leading Athletes

Ruefa and Intersport Eybl are launching an exclusive cooperation: ten new sporting and experience trips are now being offered under the title “Freedom without Frontiers”. The programme includes a range of sports including running, triathlon, trekking, sailing and skung. The trips take participants to seven different countries (from Austria to Morocco and Canada), and range from the Beginner Camp to Marathon Running. Each journey is accompanied by an experienced athlete, including Wolfgang Fasching and Christian Mayer.

A City As Shopper’s Paradise

Austrian liveries flirt with in-demand designer fashion. So it’s curtains up on a very Graz shopping experience! One popular shopping utensil is the GrazGutschein (GrazVoucher), accepted by over 500 shops, gastronomic outlets and service providers at the heart of Austria’s second city, and available in the form of notes with a value of 10 euros.

Everything under one roof: city centre shopping mall and all-round supplier Kastner & Ohler was extended last year at a cost of40 million euros. With its vast roof extension and floor space enlarged from 10,000 to 40,0 square metres, Kastner & Ohler is now indisputably THE shopping centre in the city.

Tradition included!

The shops and boutiques of Graz are reminiscent of a children’s dressing-up box, home to a rainbow mix of different colours and styles. Casual outfits for a quiet early-evening stroll through town share the racks with splendid ball gowns whose wearers want to enjoy an all-evening appearance they will never forget. Affordable antique market accessories compete for visitors’ attention with top-end items, while typically

Postgraduate studying is all the rage, and authe more so where there are countless new programmes and courses in place.