FEW SNAKES AND NO RUSSIANS

FEW SNAKES AND NO RUSSIANS

Sat, 05/28/2022 - 19:18

Black Sea's 'other' Snake Island is in peaceful Bulgaria

snake island bulgaria
Snake Island, Bulgaria

"Russian warship, go f*ck yourself!" When the Ukrainian defenders of Black Sea's Snake Island shouted out to the outnumbering Russian forces at the beginning of Putin's "special military operation," they hardly anticipated that they would coin a catchphrase that would define the conflict and become a global meme. Today everyone with access to unfiltered Internet is aware that somewhere in the Black Sea there is a piece of rock called Snake Island.

However, few would know that there are in fact two Snake Islands in the Black Sea. The second, and smaller one, is in Bulgarian waters, off one of the most picturesque parts of the seashore south of Burgas.

The Bulgarian Snake Island is just 3 acres in size. It is a piece in the rich jigsaw puzzle of sites of interest in Ropotamo River Nature Reserve: lush oak and mangrove forests, pristine beaches, intriguing rock formations like the Lion's Head, historical and archaeological sites like abandoned fortifications, dolmens and Begliktash, the ancient Thracian megalithic shrine.

Snake Island itself has some unspectacular archaeological remains. Recent excavations have established that it was inhabited both by the Thracians in Antiquity, and the Byzantines, in the early Middle Ages. Later, a small monastery appeared on the island. It was probably dedicated to St Thomas, as this is the island's official name.

St Thomas Island is known as Snake Island for an obvious reason. A vibrant colony of dice snakes, feeding on fish, live there. Holidaymakers on the beautiful and undeveloped beach by Ropotamo's estuary sometimes encounter them, swimming in the sea or sunbathing on some hot rock. The snakes are harmless but should be avoided: they are a protected species and must not be disturbed.

The other Snake Island

The snakes' presence on the island has impressed people since times immemorial. According to a local myth, the king and the queen of all reptiles lived there. Another claims that St Marina, the saint who is widely popular in the region and is considered the master of reptiles, would bring all "good" snakes in her underwater cave and would release the "bad" ones onto the island. Local fishermen would celebrate St Marina's feast, on 17 July, by catching snakes in their nets.

Just like so many other interesting geological formations in Bulgaria, Snake Island has been ravaged by treasure hunters looking for legendary hidden gold. In recent years, New Agers also got interested in the piece of rock, claiming that it was created by the Thracians as a larger-than-life temple to Sun and Moon.

If you swim or sail to Snake Island, you will be in for a surprise. A significant part of the island is covered in... cacti.

The plants, of two Opuntia varieties, are not native. They were brought from Bratislava's Botanical Garden by Bulgarian King Boris III, in 1933, for some arcane reason. The king is said to have loved Snake Island. He and his retinue would often stop there during their hunting trips in the area.

The newcomers felt well on Snake Island and soon spread, creating a thick, thorny blanket that is impossible to walk through.

Sadly, another species that would call Snake Island home, has not been around for decades. The island's rugged shore used to provide hiding and breeding space to monk seals. The animal was once widely present in the Bulgarian Black Sea, but was hunted to extinction in the 20th century by fishermen because it used to steal fish from their nets.

However, birds from all Europe who stop at Snake Island during their annual migrations to and from Africa continue to do so, unchangingly, in spring and autumn.

Luckily, Putin has not yet eyed the Bulgarian Snake Island. 


us4bg-logo-reversal.pngVibrant Communities: Spotlight on Bulgaria's Living Heritage is a series of articles, initiated by Vagabond Magazine, with the generous support of the America for Bulgaria Foundation, that aims to provide details and background of places, cultural entities, events, personalities and facts of life that are sometimes difficult to understand for the outsider in the Balkans. The ultimate aim is the preservation of Bulgaria's cultural heritage – including but not limited to archaeological, cultural and ethnic diversity. The statements and opinionsexpressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the America for Bulgaria Foundation and its partners


Issue 188 America for Bulgaria Foundation The Black Sea

Commenting on www.vagabond.bg

Vagabond Media Ltd requires you to submit a valid email to comment on www.vagabond.bg to secure that you are not a bot or a spammer. Learn more on how the company manages your personal information on our Privacy Policy. By filling the comment form you declare that you will not use www.vagabond.bg for the purpose of violating the laws of the Republic of Bulgaria. When commenting on www.vagabond.bg please observe some simple rules. You must avoid sexually explicit language and racist, vulgar, religiously intolerant or obscene comments aiming to insult Vagabond Media Ltd, other companies, countries, nationalities, confessions or authors of postings and/or other comments. Do not post spam. Write in English. Unsolicited commercial messages, obscene postings and personal attacks will be removed without notice. The comments will be moderated and may take some time to appear on www.vagabond.bg.

0 comments

Add new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.

Restricted HTML

  • Allowed HTML tags: <a href hreflang> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote cite> <code> <ul type> <ol start type> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd> <h2 id> <h3 id> <h4 id> <h5 id> <h6 id>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Web page addresses and email addresses turn into links automatically.

Discover More

veleka river
DISCOVERING STRANDZHA'S COAST
The Strandzha mountains coast, roughly everything along the Black Sea south of Burgas, is about 100 km long as the crow flies. Yet it is very varied.

soviet airplane bulgaria
BULGARIA'S COLD WAR PLANES
In the spring of 2022, Bulgarian military aircraft used during the Cold War suddenly became hot news. Should Bulgaria offer its old Soviet MiG- 29s to Ukraine, or shouldn't it?

centre of bulgaria
WHAT IS KARLOVO?
Great changes often spread from inconspicuous places, and Karlovo is a case in point.

Sacred hunt, a mural at Aleksandrovo Tomb
THRACIAN BULGARIA
There are places in the world where you can get to know long-vanished nations and their former glory: Egypt, China, Greece... Bulgaria also makes it on this list.

st chistopher zlatolist
THE MYSTIC POWER OF ZLATOLIST
Born in 1883 near Serres, which was then in the Ottoman Empire and today is in Greece, Stoyna Dimitrova was seven years old when she experienced something extraordinary.

old burgas
LOOKING AT BURGAS, DARKLY
Despite some researchers' claims that Bulgaria's largest city on the southern Black Sea coast is ancient (related in some way to... Troy), most would agree that Burgas is quite new.

Tombul Mosque in Shumen is arguably the most beautiful in Bulgaria
BULGARIA'S TOP MOSQUES
Sunni Islam is Bulgaria's second largest religion after Eastern Orthodoxy.

sozopol from air
SOZOPOL WITHOUT TEARS
Should I visit Sozopol? There is hardly a place that divides opinion more than this town on the southern Bulgarian Black Sea coast. Yes, by all means do go to Sozopol, will urge some of your Bulgarian friends.

roman plovdiv theatre
EXPLORING ROMAN PLOVDIV
Plovdiv claims 7,000 years of uninterrupted history, starting from prehistoric times, but the earliest visible traces of this long past are much younger.

An Orthodox Satan is about to devour a unrighteous man in the village of Teshovo, western Bulgaria
THE DEVIL IN THE DETAILS
Guidebooks boast about the beauty and artistic importance of the murals in Bulgaria's churches that date from the later centuries of Ottoman domination.

thracian gold treasure
TOMBS, TREASURES AND ROSES
Everyone has heard about the Valley of the Egyptian Kings, but Bulgaria has its equivalent.

vidin fortress danube
VIDIN: CITY ON DANUBE BANK HOLDS HOST OF SURPRISES
Where can you find some intriguing Jewish heritage? No, the answers to these questions do not lie in established destinations. The place where you can see all of these is Vidin, the largest city in Bulgaria's Northwest.