BRIDGE OF LEGENDS

by Dimana Trankova; photography by Anthony Georgieff

Centuries-old stone bridge in Nevestino tells ultimate story of creation, sacrifice

kadin bridge.jpg

Bridges are both feats of engineering and important gateways, and as such they have always attracted the human imagination. Since times immemorial, legends have been told of how the construction of a particular bridge is to be attributed to the Devil, or that evil spirits lived in it.

In the Balkans, there is a different legend about some old bridges such as those at Acra in Greece and on the Drina in Višegrad, Bosnia and Herzegovina. It attributes their durability and strength to a human sacrifice that the master builder had to make.

Bulgaria also has such a bridge. This elegant five-arched structure in Nevestino, a village near Kyustendil, is known by two names. One is Kadin Bridge, the other Nevestin Bridge. The root of the former is a Turkish word and the latter is Bulgarian. Both words mean the same, a married woman, and both reflect the legend about how the bridge came to be.

Once upon a time, the story goes, three brothers who were builders, were commissioned to construct a bridge over the River Struma. The work went awry from the very beginning. Each night an unknown force demolished everything they had built during the day, and every morning they had to start all over again.

Finally, the builders realised that the bridge needed a human sacrifice. The three agreed to entomb in the foundations of the bridge the first person to pass by on the following morning.

The elder brothers told their wives about the agreement. The youngest played fair. On the next day his young wife came to the construction site to bring his breakfast.

Neither the builder nor his wife protested against their fate, and carried out their roles in accordance with tradition. He "built" her into the bridge and she asked him to leave one of her breasts uncovered so she could feed their child.

So, the bridge was finished.

Nevestino, Bulgaria

Statue of the woman whose sacrifice, according to the legend, made completing the bridge possible

 

The legend had a great influence on the people in the region. The nearby village was named Nevestino. The local women would break off small pieces from a stone in the central arch of the bridge, boil them in milk and drink the liquid, believing this would boost their breastfeeding.

The Balkan story of a person, usually an young and beautiful woman, who has to be built in a structure, has deep roots. According to one interpretation, it reflects the old belief that each building has a soul that comes from the first person to have died in the construction, thus becoming its spiritual protector.

There are other legends about Kadin Bridge. One says that the bridge built itself. A heavy iron rod, moved by no visible force, broke pieces of stone from the surrounding mountains. The rocks moved to the construction site on their own, and took their places. When the bridge was ready, the stones that had already been broken but had not yet reached the river froze in their places.

Another legend has nothing to do with the supernatural, but it also involves a woman. When Sultan Murad (it is unclear which of the five Ottoman rulers with this name is being referred to) was passing through the area on his way to some battle, he came across a Bulgarian wedding party. The law required the wedding guests to stand aside to make way for the sultan and his entourage. However, they did not move.

Instead, the bride approached the sultan and made a low bow. Enraptured by her boldness, he offered her a gift. The young woman asked that a bridge be built at this spot, and her wish was granted.

Kadin Bridge, Bulgaria

Kadin Bridge was built to facilitate travel into the Western Balkans

 

Legends are legends but, unlike most other places, Kadin Bridge still preserves traces of its real history. A builder's inscription recalls that the 100-metre-long stone bridge was built by Ishak Pasha, Grand Vizier of Sultan Mehmed II the Conqueror, in 1469-1470 to facilitate travel from Constantinople to Skopje and the western Balkans.

Today local traffic in sleepy Nevestino still uses the bridge, and there is a quiet park around it. The times when Kadin Bridge was on a major route are long gone, and tourists divert from their journey to Skopje only for a quick photo op before continuing to the border with North Macedonia.

  • COMMENTING RULES

    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.

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

TOP MUST-SEES IN 2024
When wanderlust grabs you in 2024 but deciding on your next destination is hard, here is a list of places to whet your appetite. Some of them are millennia old and others are new, but they are all remarkable and most are one-of-a-kind.

BRUTALIST BULGARIA
A white mammoth dominates the upper part of Boulevard Todor Aleksandrov in central Sofia. Its massive, concrete surfaces are imposing.

LES FRANÇAIS EN BULGARIE
Before English took over in Bulgaria, in the 1990s, mastering French was obligatory for the local elite and those who aspired to join it.

WINTER NESEBAR
Winter is not only the time to head to Bulgaria's ski resorts. It is also the best time to enjoy some of this nation's most crowded tourist spots, such as Nesebar.

DEMON CHURCH
Crooked, horned and large-toothed, happily dragging sinners to Hell: demons make some of the most interesting, if slightly unrefined, characters of 19th century Bulgarian religious art.

DEAD POETS SOCIETY
It has become a commonplace that a nation can be understood best by the sort of treatment it give its poets rather by its military victories or GDP levels.

HISTORY, ROSES, AND WATER BUFFALOES
Years ago, if you'd asked me what I know about Bulgaria, I'd have said, "Not much. It's in Eastern Europe, behind the Iron Curtain, I think." Indeed, it was behind the Iron Curtain when that dark metaphor described a very real feature of the World Order.

DOORS WIDE SHUT
Ancient Thracian tombs, lighthouses, abandoned industrial facilities, Communist-era monuments... Bulgaria is crammed with sites of interest that ordinary travellers can marvel at only... from a distance.

WHAT WAS THE SEPTEMBER UPRISING?
Raised hands, bodies frozen in a pathos of tragic defiance: Bulgaria, especially its northwest, is littered with monuments to an event that was once glorified but is now mostly forgotten.

IVANOVO'S MEDIEVAL FACES
Churches and monasteries hewn into rocks at often precipitous heights were a clever solution that Christians from the Balkans and the Middle East employed for centuries to achieve a crucial goal: the creation of abodes far from the crowds in places where co

WHERE IS GOD'S BRIDGE?
Lilyashka Bara, the brook that flows near the village of Lilyache, a few kilometres from Vratsa, is a quiet and peaceful stream.

SOFIA'S TOP 10
Thanks to cheap flights or business travel, for many foreigners Sofia is their first, and last, glimpse of this country.