The Valley of the Roses: until recently, the picturesque valley stretching between the ranges of the Stara Planina and the Sredna Gora mountains was known by this name, at it was the centre for the production of the expensive attar of roses.
"Idolaters! You are not true Eastern Orthodox Christians," the monk at St Spas monastery near Yambol scolded us while he was locking the gate of the supposedly miraculous cave spring his abode is famed for. Our sin? We had not lit candles when we entered the church. He, however, did not see any contradiction in the fact that the veneration of "healing" springs is a tradition that Eastern Orthodoxy in Bulgaria has inherited from paganism.
A good sense of direction in circumstances where maps are of little use, a willingness to ask the way, and an adventurous spirit – if you possess at least two of these qualities, it is time to head to the Eastern Rhodope. Even if you think you know this part of the mountain range, you are certain to come across strange landmarks and strange stories. Some of them are natural, others are man-made, and what they have in common is their ability to inspire the imagination.
Treasure hunting has been a popular activity among the people in the southeast of Bulgaria since time immemorial. However, apart from the destruction that it continues to bring, there are a few occasions where this illegal activity has led to extremely interesting discoveries. The Thracian tomb discovered near the Mezek village, in the region of modern Svilengrad, is one such story.
About 4,000 years ago the lands of modern Bulgaria were inhabited by people who built fortifications and cities, buried their dead in monumental tombs, drank wine from gold and silver cups, and warred, traded and did politics with the ancient Greeks and Romans, with the Persians, the Scythians and the ancient Macedonians.
These people were the Thracians.