After not signing in with the police this morning, we went to tourist info.
A bit of background, apparently Julian, the guy whose unit we are renting thinks we have to register with the police. Prior to joining the EU this was compulsory, but we don’t think you need to any more, but he wanted us to do this today. After waiting for him to turn up, we found he did not want to do it today. No problem for us, but a bit of a late start.
At tourist info, we got details on the region, buses that we need, times and what to see. The lady here is brilliant. It is amazing the difference that a good person in the office makes. We learnt more about Bulgaria, and were given plenty of information on Shumen and the country than anywhere else. It was great.
A bus out 20km to the town of Veliki Preslav. Fairly uneventful except for the sunflowers. There was also a couple on the bus, that when we were trying to work out if it was the right one we started talking to. This is not in itself unusual, but what was different was that they spoke Dutch! They had been living in the Netherlands for the last 11 years or so, and loved it. At the moment they are on holidays and come back to Bulgaria to visit relatives, so Anna had a great time talking to them as we drove along. The town is near the ruins of Old Preslav. The second capital of Bulgaria. Being dropped at the bus station there, we took a quick walk through town. It is a rather sleepy country town and quite small. Past a few statues and fountains then up the hill to the war memorial for WWII. From here it was a nice 3km stroll through the country side to the ruins. Down into a valley, over the stream and past the rows of sun flowers. At some stage we came to one of the old city walls. This was the start of the ancient complex. Built around 890 AD and in use for about 100 years, before being sacked by the Byzantines. It started as a military garrison and town, but reached its peak as capitol under Khan Simeon I.
Now there is almost nothing left. A few walls, the foundations of old churches and buildings, and a gate complex. The gate seems to have been reconstructed, but done fairly well. Sure there is a lot of concrete around, but that cannot be helped some times.
Past the gate on the outside of the complex is the remains of an old church and monastery. Some of this has also been redone. The photos we have seen of this are better than reality, as now it has been sprayed with white concrete for some reason. It does look good, but by no means original.
Back in the complex we saw the remains of old baths, still with some piping. The place is special due to its water management with both fresh water and sewage canals under the town, combined with individual lines of pipes going to different places hint at an extensive ability to manipulate water. There have been lots of things discovered here during excavations, but these have all been moved to the museum or elsewhere. Now there is only one or two pillars in situ, and the reconstructed foundations. The Patriarchs place was the biggest, along with the central basilica, and only slightly smaller than the palace complex.
We wandered around the place for a while, checking out all the different areas, but in all honesty, it is no Jerrash or Vobulis, still it is interesting to see how solid the base and walls were constructed, using large blocks of limestone for anything important. A lot of effort would have been put into its construction. Especially considering the size of the city, and that there would have been buildings all around the outside as well.
On the way back we took a shortcut that we discovered and this knocked off a couple of kilometres, as we could walk and not follow the road. Handy to say the least.
Back in town we pre bought bus tickets as we have not yet gotten used to the Bulgarian Bus System (A lot of people pre buy tickets even for the small inter town buses!) and went for a quick drink at the town’s only restaurant that we could find. It was getting on, and we wanted something to eat as well. I had looked at the time on the camera and thought we had almost an hour and a half, but messed it up. Luckily we worked out the error before ordering food, and just had a drink before running back to the bus.
Another day of constant walking, yet it was worth it. Although not much remains, it is an important place in Bulgarian history and we are glad to see that an effort is being done to protect it.