Church on top
Today is more about the Photos. However before we get onto this we again have to mention how bad yesterdays accommodation was. Anna has a huge hole in her side from being stabbed by the rusty springs, we both have lines of mosquito bites along our bodies, and these are the good things we can mention. Moving out in the morning, we tried to explain to our host why we were leaving. This did not sink in until we took him to the room and showed him the hole in the mattress. He tried to blame it on the students that he had had living in the room. If this was the case though, it meant that he had never even changed the sheets! Either way it was not a place we wanted to stay. Grabbing our bags, we left. It was not far to find the next place. In fact, it was just over the road. A far superior room for the same price. It goes to show that we should check out the competition more when looking for a place to stay.
We went to visit the fortress. This is the seat of power for the second Bulgarian empire. Taking up a large peninsular created by the river, it covers a large area. There are also walled off sections on other outcroppings. A formidable position with a long history.
Apparently the area has been populated since about 2000 BC, but reached its peak between 1200 and 1400 AD as the capital. Most of the fortifications were built at this time. As you approach, there is a small booth at the start of the long entrance bridge. Thinking this is where you get your tickets, we made our way over. Being Bulgaria, this would be too simple. You have to go down the street to a barely marked shop window to get your tickets. This place is only here to make sure you have bought them. This is probably a remainder from the old communist days where everyone needed a job. One to sell the tickets. One to make sure you do your job. One to check the tickets, and another to watch. There you go. Four jobs instead of one.
Crossing over the bridge, you can appreciate why they chose this place. It is very defendable. High walls, a narrow entrance and the river creating a natural barrier.
The gates are flanked by two lions, the symbol of Bulgaria. Well, not just Bulgaria, but Romania as well. Funnily enough, most of Europe. Lets see. Bulgaria has the Lev as its currency. Or the Lion. Romania has the Lei (Also Lion), Holland has the lion on its coat of arms. Belgium, Luxembourg, Denmark, Norway and the list goes on. England had the lion King and we are sure there are more. Considering the continent has never had them, everyone seems obsessed with Lions!
Entering the main area, we were greeted with thick walls and foundations.
Walking around the complex, we noticed a distinct lack of information. There was a map explaining the different area, and every church is clearly marked from Church I to church XXIV, but nothing else. To me, if it had an even remotely round section in the foundations, it is a church. However there is one church that you get a little bit of information. It is built by a ledge overlooking the river, and is where people are tried. If found guilty they are lead down to the ledge and pushed over the edge. As the trial was at the church, I assume people were found guilty of finding the world round, or the patriarch was not the centre of the universe. Or just saying that the King sucked eggs.
We explored more foundations, walked up the hill to the reconstructed church. On the outside it has been made to look like the original, but the paintings inside are very different. Done in a modern style, they are done in a dark and graphic style. Apparently there is a lot of opposition to this, but we really liked them.
Wandering around some more, to the out flung towers. These have been partially rebuilt, leaving a very small very narrow staircase going up the outside. A tricky climb, and give you a bit of respect for the soldiers that had to do this in armour carrying supplies. I would not want it to be me. Then there is the rain and snow. No thanks. It was bad enough in the sunshine!
Finishing with the fortress complex after a few hours, we made our way back to town. Finding the old market square, we saw that it has been converted to tourist stalls and upmarket cafes. There is not much different here than the rest of the old town. It is still full of traditional old buildings that have been restored fairly well, and was a bit of fun to walk around.
The host of our new accommodation said that we should wander over to the church on top of the hill opposite the fortress at about 8pm. We had nothing better to do, so went over at the allotted time. It was a good thing we did. There is a sound and light show at that time. When we had been walking through the fortress during the day, we had encountered the rows upon rows of seats in one section, and assumed this is where they held the sound and light, but that was just opera. It was a special thing put on from time to time within the fortress.
Where we were, we got to see the entire complex lit up. Being outside the one of the buildings that host the show, we even got to hear the soundtrack. It was a lot of fun sitting up there on top of a high wall,watching the lights as they lit up different sections of the fortress. Then you got coloured light shows playing across the entire complex. We were quite lucky to see it.