The Thracians are a fascinating group of tribes that inhabited mainly the Balkan Peninsula. The first historical record of them is found in the Greek epic poem Iliad dating back to 8 century BC. The only written sources we have about the Thracians are Greek and Roman and they describe their culture as tribal. Herodotus described the Thracian ethnos as the most numerous after the Indian.
Despite them being organized in different tribes, their manners and customs were the same everywhere. The people themselves were described as “warlike” and “barbarians”. However, the Thracians were wonderful winemakers and in fact, they were often called “barbarians” for drinking their red wine non-diluted as at those times it was considered civilized to mix it with water.
And now – let’s see what heritage the Thracians left us.
The Regional Archaeological Museum in Plovdiv is one of the first Bulgarian cultural institutions with over 140 years of history. In its exhibition, there are artifacts related to the Thracian heritage in the city and their way of life.
Many of the most impressive Thracian landmarks are found in the region around Plovdiv and not in the city itself. The Thracians believed in the afterlife. For them the soul was immortal and they built beautiful tombs to bury their loved ones.
This is one of the most interesting tombs that has reached us together with the tomb in Kazanlak as both are richly painted. It is 100 km away from the city of Plovdiv but definitely worth the trip. The tomb was erected in the 4th century BC for a noble Thracian. It appears that at one point it was robbed of its treasures but the paintings that remained are extremely valuable.
The most famous cromlech in the world is the one in Stonehenge (United Kingdom). However, we have one right here near the city of Plovdiv, just 40 km north of the city. The village of Staro Zhelezare also impresses with its street art depicting both local and international celebrities.
The cromlech served a cult purpose. It consists of 24 stone pillars reaching up to 2 m height and approximately 7 m in diameter. What is unique about this one is that it was in fact buried under a mound. Archaeologists believe it was made in the 6th century BC and used for astronomical purposes. Unfortunately, after it was excavated, it was abandoned.
Starosel is 50 km away from Plovdiv and around it, there are two Thracian temples. It is the oldest Thracian complex found in Bulgaria with a mausoleum. The place where the temples were built is a sacred one. The main temple dates back to the 5th century BC (Chetinyova Mogila) which is one of the largest in Bulgaria. The second one located in the Horizont mound is a temple with a colonnade from the 5-4 century BC. The temple doubles as a tomb. It is in fact a heroon temple, the only one with a colonnade.
Belintash is a mysterious place situated in the Rhodopi mountain, 50 km south of Plovdiv. It is the second-largest Thracian sanctuary in Bulgaria after Tatul (Kardzahli region). All that is known is that it has been used for religious purposes but its exact nature is hidden behind legends and mystery. A powerful magnetic anomaly in the area even throws compasses off. It is possible that it was used as a Solar observatory. The stones it consists of are carved in different shapes resembling the heads of gods and animals.
Lastly, we cannot go without cultural events.
The festival has been organized for over a decade and is held at the end of June, lasting approximately a week. It is part of the cultural calendar of the city and thus admission to all events is free. The focus is on musical and dance performances. There are also many events for the youngest as well as drawing competitions and literary competition.
This is a hands-on experience that aims to allow the audience to immerse themselves in the Thracian traditions. The program includes different workshops allowing people to experience authentic music, and dramaturgy, dress in festive costumes and even make traditional bread. It is held both in Nessebar and Plovdiv. In Plovdiv, the festival takes place at the Roman theatre at the end of September.
In October when the weather is getting colder, here in Plovdiv we celebrate our red wines. The 22nd of October is the International day of the Mavrud wine which is typical for this region and thus there is a thematic city wine festival you can visit and enjoy the wine culture and tradition of the Thracian valley.
Author: Free Plovdiv Tour Guide – Nikolina Mihaylova
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