STARA ZAGORA : one of the oldest cities in Bulgaria
Stara Zagora is situated at the foot of the Sarnena Sredna Gora/mountain/, in the heart of Southern Bulgaria.
The city emerged during the 6th century B.C. Its long historical existence, marked by the presence of Thracians, Romans, barbarian tribes, and Turks, is also marked by a large number of names -Beroe, Augusta Trajana, Vereya, Irinopolis, Boruy, Eski Zagra, Zheleznik, and Stara Zagora, as well as many variations on these names. During the National Revival era its population took active part in the enlightenment movement and the struggle for national liberation. Stara Zagora is renowned as the city of Linden (a.k.a. Lime) trees, extraordinarily straight streets and poets. Some of the best Bulgarian poets of the 20th century lived and wrote here – Geo Milev, Nikolay Liliev, Kiril Hristov, and Veselin Hanchev among others. The straight streets are the work of the Czech architect, Lubor Bayer, who drew up the initial city development plan for post-liberation Stara Zagora.
• Ayazmoto Park – one of the prides of Stara Zagora. It spreads out over an area of more than 300 hectares (740 acres). The barren, rocky and dry hill was turned into a beautiful forest-park by the Orthodox Church leader of Stara Zagora, Metropolitan Metodiy (his secular name was Todor Yovchev Kusev). With unbelievable perseverance, overcoming difficulties and ill will, he planted on the barren and jagged hill year after year. He purchased saplings abroad with his personal funds, sought patronage in order to supply water to the hill, hired the residents to take part in the forestation, made rounds – by horse or on foot, armed with a revolver – to protect the “plantation” from evildoers. Today, at the entrance to the park, a copper bas-relief of the bishop of Stara Zagora looms to honor the person who did so much for his fellow citizens. Near the highest point, next to a small chapel, lies his marble tomb; it is built on the site of an ancient, heathen sanctuary.
• Objects of the Historical Museum:
– The ancient Augusta Trajana Forum, which displays the remains of the Roman city.
– Bloor mosaic from late antiquity (end of the 4th century).
– The floor mosaic from late antiquity (4-6th century) within the building of the Central Post Office.
– The southern gate of Augusta Trajana.
– Neolithic Dwellings (6000 B.C.), exhibited in a specially protected building. The site contains a souvenir store and a video hall.
– The Hilendar Cloister in the yard of St. Demetrius’ Church with exhibits including, the theme of Vasil Levski’s stay in Stara Zagora. The exhibition follows the three years the Apostle of Bulgarian Freedom stayed in the city (1855-1858) and his role in the establishment of the local revolutionary committees.
– House-Museum of Geo Milev – one of the most ardent Bulgarian poets. He published the magazine Vezni (scales, zodiac Libra) from 1919 to 1922, which came to be a platform for Symbolism and Expressionism in Bulgaria.
– House-Museum of City Life in the 19th Century. Exhibits are arranged in the Hadzhi-Angelova House, built in 1883 by the well-known Debar master Georgi.
– Balabanova House, where an exposition is set up presenting the handcrafts of Stara Zagora from the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century.
• The Defenders of Stara Zagora Memorial Complex built in honor of the Bulgarian militia, under the command of Lt. Col. Kalitin, who fought for the city’s liberation from the Ottoman Empire.
• The Art Gallery. The collection was first begun in 1908. The gallery owns more than 4000 Bulgarian works of the fine arts from the 18-20th century.
• The Geo Milev Drama Theater.
• The State Opera -the first opera in Bulgaria outside of the capital.
• The State Puppet Theater.
• Yuriy Gagarin Observatory.
• The Holy Trinity’s Church. During the summer of 1877, after horrific battles around the city, the Turks killed thousands of Bulgarians who came here looking for refuge.
• Starozagorski Mineralni Bani (Mineral Baths) (Ladzhite) 15 km from the city, in the southern, forested branches of the Sarnena Sredna Gora Mountains. Stone, flint, bone and copper objects have been found in the region, which are some of the rarest prehistoric monuments found in Bulgarian lands to this moment. When the Romans conquered these lands, the head priest of the newly built city of Augusta Trajana built a large and beautiful bathhouse near this warm mineral spring in honor of the Nymphs, goddesses of the holy, healing waters, with his own financial resources. A marble tablet with an inscription in Ancient Greek remains from Nympheum along with a statue of a nymph, an altar, toiletries, jewelry, coins, household items, etc. A medieval necropolis with 46 tombs was uncovered in the village mound; it was dated to the 12-14th century by the archeologists. The climate of the resort is made milder by Mediterranean influences. The winter is warm with rare, light snowfall. The summer days are sunny and hot, but not humid; the nights are cool and pleasant. The average January temperature is around 1°C (33°F), the average in July temperature is around 24°C (75°F). Winds blow quite rarely and foggy days seldom occur throughout the year. The mineral water is hot (42°C or 108°F), with the significant capacity of 20 I/sec. (5 US gallons/sec) and slight mineralization – hydrocarbon-sodium-silica and manganese. It is used to treat ailments of the skeletal-muscular system, the peripheral nervous system, gynecology, the kidneys and urinary tract, and the digestive system.
• The oldest brick tomb in the Stara Zagora region in the village of Oryahovitsa.
• The Chalcolithic Age (4th millenium B.C.) copper mines at the Mechi Kladenets (a.k.a. Aibunar or Bear’s Well).