The beautiful nature reserve in south-eastern Europe – the Berlin viewer
A few kilometers from the Turkish border, in the Bulgarian region of Strandzha, there is much to see, including necropolises built 4000 years ago, unspoiled nature and pretty villages. The town of Malko Tarnovo is the last outpost in Europe.
Berlin, April 28, 2021 (The Berlin Spectator) – This Strandzha trip begins in Burgas on the Bulgarian Black Sea coast in pre-Corona times. From there, it takes an hour to enter directly into this nature reserve, which offers hundreds of animal species, exotic plants and countless historical sites. Strandzha is very special in many ways. First of all, it is one of the few regions that was not frozen during the last ice age. Second, it was already inhabited over 4,000 years ago.
A shepherd, who keeps his rather large flock at the northern end of the region, says he has been doing so for fourteen years, without a break. “There is no vacation for shepherds”. He receives help from his wife and one of his sons. The other son lives in France. Once the shepherd had cows, pigs and chickens. Then he had a dream “in which God told me that I would be a shepherd”. That settled it for him.
Four dogs help her keep her 320 sheep together. According to him, there are no bears in Strandzha, but wolves. He also needs anti-serum against snakebites. Each sheep must be protected against all dangers.
Located right next to the giant pasture where sheep graze, the E87 motorway is Strandzha’s only main road. It goes all the way to the Bulgarian-Turkish border, where the European Union ends. The last outpost of civilization on the Bulgarian side is Malko Tarnovo. This small town has three restaurants, a beautiful church, a few small shops, and a gas station.
Tourists love to come here to experience the beautiful historic architecture. In the city center there are beautiful wooden houses, built as they did hundreds of years ago. Bagpipe sounds can be heard outside the small museum located here. The use of this strange instrument is something that Scotland and Bulgaria have in common.
Most of the tourists to Malko Tarnovo are Bulgarians who enjoy hiking in the Strandzha Mountains. They know what to expect here. But, given its beauty and level of exoticism, tourists from all over the continent should come here. On the other hand, it is a good thing that they do not come because they would kill the peace and the general atmosphere.
A stork has built a seemingly stable nest on a high pole in the poorest part of town. The bird follows the activities of these strange humans below, who take photos from all angles. About ten kilometers further west, the village of Braslyan welcomes visitors to Sofia and Plovdiv in wooden guesthouses. People who come to this place, in order to spend the Christian Orthodox Easter hiking days, mainly bring their own food, good hiking boots and other necessary utensils here in the hills.
In the village, usually inhabited by 26 people, cows, horses, peacocks, roosters and hens roam freely. Why shouldn’t they have the same rights as everyone else? During the summer season, a bus full of beach tourists comes to Brashlyan every day. The stop in this village is part of a day trip program offered by one of the tour operators active on the Black Sea. This is an offer for vacationers who are fed up with all the sand and salt water.
A small store with a sign saying “Shop магазин Le Magasin Geschäft” offers Coca Cola, chips, bread, chewing gum and even art. When the owner is not at the store, she can be called by phone. From there, the Turkish border is 4 kilometers away. During the refugee crisis, thousands of asylum seekers entered Bulgaria in this region, in order to bypass the current “Balkan route” located further west.
Stolen and beaten
Strandzha then made the headlines in a very negative way, when xenophobic gangs, self-proclaimed “refugee hunters” roamed the hills. According to NGOs, including “ProAsyl” in Germany and the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee in Sofia, migrants have been robbed, beaten and mistreated by border police officers. Some refugees have frozen to death here, trying to cross the green border in winter. Yes, those terrible stories are now part of Strandzha too. At this point, there are hardly any migrants here.
Strandzha is full of ancient tombs and necropolises. Dimitar Tonin, a former lawyer turned editor and author many years ago, explored every square inch of Strandzha. He knows all the grass stalks and all the rabbits here. Recently he published his book “Mystic Strandzha”, in Bulgarian, with hundreds of photos of historical facts.
“Strandzha is a very special place,” says Tonin. And he’s right. “There are many very interesting objects that are over 4000 years old.” He speaks of graves scattered all over the Strandzha Mountains. There is an archaeological sensation every few hundred meters. Indeed, Strandzha is a great place to explore and hike. Good boots, plenty of water and food, and one of those black boxes that say “Nikon” or “Canon” should definitely be brought along.
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