Looming across the valley at us from our parking space in Shumen, Bulgaria was a strange looking concrete monument, and it was crying out for a look.
The monument, also known as the ‘Founders of the Bulgarian State Monument’, was built by Krum Damyanov and Ivan Slavov, and was opened in 1981 to commemorate the 1,300th anniversary of the first Bulgarian empire.
It is easy to forget just how old Bulgaria is as a country and this monument really highlights that fact.
It stands at 450 metres above sea level, which means it can be seen from 30km away.
Whichever way you look at the monument of Shumen, whether up close or from far away, it is an incredibly impressive site and had been filling out sky line all day yesterday.
21 sculptures symbolise the development and progress of Bulgaria between the 7th and 10th centuries.
As we enter the park, although the sun was shining and it was a pleasant day, there was an eeriness about the place that made us both look at each other rather nervously as we surveyed our surroundings and laid eyes upon the Transformer like stone giants that looked menacingly down on us from all sides.
Firstly we see Khan Asparuh (who is considered to be the founder of Bulgaria), standing with his sword stuck in the ground, hands raised and pointing in different directions to where the Bulgaria will be.
His sculpture is followed by the 18 metre-tall sculptures of Tervel, Krum, and Omurtag (Bulgarian khans who reigned in the 8th and the 9th centuries). They are surrounded by fragments of old Byzantine chronicles depicting a time almost forgotten.
The wise thought of Khan Omurtag, a mantra for the country, is inscribed beneath them:
“Even if a man lives well, he dies and another one comes into existence. Let the one who comes later, upon seeing this inscription, remember the one who had made it”
The outdoor three-panelled mosaic is the largest of its kind in Europe, are they depict the change in religious views and the creation of the Cyrillic alphabet…
Even though it was built under the communist period, and even though the design is distinctly communist, the deeper meaning of the statue isn’t communist at all it celebrates the past triumph of this country.
Random cool facts in total, 50,000 cubic metres of concrete and 2,400 tons of reinforced steel were used to construct the monument – that’s a lot of concrete and a lot of steel !!
Trip advisor says that it will take about 30 minutes to see the monument but we spent a good hour and a half walking around the site and came across two other people; otherwise we had the place to ourselves.
We then set off, towards our overnight stop, another 100km of near perfect roads, where are all the potential wheel destroying potholes we were promised ? So far the road surface is far better than in England ( where’s my bit of wood to touch !)
So Paloma and team ‘our leap of faith’ are parked in under the rock church in the heart of the Rusenski Lom Nature Park. (N43.694499 E25.986737)
On the Unesco world heritage list, hewn out of solid rock and completely different from other monastery complexes in Bulgaria, with its fantastic fresco the cave like church is a must visit.
As we climb the valley from the Carpark the views are amazing, the nature park is lush with green foliage and the array of dragon flys is a feast for the eyes.
At the panorama view point, where you can see all the rock church’s below, we bump into an older Bulgarian chap, who is looking after his American granddaughter, he wishes us a great stay in his country, we chat a bit more and he speaks of how the country would have been great, if not for the Europeans, since the fall of the wall in 89( I assume he was talking of Berlin) they gave up, so much, worked so hard but the promises of a better life has still not come,