Belogradchik Fortress and Rocks, Bulgaria (with Map & Photos)

The Belogradchik Rocks are a natural phenomenon over 200 million years old. They occupy an area 30 km long and about 6-7 km wide. For their bizarre shapes, the rocks are named by different names, the most popular of which are "Horseman", "Madonna", "Fortress", "Adam and Eve". To the west of Belogradchik are the rocks "Erkupiya" and "Borich". Remnants of buildings and walls are visible in many places.

Fortress and rocks of Belogradchik, Bulgaria
Belogradchik Fortress and Rocks Bulgaria

Back in the 1st century. and. e. among the rocks, almost above the modern city, a Roman fortress arose, which guarded the path between Ratsiar (Archar) on the banks of the Danube and Nisus (Nis) on Nishava. It did not lose its significance later, both in the Bulgarian era and during the Ottoman slavery, and was closely connected with everything in the same way. It reminds us of the past that has become noisy. It is also associated with the unsuccessful Belogradchik uprising of the Bulgarians in the middle of the last century (1850). She remembers the troops of the Russian liberators who passed here in 1878, and the glorious participants in the September events of 1923, and the partisan detachment named after Georgy Benkovsky in 1943. There is hardly a more romantic place in Bulgaria than the Belogradchik Fortress, and a more fantastic corner than Belogradchik Rocks.

Belogradchik Fortress and Rocks, Bulgaria
Belogradchik Fortress

Since winter is not a season for tourists, we had to wait for the cashier, who went to work from the town. As a result, without waiting for him, the guide took us to the fortress for free. :) True, he spoke Bulgarian and we managed to understand not everything (this is written in Bulgarian without problems, and when they speak, sometimes it is not at all clear in Slavic if it is! :) From his story we understood only legends and stories about the shape of the rocks, the history of the fortress and a little about the 1850 uprising. They hoped to find the rest in the internet, but as it turned out, even the Bulgarian internet is limited to extremely meager data about this place. So below is what we managed to find out.

The town of Belogradchik is located in the northwestern part of Bulgaria near the border with Serbia, 170 km from Sofia. The city gained worldwide popularity after the participation of the Belogradchik Rocks in the vote on the selection of the new Seven Wonders of the World. The Astronomical Observatory of the Institute of Astronomy of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences is located 100 meters from the fortress. The observatory has three telescopes with which visitors can observe the night sky. If you visit the observatory during the daytime, you can see its telescopes and equipment, as well as pictures of interesting celestial objects. Night visits are carried out by prior arrangement and in clear weather.

Formation of rocks. At the end of the Permian period, about 230 million years ago, as a result of the tectonic cycle of earthquakes in the Belogradchik region, a mountain range was formed. Under these conditions, due to intense weathering and the general tendency to subsidence of the crust, the formation of rocky conglomerates began.

Belogradchik Fortress and Rocks, Bulgaria
Belogradchik Rocks Bulgaria

The rocks acquired a reddish color due to the abundance of iron oxide and hydroxides. During the Jurassic period, the sandstone is divided into fractions - gray and creamy white limestone. Subsequently, intense erosion of the high above-ground parts began. Under the influence of water, wind and temperature fluctuations, limestones collapsed and cracks formed. Thus, over the course of millions of years, strange rock shapes have been formed. More than 100 caves have been formed from sandstone and limestone.

As already mentioned, the fortress appeared here during the Roman rule and during its construction the natural forms of the mountains were used. Actually, the walls were built only on the northwest and southeast sides. On the other sides, the courtyard of the fortress was separated by 70-meter rocks. Initially, Belogradchishkoto kale had mainly observant rather than strictly defensive functions. After the partition of the Roman Empire in 395, the Balkan lands entered the borders of Byzantium. At the end of the VІІ century. the Belogradchik region became the territory of the new Bulgarian state. The photo below shows the old, still Roman part of the fortress.

In the 14th century, Tsar Ivan Sratsimir expanded the old fortification, which was located only in the rocky part. During his reign, the fortress became one of the most important fortifications of the region, second only to the Vidin fortress - the residence of Sratsimir himself.

Belogradchik Fortress and Rocks, Bulgaria
Belogradchik Fortress and Rocks Bulgaria

With the fall of the Bulgarian state, the fortress was captured by the Turks in 1396. During the rule of the Turks, new construction of the fortress walls began. The transformation of the fort into a military fortress began in 1805: 350-400 points were made for firearms. The new appearance of the fortress reflected both Turkish and European fortification art: French and Italian engineers were employed in the construction. Now the fortress consists of three yards (courtyards) with a total area of ​​211 sq. Km. and individual fortifications. The walls (10 m high) have embrasures for cannons. The fortress has 15-16 guns. There are barracks and warehouses, arsenals, imprisonment, corn mills and 4 reservoirs.

The construction of the fortress was prompted by the desire of Turkey to gain a foothold in this part of the empire. In 1850 the fortress played a fatal role in the defeat of the uprising near Belogradchik. 
In June 1850 in North-Western Bulgaria, the largest occurred in the 19th century. an armed uprising of the peasants, which engulfed the Lomsk, Vidin, Kul and Belogradchik regions. Here, the population was particularly exposed to exploitation, robbery and violence. Even Turkish documents of that time could not hide the monstrous arbitrariness of the Turkish feudal lords. To agree on the preparation of the uprising, representatives of the neighborhood gathered in the Rakovsky monastery of the Belogradchik region, where they accepted Tsolo Todorov's proposal to start the uprising on June 1. In the Trinity Monastery of the Kul region, the rebels elected the headquarters of the uprising (which included Tsolo Todorov, Ivan Kulin, Petko Marinov, as well as the commanders of the rebel detachments - Krstya, Ignat and Vyrbanov), outlined a plan for the uprising (first to capture the city of Lom, then the city of Belogradchik, and then with the combined forces to take Mr.

Belogradchik Fortress, Bulgaria
Belogradchik Fortress Bulgaria

The leaders of the uprising had high hopes for help with arms and support for Serbia. However, Tsolo Todorov's trip to Serbia did not yield any results. Despite the poor combat equipment, the uprising broke out on June 1, 1850, almost simultaneously in all areas. Detachment Krystyu, numbering about 2000 people, of which only 15 had guns, concentrated in two neighboring villages in the Lomsk region, and then headed to the city of Lom. However, the Turkish cavalry carried out a bloody massacre over an unarmed detachment, in which more than 250 people died along with the commander of the detachment. Some of the rebels dispersed to their homes, and the other, in the amount of 400 people, led by Ivan Kulin, went to Belogradchik. On the way, they were joined by about 400 peasants. At that time, about 3000 rebels gathered in three villages near Vidin. A detachment in the village. Grytsy numbered about 2000 people, but only 40 had guns. The other two detachments had only axes, sickles and scythes. The rebels, led by Petko Marinov, surrounded Vidin with its small garrison of Turkish cavalry, but having lost 316 men in battle, they retreated.

In the Belogradchik region, about 12,000 people gathered, for 10 days they fought with the garrison of the city of Belogradchik, capturing most of it. The Turks could hardly withstand the onslaught of the rebels, who nevertheless did not dare to storm the fortress. It was this mistake of the rebels that decided the fate of the uprising. Approaching Bashi-bazouks (about 1000) from Vidin, Loma and other nearby cities defeated the rebels here as well. The arrested participants in the uprising were kept in the premises of the fortress and, since their detention in prison provoked new anti-Turkish demonstrations, it was decided to get rid of the main organizers. At the top left there is a prison building.

An alleged escape was arranged for them - the keys to the passage leading to the outside were handed over. The photo below shows this move. He is very short and those who climbed out were forced to bend almost half their height. When the head of another prisoner appeared in the passage, a Turkish soldier cut it off with a saber. So, with a rigged attempt to escape, the rebels were executed. Today, not far from the place of execution, there is a monument to the memory of the rebels.

Fortress and rocks of Belogradchik, Bulgaria
Belogradchik Fortress and Rocks, Bulgaria

In 1885, during the Serbian-Bulgarian War, the fortress was used for the last time as a military building. The fighting took place from 14 to 28 November 1885. The final peace treaty was signed on February 19, 1886 in Bucharest. The result of the war was the recognition by the European states of the act of the Unification of Bulgaria. On September 6, 1885, contrary to the opinion of Russia and most other powers, Bulgaria and the autonomous Turkish province of Eastern Rumelia announced their unification in the city of Plovdiv. This event triggered the Bulgarian crisis. Austria-Hungary incited Serbia to go to war with the still fragile principality of Bulgaria, promising Serbia territorial acquisitions in the Western Balkans. The war officially began when the Serbian king Milan Obrenovic declared war on Bulgaria on November 14, 1885.

Serbia hoped that the Ottoman Empire would join the war on its side. But Turkey did not want to intervene in this conflict, not least because of diplomatic pressure on it from Russia. After this conflict, Serbia, incited by Austria, began hostilities. After several unsuccessful battles, the main of which was the battle of Slivnitsa on November 17-19, the Serbian army went over to the defensive from the offensive. The Bulgarian army moved the fighting to Serbian territory. After the Bulgarians captured the city of Pirot, Austria-Hungary warned Bulgaria that if the Bulgarian army did not retreat, Austria would intervene in the war. On November 28, the Austrian ambassador in Belgrade demanded on behalf of the Austrian government to immediately cease hostilities. In turn, Russia, which, although it did not support Bulgaria in this war, threatened Austria-Hungary that if the latter intervened in the war, it would have great consequences for her. On the basis of such statements, another Austro-Russian conflict in the Balkans arose. All this led to the fact that such great powers as Austria-Hungary, Russia, the Ottoman Empire and Germany (Germany secretly from Russia supported the actions of Austria-Hungary) were on the brink of war.

Russia was pressured on Bulgaria, as a result of which the Bulgarian-Russian conflict arose. As a reaction to the act of unification, Russia recalled the Russian officers who had served in the Bulgarian army. As a result, the Bulgarian army did not have officers higher than the rank of captain, and the name "War of Captains against Generals" was stuck behind the war. Bulgaria feared an attack by Turkey, and therefore most of its troops were located on the southeastern border of the country. When the war broke out, it took Bulgaria 5-6 days to redeploy troops to the west and northwest of the country. In addition, the Bulgarian artillery was superior to the Serbian in all respects. Underestimating the Bulgarian armed forces and fearing the revolts of its citizens against this war, Milan I ordered the mobilization of only soldiers of the first class of infantry (newcomers under 30 years old). This was only half of Serbia's resources. At the same time, he deprived the Serbian army of its veterans, participants in the wars against Turkey. Milan I misled the Serbian soldiers. In a declaration to the army, he announced that the Serbs were going to help the Bulgarians in the war against Turkey. The soldiers were confused: they had to fight the Bulgarians instead of attacking the Turks.

Fortress and rocks of Belogradchik, Bulgaria
Fortress and rocks of Belogradchik Bulgaria

The truce was signed on December 7. On February 19, 1886, a peace treaty was signed in Bucharest. Austrian intervention, on behalf of the Serbs, forced Bulgaria to accept a pre-war peace settlement. No territorial changes were made in any of the countries involved in the war. However, the Bulgarian unification was recognized by the Great Powers. The foreign policy outcome of the European-scale war was the collapse of the Union of Three Emperors, which united Germany, Austria-Hungary and Russia. In 1887, the corresponding agreement was not renewed, and Germany and Russia signed the Reinsurance Treaty without Austrian participation.

Inner courtyard of a Roman-Byzantine fortress. From the highest point of the stronghold, called the First Plate, a beautiful view of the Stara Planina Mountains opens up.

The strange shapes of the rocks are reminiscent of giant sculptures of idols. For several centuries, many legends were born. Many centuries ago there was a convent there. Early in the morning, the monastery bells invited the nuns to the service. The youngest of them, novice Valentina, did not manage to hide her beauty under her robe. The rumor about her beauty spread everywhere. During a great holiday, when people had the right to visit monasteries, Valentina met the Roman warrior Antonio. Their love for a long time remained a secret: Antonio climbed on a rope into her cell. But Valentina could not hide the cry of the child. The nuns decided to anathematize the young novice and expelled from the monastery along with the child. At this time, Antonio descended on a white horse from the mountains, unaware of the harsh punishment of his beloved. And a miracle happened. Suddenly a storm began, thunder struck, an earthquake began.

Belogradchik Fortress and Rocks Map