Shumen

Location:
The city of Shumen is situated in the North - eastern part of the Danube plain, about 362 km from Sofia.

History:
Shumen was originally inhabited by the Thracians as long as 3200 years ago, which makes it one of the oldest settlements within the present day Bulgarian territory.  Around the 1BC the Romans settled here and turned Shumen into a fortified city. After the migration of the Turkic Bulgars in the 6th century, the nearby Veliki Preslav and Pliska became the centres of the medieval Bulgarian kingdom and Shumen was upgraded to an impressive Bulgarian stronghold well equipped to protect them.  In 1388, the Ottomans captured Shumen, renaming it Chumla. It became an important administrative and military centre and in 1851 the first Bulgarian Orchestra and Opera were founded here. In the final days of Ottoman domination, Shumen was part of the Turks’ strategic quadrangle of towns fortified to defend against Russian advances in 1877. The first beer brewery in Bulgaria opened its doors in Shumen in 1882, just after the Liberation of the country and was established by the professional Czech brewer Franz-František Milde. Reminders of the Ottoman multi - ethnicity remain with the Shumen’s minority Jewish, Armenian and Muslim communities.

Things to see:
In the city:

Today Shumen is an important industrial centre, which is one of the reasons why it may look a bit greyish at first, but a couple of hours in town make you realize it actually has quite interesting cultural heritage, its inhabited by amazingly friendly locals, makes a perfect base for day trips to explore the whole region and it does still make its own beer. Several museums, a park and a lengthy pedestrian mall where the locals stroll and sip coffee add to the surprisingly wide range of restaurants and bars. The History museum on the main road offers extensive collections of Thracian and Roman art. Ancient coins, icons and a scale model of the Shumen Fortress as it was in its heyday are also on display. Of interest is the Monument ”1300 years Bulgaria” inaugurated in 1981 to celebrate 1300 years from the foundation of the Bulgarian Kingdom. The monument has a creative design and features statues of the  most distinguished Bulgarian pioneers  and fundamental historical figures  among which the founders of Bulgaria, the creators of the Bulgarian literacy and culture, the protectors of the Christian religion and the brave rulers who extended and defended the territory of the country throughout the ages. The Tombul Mosque situated in the South-western part of Shumen is the largest mosque in Bulgaria and is an impressive example of oriental architecture and religious art. It was constructed in 1744 and some of the materials used for the imposing structure were taken from the former Bulgarian khan palaces in the nearby towns of Veliki Preslav and Pliska. Shumen is the hometown of one of the world - famous Bulgarian composers Pancho Vladigerov. His family house is today open for the public and features an exposition connected to his musical career as well as a chamber music hall where one can enjoy a piano recital while sipping on a glass of champagne.

Out of the city:
The Shumen Plateau Nature Park is situated just 2 kilometres out of the modern town of Shumen. It covers an area of about 4 hectares and protects the valuable local flora and fauna species, the peculiar caves and various rock phenomena. It also features cultural sites and tourist picnic spots.

The Shumen Fortress is the most significant historical and archaeological site on the territory of the Nature Park.  Perched on the Shumen plateau at 502 meters above sea level, it features a complex of residential, religious, and fortification buildings. Archaeological investigations have proven that the fortress existed in the Early Iron Age 11th    century BC. Traces of Thracian, Roman and Byzantine settlements were discovered here. The fortress played a significant role during the First (7th -11th centuries) and Second (12th -14th centuries) Bulgarian Kingdoms. The thoroughly studied and skilfully arranged remainders of fortification walls, civil and religious buildings, make the fortress one of the most attractive open-air museums in Bulgaria. Part of the rich and diverse archaeological finds of ceramic ware, metal ware, stone sculptures and others, are exhibited in small museum in the fortress

Shumen Plateau Park abounds in unique natural formations and underground karsts caves. Biserna Cave (Pearl Cave) and Taynite ponori Cave (the Secret Ponors Cave) are among the 25 largest caves in Bulgaria. The nature lovers would appreciate the peculiar sinkholes, picturesque valley formations shaped as small canyons  and  inaccessible rock rims scattered around the plateau.

The park is a nice place for recreation, sport and tourism all year round, easily accessible due to its close proximity to the town of Shumen and the well-maintained road and alley network. It provides excellent conditions for hiking and cycling. The tourist routes are signified, well-maintained and take the visitors of the park to attractive rock formations, venerable beech forests, historical landmarks and rest-houses. There are good conditions for extreme sports, such as rock climbing, caving, and paragliding at the park.

The Madara Horseman is an early medieval large rock relief carved on the Madara Plateau east of Shumen in North-eastern Bulgaria, near the village of Madara. The relief depicts a majestic horseman 23 m above ground level in an almost vertical 100-metre-high cliff. The horseman, facing right, is thrusting a spear into a lion lying at his horse's feet. An eagle is flying in front of the horseman and a dog is running after him. The scene symbolically depicts military triumph. The monument is dated back to circa 710 AD and has been included in the UNESCO World Heritage List since 1979. Since it was created during the rule of the Bulgar Khan Tervel, there is a theory that it is a portrayal of the khan himself and a work of the Bulgars - a nomadic tribe of warriors which settled in North-eastern Bulgaria at the end of the 7th century AD and after merging with the local Slavs gave origin to the modern Bulgarians. Other theories connect the relief with the ancient Thracians, claiming it portrays a Thracian god.

Within 29 km from Shumen and just 2 km from present - day Pliska are the remains of Bulgaria’s first capital. Pliska was the capital of the First Bulgarian Kingdom, from 681- 893. When the founder of Bulgaria Hahn Asparuh crossed the Danube River, he was struck by the beauty of the dense forests, the vastness of the rolling green fields and pristine rivers that solemnly exclaimed, "This will be Bulgaria." After the great battle against the Byzantine army in 681 the Bulgarians won the right to settle in these lands and found a country with the Slavs, choosing Pliska for their first capital. Today the Pliska National Historical and Architectural Reserve is one of the most interesting open-air museums in the country. It welcomes its visitors to walk through the Throne room of the Imperial Palace, to take in the richly ornamented and well-preserved remains of the town featuring a pagan temple, palace church, water storage, bathrooms, industrial and residential buildings and an impressive cathedral.

Another place worth visiting is Veliki Preslav National Historical-Architectural Reserve situated 22 km south of Shumen. Veliki Preslav was known as a spiritual and literary centre where the development of the Slavic written language during the Golden Age of Bulgaria during the rule of Tsar Simeon I in the beginning of the 10th century took place. In medieval Bulgaria Preslav was one of the most beautiful and majestic towns in South-eastern Europe. The fortress of Preslav consisted of inner and outer fortification systems. The inner fortress was located almost at the centre of the Inner Town, perched on a high plateau. The impressive remains of the palace complex featuring two monumental buildings - the Big Palace and the Western Palace, have been preserved to this day. The remains of the numerous churches, monasteries, workshops and studios can also be seen in the reserve today while the Preslav Gold Treasure, the ceramic iconostasis of the palace monastery, various ancient inscriptions and other valuable items are all kept at the Archaeological Museum of Veliki Preslav.

13 km north from Shumen, the oldest and the largest horse stud farm in Bulgaria is situated - the “Kabiyuk National Stud Farm”. Hundreds of horses graze freely in the fields stretching around, carefree and undisturbed by the visitors. Founded in the late 19th century, the farm originally specialized in breeding military horses for the Ottoman army. Later, in the course of the Russian-Turkish War, all horses were transported to Anatolia by the withdrawing Turkish army.  The actual revival of its activities was in the autumn of 1894 and since then as many as a thousand horses are being bred and more than 70 horses of different training are sold in Bulgaria and on foreign markets every year.The visitors learn about the different breeds of sport horses while going for a ride around the farm premises or visit the only Museum of the horse on the Balkan Peninsula.

 

Photos from Shumen


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