Source: “24 hours” newspaper
Author: Vanya Stavreva
The secret tunnels of “Baba Vida” castle lead in an unknown direction while a passage underneath the Danube connects the castle with the Romanian bank.
The local people of Vidin have known the legend about the secret tunnels for years. The archaeologists also suppose that such tunnels may exist but no explorations have been undertaken so far.
A month ago, this hypothesis was proved after some treasure-hunters discovered a secret tunnel in a park near the River Danube around 50 meters from the castle. The tunnels and the castle itself have not been sufficiently explored and it is still a mystery what is hiding in it, especially in the ancient layers of the earth. This is also confirmed by a map of the drillings made in the area over the years. This map shows that around 90% of the site is a “blank” spot. However, since 1990, no archeological explorations have been made there.
What is known and seen from “Baba Vida” is actually the way the fortress looked like in the Ottoman period when it was renovated and served only as a defense facility.
However, the medieval castle looked differently as the rulers of Vidin used to live there, including the last Bulgarian tsar from 14th century, Ivan Sratsimir.
It is known that in the second half of the 10th century the Bulgarian fortress stood on the remains of the antique Roman town known as Bononia. Bononia was built in the period of 1st– 4th century. In the Bulgarian period up till the end of the 14th century, the fortress was turned into a castle. It was renovated, with the last extension made by tsar Ivan Sratsimir. The major tower of the castle is named after this tsar.
“Baba Vida” has an area of 9, 5 decares with a courtyard, an external yard, and a moat surrounding it. The residential areas were on two floors facing the courtyard which had a church inside.
“It is proved that “Baba Vida” lies over Bononia after Prof. Stamen Mihailov, during some drilling research in 1957-1959, discovered a Roman tower on the territory of the fortress”, Olya Milanova, an archeologist from the Regional Historical Museum, states. She says that the archeologist Valo Valev, the discoverer of Tsar Kaloyan’s ring that was found in “The 40 Saints” Church in Tzarevets also worked on Baba Vida site. Unfortunately, he couldn’t manage to publish his discoveries, while his finds are kept in card boxes.
One of his published discoveries is about the ruins of a medieval chapel which used to serve the king’s family.
“ I expect future archeological explorations in the Southern part of “Baba Vida” to provide us with many interesting finds since the construction layers dating back to the strongest period of the Second Bulgarian Kingdom 12th -14th century are covered by structures from the Ottoman period”, Milanova says.
According to her, archaeological diggings should be made at several places along the Danube river park of Vidin in order to establish where the secret tunnels had led. “There is no castle or fortress in the ancient times not to have been connected to the outside part through such tunnels. I suppose there was a network of tunnels and exits from “Baba Vida” to the inner part of the land, rather than under the Danube. The last one seems to me a tall story”, the archaeologist is firm.
She claims to have heard about an entrance to a tunnel starting from the outside yard of the castle which was backfilled in the 70s. No one has explored where it led. The hole dug by the treasure-hunters last month did part of the job of the archeologists revealing an underground tunnel with a vault made of bricks and stones which prevented the sinking of the earth’s layers with the years thus protecting them.
Where this tunnel led, whether there was a tunnel at all under the River Danube or any other tunnels close to the so-called Venetian warehouse dating back to Ivan Sratsimir’s time are still questions to be answered. A further question needing an answer is whether Vlad III Tepes, known as Count Dracula, has ever been to Vidin.
Historical documents claim that the most famous vampire roamed our lands; a medieval poem says that he went to Vidin but at that time the town’s name was Badini and the capital of Bulgaria (the town indeed used to be the capital of the Vidin Kingdom during the reign of Ivan Sratsimir).
Witnesses claim that in 1463 the medieval German poet Mihael Beheim, in his poem “A villain known as Dracula – the chieftain of Wallachia” wrote the following: 1462 – the year of tears and disgrace. It was then that Dracula headed for the big city of Nicopolis, and as Europe later knew, he had killed 25,000 pagans and Christians.
Here is how Beheim described Vidin’s defeat by Dracula: “…to the capital of Bulgaria surrounded by a strong fortress, which his troops called Bondan while the Turks called it Bindin as they were the rulers then. The royal troops seized the stronghold and killed the noblemen as all of them were Turks despicable.
We can only speculate whether there are any material proofs of Dracula’s and Vidin massacre in the “Baba Vida” Castle. Dracula himself has given details of his military actions on the Southern part of Danube in his letter from 11 Feb 1462 to Matthias Corvine.
There is additional historical evidence that Vlad III Tepes has treaded our lands.
The previous year, the sultan of the Ottoman Empire, Mehmed II the Conqueror ordered the governor of Vidin, Hamza Bay, to trap Dracula to either capture or kill him. It’s unknown with what exact message Hamza Bay sent a man named Thomas Katavolinos to the Wallachian Count in order to lure him to come to the Danube region and go south.
Dracula somehow learnt about the trap and manages to capture both Katavolinos and Hamza Bay. Then he started the bloody crusade between Vidin and Nikopol and tens of thousands of people have been impaled.
Impaling used to be Dracula’s favorite way of execution because of the gradual penetration and laceration of the human’s internal organs. The pain was cruel and the agony could last for hours or even days.
As per the historical sources, Dracula impaled around 40 000 and 150 000 people. For this he was called Tepes while still alive – the name comes from the Slavic word “tsepia” (to cut).
His other nickname – Dracula – is explained by the Roman superstitions from that time. Vlad Tepes refused the double communion in the Orthodox Church – with the body and blood of Christ, as he decided to accept Catholicism. According to a Romanian belief, a person who once rejected his Orthodox belief obligatory became a vampire.
People from that times thought that vampires were powerful magicians who teamed with the Devil and needed human blood for their magical rituals.
The historical persona Dracula was killed according to all rules for vampire executions. He’s been impaled with a pole through the heart and his head was severed from the body and taken to Tsarigrad. His body was buried in Snagov Monastery where in 1930 archaeologists discovered a nameless grave set against the altar with a headless skeleton inside.