Author: Vesela Nikolaeva
“There were some places in our enslaved country where Bulgarians announced their existence. People tried to rebel but the Turks cruelly destroyed any attempts of this kind. They burnt entire villages and many inhabitants had ugly and shameful death. The rights of the Bulgarians were left to the care only of the rebels (haiduts), those fantastic rebels whose free country was our Balkans. ”
This is what Kiro Panov writes in his collection “Papers about the Belogradchik rebellion” published in 1937 in Belogradchik (the original spelling retained). The writings on this rebellion are rather meager, Panov goes on. It was very hard to find any memories from this rebellion as only few had survived. Some 163 years ago in the last days of May, an uprising broke out in the Northwest area of the Ottoman Empire. It was the greatest of its kind, one of the first at the dawn of the Bulgarian Revival. The rebellion in the area around Belogradchik is less known and the data about it is scarce in comparison to other uprisings. Nowadays, as a remembrance of this event, there are some historical monuments in the region which are worth seeing at the weekend.
The watchtower of the Empires
The historical sights of the town, apart from the fortress and the Belograchishki rocks, are a bit off the beaten track, away from the places the main tourist flow visits. However, this doesn’t mean they do not deserve attention. The fortress of Belograchik itself is an important historical landmark and is among the very few very well- preserved fortresses in Bulgaria. Its history dates back to Roman times. In the Middle Ages and at the start of the decline of the Ottoman Empire, the city appeared to be one of the most significant access points with the enemy from the Northwest part of the Empire.
The first buildings were from Roman times; they were rebuilt during the Second Bulgarian Kingdom but when Vidin region fell under the Ottoman power, the fortress was no longer of strategic significance. The defeat of the Turks at the siege of Vienna in 1529 changed the situation – in the centuries after that the boundaries of the empire were slowly pushed eastwards and this was how the Vidin region became a significant defense zone again. A great number of foreign attacks and ravages convinced the Ottoman rulers that the fortress needed strengthening. This happened mainly thanks to the rebellious governor of the Vidin region Osman Pazvantoglou, because of whom the government in Istanbul scrutinously monitored that part of its lands. At the beginning of the 19th century, the fortress was fortified and extended, first by French engineers and then by Italian ones. The contrast in their styles can be seen in the middle fortress gate – in French style, and the Western gate is in Italian style.
The completion was in the 30s of the century after which a permanent garrison settled there. The Russo-Turkish war caused little damage to the fortress – it is preserved almost as it used to be in the 19th century, and if you happen to walk around, you can easily imagine what the soldiers saw while protecting this region over the centuries. In fact, the landscape hasn’t changed much – there are forests around, and Belogradchik and the small villages are still small and charming, unchanged by time.
The Latin Kale is to the east – these are ruins from Roman fortifications. In its website, the municipality warns that the site of the fortification is not secured, still, there is a metal stairway leading to it and a panoramic site. You can go there by car, and if you happen to get lost due to lack of street signs, which is typical of Bulgaria, you can rely on your luck to meet someone to give you directions or you can merely enjoy the local landscape.
You shouldn’t miss the Historical Museum in the city – it is situated in Panov’s house in which you can see the history and lifestyle of Bulgarians through the ages. There are many relics from the rebellion from 1850, as well as keepsakes from the more peaceful period of the city which, apart from being a fortress, has been a settlement of craftsmen.
Unsuccessful attempts for freedom
As a rehearsal for the April Uprising which broke out earlier than planned, the Belogradchik uprising must have started on 1 June 1850 – on Ascension Day (Spasovden). At that time, all “nahii” (municipalities) were expected to revolt, Mihail Mihailov writes in his book “the Uprising of 1850 in the region of Belogradchik”. The revolt was started by a couple of people from Belogradchik – Dyado Bozhin, Lilo Pavlov, Valcho Bochev, Nedyalko Vlahat, Konstantin Yanev and Petko Kazandzhi, with Tzholo Todorov from Tolovitsa village as the leader. Their intentions were to seize Lom, then Belogradchik, and finally Vidin; however these plans failed, as it turned out later.
The little outbursts of the uprising
Before the actual uprising, there were single outbursts and confrontations in some villages; in return, the Ottoman authorities started repressions, Mihail Mihailov writes. Most of the leaders of the rebellion perished, some managed to flee across the border, and many were sent in exile. The region of Belogradchik was liberated by the Russian army at the beginning of 1878, while the tradition is for the anniversary of the rebellion to be celebrated on 29 May every year.
Even you haven’t managed to go there at the time of the celebration you still have some months left before heavy snowfall makes Northwestern Bulgaria barely passable. Once there, we are sure that you will learn about many other places around that you might wish to visit and share your experiences with us. Working time:
Belogradchik fortress: 7 days a week
June – September: 8:00 – 19:00
October – May – 9:00 – 18:00
Telephone : 0936/3 022 Prices for visits: adults – 5 levs, students and pensioners – 3 levs pensioners; disabled people – no charge; lecture – 5 levs for a whole group; discounts for group visits
Before noon: 9:00 – 12:00 o’clock
Afternoon: 13:00 – 17:00 o’clock
Telephone: 0936/53 469
Prices for visits: children to 18 years of age – 2 levs; visitors over 18 years of age – 3 levs.
More information for the landmarks and the travels in the region can be obtained at the Tourist Information center – 1A Poruchik Dvoryanov Str. , telephone: +359 877 881 283
How to reach Belogradchik:
The longest and the newer road is “Hemus” highway, the exit for Botevgrad, road E79. The shortest and more beautiful road which is in worse condition is by following Petrohan Pass.
There are bus lines to the town, no railway.
Where to stay:
There are many places to stay at in the city – there are hotels and guesthouses you can find in the websites for Belogradchik, including the municipality website. If you opt for the weekend, especially around holidays and festivals, you’d better book your stay in advance.
The material has been prepared courtesy of the website “severozapazenabg.com