Assen’s Fortress & Bachkovo Monastery

This was first of my adventures around Plovdiv! My mom had planned it so that my uncle would take me to see some iconic places before she arrived a week after me- and boy, did he. Big shoutout to my Vjucho for taking off of work to drive me hither and thither, as well as taking pictures for me!

Bulgarian Tsar Assen II was one of the greatest that the region has ever had- he lead the Second Bulgarian Kingdom to its peak with his diplomacy, statesmanship, and military prowess. The fortress was renovated under his direction in 1231 to help fortify against Latin raids, and is an incredibly preserved piece of medieval history.

So, to me, this looks like a postcard.

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I have no clue how they managed to build that on a such a precipice…nearly one thousand years ago. It’s incredible to me that it’s still standing (but then again, its walls are nearly three meters thick).

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The drop right in front of me was only mildly heart-attack worthy, I mean, what’s nearly a kilometer drop to the adjacent river to anyone, really?

The inside of the chapel, The Church of the Holy Mother of God- which is the brick-looking building- is amazing. The lower level simply contains several rows of chairs (which Vjucho said are for tour groups…super authentic, I know). If you go up, though, it feels like you’ve been sucked back in time. So much is so well preserved, if you think about the length of time from its construction until now. And the view from that window? Majestic.

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Another peek at the chapel…and the dungeon- it looks like everything I’ve ever imagined it to be from movies.

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And that marks our transition to Bachkovo! It’s an iconic place to every Bulgarian, and is where my mother was baptized at the age of 20 after the Communist regime began to unravel, and old places were reopened. The monastery is still fully functional, and pilgrims in addition to tourists make the trek into the mountains to visit.

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The decorations were beautiful. Trying to soak up all of the history that’s present here is impossible- it’s not only on the walls and in the buildings, but in every cobblestone and in the hearts of all that visit. Coming here is a tradition, and seeing the monks a privilege. Such ancient yet vibrant places are hard to find- this was established in 1083. To think of all of the feet that have walked the same ground, spirits that have found solace in the same space- it’s easy to let its depth wash over your head. You must open your heart to it.

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Aliana

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