Bulgaria: Tuesday May 23 2017, Day 3

Trip down to Kurgili

Wine region. Bulgaria loves its red wines, associates with love. Lots of wild poppies and other wildflowers. Look pretty but don't smell too good Good skiing at Pomporova near Plovdiv Farmland all along the road once out of city, anything industrial is in city. Horses, sheep.

Kurgili was source of silver in Roman times

Zenograd (?) home of a fortress and monastery from 12th c, second Bulgarian kingdom, when Bulgaria touched three seas (Black Sea, Mediterranean, Aegean

(Later in trip) Climbing the eastern Rozov mountains Kurgali: Kurj-al-Ali курджали

Kurgali is on river that is dammed in steps from mountain down.

Islam in Bulgaria

Ali (Mohammed's cousin) started Shia, leaders should be family; Sunni say should be through most talented

Shia has many branches. Iran, Yemen, have each own branch

E.g. Alevi, in 12thc, a Sufi Shia, starts reform to make it closer to folk practice. Becomes popular in Turkey, Bulgaria, Albania, some in Macedonia. Cool with images.

Most Muslims in Bulgaria are Sunni.

Digression on Wahhabism: In 18c, in Saudi Arabia, Abdul Rahaman started return to origins reforms: Wahhabi. Think of a return to Calvinism. In the 60s and 70s tons of very poor very conservative people get loads of money. Start schools, scholarships, mosques. (PS if Saudi Arabia economy goes south enough to destabilize their government, Mideast will go to shit)

Achmadi: Reformer in local interpretations of Islam, syncretic with Hinduism etc. Very philosophical, more open. Discriminated against everywhere.

Mosques: if it's new and ornate and decorated, it's founder by Saudis. If modernist, it's East Asian.

Aliani people, a couple of villages Muslims, Don't intermarry, so very distinctive.


Tatul, a Thracian religious site: shrine to Orpheus Tatul (Татул) named for an herb that has a poisonous derivative In South of Bulgaria towards Greece Prehistorically Volcanic mountains, these were first Bulgarian lands to surface from primordial seas

First settled in Thracian times, Wall built in 4-3rd c BCE (Bronze Age) large stones fitted, no cement

Most important shrine to Orpheus, considered by Thracians to be his grave. Unknown if he is historical. If so, royal origin, wandered around playing to animals etc. Preached; men only. Drinking, orgies. Women, excluded and jealous, got him drunk, decapitated, cut into seven pieces, thrown into river. His severed head was resting on harp, singing. The gods, angered, made the women recover the body pieces. Cult of Orpheus developed. Thracian aristocracy was literate, using Greek alphabet (though a Thracian alphabet is now some archaeological evidence). Many similarities with Orphic and Old Testament. E.g. Orpheus inspired on top of mountain with a golden script to share revelations.

Many Thracian tombs throughout Bulgaria Herodotus said Thrace was second most populous people after Indic

Symbolic grave of Orpheus faces sun (South). Thracian graves oriented north-south. We have many Greek documents describing this place, the rivers etc.

Thracians were strong enemies of Christianity. Constantine was from Balkans, lots of its earliest history is here. So lots of syncretism: e.g. Horseman becomes St George. Orpheus becomes God, spirit becomes evangelism. St. Paul travels all the way to Thessaloniki, which is just south of here.

201705 - Balkans - Shrine to Orpheus - 27 of 101 - Momchilgrad - Kardzhali, May 23, 2017 201705 - Balkans - Shrine to Orpheus - 27 of 101 - Momchilgrad - Kardzhali, May 23, 2017

Desert at Alumna's Villa

Traditional dresses and farm implements on wall Drank homemade "rakia" ракия grape liqueur, wrapped grape leaves, yoghurt Amazing rose bushes; bloom twice during the year were in full bloom when we were there.


Rakia brandy is a home brew liquor served as an aperitif throughout the Balkans. As our guide out it, "everyone has a still. You can tell your economic status based on that still: if it's all Copper you're rich; if the distilling pipe is Copper you're doing OK; otherwise you're poor"

We had at various points Rakia made from grape, apricots, walnuts (which was AMAZING).

Prom Photos

High school prom is a Big Deal in the Balkans, even more than in the US. All the time saw students out in their finery taking photos.

201705 - Balkans - Prom is a Big Deal in the Balkans - 28 of 101 - Momchilgrad - Kardzhali, May 23, 2017 201705 - Balkans - Prom is a Big Deal in the Balkans - 28 of 101 - Momchilgrad - Kardzhali, May 23, 2017

Philip KromerComment