Golden city of Bulgaria
The song about Delyo, leader of local rebels against the Ottoman rule, is travelling in outer space
9 March, 2018
Zlatograd, the southernmost city in Bulgaria, is situated in the Rhodope Mountains, a few kilometres from the Greek border. It used to be called Belovidovo (a combination of the Bulgarian words for “white” and “see”) because of all the houses coated in the purest of white and surrounded by whitewashed stonewalls one could see perched on the banks of the Varbitsa River. During the years of the Ottoman occupation, the city was known as Dara-dere, which is Turkish for “a door on the water” or “a door of abundance”. After the liberation, the city was given its current name Zlatograd (literally “golden city”) because of the concentration of gold and lead-zinc ore deposits in the area. The oldest artefacts found in the region are said to be more than 2,000 years old. According to archaeological evidence, Thracians, Romans, Slavs and proto-Bulgarians inhabited these lands throughout the years, roughly in that order. The area is rich in Thracian burial sites, church ruins, and remains of strongholds, all linked by ancient and somewhat forgotten roads. Zlatograd is like a time capsule for some of our ancestors' oldest material culture and customs. The town owes much of its distinctive look to the Ethnographic Area Complex, where more than 100 buildings from 18th and 19th century are preserved. They all have the traditional whitewashed walls, open verandas, chimneys coated in white, and wide oak doors. Most of the courtyards have draw-wells. A part of the old city has been turned into something resembling a live exhibition - several restored streets are lined with habitable houses kept in the architectural style of that time. Some of the houses double as cafes offering fragrant coffee prepared on hot sand. Completed in 1834, Zlatograd's the “Assumption of Mary” Church is the oldest of the Rhodope churches built during the Ottoman rule. Local legend has it that the whole construction took only 40 days. It is a small church, partly sunken, and unique with its old icons and location on one of the town's main hills. Built in 1871, the “St. George” Church, more specifically its courtyard, was used for a mutual-instruction school, the first facility for secular education in the region.Zlatograd gained international recognition when a recording of the folk song Izlel ye Delyo Haydutin was included on the Golden Record carried on board the Voyager spacecraft. The song is dedicated to a local rebel leader, who fought against the Ottoman efforts to assimilate ethnic Bulgarians in central Rhodope. His heroic deeds have been immortalised in numerous folk songs and legends.
The “St. George” Church.
Narrow cobblestone streets separate and connect the houses.
Many of the houses are equipped with workshops.