After two months in isolation, the restrictions finally came off and we had the opportunity to travel for a short break. We live in Sofia but spent the isolation in my hometown Samokov. So, this time the trip started from there 🙂
Kyustendil is about 70 km away from the town and the trip took us about an hour. I had several planed sites to visit and the first one was the Hisarlik fortress.
The fortress is located on the highest point of the hill with the same name rising 2 kilometres southeast of the city. It was built at the end of IV and the beginning of V centuries. It was remodeled during VI century and survives the two Bulgarian states and was torn down by the Ottoman invaders in the XV century. The fortress has the shape of an irregular polygon. It is 117 meters by 175 meters in size and its territory is 2,12 hectars. The shape of the fortified area follows the configuration of the terrain.
The fortress is protected by 14 round, triangular and rectangular towers. There are two gates and five secret entrances. The main and widest gate is in the eastern wall and is near the main road. The fortress wall has different width, which varies from 1.6 meters to 3 meters. The supposed height of the walls is 10 meters and the height of the towers- 12 meters. The building technique is called opus mixtum – a mixed masonry with rhythmically changing layers of stone and brick from 4 or 5 rows of bricks.
As you can see the views are amazing.
From here we headed to another famous site unknown to me until recently. Three unique century-old redwoods – giganteya rise here, in Iuchbunar. They were declared a natural monument in 1989. They are the oldest and the highest redwoods in Bulgaria as their age is over 120 years and their height is more than 30 m. Around them there are more than 100 younger redwoods, grown from seeds by the forest workers Ilia and Gyula Tsvetanski.
The home country of this evergreen tree is the Siera Nevada Mountain in California. There is a national park “Sequoia” where different tree are older than 2000 years and with 100 height and 10-12 m radius. Their name is connected with the Indian chief Sequoia from the Cherokee tribe, inventor of their alphabet. The oldest trees are 2200 years old but the humanity found about them just after 1850 when an Englishman found a whole forest by accident.
In Bulgaria the trees are planted in the begining of the 20 century, mainly in the south part of the country – Sofia ( Borissova Garden, Boqna, German, Kniajevo, Vladaia, Bankia, Vrana). You can see sequoias also in Svoge, Berkovitsa, Pirdop, Kostenets, Krichim, Stara Zagora, but the biggest ones are here, in the Iuchbunar area.
After this beauty we headed to the town and its many attractions
First we saw the Pirkova Tower – the name “Pirkova” comes from the Greek word ‘pirogs’, which means ‘tower’. This defense tower is considered to have been built at the end of 14th century and the beginning of 15th century. The tower has an almost square shape, sized 8,25 meters by 8,35 meters and is 15 meters in height. It has a ground floor and 3 other floors above, the third of which, in one of its halves, is divided in two semi floors. The ground floor functioned as storage. On the first floor there is a northern overarched entrance, a stone fireplace in the southern wall, which was used for heating, as well as two loopholes. The second floor was used for living. It has a fireplace, a niche, 3 vertical and 2 round loopholes and a gallery with a place for sanitary needs. The third floor was used for circular defense. In the late middle ages it has been turned into weapons warehouse.
Opposite of the tower is the former mosque Ahmed Bey. It was built in the middle of 15th century on the remains of a Christian church.
In 1904 a strong earthquake split the minaret, (which led to its final removal by the urban governance) and it was finally removed by the urban governance. The mosque is an impressive building with large dome and marble pillars and supports. The entrance arcade, covered with three small domes, is preserved in its original look. The facades are varied with arches with sharp tops – niches over the window openings. The mosque was built with stone blocks and bricks from earlier eras. It is unique by its decorative brick decoration, characteristic of medieval Bulgarian architecture – cornice “wolf tooth”, brick ornaments and others. The mosque is not active and currently serves as an exhibition hall of the museum in Kyustendil.
The Pautalia therms are one of the most significant monuments from Roman times in Bulgaria. They are second in size after those in Odessos (present day Varna). The building – a public bath, which was built in 2 century, is part of a large complex called asclepion.
Six premises supplied with a heating system (hypocaust) situated on an area of 1000 square meters have been researched and exhibited. The design of the asclepion (arcado) is a vaulted system of corridors and is the only one known so far in Bulgaria. It consists of parallel rows of arches, joined together by semi-cylindrical vaults, built of bricks and is one of the most advanced and solid constructions. The halls floors and walls were tiled with marble slabs. The revealed rooms were equipped with a heating system beneath the flooring on the ground floor. Small clay tubes were used to heat the walls.
In addition to sanitation and treatment needs, baths were also used as a place for meetings, talks, sports and more.
Chifte Banya is a public bath in the central part of Kyustendil, built on the foundations of late medieval Turkish bath. The original Turkish bath was built in 1489 by Sulejman Pasha on the foundations of Pautalia Asclepion.
In 1901 – 1902, municipal management decides to turn Kyustendil into European spa resort. Although the plan is not finalized, a number of activities have carried out. In 1910 the late medieval “Chifte hamam” is partly demolished and on its foundations was built a new modern urban bath with unique architecture, designed by architect Hristo Kovatchevski.
The building has two floors and consists of two divisions – male and female, each of which has three pools. The bath is supplied with hot mineral water. It is also used nowadays, and is intended for Spa – it offers all kinds of treatments, physiotherapy and massage. Around it is the park Banska Gradina with lots of trees and flowerbeds.
Dervish Banya is a Turkish Medieval public bath in Kyustendil. It was built in 1566, which is known by the number sign made of red bricks on the facade wall of the bath. On the same facade wall there are two more brick inscriptions, indicating the years 1604 and 1835, when probably were made repairs of the building. The bath is built of shattered blocks of stone and red bricks.
The name of the bath is connected with the word “dervish”. In Bektashi dervish is one of the four lower grades for novices – ashyk, talib, muhib and dervish.
Next we saw one of the most beautiful galleries in Bulgaria. In 1972, on the occasion of the 90th anniversary of the birth of Vladimir Dimitrov, the largest gallery in the country was opened which had been specially built for the purpose and had natural light sourced from the ceiling. The interior is subordinated to the idea of creation of suitable surroundings for the paintings by Vladimir Dimitrov.
Nowadays, the art gallery owns an exceptionally well-balanced collection both in terms of quantity and quality. It owns 3180 works by 585 artists, of which 1357 are by The Master, Vladimir Dimitrov.
Dimiter Peshev was born in Kyustendil in 1894. He is a Bulgarian politician who was minister of justice in the first cabinet and vice-president of XXIV and XXV Ordinary National Assembly. Dimiter Pesehv is known for his role in saving more than 50 000 Bulgarian Jews. He is an honourable citizen of Israel, and in 1997 received posthumously the highest Bulgarian order Stara Planina.
In 2002 the ambassador of Israel, Emanuel Zisman, and Kyustendil Municipality implemented a project for the restoration of Dimiter Peshev’s house and its turning into a museum. It is an exact copy of the home of the politician, adapted in the city center.
The permanent exhibition with original belongings, photos and facsimiles tells the story of what happened in March 1943 and of the worldly acknowledged merit of Dimiter Peshev and his fellow-citizens, who contributed to the salvation of the Jews in Bulgaria.
And here are some photos from the city center:
With just a few words I have to say that Kyustendil is a nice nd beautiful town with many interesting attractions worth visiting. It is perfect for a day trip.
Stay tuned and don’t stop traveling!