On a high rocky hill you can find one of the most beautiful and mysterious ancient places in Bulgaria, displaying the history of many different eras. Perperikon – a famous tourists’ attraction, is perched at 470 meters above sea level in the Eastern Rhodope range, around 15 kilometers away from the city of Kardzhali. It is said that in this sacred place was located the famous Temple of Dionysus – the Hellenistic god of wine and ecstasy. The ancient rock town is frequently compared to Machu Picchu, Petra, and the Egyptian pyramids.
Archeological excavations on the territory of Perperikon started in 2000. Well-known Bulgarian archaeologist and explorer, professor Nickolay Ovcharov took part in these excavations. He was the one, who assumed that the lost temple of God Dionysus could be there. In 2011 Perperikon was placed among Machu Picchu, Mount Kilimanjaro and Santiago de Compostella in a book written by Philip Carr-Gomm. Excavations by archaeologists continue to this day and the sacred place will continue revealing its secrets.
Perperikon embodies history of almost 7000 years. The ancient rock town attracted settlers of various eras – the Neolithic, the Chalcolithic, the Bronze, and the Iron Age. The rocks of Perperikon gave the ancient inhabitants a home, a fortress, and a place for performing religious activities. The archaeological complex consists of four parts – a fortress wall, an acropolis, located at the top of the hill, a palace about 30 meters beneath the acropolis, and North and South suburbs, consisting of small streets, buildings and temples. Currently, the rock foundation is preserved but in ancient times the complex had several stories.
The 100-meter-long rock passageway gives tourists the chance to follow the steps of ancient people and it leads to the sacred place. While walking around the complex tourists can see numerous premises carved in the rocks used for different purposes – rooms, corridors, churches, and hallways. Hill slopes in the rock are visible. They were used for wine-pressers and for offering gifts to the gods. The well-shaped throne, which is carved in the rock, is a large attraction for tourists as it gives them the opportunity to sit down on it, allowing them to fully immerse into the history of Perperikon.
The director of the Regional History Museum in the town of Kardzhali, Daniela Kodzhamanova, was part of the first archaeological excavations. She said that the earliest traces that were found are from the 5th century BC and it is proven that Perperikon was inhabited until the 16th century. Kodzhamanova said that archeologists still explore Perperikon, and each new season, new treasures and premises are found. Every season, a group of 90 to 120 local people participate in the excavations.
As archeologists keep exploring Perperikon, the tourist infrastructure also keeps developing, making the experience in the architectural complex convenient and more enjoyable. One of the best-preserved structures on Perperikon is the medieval tower. It is said that the tower was built on a two-meter wall during the Roman era. As the European Union recently put money in developing the infrastructure of Perperikon, the tourists are now allowed to reach the top of the tower and enjoy the view.
“Here different epochs are mixed, and Perperikon is constructed on place in which a person can hardly imagine that centuries ago, people are able to build such enormous complex,” – Petar Trifonov, a tourist from Pleven said. Many tourists believe that there is something magical in this place, but for the archaeologists, the magic is even bigger:
“For us, the magic is different – it is the fact that each season reveals us something new about Perperikon,” Kodzhamanova said.
The ancient people used to leave a variety of gifts to the gods and archaeologists have discovered different artefacts in the slopes of the rocks. Tools, pottery and vessels that give tourists a clearer idea of the way of living of the ancient people, can be found in the Regional History Museum in the town of Kardzhali. Holographic images of various artefacts from Perperikon are available there.
“Whoever sees them, never believes that they are not real, but only images,” a worker in the museum said.
On Feb. 28, 2020 a layout of Perperikon was presented by Ovcharov and the mayor of Kardzhali Municipality – Hasan Azis. The idea of the layout is to help tourists visualize the ancient town. It will also be used for bringing awareness and attracting foreign tourists to see this wonder of the world. The layout is planned to be exposed in the National Assembly of the Republic of Bulgaria and in the European Parliament in Brussels.
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