A mountain in southeast Bulgaria and Turkey, which goes between the Burgas lowland, the Black Sea and the eastern part of the Upperthracian lowland. The highest summet o n the Bulgarian territory is Gradiste (710 m). The climate in Strandja is influenced by the Black Sea and it is mostly transmediterranean. The mountain is with thinly scattered population.
The Strandja Natural Park is the biggest protected territory in the Republic of Bulgaria. It occupies a territory of 1.161 square km which is approximately 1% of the national territory and 23.5% of the overall area of the protected territories in the country.
A fascinating and unforgettable view over Strandja, looking from its large mountain ridges. The folded round crests, covered with woodland massifs, form an endless chain without sharp impressive summits or erected rocky peaks characteristic for other Bulgarian mountains. The small villages with their pasture-grounds, meadows and small fields scattered among the mountain slopes of that endless green sea among which through picturesque meandres the two cleanest rivers in Bulgaria flow there – Veleka and Rezovska, the o ne o n the border.
Among the vegetation in the Park, in spite of the variety of local plants, the predominant woods cover 80% of its area. Due to the specific climate of Strandja the mountain vegetation has pecularities that distinguish it from the European vegetable formations and make it similar to the pont- evergreen flora of Caucasus. In fact, in Strandja o ne can find the most west remains of that flora which are o n the border between the mediterranean and mid-European vegetation. The distinctions in the orogrphic and especially in the climate conditions of the park create a peculiar environment with two distinguished regions – o ne o n the Black Sea littoral south from the town of Tzarevez and the other of inward Srtandja. The absence of hudge eminences predetermines the lack of different vegetable formations. That’s why the exposition of the area and the remoteness from the sea are determinant regarding the flora kinds divided into groups of vegetation communities:
- woods o n the coast – along to sand dunes, marsh-lands, denses in the lower reaches of the rivers;
- east-beech peppewort formations with podles of evegreen pont- vegetation
- east-beech formations in the high part of the park (500-700m above sea level);
- xero-thermic oak woods with or without remains from mediterranean vegetation;
- remains from makvis and garigues;
From floraristic and environmental point of view for Bulgaria and East Europe, the most interesting vegetable formations are the east-beech o nes with a mixture of durmast and more rarely with blagun, podles from periwinkle and other evergreen bushes.
The flora of Strandza represents a conglomerate of types of plants with a high environmental value which differ in origin, biological pecularities and level of evolution. In the park o ne can see 1665 kinds of high plants ( 47% of the natural resources of species in the country).
The Bulgarian endemits consist of three types: Anthemis jordanovi Stoy et Acht., Saponaria stranjensis D.Jord., Veronica turrilliana Stoy et Stet. There are 7 Bulgarian endemits, 32 kinds of relikt, 56 kinds are rare and 110 kinds are threatened with extinction. Extremely rare for those types of forests is the yew (Taxus baccata). There were found 5 formations of yew in the mountain. Especially precious for the flora are Strandja periwnkle, Stranja beech, Caucusus primrose, tinctorial St. John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum), calunata, evergreen mad tree, red pyracanta, colhid djel, Strandja blueberry.
The Strandja region along with its respective coast is o ne of the richest of animals in the country. There are 32 species of land-water animals and reptiles, 18 of which are protected. Some of them are: grass-snake (Coluber) with concave frontlet, snake-lizard, leopard snake, salamander (Salamandra maculosa), land tortoise.
40 speces of fish live in the rivers of Strandja like for example: river trout, Crimean barbel, Resovo herring, wild carp (Cyprinus carpio).
The bird kingdom in the park is very impressive. The migration of the Via Pontica birds goes over the territory, that’s why there are 261 species of birds while those of the nestling birds are 124, 17 which are included in the Red Book: Egyptian vulture, black stork, owl, rocky eagle, earth ribatche. The described mammels in the park are 54 species, 6 of them are incuded in the Red Book: marten (Martes martes), mortley\versicoloured polecat\fourmat (Putorious putorious), otter (Lutra), weasel. The wolf population comprises about 20 species while the jackals’ o ne over 2000.
This is the first reserve in Bulgaria anounced in 1933 as a strictly guarded state forest named “Gorna Elenitza-Silcossia”. Later o n the area was reduced so that o nly the region of Silcossia is left – 396,5 ha. 260 species of high plants and over 50 animal species can be seen there. 16 relikt and 3 endemit plants are set up in the reserve. The pure beech woods with their periwinkle like podles and other evergreen plants are very impressive.
Biospheric Reserve “Uzunbudjak” (Lopushna)
Situated on a territory of 2581,5 ha, this is the biggest and most representative reserve in Strandja. The name of ‘budjak’ is of a Turkish origin and means ‘corner, quiet spot’ – that’s the name given to the meandres formed by the Resovska river in that region – the Big budjak, the Small budjak. The bank is steep and scattered with interesting rocky formations and caves.Like a typical wood reserve 60% are oak woods and 35% are beech forests with podles from periwinkle as well as 200 year oak species -blaguni and goruni at over 1m in diametre.
The reserves of Vitanovo, Sredoka and Tissovitza are also exotic and of a rich variety of flora and fauna.
754,5 ha, situated between the town of Malko Tarnovo and the village of Brashlian. 40% of the forests consist of east-beech woods at an average age of 100 years. 462 species of high plants have been established. A big wealth present the Karst springs in the villages of Goliamo (Big) and Malko (Small) Aidere and the cave formations \Bratanova cave\.
607,8 ha on the territory of the town of Malko Tarnovo and the village of Stoilovo. An attractive territory with very steep slopes and rocky formations o n the right bank of the Aidere river.
749,3 ha on the territory of the village of Bulgari. This is the newest reserve in Strandja. Its announcement in 1990 aims at preserving the initional east-beech formations with podles from evergreen bushes – Strandja periwinkle, yew. It is of a high value of environmental preservation.
It comprises the upper steam of the river of the same name when it crosses the karst and forms numerous meandres o n the lands of the villages Brashlian, Zvezdetz and Stoilovo. Its banks are rocky with precipices and crags, out of reach at many places.The forest slopes are covered with beech and oak-trees and give shelter to a lot of mammels – otter, nestling birds – vulture, imperial eagle, black stork.
It is located between the villages of Zabernovo and Kalovo. A particular interest in that region is paid to the legend about the medieval monastery of Grigorii Sinait where also the name of ‘of Paroria’ comes from.The woods are very old, at a different age with venerable oak-trees. In that region there is a specie of oak-tree called ‘bagun’ which is probably the thickest and the oldest tree in Stranja.
On a relatively small area 15 tree species and over 10 bush species grow there, almost all of them representing the evergreen and numerous rare and preserved species. This is a fascinating natural botanical garden easy to access if o ne wants to visit and get familiar with the Stranja flora.
The area is located in an old east-beech forest with periwinkle o n the territory of the village of Slivarevo known with its remarkable deposit of Strandja blueberry. Close to the place there are very old mines and Thrace necropolis.
The area is located o n the territory of the town of Malko Tarnovo.The most compact deposit of the threatened of extinction Crimean tea is there.
The estuary of Veleka River
It is located o n the territories of the town of Ahtopol, the vilages of Sinemorez and Brodilovo. It is announced for preservation of the landscape characteristic for the coast zone, the rock formations and the specific vegetation.
It is located o n the territories of the village of Rezovo. The bank with interesting cliffs, the sand strips and the specific flora are preserved.
In order to preserve the nests of rare and protected birds the following areas are declared for protection: Krivinizovo, Kalkata and Moriane.
Cave and springs of Mladejka river, cave ‘Elenina Dupka (hole) – along to the village of Biala Voda, Bratanova cave – in the reserve of Vitanovo, Kamaka – along to the road Malko Tarnovo – Gramatikovo, Maharata cave – along to the village of Kosti.
Cave and springs of Mladejka river
They represent a strongly cut carst landscape with several caves, one of which is donated with subterranean lake, karst springs on an area of 8,3 ha.
This is a complex with interesting rock formations (rock mushroom) over rare for Stranja conglomerate rocks.
The area was used as a sanctuary by the Thracians in the remote past.
Rare bushes and herbs
Blue juniper – along the town of Malko Tarnovo, ling. Heather (Celluna vulgaris) – formation of the plant along to the village of Kosti.
Strandja oak-tree – cult coppice along to the village of Kosti, east-beech and oak species called ‘bagun’ along the village of Zabernovo, summer oak-tree along the villages of Zabernovo, Tetrabair, and Zvezdetz, oak species called ‘gorun’ in the area of Stoilova chuchurika along the town of Malko Tarnovo.
The inhabitants of Strandja have left us remarkable traces since the copper-stone period till nowadays. The disposition of the mountain in the triangle between the Black Sea and Marble Sea determines the main characteristics of the old cultures flourished here. The name of the mountain was mentioned by Herodot, Tukudit, Xenofont. They provide pieces of information about the Thracian tribe odrissi that inhabitated those lands and later o n in the beginning of our era – the asts where the other name of Strandja comes from - Astea.
The copper mines were used by Thracians as well as by Romans. Remains of the antiquity are the marble beehive tombs – mausoleums in the areas of “Mishkova Niva” and “Propada” as well as the numerous sepulchral mounds\tumuli, citadels and ancient Roman roads. In the Middle Ages in this bordering line between “Bulgarians and Greeks” the monastery of Paroria of Grigorii Sinait sprang up and developed. He created the mystical monastic movement of ishaism follower of which became the Bulgarian bookman Saint Teodocy of Tanrnovo. The churches in the settlements o n the territory of the park are keepers of the Strandja inhabitants’ religion. They keep icons from 18-19 centuries.
The iconostasis\chancel-screen in the church “Cyril and Method” in the village of Kosti is remarkable. It is a master work of the talented local wood-carver – Pandil. A phenomenom there represent chapels (also called “small monasteries”) built among the woodsmostly o n places with springs cosidered curative or o n places related to Thracian sanctuaries. o ne can perceive the lifestyle of the inhabitants of Strandja when visiting the old houses of the village of Brashlian – declared architectural reserve due to its authentic ambiance.
Dancing on fire – nestinarstvo
The meaning of those rituals closes the fire-dancing to the spring fires in honour of the summer circle of the sun. All activites – from the preparation of the holiday to the ritual going round the village with the icons of Konstantin and Elena and with the respective drum aim to send away the deseases and to provide health and fertility to the population.
The fire-dancing used to be known o nly in the most eastern confines of Thrace. Till the Bolcan War it lived in the most villages of Strandja.
Today however this ritual is preserved in the villages of Bulgari (Bulgarians) in the region of Mchurin and Novo Panicharevo in yhe region of Burgas.
Characteristic for the people practicing fire-dancing are the dance and the tramping o n the fire.
The night processions of the dancers round the village with icons, music and priest “having taken place several days before St Konstantin” are also part of the same ritual.
The fire-dancing is a pagan ritual based o n Christianity. It is a strage event compared to our rituals and beliefs which is also proved by the fact that its adherent (the fire-dancers) come o nly from couple of families in the village, men and women who believe that they receive from their parents and ancestres a secret patrimony of rightesness being transferred to them by the mediation of St Konstantin who is their patron saint.
Since the first day of May the eminent fire-dancers rally in the house of the main o ne, who meets them amiably and they bring him presents.First, he invites them in his chapel when they pray and then are offered a meal.Those gatherings aim to coming to an agreement o n the forthcoming celabration of the holiday of St. Konstantin and Elena which is o n 21 May (3 June).
In the day of the very holiday at break of dawn, a lithurgy is served by the priest. All peasants, wearing a holiday attire, rally in front of the church. A ying fire-dancer bringd the icon of St. Konstantin decorated with flowers and old coins. The whole village follow the icon playng drums and bagpipes and go to the pool neighbouring the village where they are sanctified with water. After making offerings, drinking and playing, in the afternoon all peasants come back following the same ritual. At the village square they stop to sing “Glory to you, saint Konstantin!”
At dusk a fire is light \made with dry wood prepared in advance.The bagpipes, drums, among which the saint drum kept in the church, fire-dancers with the icon of St. Konstantin and Elena start visiting every house. After that they come to the fire, go round it few times making strange sounds like “wah, wah,wah”. The peasant dance choro (a folkdance) under the music of others bagoipes.In meantime, they put the fire ,which has burnt to a cinder, in a circle. Under the music of a folklore dance the fire-dancers start shaking and getting into a trance.and go o ne by o ne in the fire. The first fire-dancer dance with the icon. The dance in the fire lasts no more than 2 minutes. Sometimes, during their fire dancing the dancers predict what is to happen about the village or about somebody who doedoesn’t respect St. Konstantin. They don’t use protective devices. The dance sometimes goes o n the following evening.
The conditions preceding the fire-dances are the high spirits of both fire-dancers and spectators in the holiday’s eve, the ambiance full of expectation, influence of the music, particularly of thespecific fire-dancers’ song with its typical rhythm.
It is not a worship of the fire because it is o nly tremlbed o n. o ne of the aims is purification from sins.
“ According to the statements of the inhabitants – Slaveikov (a Bulgarian great poet) writes down in his second description – more fire-dancers go playing in the fire more rich crops will be in the current year….” The fire-dancer has to be a member of the ‘stolninata” – a place where the iconostasus with the icons is preserved. It is in tne centre of the village.
The fire-dancer lights regularly an icon-lamp “on the personal days” and three months a year – “the Big o ne”- (January), “Kostadin’s o ne” – (May) and “the Dimitar’s o ne – (October)
On the very holiday a bagpipe and a drum are played. Someone starts leading the horo for health. Round the fire there is a horo led by lads with icons.Men and women, old and young come dancing the fire dance for about 5 minutes “for habit and health” under the sounds of bagpipes and drums.
The spiritual legacy of Strandja is part of the rich various Bulgarian culture. But in the same time because of the complicated mixture of many cultural and religious beliefs the Strandja ethnos possesses an unique presence of rituals not found anywhere o n the Bulgarian lands. A remarkable pecularity represent the abondance of summer celabrations – “fairs” when the whole village leave themselves to a rest during the hot days. o nly there o ne can see rituals like “fi lek”, “Mara and Lishanka” as well as mysterious fire-dancers. The fire-dancing is an unique phenomenom which is not o nly a spectacle – shoeless people walking o n glowing embers, but also a sacerdotal ritual coming from the antiquity. The unique ritual is implemented nowadays o nly in the village of Bulgari (Bulgarians) o n 3-4 June at the holiday of the patron saints – St. Konstantin and Elena.
Tomb in the locality of Propada
On the territory of the municipality of Malko Tarnovo, among the marvellous nature of Strandja mountain, unique archeologic monuments are conserved related to the Thracian and Roman culture.
The first discovered, documentated and published building is a Thracian religious building (a tomb) under a hill mound o n the Bugarian territory of Strandja. It is located in the area of ‘Propada”, 5km north-east of the town of Malko Tarnovo. It is built o n the top of a not high hill and gives the beginning of a necropolis consisted of 40 mounds\tumuli.When researching of two of them in 2001 were discovered two interesting tribe tombs from the Roman period.
Beehive Tomb in the locality of “Mishkova Niva(field)”
The three necropolos in the localities of “Mishkova Niva(field)”, Propada, Suh Dol are at 5 –8 kmfrom the town of Malko Tarnovo. The most interesting and thorougly researched archeological monument in the region remains the big Beehive Tomb known also as the sanctuary of Apolon. It is situated in the area of “Mishkova Niva”(Bachvarova koliba-cottage) o n the south-easteren slope of the Goliamo Gradiste, at 3 km south-west of the town of Malko Tarnovo. It is from the Roman period, most propably 3-2 cent.BC. Sacrificial altars were also discovered, some of them dedicated to Apolon Avlariok. They are kept in the museum complex of the town. The rock depository is located in the area of Kamaka – at about 6 km south-east of the town of Malko Tarnovo, south from the road Malko Tarnovo – Gramatikovo – Tzerovo. People take inerest in the two pediments, originated most probably from the beehive tombs, exhibited now in the museum complex.
Sinemorez is the most southern and beautiful point of the Bulgarian seaside.
The fascinating nature of the place will enchant you. In Sinemorez you have the opportunity to enjoy the unique mixture of sea, river and forest: to bathe in a crystal sea water, to fish in the purest river of Bulgaria – Veleka. All of your senses will be captured by the colours and aroma of the seaside, mountain and river. You will feel the fresh air, the silence and charm of the place. The sand there is extremely clean while the water is nicely warm and crystal.The most frequented beach is “Butamiata”.
There are several great places offering sandwiches, coffee, ice-cream, cold beer and others. This beach is the o nly o ne having safeguard posts and is always well cleaned. Some small restaurants offer a variety of menus. In the village there are 3 supermarkets but if you want to do more shopping you can go to the neighbouring town Ahtopol which is at o nly 6 km from Sinemorez.
The village of Brashlian represents an architectural and historical reserve declared so in 1982.
It is situated at 11 km north-west from the town of Malko Tarnovo. The reserve consists of 76 houses - architectural monuments of the culture. 9 of them have a national importance, 22 are ensembles, the rest of them have a local importance. Brashlian is tucked away in a tufty wrapping vegetation consisted of ivy interweaved with venerable tree species. It is situated in the north-eastern part of Strandja mountain at 240 m over the sea. The church “St.Dimitar” with a monastic school – architectural monument with local importance.
The Balju’s house - architectural and historical monument. It was built in the 19th cent. The plan of the house is typical for the Strandja architecture.
Not o nly o n the magnificent azure south seaside of Strandja, attracting increasingly more people every summer, tourism spreads also in its wood slopes. Along the rivers – Mladejka and Veleka, in the exotic villages – Kosti, Balgari, Brashlian, among tha karst springs and the antique sanctuaries – there is a plenty of opportunities for entertainment and rest.
Routs for walking
1.village of Pismenovo – locality of Studena – l. Stara Vizitza – v. Vizitza – overall length appr.20 km; forest rout in the coast oakwoods, walk o n old forest paths. Rest in the “Studena voda (Cold water)” shelter – marvellous scenary is discovered from the top towards the mountain and the sea.the valley of Vizichka river is crossed.
2. v.Sinemorez – upstream of Veleka river till the “Tzarskoto kladenche (king’s well)” - v.Brodilovo – appr.20 km o n an old path o n the right bank of the river. Introduction to the all Stranja group of plants. Over the “Tzarskoto kladenche” (appr. 8 km) a rest – dense flora. Along the river there is an opportunity for fishing and bathing as well as observing wood and river birds, terrapins. The old houses and the church “St. Panteleimon” in the village of Brodilovo are also interesting.
3. Malko Tarnovo – l.Dokuzak – v.Stoilovo – v.Petrova niva (field) - v.Zvezdetz – overall 30 km of a difficult rout. The Aidere river ( a feeder of Veleka river), Veleka river with big karst springs and water falls are crossed. A fulling-mill can be seen in the locality of Dokuzak, old architecture in the village of Stoilovo, view over the “Serdoka” reserve and the Historical locality of Petrova Niva. There is an opportunity for fishing in the Veleka river as well as observing otters and birds of prey.
The offered routs discover o nly a small part of the beauty of the mountain.
Strandja can charm you more than what you have read so far. It is enough to mention the horse and bike riding, fishing and hunting, immense wealth of birds you can enjoy observing and so many challenges expecting you ……the whole of this is added to a magnificent natural beauty. If you dreem about a holiday not o nly giving you a full rest but also recharging you with an original drive, it will be difficult for you to find more suitable place than Strandja.