Mysteries of Ancient Thrace – Discover Bulgaria
High overhead a large group of griffon vultures slowly circled. The sudden appearance of these majestic birds seemed almost like an omen, occurring just as I was setting off in search of the myths and mysteries of ancient Thrace, the focus of an exciting new Discover Bulgaria tour. Our operator Julian Perry reports.
I was in Bulgaria’s Eastern Rodopi Mountains, a wild land of rugged volcanic outcrops that are not only home to the greatest variety of birds of prey in Europe, but also to many intriguing archaeological sites. Hidden away in the remotest depths of these mountains is an amazing collection of megalithic monuments, unique rock-cut tombs and sanctuaries that would not be out of place in an Indiana Jones adventure.
I began my explorations at Tatul where, on an escarpment at the edge of the village, I discovered a strikingly shaped rock into which had been cut a couple of large deep openings. The one on the flank gaped like a giant mouth, whilst that on the summit clearly resembled a coffin. Could this have been the Tomb of Orpheus, as the local people have always claimed?
Not far from Tatul lies another fascinating site, Perperikon, a huge fortified acropolis hewn into the mountain. For well over a century, archaeologists have scoured ancient Thrace trying to locate the site of the famous sanctuary of Dionysus whose oracle was consulted by Alexander the Great. The amazing archaeological discoveries which have recently been unearthed at Perperikon certainly seem to suggest that this was indeed that place.
Wine is known to have played a major part in Dionysian ritual, and wandering around Perperikon you can find numerous ancient winepresses carved out of the rocks, obviously to cater for the insatiable demands of the participants. Another characteristic of Dionysian rites was the occurrence of ecstatic, drunken parties, which are said to have taken place in a remote mountain cave. Not far from Perperikon, you can visit what is almost certainly this very cave, an amazing oval -shaped cleft located high up on a mountainside. It is quite a hike to get there, one that culminates in a scramble, but it’s well worth making the effort to visit this extraordinary place.
This unique, new Discover Bulgaria tour offers a sense of excitement, adventure, as well as a wonderful opportunity to see a wealth of birds and other wildlife in one of Europe’s least frequented corners, a rugged region of rock tombs and raptors.