Tour of Bulgarian museums in March 2010

Tuesday, March 23: On a high horse

After a typical Bulgarian breakfast (cucumbers, tomatoes, olives, feta, white bread, stroooooong coffee) we make our way to the Historical Museum of Šumen. To make sure that we won’t have to return to the hotel carrying tons of books, we take the car. In the museum we are expected by Svetlana Kavrăkova. She shows us some real highlights: finds from the tell settlements of Kodžadermen, Vinitsa, Salmanovo and Smyadovo. There are whole sets of vessels on display, and again anthropomorphic and zoomorphic figurines by the dozen. One object is especially puzzling, it seems to be a zoomorphic vessel, unfortunately without a head and only the front legs. Svetlana Kavrăkova wants to explain us what she thinks, but in Bulgarian, and it takes a while until we understand (using pantomime also): she guesses it is a seal! We are stumped, but she is right, the object does look like a seal. And when Svetlana Kavrăkova tells us that they found seal bones at Durankulak (unpublished), we are utterly bewildered. Seals in the Black Sea? Set some archaeozoologists on the case!

After that we are shown some more tons of anthropomorphic figurines, Valeska almost starts to cry (in joy and/or desperation), and the we get to see rows and rows of vessels from Kodžadermen in the museum’s depot.

The Historical Museum at Šumen.

In the meantime they called at Madara for us. There you can find a famous Medieval rock relief of a horseman and a very small museum with prehistoric and protohistoric finds from the small caves at the foot of the rocks. Spontaneously we decide to go there. The rider is World Heritage since 1979, as we are informed by a sign at the place. And, by the way: when Bulgaria will introduce Euro coins, the Madara Rider will be on them, just like he is now on the stotinki coins.

The original...

... and the Rider in miniature!

Besides the rock relief of the Rider, we take a look at some of the small caves and niches; in one of them there is a small rock chapel, in others, Chalcolithic, Bronze Age and Iron Age finds where made.

Full of high spirits we decide to see the fortress on top of the rocks. That means a steep long climb across hundreds of steps. But it was totally worth it.

From the top we have a great view over the scenery: there are further archaeological locations, a Roman villa and an early Byzantine church.

After a short rest we climb back down and head on to Varna. This is where we will stay tonight before we go to the museum tomorrow. In the evening we take a walk to the Black Sea shore. No bathing, it is much too cold. The atmosphere is impressing, sky and sea not touristic blue and sunny but wild and bleak.

In order not to get wild and bleak ourselves, we walk on to a Happy Grill restaurant to have dinner. And the first strawberries this year. With chocolate. Hmmmm, Varna.

March 24: Mankind's oldest gold >