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Settlements: Asenovgrad

The town of Assenovgrad (52 116 inhabitants, 180 м above sea level) is situated in the western part of the Gornotrakiiska (Upper Thracian) Lowland, in the northern foots of the Western Rhodopes, at a place where the Cheperarska River runs from the mountain into the valley. It is 169 km south-east of Sofia, 19 km south-east of Plovdiv, 84 km north of Smolyan, 96 km west of Haskovo and 81 km north-west of Kurdzhali. This is the most sacral Bulgarian town. A town with extremely interesting past.

History: This fact is explained by its favourable geographic location - the attractive combination of the mountain and the valley, its mild climate, fertile soil and the fact that here is the entrance of the most convenient passage through the Rhodope Mountains connecting Thrace with the Aegean Region. There was an ancient (Thracian) settlement on the territory of this town, and later on a medieval village was founded there. Within its surroundings more than 100 Thracian mounds with a lot of objects were found. The town played its significant role in the medieval period as a strongly fortified site, which witnessed severe battles. The town is first mentioned under the name of Stanimahos in the statute (1083) of the Bachkovo Monastery, whose founder, the Byzantine military commander of Georgian origin Grigorii Bakuriani, had conquered the town shortly before that. Later on the chronicles of the successive crusades within the period 1096 - 1204 gave it the names of Stanimako, Estanimak, Skribentsion. Under the name of Stanimaka (from the word of Greek origin stenimahos meaning fortified narrow place) the town left its deep traces in history. In 1230 Tsar Ivan Assen II fortified and expanded the strong Stanimakas Fortress, called Petrich, which act was celebrated by putting an inscription, carved above its entrance. This is the reason for the fortress to be renamed to Assenova Krepost (Fortress), and the town of Stanimaka, located below it - to be renamed to Assenovgrad in 1934. Later on the town was either Bulgarian or within the Byzantine Empire. In 1364 the town was conquered by Tsar Ivan Alexander and remained within Bulgarian territories until his death when it was regained by the Turks. During the long Turkish Rule Stanimaka had lost its significance and gradually declined. The town was plundered and put on fire by the kurdzhalii (Turkish brigands) three times. Its inhabitants made their living mainly by growing vineyards (production of Mavrud type of wines) and silkworm breeding (production of silk). After the Liberation, this was a small agricultural town, which remained within the borders of Eastern Roumelia as long as 1885. At the end of 19th century the phylloxera spoiled the vineyards and mass tobbacco planting and growing commenced thereon. The glory of Assenovgrad as a sacral centre, formed during the eneolite and existing as such until now, explains the presence of so many cult-related buildings in the town and its surroundings - 5 monasteries, 12 churches and more than 50 chapels.

Landmarks: The Museum of History (1, Trakia Square, tel.: 0331 22150) is in the centre of the town with its three sections: Archaeology, Revival Period and Ethnography. Ethnographic Exhibition on Lifestyle in the Old Town (31, Stanimaka Str., tel.: 0331 24030) is accommodated in a renaissance style building dating back to 19th century, presenting the domestic style of living and culture of a wealthy family in the town. The working hours for the two museums are from Monday through Friday from 9.00 a.m. to 12.00 p.m. and from 2.00 p.m. to 5.00 p.m. There is also a Paleontology Museum, established as a branch of the Bulgarian Academy of Science in 1995. It is housed in the ex-youth house in Badelema Area. The exibits include skletons and fossils of animals, having lived 7-8 million years ago. A major sample is that of Dinoterrium Giganteum a giant animal, quite similar to the elephant. This is the only skeleton of such an animal, found in Bulgaria, which is very well preserved. Tel.: 0331 23736, working hours: Monday through Friday, 9.00 a.m. - 12.00 p.m. and 2.00 p.m. - 5.00 p.m., Saturdays - 9.00 a.m. to 4.00 p.m., Sundays - closed. Vine and Winery Museum (6, Bulair Str.). Extremely valuable church in the town is St. Joan Predtecha Church (The Precursor) dating back to 13th-14th centuries, which has one nave, with three-wall abcide without nartex. St. George (Ambelinski) Church (Georgi Benkovski Str. in Ambelino Quarter) looks like a natural continuation of the steep mountainous hills, with stone columns and three domes, one of which has a 12-wall shape and a high belfry. Constructed by master builders, this church is one of the most representative and imposing temples of the Revival Period. Another remarkable church is St. Georgi (Metoshki) Church erected in 18th century on the foundations of an old church from 12th century. The highly artistic wall paintings are drawn by Zakhari Zograf. He is also did the wall paintings in the temple and spring St. Joan Predtecha (The Precursor), next to the St. Holy Virgin - Annunciation Church (1836). The Holy Virgin Church (2, Radi Ovchaarov Str.), the so called The Deep Church, built in 1765 on the foundations of an older church, destroyed by the Turks. It has a marvellous wooden iconostasis of walnut tree, carved and painted by the masters of art from the Debar Art School. St. Dimitur Church was built in 1866. Special interest deserves the D. Shterevs piece of art Noahs Ark because of its extremely rare iconography. The town has several old houses of the Revival time with original architecture and beautiful wood-carvings (for example, the houses at 30, Stamenka Str. and at 2, Bachkovska Str.).

Accommodation: Аssenovets Hotel Complex (3, Тrakia Sq., in the centre of the town, 3-star). Art Hotel (10, Kresna Str., family type of hotel, with 5 rooms). Hotel М (24, Slavyanska Str., 3-star, family type of hotel, tel.: 0331 22740, 27304). Кalamandi Hotel (54, 6th January Str., on the road to Smolyan, 2-star, 5 rooms, family type of hotel). Hotel RITZ-IV (27, Мacedonia Str., in Gorni Voden Quarter, 1-star, family type of hotel, 5 rooms). Perun Hotel (8, Gotse Delchev Str., 1-star, family type of hotel, 5 rooms). Santo Kiriko Hotel Complex (2 кm away from the town). The Forty Springs Sports Complex (4 km in the direction of the town of Kurdzhali, offers a hotel, bungalows, restaurant, swimming pool). Tourist hostel (1, Kostur Str., the cheapest lodging in town). There is even greater variety of catering and entertainment establishments.

Тourist information: available in the hotels, tourist agencies, Bezovo Tourist Association (6, Тrakia Sq., tel.: 0331 23867).

Тransport: Assenovgrad is connected to the rest of the country mostly by bus transport and by railway. There are regular bus lines to Plovdiv (every 30 minutes), Smolyan, Chepelare, Pamporovo, Bachkovo Monastery, Haskovo, Kurdzhali and a lot of other smaller villages and settlements within the region. The bus station (8, Vassil Levski Blvd., tel.: 0331 22862, 24853) and the railway station (10, Vassil Levski Blvd., tel.: 0331 23029, 22970, 22870) are located next to each other on the left bank of Chepelarska (Chaya) River. The town is the last station of Plovdiv - Assenovgrad railway line. Public bus transport is also available in the town.

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Bulgaria Regions: Plovdiv