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Settlements: Batak

Batak - Pictures Of Bulgaria
The town of Batak (4488 inhabitants, 1036 metres above sea level) is situated at the northern foothill of the Batak Mountain (Western Rhodopes), along the two banks of the Stara Reka River. It is situated at the distance of 36 km south of Pazardzhik, at the distance of 16 km south of Peshtera, at the distance of 26 km south-east of Velingrad, at the distance of 51 km north of Dospat, as well as at the distance of 156 km south-east of the capital Sofia. The name of this little town is sacred for every Bulgarian. It is a symbol of martyrdom and self-sacrifice in the name of freedom!

History: In spite of the ruins of ancient fortresses and towns, it cannot be stated with certainty when todays Batak originated. Its name was mentioned for the first time in 1592 on the e stone embedded in the drinking-fountain (cheshma) at the Krichim Monastery. The settlement grew up substantially after the Bulgarians from the region of Chepin River and its mountain valley migrated escaping from the forceful conversion to Islam. During the pogroms by the kurdzhalii (Turkish brigands) it was repeatedly ruined and rebuilt again. In 1819 Priest Konstantin wrote that it was a little timber village with 100 houses. According to the traveller A. Vikenel, in 1847 the village numbered 1000 houses and in 1865 Zakhary Stoyanov indicated that it had 400 houses, a lot of inns, a multitude of cuttings and 1500 inhabitants. It can be stated with certainty that as of the end of the Ottoman Rule Batak was already a big and wealthy settlement with over 9000 inhabitants. In 1813 the citizens of Batak built St. Nedelya Church, which was to enter the tragic history of Batak and Bulgaria 63 years later. The school was opened in 1835 and Nayden Ivanovich was the first teacher in it.

The name of the town is related most of all to the April Uprising. On 21 April 1876 its inhabitants announced the beginning of the uprising. Like everywhere else the initial enthusiasm and exultation were followed by an utter defeat but the defeat in Batak was more than terrible and reckless! Five thousand people died, the doom of the 2 thousand men, women and children who found their death in the small St. Nedelya Church, which turned out to be their last stronghold, hope and... tomb, too, being exceptionally dramatic and tragic. The stories of unparalleled heroism, self-sacrifice and inexorability told by the few people who survived this sanguinary Bacchanalia added up to dozens.
The brightest intellects of mankind raised a voice of protest and indignation in answer to this outrageous occurrence - Victor Hugo, William Gladstone, Makgahan, Dostoevski, Lev Tolstoy. Zakhary Stoyanov wrote: Kneel, kind readers, hats off! Batak with its ruins is in front of us. I summon everyone who is thoroughly Bulgarian, everyone who is honourable and homeland loving, to be with us here at this Bulgarian sanctuary, at this sacrificial altar to our Freedom, where, the blood of thousands of martyrs, saints, of about a hundred little children, of countless innocent lasses and lads was shed. Batak, glorious and unfortunate Batak! Should a Bulgarian heart be ever found not to palpitate at the sole pronunciation of your own name? I am standing in awe before your magnificence, History shall pay reverence to you, too. The peoples poet Ivan Vazov added: The Cheops Pyramid would be insufficient as a memorial to Batak.

Those who remained alive in Batak welcomed the Russian Army of Liberation on 20th January 1878.

Landmarks: In the first place this is the already mentioned little stone church of St. Nedelya, turned into a museum and charnel-house. Even nowadays the bones of the heroes, chopping-log, the traces of yataghans and bullets remind of those terrible and grandiose days. It is situated in the centre of the little town. The town Museum of History is located in a new building and houses over 500 exhibits of the history of Batak. The several old Batak houses restored and proclaimed as cultural monuments are of interest, too.

Accommodation: Bulgaria Hotel (in the centre of the town); Kolarovs House Tourist Hostel (at the distance of 300 metres from the centre of the town, 2, Karlushka Street); private lodgings.

Tourist information: at the hotel, in the tourist hostel, at Batyovtsi Tourist Association (1, Osvobozhdenie Square, tel.: 03553 2285) or in the town-hall.

Transport: The town is connected with the remaining part of the country solely through bus transport. There are regular bus lines to Sofia, Plovdiv, Peshtera, Pazardzhik, Velingrad, Dospat and other smaller settlements within the region. Town bus station - tel.: 03553 2328.

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