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Mountain Tourism: Smolyan

Smolyan - Pictures Of Bulgaria
The town of Smolyan (33 153 inhabitants, 850 to 1050 m above sea level) is picturesquely scattered in the narrow gorge of Cherna River (Black River), in the most beautiful part of the Rhodope Mountains. It is about 260 km south-east of Sofia, 103 km south of Plovdiv, 87 km west of Kurdzhali, 46 km south-east of Devin and 16 km south of Pamporovo Resort. This is one of the most beautiful Bulgarian towns. A regional administrative centre.

History: On the 18th of June, 1960 the three neighbouring villages of Smolyan, Raikovo and Ustovo merged in a town, which was named Smolyan, and presently each one of the villages is its quarter. Smolyan Quarter (at the highest altitude) is the successor of the vanished village of Ezerovo, which was situated 3 km above the town, amidst the Smolyan Lakes. During the period of the attempts to convert the native population to Islam (17th century), its inhabitants strongly opposed this act and the Turks completely destroying the village. Some of the inhabitants were killed, others ran to the mountains and those who adopted the Muslim religion populated the areas along Cherna River, where the modern quarter lies. The Turks named this new settlement Pashmaklu. This is the name mentioned by the French traveller Dr. Paul Luka (1706) and it is recorded in the inscription of the Overarched Bridge (Beiska Kupriya), built in 1716. The name of Smolyan was given to this neighbourhood after the Liberation and it came out of the name of the Slav tribe of Smoleni. Raikovo Quarter (the quarter in the middle) was divided in the early ages into Gorno (Upper) and Dolno (Lower) Raikovo. A legend tells us that the fellow of Momchil the Hero, Raiko founded this settlement. During the attempt to convert the population to Islam, its inhabitants strongly resisted, paying for that with more than 200 victims, but they preserved their religion and village. The first written document about this settlement dates back to the inscription on a stone of the Mazolska drinking-fountain (1572). It developed as a craftsmanship village. Its aba (coarse homespun woollen cloth and upper mens garment made of it), woollen cloths and rugs were famous throughout the Ottoman Empire. Its economic power during the Revival Period revealed in the building of nice houses of typical Rhodope architecture, churches and schools. Ustovo Quarter (the lowest) is an old settlement. Its name is linked to ustie (estuary) or ushtelie i.e. it originated from the geographical location of the settlement. It is situated on an important crossroad - this was the crossing point of the old roads from Plovdiv to Xanti and Gyumyurdzhina and from Drama through Nevrokop (modern Gotse Delchev) to Kurdzhali and Odrin. This predetermined to a greater extent its economic and historic development. Ustovo became an important market centre and significant craftsmanship settlement. Crafts like coppersmith, tinkering, shoe-making, goldsmith, and furriery, homespun wollen cloths and tailoring and others were well developed since early ages. Their products had good market, most of all in Istanbul and Smirna (Izmir). At the beginning of 19th century the village achieved great economic and cultural boom. Almost all of the interesting site and buildings date back to that period. In 1830 the first monastery school was founded. Priest Gligorko, one of the prominent defenders of Bulgarian population, lived and worked in Ustovo. This is the birthplace of some prominent Bulgarians, such as Sava Stratiev, fighter against Phanariotism and Stoyu Shishkov, a teacher, ethnographer and a man of letters. After the Liberation the entire Smolyan region remained under Turkish Rule until 1912.

In Smolyan Quarter: The Revival Period houses Meramovs, Sarievs, Prissadovs, etc. The overarched bridge (Beiska Kupriya) across Cherna River, built in the beginning of 18th century. Chinar Nature Reserve (sycamore-tree) a 250-years old tree. The Planetarium (20, Bulgaria Blvd., tel.: 0301 23074) is the biggest in Bulgaria. The Museum of the History of Mid-Rhodope Mountains (New Centre Complex, tel.: 0301 24603), houses more than 150 000 exhibits. The Town Art Gallery (New Centre Complex, tel.: 0301 23268) accommodates thousands of masterpieces of artists and sculptors.

In Raikovo Quarter: Pangalovs House - valuable architectural monument of culture dating back to 1860, Аlibeev Konak - an old residential and agricultural complex in the upper part of the quarter. The Cheshitevs House in the Cheshitska area - housing interesting typical Rhodope houses from the Revival Period in Dolno Raikovo. Memorial and Channel-House in honour of the inhabitants of Raikovo, who died for freedom. St. Nedelya Church (1836 г.) has a rich collections of icons. Mazolevs Drinking-Fountain bears the inscription, evidencing the first mention of the village.

In Ustovo Quarter: Меdnikarska Charshiya (the old coppersmith marketplace), Hadzhiivanovs House, which provided shelter to the headquarters of the Russian troops in the region during the War of Liberation (1877-1878). The Sheremetevs, Takovs, Hadzhichonovs Houses are also within this area. The Kelyavs House bears the inscription of sergeant Parhomenko, which informs that some Cossacks from the First Squad of the II Regiment stayed there. St. Nikola Church is remarkable with its plentiful, rich wall paintings and original architecture.

The new, modern centre of the town is a skilful combination of local traditions and existing environment. Its construction was completed in 1983.

The Rhodope Theatre of Drama (Bulgaria Blvd., tel.: 0301 25178) is successfully functioning in this nice town. The town is also a university centre - it houses the Pedagogical Faculty of Plovdiv University Paisii Hilendarski'".

Accommodation: Smolyan Hotel (3-star, in the centre of the town, 3, Bulgaria Blvd.) is the biggest in the town. Cypress Private Hotel (31, Sokolitsa Str.). Markelov Private Hotel (14, Nikola Philipov Str.). Mechta Hotel (Dream) (within the region of Smolyan Lakes). Ezerata Hotel (The Lakes (within the region of Smolyan Lakes, transport provided by bus line No. 4). Sokolitsa Hotel (47, 1st May Str., next to the bus station). Boarding house of the Pedagogical Faculty (32, D. Petrov Str.). Esperanto Tourist Complex. Smolyanski Ezera Chalet (Smolyan Lakes) is situated in the area of Smolyan Lakes. It has 43 beds. The public bus line No. 4 rides stops close to the chalet. Smolyan offers a wide variety of catering and entertainment facilities, yet one of the most authentic is Beni Tavern in Raikovo Quarter.

Tourist Information: Tourist Information Centre, 4700 Smolyan, 80, Bulgaria Blvd., tel./fax: 0301 38055, e-mail: (Union of Rhodope Hoteliers and Restaurateurs); Regional Tourist Information Centre (4700 Smolyan, House of the Youth, TIC, tel./fax: 0301 25040); Council on Tourism (4700 Smolyan, 12, Bulgaria Blvd, tel.: 0301 28758, 24751, 22023/235). Tourist Information Centre (in Smolyan Hotel, 3, Bulgaria Blvd., tel.: 0301 24643, fax: 0301 24631, email: Tourist Information & Reservation Centre (80, Bulgaria Blvd., tel./fax: 0301 38085, email: Karluk Tourist Association (57, Rhodope Str., tel.: 0301 21292, 21056) as well at the hotels.

Transport: Bus transport is the most popular for Smolyan. There are regular bus lines to Sofia, Plovdiv (every hour), Kurdzhali, Devin, Assenovgrad, Chepelare, Pamporovo (every hour) and to other smaller villages within the region. Public bus stations: Smolyan Bus Station (located in Smolyan Quarter, at the western end of Bulgaria Blvd., tel.: 0301 34251). Bus Station Iztok (East) (in Ustovo Quarter, tel.: 0301 45161). Bus Station Yug (South) (tel.: 0301 45826). Private buses servicing long-distance lines start 7:00 a.m. from the parking lot opposite the Planetarium. 6 public bus lines are regularly functioning within the boundaries of the town. Radio-cab is also available (tel.: 0301 35059).

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