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The Old Bulgarian Capitals

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9 days riding holiday through the capital of the Second Bulgarian Kingdom Veliko Turnovo (1185-1396), through the capitals of the First Bulgarian Kingdom - Pliska and The Great Preslav (681-1018) and finishes at the famous monument of the 8th century - "The Horseman of Madara".

This trail is organized in a natural way, following the road of the ancient Bulgarians.
The riders sleep in tents and "take a shower" in the lakes and rivers. Only the first 2 nights and the last night they sleep in a hotel.
The food is supplied by car 3 times a day and the riders prepare it themselves on the fire.
In this trails the riders feel the real life as it has been before hundred and thousand years ago.
The nature is wild and beautiful and in many places you could ride without meeting any people.

  • Dates for 2019:
    No planned dates!
    In case of interest, the dates from June 8 to June 15 (originaly for This trail), could be used for this trail (becoming June 8 to June 16).

  • Meeting point:
    Sofia Airport (Varna airport is an option upon agreement).

  • Ability:
    Intermediate and higher ability riders.

  • Number of riders:

  • Average hours on the saddle:|

  • Pace:
    Varing from walk on the steeper slopes to a fast pace on the open spaces wich are grate for long canters.
    Usually we are riding 40 % walking, 30 % trotting and 30 % cantering. This proportion could be changed according to the requirements and the abilities of the riders.

  • Equipment:
    - saddles and tacks: we have both Western and English high quality saddles: Ortho-Flex and Podium.
    - we recommend you to have: riding helmet(obligatory), riding boots or chaps, raincoat and warm clothes, spray against insects, sun protection cream.

  • Horses:
    We have Shagya and pure Arabs, East-Bulgarian breed and crossbred horses with Akhal-Teke blood - all well broken and calm.
    The height of the horses is from 150 to 165 cm.

  • The riding guides:
    The riding guides are experienced and professional and know all the horses and routes well. They have a sound knowledge and awareness of safety, of looking after horses and guests out on a ride. The leading guide is able to take sole charge of riders and to encourage them to enjoy riding, to plan together with them riding time and breaks.

  • Maximum weight limit of the riders:
    110 kg.

  • Accommodation:
    In high quality hotels or in guest houses, in double rooms with WC and shower. Swimming pools and sauna are available in 4 of the nights.

  • Meals:
    All-inclusive, except hard drinks; the hotels and houses provide the breakfasts and dinners and they offer traditional local dishes. The midday meals are in the open-air during the passages and they consist of warm food, beer, cold and warm up drinks. We offer ecologically clean food, international and traditional Bulgarian cuisine.

  • Accompanying children and young people:
    Over 12 years. All the accompanying non-riders will have the possibility to participate in all the above mentioned additional activities.

  • Additional information:
    A jeep follows the group, brings the luggage and supplying food 3 times a day.

Description of the trail

  • Day 1:
    - Pick up from Sofia Airport and transfer to Sevlievo, placed 190 km northeast from the capital.
    - Arrival at a nice hotel with sauna and swimming pool.
    - Dinner and night at the hotel.

  • Day 2:
    - Breakfast in the hotel.
    - Arrival at the stable and having a first look at the horses and equipment, choosing the suitable ones.
    - Start from the stable of "Alfa Centaur".
    - Lunch in the open fields near by a small waterfall.
    - Ride alongside the valley of Yantra river through beautiful forests and hills and arrival to the Tower of Ledenik.
    This interesting tower was built during the Second Bulgarian Kingdom (1185-1396). Its first floor is a museum, showing regional culture and traditions from the past 150 years.
    - Arival at the hotel "Chiflika", built in the traditional bulgarian style. The hotel offers traditional dinner and a nice swimming pool.
    - About 34 km (6 hours) riding.

  • Day 3:
    - Breakfast in the hotel.
    - Visit by car of the Old Bulgarian capital Veliko Tarnovo.
    The ancient Bulgarian capital Veliko Tarnovo. A well-fortified hill has been the house of the Bulgarian tsar (king) and the aristocracy for 2 centuries. The castle and Orthodox churches that have survived from the Middle Ages are telling stories of one impressive history: The year 1185 began with omens. The winter happened to be so mild that the fruit trees all over Europe blossomed even in January. The Bulgarians connected this "God's omen" with the hope of restoring their state, which had been subdued by the Roman 167 years ago. The brothers, Assen and Peter, which owned a miraculous icon, fascinated the people in the church on the day of St.Dimitar and leaded them to an armed uprising. Byzantine rule was swept away to the north of the Balkan Mountains. On the 9 of April 1205 the army of the Fourth Crusade took the capital of Byzantium- Constantinople and founded their own Latin Empire, led by the count of Flanders, Boduen. Tsar Kaloyan (the younger brother of Assen and Peter) attempted to conclude peace with the knights, but they refused haughtily the offered hand. The eventful clash occurred on 14 April 1205 near to Adrianopolis (present Edirne). The army of count Louis was defeated and the Emperor Boduen was captured and taken to the capital Veliko Tarnovo, where later died.
    - Start from the tower of Ledenik along few small villages, riding through beautiful nature, till the village of Merdanya with its monastery.

    About 1.5 km from the present monastery ruins of a Medieval Monastery have been found, which was probably built in the time of the king Ivan Assen II (about 1190 year). The old monastery was destroyed at the time of the Turkish occupation. In the middle of the 19th Century the rich resident of Elena - Hadji Kesaree Horozov bought the ex-monastery's lands and in 1853 built the new church and the living space around. He also became its first abbot and participated actively in the struggle for national liberation. After the death of the abbot, most of the monks left the Monastery and it started falling. Later it was repaired and turned to a convent.

    - Picnic at the open fields.
    - The final target for this day is a lonely fountain in the plain, where the first open camp will be done.
    - Dinner and night next to the fountain.
    - About 35 km (5,5 hours) riding.

  • Day 4:
    - Breakfast in the open fields.
    - Start from the fountain and ride through beautiful fields, wild and exotic mountains and forests around the river "Stara reka". The river is crossed several times.
    - Lunch in the open fields.
    - Night and dinner in tents near by the village of Bankovets, at the nice meadow and oak forest.
    - About 30 km (5,5 hours) riding.

  • Day 5:
    - Breakfast in the open fields.
    - Start from Bankovets and riding on an old stony road from the Roman times eastward through the old forests, deep valleys and creeks.
    - Picnic at the open fields.
    - Dinner and night in tents next to the small river near by the village of Velikdenche.
    - About 37 km (6 hours) riding.

  • Day 6:
    - Breakfast in the open fields.
    - Start from the village of Velikdenche.
    - Ride along vineyards and open fields on the plateau of Omurtag.
    - Picnic at the open fields.
    - The ride continues on ancient Roman road, big old fountain and leads you to the remains of a Byzantine basilica of the 13th century.
    - Ride at the foot of Preslavska Mountain on a steepy path up to the top.
    - Arrival at a hunting lodge on the top of the mountain.
    - Dinner and night in the lodge.
    - About 40 km (7 hours) riding.

  • Day 7:
    - Breakfast in the lodge.
    - Start from the hunting lodge through the old forests of Preslavska Mountain to the remains of the capital of the First Bulgarian Kingdom - The Great Preslav.

    The town of Veliki (The Great) Preslav is situated in the foot of the Preslavska mountain, next to the place where the River Gorna Kamchia leaves the defile and overflows in the vast valley, following its way to the Black sea. These fat lands have been settled since the ancient times. The name of the town has a Slavic origin. Around the beginning of the 9th century (probably after the khan Krum's wars with Byzantium), the Bulgarians started to build on that place a well fortified settlement , which became later an important military-strategic center and a residence of the Ichirguboila - the third person after the khan. In the first century of its existence, the town grows up, fenced in a strong wall, water-supplied and modern. The remains of the khan's castle show that there have been a running cold and hot water and under- floor heating. In year 893 the highly-educated son of Khan Boris- Simeon- becomes the new ruler of Bulgaria. He proclaims The Great Preslav for the new capital of the country. In the next 80 years the town goes through a phenomenal bloom, becoming a center of the politics, diplomacy, crafts. It reaches remarkable architectural achievements and wide literary and educational activities. An ancient author writes that Simeon builds his great capital for 28 years, but the archaeological excavations prove that the town continues its development under the rule of his son- Petar. Probably in the 30th-40-th years of the 10th century Preslav reached the peak of its magnificence and got the name Great. It is curious, that in the writings of the Turks, which visited the Balkan peninsular at that time, Konstantinopol is called "Stambul", but Preslav is called "The Great Stambul".

    - Picnic at the open fields next to the ruins.
    - Continue riding North-East from Veliki Preslav.
    - Overnight at tents next to village of Marash.
    - About 25 km( 4-5 hours) riding.

  • Day 8:
    - Breakfast and start towards the "The Horseman of Madara".
    - Arrival at the foots of the famous monument of the 8th century - "The Horseman of Madara" in the village of Kulevcha.
    - Lunch at the guesthouse in Kulevcha.
    - Visit by car of the "Horseman of Madara".

    The Madara Horseman is in the north-east of Bulgaria, 20 km from the town of Shumen, near the village of Madara. The relief was cut in a vertical rock at 23 m height during the 8th century. It measures 2.6 m in height and is 3.1 wide at the base. The relief comprises a life-size horseman, a lion, a dog, and Greek inscriptions. The horseman is wearing a knee-length garment and is holding the reigns in his left hand. With the right hand, he has thrown a short spear with a flag at the lion lying at the horse's front legs. The high back of a saddle is visible behind the horseman. The man's right foot is thrust in a stirrup. The dog is running behind the horse. The image is believed to show the victorious khan Tervel. It carries resemblance to the scenes of triumph in the Iran's east and the artistic traditions of antiquity. The details of the relief make likely its Proto-Bulgarian origin. The proto-Bulgarian inscriptions, written in Greek, announce events in Bulgarian-Byzantine relations under the rule of the khans Tervel, Khormisosh, and Omurtag during the 8th and 9th centuries. One of the inscriptions presents the forceful abdication and the exile of the Byzantine emperor Justinian in 705. Having managed to escape, Justinian sought help from the Bulgarians. Khan Tervel and his army helped him to recover the throne of Byzantium. In return, Tervel received honours and gifts, and recognition of the title of Caesar- Tsar, as well as land south of Hemus and an annual tax from Byzantium. The Madara horseman is a part of the national history and archaeology reserve of Madara. It was once connected with the large worship complex of heathen temples, palaces and houses, and other premises, built by khan Omurtag on the Madara rock terrace. At the rock base, there is also a large cave called the Nymphs' Cave, where the Thracians worshiped their deities in ancient times. Scientist have found many prehistoric cult figures and tablets dedicated to the three local nymphs, Zeus, Heracles, Dionysius, Cibbela, the Thracian Horseman-hero Heros, etc. The Madara horseman is the only rock relief in Europe dated back to the early Middle Ages. The Madara Rider was included in the World Cultural and Natural Heritage List at the World Cultural and Natural Heritage Committee session of 1979 in Luxor, Egypt.
    The Rider of Madara is a unique example of the Bulgarian Medieval art.

    During 2 centuries after the foundation of the Bulgarian Kingdom since 681 to 893 AD, Pliska has been the main political, military, cultural and economical center of the country. But Pliska is also one of the most impressive monuments of the European Medieval architecture. Its outer town is surrounded with moats and covers 23 sq.km lands. Being steppe people, the old Bulgarians had a preference to the plain country for their settlements. The explorers of the ancient capital have noticed 3 stages in its building:
    I. The Palace of Khan Krum is one of the most remarkable monuments of the first stage. It has been supplied by secret tunnels which have allowed the people to leave unnoticed the town. The Palace has had a big water-store and modern for that time baths.
    II. The huge building of the second stage is connected to the name of Khan Omurtag, who made enormous efforts to make Pliska one of the biggest East-European centers. The Big Palace is the best preserved edifice of the Internal town. The palace is 52 meters long and 26 meters wide. The Small Palace is one of the most imposing buildings in the Citadel. Compared to the Big Palace it is much more exquisite and rich. It has been the home of the Bulgarian ruler. In Pliska could be found innovations like heating system, bathrooms with complicated installations, and windows with glass.
    III. The third stage could be described as the period of the early-Christian buildings with impressive measures. The Great Basilica is the most remarkable of them. With its 2920 square metres it was the largest Christian church on the Balkan Peninsula for its time. The imposing three-nave basilica was 100 metres long and 30 metres wide. It was in the centre of a monastery complex of sophisticated architecture. Pliska is the town where the Christian faith was adopted as an official religion of the Bulgarian people in the 9th century. In the year 886 Prince Boris I received here the disciples of the creators of the Slav Alphabet the brothers Cyril and Methodius.

    - Riding back to the guesthouse.
    - Dinner and fare-well party in the hotel.
    - About 25 km( 4 hours) riding.

  • Day 9
    - Breakfast in the hotel.
    - Visit of the first Bulgarian capital "Pliska" by car.
    - Departure to the Airport of Sofia.
    - Departure from Sofia.

  • PRICE: 1080 EUR (hard drinks are not included).
    Single supplement: + 100 EUR