Gastro rour “In the heart of Strandzha” – mysticism, local flavors and honeydew honey

Бръшлян
Daily Tour 2 days, 1 night Availability: 2020-09-26
8162 Malko Tarnovo, Bulgaria Tour Guide: Екатерина Терзиева

Strandzha Mountain is the most mystical and exotic Bulgarian mountain. It has always attracted attention with its fabulously beautiful nature, rich prehistory, ancient Thracian sanctuaries, and local cuisine. The ancient name of Strandzha mountain is Paroria, which means “border mountain”.

Strandzha today is the least populated region of Bulgaria, but it was once inhabited by Thracian tribes. They built their stone observatories and sanctuaries, performed priestly rituals and Orphic mysteries, mined honey and gold, and predicted fate through rituals with wine, honey and milk. In the early Middle Ages, thanks to Gregory of Sinai, Strandzha mountain became a center of hesychasm, where Bulgarian clergymen such as Theodosius of Tarnovo and Romil of Vidin were educated.

Strandzha is also called the Noah’s Ark of Europe, as it has preserved plant species from the Tertiary era more than 60 million years ago. During the last ice age, the mountain was spared from icing. Thus in the whole European Union, today only here grow Strandzha periwinkle, called a symbol of Strandzha, as well as Strandzha tea. Along with Mursal tea, it has survived the last ice age and is protected in the Red Book of Bulgaria.

Only in this mystical mountain, the Strandzha oak “blagun” is found. Thanks to him and his honeydew, the bees extract the famous Strandzha honeydew honey, which has a registered Protected Designation of Origin under the quality schemes of the European Union. Honeydew honey has high taste and proven healing properties.

In the 1980s, during the socialistic epoch, Strandja, along with Sakar, was renamed the Republic of Youth. Then the government began a priority settlement of both mountains with young people from all over the country. New residential neighborhoods, factories, plants, schools are being built, the treasury financially stimulates everyone who has signed a contract for 10 years of residence. However, the program has not been well thought out and stopped before the fall of Todor Zhivkov from power.


Place of departure / arrival

Departure hours: 06.30 from Plovdiv via the Trakia Motorway. We offer transfers from Sofia and other Bulgarian cities


The price of the tour includes:

  • Breakfast
  • Two lunches
  • Tastings
  • Dinner (without alcohol)
  • Overnight (accommodation in a double room)
  • Transport by licensed bus/minibus
  • Full tour guide service

10% discount for:

  • families
  • groups of at least 3 people
  • retirees

The price of the tour does not include:

  • Entrance fees for the museums visited

Opportunity to purchase

Fresh and natural farm products (honeydew honey, bee pollen, honey with nuts, honey vinegar, Strandzha tea, buffalo cheese and yellow cheese) at producer prices


What to expect?

Gastro and cultural tour “In the heart of Strandzha – mysticism, local tastes, honeydew honey” presents the inside of Strandzha, its old Thracian sanctuaries, its wild nature, and producers of honeydew honey and traditional local foods. We will visit two apiaries for real manna honey, collected from the honeydew in the oak forests of Strandzha, we will understand what Strandzha tea looks like and what it helps for, we will visit the most ancient Thracian sanctuary Mishkova Niva, we will visit the villages where it originated the custom of firefighting, inscribed on the UNESCO list.

We will walk around Malko Tarnovo – the capital of the failed Republic of Youth, we will see the Dokuzak waterfall, we will move to the Bulgarian Renaissance village of Brashlyan, where we will be greeted with folk songs and traditional dances by local women dressed in typical Strandzha costumes. In the village we will see one of the oldest Strandzha Orthodox temples – the church “St. Dimitar ”from the XV century, the cell school, the ethnographic museum, we will learn what is unique in the architecture of traditional Strandzha house. During the two days, we will try typical Strandzha dishes – products from the best buffalo farm in Strandzha, fresh mountain trout, typical Strandzha specialties, and pies. The tour will end with a visit to one of the largest megalithic sanctuaries in Bulgaria – Beglik Tash, which is known to have been an ancient Thracian observatory.

We will visit:

  • Honeydew honey bee farm with European PDO certificate
  • The Thracian sanctuary Mishkova niva
  • Buffalo farm
  • Malko Tarnovo – the capital Strandzha-Sakar, the Republic of Youth
  • Organic bee farm that produces honey vinegar and honey with nuts and dried fruits
  • Dokuzak Mountain Waterfall
  • Forest field for cultivated Strandzha tea
  • The village of Vizitsa, one of the villages where the dancing on fire originated
  • The chapel “Holy Prophet Elijah” in honor of one of the saints, patrons of dancing on fire
  • The ancient Thracian observatory Begliktash, considered one of the largest megalithic sanctuaries in Bulgaria
  • Village of Brashlyan, architectural and historical reserve

Itinerary

Day 1: The  magic of Strandzha honeydew honey and the mystical sanctuary Mishkova niva

At 6.30 we depart from Plovdiv on the Trakia motorway in the direction of the village of Vizitsa, where we will meet a young family, fourth-generation beekeepers. They have been making Strandzha honeydew honey for 7 years, and recently they have a certificate that gives them the right to produce and sell the product with a Protected Designation of Origin.

More than a century ago, the village of Vizitsa was one of the fire-dancing villages in Strandzha, apart from the famous Balgari, Kosti, Brodilovo, Gramatikovo, Kondolovo, and others.

While talking about firefighting, we travel to Gramatikovo, where we will have lunch and visit another apiary for organically produced honeydew honey and herbal honey. In addition to natural bee products, the farm produces a unique immunostimulant based on honey, honey with raw nuts and dried fruits, as well as honey vinegar with a smooth and inviting taste.

In the late afternoon, on the way to Malko Tarnovo, where we spend the night, we tell you about one of the greatest mysteries in Strandzha, discovered during socialism – the tomb of the goddess Bastet, described by the prophetess Vanga and personally studied by Lyudmila Zhivkova. Before dinner, we visit the most ancient Thracian sanctuary in Strandzha Mountain in the area of ​​Mishkova Niva.

It is shrouded in mystique, not only because it has not been well studied, but also because it is difficult to access – it is located on the southeastern slope below Golyamo Gradishte peak near the state border with Turkey. The sanctuary is part of a large complex, which consists of a fortress on the top of Golyamo Gradishte, mines at its foot, a mound necropolis, and a fortified Roman rustic villa.

Day 2: From the “Republic of Youth” Malko Tarnovo to the village of Brashlyan and Begliktash

After breakfast, we visit Malko Tarnovo – the capital of the failed Republic of Youth, as during socialism the program “Strandzha-Sakar” has been called. In the ancient part of the city are the museums, the Orthodox Church “St. Bogoroditsa ”with interwoven marble details from the sanctuaries in the area, and the Catholic church“ St. Trinity ”, where Pope John Paul II crowned the miraculous icon of the Blessed Virgin.

We head to the magic beautiful Dokuzak waterfall, named after the river that springs from nine karst springs. A local farmer who grows cultivated Strandzha tea will show us the magic plant and tell us about its amazing healing properties. A folklore group of Strandzha women dressed in traditional local costumes will welcome us in the village of Brashlyan, will sing the anthem of Strandzha “A clear moon is already rising”, which reminds us of the heroic past of this Bulgarian region.

We will visit the church “St. Dimitar ”from the XV century, which preserves a rich icon collection, the cell school and the ethnographic museum, we will see on the spot what the architecture of the traditional Strandzha Revival house shines with. And after lunch with buffalo milk farm products on the banks of the Veleka River, we head to one of the largest Thracian megalithic sanctuaries in our country – Beglik Tash, which was also used as an ancient astronomical observatory. It was discovered less than 20 years ago, because due to its location in the former sea residence of Todor Zhivkov – “Pearl”, the area was not available for exploration. The sanctuary has preserved a Thracian calendar, rocks in the shape of a woman’s womb, a priestly throne, a multi-ton stone of a supreme deity, which is supported by only two points.

 

The cool oak forests of Strandzha Mountain, the beautiful Strandzha villages that once gave birth to fire dances, marble shrines and menhirs thousands of years old, local farms for honeydew honey, buffaloes and trout, and nature where there is no industry and pollutants, and life is simple and clean as 100 years ago.

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