Oct 15

The Archeological Reservation ‘Yailata’ (Rezervatia Arheologica Yailata)

Yailata is the national archeological reservation located in the north-eastern part of Bulgaria. The reservation consists of a terrace of more than 40 hectares which separates itself from the sea by means of rocky cliffs which can reach as much as 50-60 m in height.

The reason for which this specific location has become a national reservation, protected under the state, is that due to archeological explorations, a ‘cave town’ was unveiled in the region. This consists of 101 dwellings, all dating from the 5th century B.C. According to history, in medieval times, the caves were used for monastic purposes.  In addition, the northern area bears the marks of the Byzantine age.

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In this part of the terrace, the remains of a fortress were uncovered. The structure did not survive the passage of time in its entirety, but had managed to hold on as much as possible, leaving behind for posterity a glimpse of the Byzantine keep that once stood so proudly in that part of the world. Only fragments of the 4 towers are still noticeable and a gate.

The discoveries were definitely impressive and the archeological diggings carried on throughout the 1980s with the purpose of unveiling as much as possible the past of this region. The main point of interest was, with no surprise, the citadel dating from the Early Byzantine period. But the underground tombs as well as the caves pose as much curiosity as the fortress. Due to these specific elements which carry immense cultural and historical interest, Yailata was declared an archeological reservation by the Government in 1989.

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But the remnants of the past found in Yailata are not singular in nature and importance. The Kaliakra reserve holds within fragments of ships and good transported over the sea which have sunk in the gulf during specific historical periods and events. For instance, fragments of massive anchors made out of leaden and iron have been brought to the surface from the depths of the sea. With these, various ceramic items have been recovered from the region.

Near the end of the 18th century, in 1791, a Russian fleet defeated the Turkish fleet and, in the battle between the two, many vessels were sunk. All the goods found on board were lost at sea, together with the ship itself. But the past found its way back to the present as many of these items were recovered. On several accounts, fishermen caught in their nets remnants of antique and medieval vessels. Such repetitive occurrences could mean only one thing: that the Kaliakra region exudes cultural significance.

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The Byzantine fortress was constructed on the northern segment of the Yailata. As it has been mentioned previously, the terrace is separated from the sea by rocky cliffs. These contributed extensively to the structure developed for the fortress, namely that walls were erected solely in the western and southern part, the cliffs which occupied the north-eastern part were sufficient for fortification purposes.

The walls were made out of stone and reached a height of 2 m and a width of 70 cm in specific places. At the interior, one can still notice three stairs on the walls, these having been preserved quite well throughout time. Such ‘details’ in the structure were developed with the purpose of easing access to the towers and the platforms found on the walls.

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The certainty concerning the construction date of the fortress was determined by the multitude of artifacts made out of cooper, bronze, clay and bone, as well as the numerous coins discovered in the area. The archeological investigations conducted in the area clearly revealed the period of time in which the citadel came into being – i.e. in the 5th century.

The interesting thing about the caves is that these are not natural, but artificially created. These dwellings have been carved into the cliffs either as singular unities or as ensembles. The caves have been analyzed and documented in detail by trained geologists and technicians. At present, the complex of caves is accurately depicted so that those interested could learn everything about their structure and organization within the cliffs.

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Yaylata also consists of extended burial grounds which contain more than 120 tombs. These are organized in 3 graveyards, and the structure of the tombs varies extensively in accordance to the person that found his/her rest there. Thus the tombs have rectangular or oval forms and can comprise antechambers. Depending on the cemetery you visit, you can find tombs covered with various images. The Yailata Archeological Reserve has many interesting things to offer and visiting this region means giving yourself the opportunity to learn something about the ancient civilizations that have dwelt in this part of the world.

 

Jul 30

The Polovragi Cave (Pestera Polovragi)

The Polovragi Cave is the “work of art” of Oltet River, a stream that had managed throughout the centuries to corrode the calcareous rocks of the Parang and Capatanii Mountains in its path. Situated in Polovragi Commune, in Gorj District, the cave is an important touristic attraction of Romania.

Only a mountainous relief with a diversified hydrological network can offer such beautiful monuments of nature. It is only natural to assume that the surroundings are mesmerizing.

http://www.descopera.ro

 

The path to Polovragi Cave takes the visitor close to nature as it goes up the straits, through the Polovragi Forest – an area protected under the law due to the Mediterranean vegetation and the edible chestnut tree encountered in this region. Leaving the forest behind and charging forward, the tourist will discover the Oltet Straits, which separate the Capatanii Mountain from and Parang Mountain.

The sensation you get while driving through this area is noteworthy. It is as if you are insignificant before the grandness of nature. The mountainous slopes on the sides seem to be closing in around you, making you admit the splendor of the environment.

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The remaining portion of road which gets you to your destination, namely to Polovragi Cave,  measures 200-300 m. The cave is not left unattended. There are iron gates installed at the entrance banning access unattended. There is a schedule which needs to be respected, namely that groups of people can enter the cave at one hour intervals. There is a toll that needs to be covered but the amount is quite small and you should let this become an inconvenience, especially since you will have something to feast your eyes on.

There is a guide who will briefly introduce the visitors to the dweller of the cave, namely the  Rhynophus bat, also known as the horseshoe bat, due to its shape. There are approximately 300 bats living here, so will have no problems in spotting at least one representative of the specie when visiting the Polovragi Cave.

http://ro.wikipedia.org

 

The temperature within the cave is lower, naturally, so it is advisable to bring along an extra shirt, especially if you don’t get along with the cold so well.

The humidity inside is of about 90% and the water still infiltrates through the walls, causing the so-called “weeping” of the cave.

Speleologists have mapped 10 km, this being the length of the area which has been transformed under the “carving work” performed by Oltet River (although according to other sources the length of the cave exceeds this number by much). However, the visible gallery of the cave measures  800 m – of which only 400 m are available for tourists. This portion has been home to many throughout time: Dacians, monks, and healers, the presence of each of them having been immortalized within the cave by means of distinctive symbols.

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Just to give an example, there have been numerous monks which have come here to live as ascetics in order to reach spiritual fulfillment, a practice they engaged in from the beginning of the 16th century up until  the 20th century (1968). In order to mark this moment in the life of the cave, there is a painting performed by one of the monks which represents a black silhouette – the symbol of death.

There are various geomorphological formations encountered in Polovragi Cave, such as stalactite formations, intermediate columns, domes, stalagmites, or basins. Some of them are quite impressive so you should take your time and admire each of them at a time. The floor is slippery and because of this there are many who give too much attention to the possibility of falling, that they sometimes forget to turns their heads to their left or to their right in order to see what the cave has to offer. Just keep in mind that no one is rushing you to finish the tour so you can take your time, walk slowly and analyze this wonder of nature.