Establishment and Expansion of KAZANLAK
Around 1370 the Ottoman Turks took hold of the Kazanlak valley. The first Turkish neighbourhood was set up at the right bank of the Stara Reka River, across from the Bulgarian settlement. Saradzha Pasha was appointed as governor; his task was to guard the valley and the nearby mountain passes. Later the Turkish settlement expanded to include the inhabitants of two adjacent villages – Subashkyoi and Tomarsala. The oldest preserved document from those times is a Turkish gravestone dating back to 1420. The name of Kazanlak was mentioned already at the end of the XIV century in the books of the merchant from Dubrovnik Benedetto Resti. In 1652 the Turkish traveller Evliya Çelebi testified that the town had two medresa (schools), two hammams (Turkish bath) and 1060 houses, of which one third are Bulgarian.
With the expansion of the oldest neighbourhood in the town – the Kulata neighbourhood – another important quarter appeared, the Kalpakchiiska neighbourhood (from kalpakchia – a maker of fur hats). It was situated at the southeast part of the town. The main crafts developed here were the making of fur hats (which gave the name of the neighbourhood) and the furriery. A little later the Novenska neighbourhood came to exist as well, settled by Bulgarians coming from Koprivshtitsa, Kalofer, Karlovo and other towns from the sub-Balkan Mountain region and the region of Sredna Gora Mountain. The last neighbourhood originated on parts of the agricultural land of the town – in the fields.
During the war period of 1790-1830 Kazanlak was invaded and devastated several times by the hordes of the so called kurdzhalii and daalii (groups of bandits). As a security measure against their incursions, the inhabitants built a protective wall around the town (the so called sharampol).
Legends of the Establishment of Kazanlak
Several legends exist about the story of the establishment of Kazanlak. According to the first legend, the conquest of the fertile Kazanlak valley took place during the end of the XIV century by the army of Saradzha Pasha, who killed all the male inhabitants after he conquered the valley. When the Ottoman invaders overtook the mountain pass near the village of Zmeevo, they found only women and children in the area around the Stara Reka River. The population had turned into a big kuzhanlik – a place, inhabited only by women and children. The name of the settlement derived from the Turkish word kuzanlar, meaning girl or maiden. Indeed, in all Ottoman documents, preserved at the National Library “St Cyril and Methodius” in Sofia, the name of Kazanlak is spelled as Kuzanlak, with a ‘u’ in the first syllable. Only on the Russian military maps from the Russo-Turkish wars was the town finally spelled with an ‘a’ in the first syllable, as it is today – Kazanlak.
The second legend tells how the Turks were so impressed and fascinated by the lush gardens in the valley, in which children and young girls were playing, that they called the settlement Kuzanluga – meaning kindergarten.
According to the third legend, during his reign the Ottoman sultan Murad visited the town and was greeted by several children all dressed in white. He was very much delighted by this sight and he allegedly exclaimed “Mashallah, akcha kazanluk!”, meaning “Excellent, white beautiful children!”
The Thracian Tomb of Kazanlak is the first of the Bulgarian sites included in the UNESCO World Heritage List. It was discovered by chance in 1944 in a funeral mound at the Tyulbeto Hill in the northeast part of the town. Its world prominence is due to the unique frescoes in the corridor and the domed chamber. These are some of the best preserved works of the Antique painting from the early Hellenistic age.
The tomb consists of three sections: an entrance foyer, built of roughly split stones held together by clay, a narrow brick passageway with a pointed double-sloped cover, and a circular brick burial chamber covered by a bell-shaped dome. The entire brick frame of the tomb is riveted with split-stones held by clay. Judging by the bones found in the burial chamber, it is obvious that a man and a woman were put to rest here. Two ceramic vessels (ascos) and a gold-plated silver jug were found in the mound, and in the passageway – horse bones (as by Thracian tradition) and a ritual ceramic vessel (oenochoe). An amphora, dry-gold-plated clay rosettes from a funeral wreath, some pieces of golden jewellery and Thracian ceramic fragments were found in the beehive chamber.
The remarkable frescoes in the passageway and the burial chamber are the work of an unknown Thracian artist who used four basic colours – black, red, yellow and white. Two techniques were used in the decoration of the tomb: wet fresco (in the ornamental and figure painting) and distemper (in the floor and wall coloration). The paints are of mineral origin. Marble powder was added to the dying substance of the plaster in order to lend it some mirror brilliance. The decoration of the passageway is divided into two depicted friezes – the first one of floral motives, and the second one – with figures of fighting warriors. The scenes depict historical events connected with the life of the buried Thracian nobleman.
The walls of the beehive burial chamber are also decorated – from the bottom up as follows: black base, a white stripe, imitating white marble lining, and above it, a stripe coloured in Pompeian red. Another frieze follows with rows of rosettes and bullheads, above which is the main frieze. The first explorers defined the central scene as a “funeral feast” but according to the latest studies the scene is a “wedding procession”. In the centre of the scene are a noble Thracian couple and a tall figure of a woman, probably a Goddess, standing next to the man. The heads of the nobleman and woman are crowned with golden laurel wreaths. On both sides are portrayed men and women who look like participants in the ceremony: pipers, a cup bearer, women presenting gifts and warriors leading horses. The top of the dome is divided into three parts and columns. A galloping chariot with a double team of horses is represented in each one of them. The Kazanlak Thracian Tomb dates back to the end of IV and beginning of III century BC. The high mastery of the Thracian artist reflecting the Thracian customs and beliefs is an undisputable evidence of the rich cultural life in Thrace during that era.
Location and access: Around 1.2 km away from the centre of Kazanlak, to the north east, within the Tyulbeto Park; 15 minutes on foot, 5 minutes by car. Opening Hours: 9.00 – 17.00; from November to May the tomb is only opened upon a prior request for big groups
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