Much of modern-day Bulgaria and Northern Greece was inhabited by loosely organized Thracian tribes during the first millennium or so before Christ. Legend has it that they have made wine along the banks of the Maritsa river for the last 5,000 years. The ancient Greek poet Homer partially corroborates this in his epics written around 800 BCE. From The Iliad:
Prepare a feast for your councillors; it is right and reasonable that you should do so; there is abundance of wine in your tents, which the ships of the Achaeans bring from Thrace daily.
In The Odyssey Homer even describes the hero Odysseus using “sweet black wine” from the Thracian city of Maroneia to escape being torn limb from limb and eaten by the one-eyed Cyclops named Polyphemus.
Now, at least 3,000 years later, the Katarzyna Estate winery continues the Thracian tradition by making its wine just a stone’s throw from the Maritsa river in Svilengrad, Southeast Bulgaria.
The picturesque little city of Vratsa (Враца) sits at the foothills of the Balkan Mountains in Northwest Bulgaria. On a recent road trip I was amazed when I saw the city sitting under the craggy cliffs of the “old mountain” (Стара Планина/Stara Planina in Bulgarian). What with the water and all it’s kind of like a poor man’s Cape Town!
I’ve never actually been to Vratsa, but after reading Wikipedia for a few hours I am fascinated by the history of the region.
Last night my trolley ride home from downtown Sofia was interrupted by a police roadblock and some rather unusual traffic on Aleksandar Dondukov Boulevard.
Welcome to Bulgaria, where military tanks roll down the streets of the country’s capital in preparation for the annual Armed Forces Day parade. I’ve seen a dozen or so airshows, but this takes the cake! Nevertheless, this was pretty surreal to see.