Плиска (Pliska). This is the name for the excavation ground of the former capital as well as the name of the nearby village - both are around 3 km away.
Madara is a place in north-east Bulgaria at the edge of the Ludogorsko-Plato plateau not far from the Provadiyska river, which is flowing into the Black Sea at →Varna. The closest city is Нови Пазар (Novi Pazar), the next bigger city is called Шумен (Shumen), which is around 20 km to the south-west. To →Varna in the east it's around 80 km, to →Veliko Tarnovo in the west 150 km and to →Ruse in the north-west it's more than 120 km. Madara is in the middle of nowhere, so to say.
Of course, no one's living at the excavation site. The nearby village is very small.
The recent excavation site is around 24 hectares wide and consists of single restaurated gates, walls, foundation walls etc. There's a parking lot in front of the site.
Pliska was probably founded in the year 681 AD and was supposed to serve the newly created First Bulgarian Empire as its first capital (see also →History of Bulgaria). And so it became the first capital of the Bulgarians until the year 811, when proceeding Byzantine troops looted the capital. Nevertheless, it was still used as a capital until the year 893, when the emperors shifted the capital to Preslav south-west of Shumen and just a few kilometres away from Pliska.
Pliska was not just the political, but also the trade and cultural capital of Bulgaria, giving important impulses to Eastern Europe. At that time, during the 9th century, two monks called Method and Cyrill reformed the Azbuka, today known as the Cyrillic alphabet. Pliska was an important base for the dissemination of not just the new writing system but also of christianity all over the Balkan up to the present-day →Czech Republic.
After loosing its privileges of being a capital, Pliska never recovered. Due to the decline of the First Bulgarian Empire, Pliska finally vanished - just to be excavated some 1100 years later by some enthusiastic archaeologists.
Getting there / transportation
As already mentioned above, bigger towns in the vicinity of Pliska include Нови Пазар (Novi Pazar) and Шумен (Shumen). Novi Pazar is halfway on the railway line from →Varna to →Ruse. There are also many trains to Shumen from →Veliko Tarnovo and other bigger towns in Bulgaria. From there, the only option without your own vehicle are local buses to the village of Pliska. From there it's a 30 minutes walk to the excavation site.
Pliska is far away from being completely excavated. Every year, there will be more to see. Today, the area is around 24 hectares wide (which would be less than 500 x 500 metres), but archaelogists estimate, that the entire city was around 7 x 4 km (!) wide. Unfortunately, by now there's not much to see. Once, Pliska was characterized by a huge inner palace, mighty walls, pagan temples and more. Today it's characterized by a pile of stones (okay, this is exaggerated).
|Restored gate in Bulgaria's first capital, Pliska|
When walking through the excavation site of Pliska, one might get a faint idea of what Pliska was like more than 1000 years ago. Let's see what future excavation work will bring to light. However, I hope that Pliska will not develop into some kind of historic disneyland.
Travelers interested in history shouldn't miss excursions to nearby Shumen and the second capital of Bulgaria, namely the small town of Preslav. Another highlight, which is just 20 km away to the south, is the famous because unique mounted horseman of →Madara.
Haven't seen a place to stay in and around Pliska. It's probably better to stay at the campsite or hotel in →Madara or to look for accommodation in nearby Shumen.
- www.peakview.bg/old_capitals/pliska.htm English website about Pliska, with pictures and short descriptions.
- www.newtravel.com/brochurede/history.html Well done website about the history of Bulgaria - highly recommended!
Do you have or do you know a good website about Pliska? Don't hesitate, let me know! After checking it, I would love to add it to the link list. You can submit a link by using the →contact form. Note that commercial websites will be treated differently.