Мадара. It's also the name of the nearby village.
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 bigger city is Шумен (Shumen), which is around 18 km to the 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-westit's more than 140 km. Madara is in the middle of nowhere, so to say.
The village and the horseman are not far from each other. The landscape in and around Madara is quite rough - there's a long and 130 m high striking rock formation, which is where the horseman can be found.
At a time when the Proto-Bulgarians together with Slavic tribes formed the First Bulgarian Empire, the area around present-day Shumen was the heartland of the empire. At Madara, a fortification system was erected to protect the former capitals of Preslav and →Pliska. In Madara, ruins from that time - from the 8th century to the 14th century - are left.
Among those remainings, a stone relief from the early medieval age is the most famous one. It's one of a kind - there's no other relief from the early medieval age in Europe! The location is somewhat unique - the mounted figure was chiselled into a vertical wall of stone in a height of 23 metres. The figure itself is 2.85 m high, the length is about the same. It depicts a horseman spearing a lion (oh yes, those dangerous Bulgarian lions!). It is supposed to be a moment honouring the victories of Khan Tervel. Greek inscriptions near the figure can be dated back to 705 to 831 AD. Since this relief is really unique, it was declared world heritage site by the UNESCO.
Getting there / transportation
Madara is halfway on the railway linking →Varna with the capital →Sofia. So much about the good news. Unfortunately, most trains do not stop in Madara. Therefore it's necessay to get out in Kaspichan and take alocal train to Madara. There are also regular buses from Shumen and Kaspichan.
|Flop of the year: Where's the horseman of Madara!?|
The horseman relief can be found easily - just take the stairs from the parking place to the cliff. Not far from those stairs, another steep and long stairway leads to the top of the cliff, where you can see some ruins of the old fortification system. The view from the top of the cliff is just stunning.
Flop of the year: Before I walked up the stairs, they've told me at the ticket window, that due to ongoing restoration work the view of the horseman would be 'limited'. As you can see on the picture: The view was not 'limited' but completely obstructed. All I could see was a good example of Bulgarian arts of scaffolding. Sure the restoration work makes sense: The relief was heavily eroded.
Not far from Madara, the rather big city Shumen, Bulgaria's second oldest capital Preslav, and the excavation site of the oldest capital of the country, →Pliska, are worth a visit.
There's a small hostel called Madarski Konnik (Marada Horseman), which is not far from the parking lot, and a campsite, which is just 500 m away from the horseman. The campsite has huts as well. However, Madara is 'done' in one hour or so, so most people go ahead to →Veliko Tarnovo or to →Varna at the Black Sea coast and so on.
- wmf.org/2000list.html?sid=220&year=prev English site of the World Monuments Fund. It also provides information on the progress of restoration work and the problems with the restoration. Worth a visit before you go!
Do you have or do you know a good website about Madara? 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.