Mezek Thracian Tomb, Bulgaria – how a legend turned out to be true

Where to see the bronze boar from Mezek and where to try really good home-made boutique

We love travelling because of trips like this one. No actual wonders happened, but it was a wonderful and memorable journey to a little known area of Bulgaria. And everything went simple, like all the good things in the world. Our friend Geri (When Woman Travels) invited us to her hometown Lyubimets, southeastern Bulgaria, near the border with Turkey and Greece. It was a rainy weekend and we got ready for a lot of food, wine and sweet talks. We were even wondering whether our travellers’s souls would survive so much rest but everything went well naturally. So, on Saturday morning we gathered for breakfast. The rain was not inviting us for outdoor walks but we knew the best place to go in the humid weather – the nearby Mezek Thracian Tomb.

Mezek and Thracians

Mezek Thracian tomb dates back to the 4th century BC. During those times our lands were inhabited by numerous of Thracian tribes, living under the Odrysian kingdom. It is believed that the capital of the kingdom was somewhere near today’s Edirne, Turkey, just 50 km far from Mezek.

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Mezek Thracian tomb – one of the first Thracian tombs to be studied

The Thracians believed in many gods and used to bury their noble citizens in huge stone tombs. The tombs were then covered with earth in order to make a mound. So it is not a surprise that there are many tombs like this near the once capital of the Odrysian kingdom.

We arrived at the tomb in the early afternoon and had to wait for a while because the guide was guiding another group inside. When the guide Vasko returned, we quickly bought our tickets and headed to the tomb.

Me, Geri and Mimi before the entrance of the Mezek Thracian tomb

Me, Geri and Mimi before the entrance of the tomb

I strongly recommend you to pay for a guided tour. While Vasko was explaining us all about the tomb, many visitors with just entrance tickets passed by us. However, they looked a little bored because the tomb is empty inside and you can learn almost nothing by just looking around. We listened to amazing stories about the history of the tomb. You can also buy a combined ticked for the Mezek Thracian tomb and the nearby Mezek fortress.

Inside the Mezek Thracian tomb

Inside the Mezek Thracian tomb

The bronze boar and his legs – the discovery of Mezek Thracian tomb

It is widely known how the Mezek Thracian tomb was discovered and the story is really interesting. Everything started in 1903 when a local treasure hunter – Angel Chobana – found a life-size bronze sculpture of a boar. He believed that the boar was full of gold inside so he broke three of his legs looking for the treasure. However, the boar appeared to be empty inside and he buried it, together with two of the legs. The fourth leg he brought to Plovdiv in order to check whether it had any value. The piece was obtained by the local museum as a historical evidence.

The bronze boar from Mezek Thracian tomb

The bronze boar found at Mezek Thracian tomb – the original held in Istanbul Archaeology Museum. Photo by: © 2009 Stevan Olson – Thanks to Culturalrealms.ning.com/profiles/blogs/the-story-of-the-mezek for providing this photo.

By the way, the word of the boar reached Sofia and Istanbul and the authorities started looking for it. A Turkish officer finally convinced Angel Chobana to tell him where the boar was buried. The sculpture was then uncovered and brought to Istanbul. Later, Angel Chobana agreed to sell the two remaining legs to the authorities, and years later the Bulgarian state agreed to give the final leg to the museum in Istanbul. In return, it was given a copy of the boar. The original boar can be seen in the Archaeological Museum of Istanbul, Turkey.

In the following decades the mound where the boar was found was a place of interest for many treasure hunters. However, the tomb itself was discovered in 1931 by local shepherds. Because of their lack of expertise and knowledge, many of the artifacts found inside were damaged. Inside were found remains of a horse and human bodies but they were destroyed by oxygen that entered the tomb after its opening.  The tomb was studied thoroughly in the following years by prof. Bogdan Filov.

The longest Thracian tomb in Bulgaria

Mezek Thracian tomb - a sketch

A sketch of Mezek Thracian tomb www.bulgarianheritage.bulgariana.eu

Mezek Thracian tomb is the longest tomb in Bulgaria – almost 30 m long. It consists of a corridor, two rectangular vestibules and one main burial hall in the form of circle. On the walls of the tomb are hanged holographic images of some of the objects found in the area – a candlestick, jewelry, kitchenware, wine containers among others. There is even a sign explaining how the holograms were made but we were not very interested.

The 20-metre corridor of Mezek Thracian tomb

The 20-metre corridor

Mezek Thracian tomb was built with stone blocks without using mortar between them. It was built on a flat land. After the construction, it was covered with 50 000 cubic metres of earth that formed a mound 90 m in diameter and 14-5 m high.

The vestibules of the tomb

The vestibules of the tomb

The stories around the discovery of the tomb are very interesting but we were curious to see the most interesting part – the round burial hall, covered with a spiral-like stone roof. We had heard many legends about that place even before we went there. Our guide Vasko told us that there must be some hidden ventilation system in the tomb because the air in the burial room is always fresh. The temperature inside the tomb is 18-19 degrees year-round.

The spiral-like dome of Mezek tomb

The spiral-like dome of Mezek tomb

The zero magnetic field that turned out to be true

One of the most bizzare stories we had heard about the Mezek Thracian tomb was that there is a zero magnetic field at the burial place. That sounded really strange and attracted the curiousity of the engineers among us. Luckily, we had equipment that could help us prove or reject this theory and we couldn’t wait to try it.

The burial site at Mezek tomb in Bulgaria

The burial site at Mezek tomb in Bulgaria

Mezek tomb view from the inside out

Mezek tomb looking from the inside out

The equipment was actually my camera which has a built-in compass. It was perfectly enough for our experiments. So I turned it on when we entered the tomb. Our guide Vasko explained that the Thracian tombs are east-west oriented and my compass showed exactly the same. It was working well in the burial camera, until I placed it above the burial place. Then the compass got totally lost and the arrow started moving chaotically. We did this experiment numerous of times with the same result. So obviously, the legend of the magnetic field turned out to be true.

Who was buried in the Mezek tomb?

This is the main question for the historians but it is still unanswered. There is no evidence about the identity of the people buried there. It is believed that it was a tomb of noble Thracian family, close to the rulers of the kingdom. It is thought that there were several burials in that tomb, not counting women.

The corridor of Mezek Thracian tomb, Bulgaria

The corridor of the tomb

The burial site at Mezek Thracian tomb, Bulgaria

The burial site

Resting at Mezek winery

The tour in Mezek Thracian tomb was very interesting but also tiring. When we went outside, it was already raining and we decided to dedicate the rest of our day to food and drinks. So, after a quick lunch, we headed to the local small winery named Mezek in the nearby village bearing the same name.

We actually entered the yard of a house, not very different than the other houses in the village. Only the sign “Mezek winery” was telling us that it was not an ordinary house. There we met the owner Georgi who apologized that the electicity has stopped. But we did not need electricity to drink wine.

Mezek wine cellar at Mezek village, Bulgaria

Mezek wine cellar at Mezek village, Bulgaria

The difference between Mezek and Mezzek

In order to avoid any misunderstanding. There are two brands of wine with similar names. One of them is Mezzek, widely sold even in supermarkets in Bulgaria, which is produced by the nearby Katarzyna winery. The winery we visited is named Mezek (one Z only) and I will show you its etiquettes later.

So the small Mezek winery is located in a nice yard in Mezek village. It is producing just around 20 000 bottles of wine yearly. Georgi, the owner, told us that he was growing only merlot in his own vineyards and some other varieties of grapes he was buying from friends.

Georgi was an interesting person. He told us that he was working as a doctor in Sofia and he was returning to Mezek every weekend. As many others, he started his winery business out of the love of drinking wine. And he keeps tasting the wine all the time until it is ready to be bottled.

Wine from Mezek winery, Bulgaria

Wine from Mezek winery, Bulgaria

Finally it was time for tasting. We sat near a press used for the metal etiquettes of the bottles and tried some of the best wines we had tasted recently. However, everyone has a different taste so instead of recommending you to buy one wine or another, I would just advise you to go and ty it yourself.

The Mezek fortress we are leaving for the next day

Our friend Geri initially did not believe us when we told he we were lazy tourists. However, at the end of the day she had understood what we mean and how much food and drinks mean to our travels. So after the tomb and the winery, we were ready to go home and start the most interesting part of the day – the real wine tasting. The day finished with drinking a bottle of Mezek wine which we really enjoyed it. Now we respect Georgi even more.

For the following day we left another interesting place – the Mezek fortress. But I will tell you about it in my next article.

Mezek fortress in Bulgaria - southern wall

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