Mezek fortress and the attractions in Svilengrad, Bulgaria

Where is the real bunker in the medieval Mezek fortress and what to see and eat near Svilengrad, Bulgaria

If you are staying in a small Bulgarian town on a Saturday night, there is a risk you found yourself next to the local disco bar, listening to the noise of the party all night. This happened to us during our visit to Lyubimets and it was not very cool. But it helped us truly enjoy the quietness of the town in the morning. I didn’t take a single photo of Lyubimets, but it is a nice place.  After a short walk around the Sunday market, we headed to the nearby Mezek fortress for which we had bought tickets the previous day at the Mezek Thracian tomb.

Medieval Mezek fortress (Neoutzikon)

The medieval fortress of Mezek is located just above Mezek village, southeastern Bulgaria. It is believed that it had entirely defensive functions. The place is very strategic – the fortress is surrounded by steep cliffs from 3 sides. Access is only possible from the southern side where 5 of the 9 towers are located. As our guide Dani explained, during those times people were not very busy and had a lot of time to think and draw strategies. Apparently this happened in Mezek, too, because the fortress features some really interesting strategic solutions.

Mezek fortress in Bulgaria - southern wall

Mezek fortress in Bulgaria – southern wall

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Крепост Мезек 41.737472, 26.083689

We had a lot of fun with Dani who knew a lot about the place and was also happy to answer our strange questions.

Attractions around Mezek fortress

Attractions around Mezek fortress

How attackers were weakened before they enter

The main entrance of Mezek fortress was located on the northwestern side. This construction was designed to weaken any intruders. Here is how it worked:

The western wall of Mezek fortress

The western wall of Mezek

To reach the entrance, a soldier had to come from the south and pass by the fortress wall. The fortress wall was standing on his right side. A soldier would bear a weapon and a shield – usually the weapon in his stronger right arm and the shield in the left one. But when the guardian of the fortress would notice him, they would start to shoot at him from the right. So he would need to take his shield in the stronger right arm and bear his weapon in the left one. That would usually make him weaker.

The main entrance to Mezek fortress

The main entrance to Mezek fortress

At the same time, the fortress had a secret exit on the opposite side. From there the guardian soldiers would exit and go to the south to attack the intruders. For more security, on the most vulnerable south end there were most defense towers.

If you look into the high fortress walls, you will notice several rows of bricks from the outside. However, their purpose was entirely decorative because they do not pass through the whole wall.

Inside Mezek fortress

Inside Mezek fortress

It is still unknown what life in the fortress looked like. One theory say that the soldiers used to live in tents or wooden houses inside it. However, recent excavations showed that the walls of the fortress lay at least 2 m deeper than previously thought. So it is quite possible that under the today’s level there are remains of other solid constructions.

How many bunkers there are in Mezek?

One of the widely known attractions in Mezek fortress is the WW2 Nazi bunker, located on a highly visible place. Our guide explained that this is actually a fake bunker, serving only for delusion of the enemy. Next to it there is another, real bunker, well-hidden near the fortress walls. The real bunker is covered with stones from the fortress and it could mislead even archaeologists. For many years they thought that the bunker was actually a 10th tower of Mezek.

The fake WW2 bunker at Mezek fortress, Bulgaria

The fake WW2 bunker at Mezek fortress, Bulgaria

In the recent years Mezek fortress was turned into a big tourist attraction. Around it were added tents, statues and shooting ranges with the purpose to make the place more interesting. Whether they look interesting or absurd, I leave you to decide.

Mezek village as seen from the northern wall of Mezek fortress

Mezek village as seen from the northern wall of Mezek fortress

From the fortress you can enjoy a wonderful panorama of the Thracian valley, Sakar mountains and Maritza . There is no doubt why this is the right place for such a fortress – if someone tries to attack, there is no way he is left unseen. From the fortress you can also see three Thracian mounds, among them the Mezek tomb we visited the previous day.

Sakar mountains and its highest peak

Sakar mountains and its highest peak

Sheinovets peak

From Mezek fortress we headed up in the mountains to Sheinovetz peak, offering another great panoramic view. Sheinovetz peak today hosts a TV tower but it is also a historical site, where the first battle of the Balkan wars occurred on 5 October 1912. Today at the peak there is a monument of the Bulgarian soldiers who died in the battle.

The panorama from Sheinovets peak, Rhodope mountains. Bulgaria

The panorama from Sheinovets peak, Rhodope mountains. Bulgaria

View to Ivaylovgrad dam from Sheinovets peak

View to Ivaylovgrad dam from Sheinovets peak

Sheinovetz peak is a part of the Eastern Rhodope mountains and the highest point in that area. From the peak there is a wonderful panorama to the Thracian valley, Ivaylovgrad dam and the Eastern Rhodope. In clear weather you could also see the minarets of the mosques in Edirne, Turkey.

The monument of Sheinovets peak

The monument of Sheinovets peak

View from Sheinovets peak

View from Sheinovets peak

The attractions of Svilengrad – casinos, malebi and the old bridge

People from Lyubimets often go to the neighbouring Svilengrad to have coffee, dinner or just for a walk. Svilengrad is a slightly bigger town and offers more attractions to visitors.

The old ottoman bridge in Svilengrad, Bulgaria

The old ottoman bridge in Svilengrad, Bulgaria

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Старият мост в Свиленград 41.768495, 26.193359

Most of the visitors come from neighbouring Turkey to gamble in the numerous casinos in Svilengrad. However, for us one of the most interesting things was the old ottoman bridge on Maritsa river. We were really attracted by the bridge because it reminds us of the bridge on Drina in Visegrad, Bosnia and Herzegovina, where we have been twice in the past year.

The bridge above Maritsa was built by the initiative of Mustafa Pasha – a former local ruler in the Ottoman times. The bridge was a part of a whole complex including a caravanate, market and a bath.

Mustafa Pasha bridge on Maritsa river, Svilengrad, Bulgaria

Mustafa Pasha bridge on Maritsa river, Svilengrad, Bulgaria

So we made a short walk on the bridge which is now a pedestrian zone. It is really similar to the bridge in Visegrad, probably because they were designed by the same architect – the famous Mimar Sinan. Sinan is one of the most notable Ottoman architects, having designed hundreds of important building in the empire. Among his works are the bridge in Visegrad, Banya Bashi mosque in Sofia, Suleimanie mosque in Istanbul and the Selimie mosque in Edirne. It is also thought that he worked on the construction of the Old Bridge in Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Can you spot the differences between the in Svilengrad and Visegrad?

The two Bridges

The bridges of Svilengrad and Visegrad

Sinan’s bridges in my blog:

Malebi – the local delight

No matter where we go, food is an important part of our journey. So we consider the traditional local dessert malebi a real tourist attraction in Svilengrad. Malebi is actually a simple dessert – a rice pudding with rose syrup. It is not the best dessert we have ever eaten but it is a shame to go there and not taste it. Malebi is widely popular in the area and you can buy it from the local shops. But probably the best place to eat it is the Parapina sweet house in Svilengrad where you can also taste other really nice sweet delicacies.

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

May 30th, 2017 Андрей Андреев Where to see the bronze boar from Mezek and where to try really good home-made boutique wine 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…



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