Even the most fascinating archaeological site is nothing more than an accumulation of stones if its history and contexts remain unknown. This May, for two days, historians, archaeologists, restorers and experts in other fields shared their findings and ideas about the Bishop's Basilica of Philippopolis at a scientific conference in Plovdiv.
In the most glorious years of its past, when it was the capital of mediaeval Bulgaria, from 1185-1393, Veliko Tarnovo was a centre of military power and political intrigue, of busy commerce and even busier administrators. It was also the seat of the patriarch, the head of the Bulgarian Church. Surrounded by his staff and underlings, he presided over a vast network of churches, monasteries and scriptoria.
Most countries in the world have adopted an animal to symbolise what their nations think of themselves. Australia has the emu, South Africa the springbok. Canada has the beaver, China the panda. In Europe, the countries are almost equally divided between those – Germany, Poland, Albania and so on – which cherish the eagle as its national animal, often putting it on their coats-of-arms. Then there is Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Belgium and of course England which venerate the lion. Bulgaria belongs to the second group.
With its rolling hills and uninspiring towns, the central part of northern Bulgaria appears unexciting and dull, a place you pass through on your way to somewhere else. However, as so often happens in Bulgaria, appearances are deceiving. Leave the main road and you will discover that the rolling hills hide intriguing natural phenomena.