Bulgaria’s national monument is really fucking huge

monument-11
Can you see it?

Can you see it?

Shumen monument

Getting closer….

Shumen monument

Spotted! But what the fark is it?

Driving down the motorway from Varna, you really could see it from a good 20 or 30 kilometres away: a monolithic mass jutting angularly out from the flat hills near the central Bulgarian city of Shumen. It looked like an office building, and then a rocky mountain face. When we finally entered the city and made our way towards the mountain, you could begin to pick out figured etched into the bizarre form.

This is the “Monument to 1300 Years of Bulgaria”, a snappily-named behemoth of stone constructed by… you guessed it, the Communists, in 1981 to commemorate the 1300th anniversary of the First Bulgarian Empire. The Communists liked big things, for sure, but they really outdid themselves with this one. At 50 metres of blood, sweat, tears and the people’s money, this monument is supposedly the biggest of its kind in the world.

(Click on photos to view them BIGGER!)

Monument to 1300 Years of Bulgaria

It’s really big

The monument can be accessed by curvy mountain road (recommended) or by staircase from the city below (not recommended). We were confronted with a sign that said entrance to the monument cost 3 lv (€1.50), which we naively paid while all the Bulgarians climbed through the hedges to get in for free. Nice.

We whizzed past the tuxedo’ed pianist plucking out “What a Wonderful World” on his electric piano, and descended the stairs into the cave-like depths of the monument. Designed by Bulgarian sculptors Krum Damyanov (who has had a hand in a number of other epically huge Soviet monuments) and Ivan Slavov, figures of the Bulgarian forefathers are rendered in a slightly unsettling yet beautifully ornate Cubist style that probably gives a lot of children nightmares.

For our entry fee we received an awesome printout that revealed the meaning of the figures. It was only slightly less convoluted than the vague “objective” explanations you get at student art shows in London.

Monument to 1300 Years of Bulgaria

Asparuh, practicing his kata

The first figure depicts the founder of the Bulgarian state, Asparuh, along with a horse (“…the true friend of the Proto-Bulgarian people.”) and a dog (“…the sacrifice animal of the Proto-Bulgarian.” Wha?). Behind Asparuh, the horse is about to trample on “…the land where the Bulgarian people step on — Orpheus with his harp, whose marvellous and fascinating voice wondered humans and animals, four fairies — goddesses of the four seasons and one sun-dial.”

Monument to 1300 Years of Bulgaria

Great refresher on my Bulgarian historical knowledge

Next we were met with “The Khans” (upper left), Tervel, Krum, and Omurtag. Tervel was Bulgaria’s first diplomat, while Krum was apparently Bulgaria’s first warlord. “The inscriptions around Krum testify that in 813 reaching the gates of Constantinople, Khan Krum showed his strength by making sacrifice to his gods under the eyes of the confused citizens.” Omurtang, known to his friends as “Omurtang the Builder”, was a peaceful guy who created a time of prosperity for the Bulgarians when he signed a whopping 30-year peace treaty with the Byzantines.

Are you still awake? If you’ve started to doze off, take a look at this creepy guy:

Monument to 1300 Years of Bulgaria

Prince Boris, you gotta do something about those jowls

This is Prince Boris, who apparently brought Christianity to Bulgaria in the 9th century and created a “tense and complicated atmosphere”. Nice job, Boris.

Monument to 1300 Years of Bulgaria

Tzar Simeon and his army.

Bulgarian Monument

This awesome-looking mural is apparently the biggest in Bulgaria, and represents the country’s movement from the pagan period to Christianity to the “Golden Age”, when they started to use Cyrillic and joined the Eurovision competition.

Monument to 1300 Years of Bulgaria

Unfortunately there was no description of the actual old historic stuff that someone dumped in a corner of the monument.

Monument to 1300 Years of Bulgaria

Last one is a lion made of over 1000 tonnes of granite that you can only really see from far away. Really, the moment was absolutely gigantic, further proving the stereotype that Communists loved to build Really Fucking Huge Things. But it also goes to show that the Bulgarians are and were deeply proud of their ancient and mixed history, even if they were no Ottomans or Byzantines.

Monument to 1300 Years of Bulgaria

Monument to 1300 Years of Bulgaria

Dog and pianist

Monument to 1300 Years of Bulgaria

SAVE THE HUMAN

FIN



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