Jul 14, 2012

The Black Sea and Asenovgrad | Bulgaria

A friend of mine, who is from Bulgaria, was kind enough to give me some postcards of her country. I have never been to Bulgaria, but it seems that there are a lot to see!

This postcard shows the Bulgarian Black Sea.
Current names of the Sea are equivalents of the English name, "Black Sea", including:
  • Abkhaz: Amshyn Eikʷa (Амшын Еиқәа)
  • Adyghe: Khy Shʼutsʼ (Хы ШӀуцӀ)
  • Bulgarian: Cherno more (Черно море)
  • Georgian: Shavi zghva (შავი ზღვა)
  • Laz: Ucha zuğa (უჩა ზუღა), or simply Zuğa 'Sea'
  • Romanian: Marea Neagră 
  • Russian: Chornoye morye (Чёрное мо́рe)
  • Turkish: Karadeniz 
  • Ukrainian: Chorne more (Чорне море)
Such names have not yet been shown conclusively to predate the twelfth century, but there are indications that they may be considerably older. The Black Sea is one of four seas named in English after common color terms — the others being the Red Sea, the White Sea and the Yellow Sea.

Strabo's Geography (1.2.10) reports that in antiquity, the Black Sea was often just called "the Sea" (ho pontos). For the most part, Graeco-Roman tradition refers to the Black Sea as the 'Hospitable sea', Euxeinos Pontos (Εὔξεινος Πόντος). This is a euphemism replacing an earlier 'Inhospitable Sea', Pontos Axeinos, first attested in Pindar (early fifth century BCE,~475 BC). Strabo (7.3.6) thinks that the Black Sea was called "inhospitable" before Greek colonization because it was difficult to navigate, and because its shores were inhabited by savage tribes. The name was changed to "hospitable" after the Milesians had colonized the southern shoreline, the Pontus, making it part of Greek civilization.

It is also possible that the name Axeinos arose by popular etymology from a Scythian Iranic axšaina- 'unlit,' 'dark'; the designation "Black Sea" may thus date from Antiquity. A map of Asia dating to 1570, entitled Asiae Nova Descriptio, from Ortelis's Theatrum labels the sea "Mar Maggior."

English-language writers of the 18th century often used the name "Euxine Sea" to describe the Black Sea. Edward Gibbon, for instance, calls the sea by this name throughout The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.
Asen's Fortress

The other three postcards show Asenovgrad (Bulgarian: Асеновград, Greek: Στενήμαχος) is a town in central southern Bulgaria, part of Plovdiv Province.

Asenovgrad was founded by the Thracians as Stenímachos around 300–400 BC. In 72 BC the city was captured by the troops of the Roman Empire as part of the Roman expansion towards the Black Sea. After a long period of peace, the town was destroyed by the Goths in 251, but rebuilt later. In 395 the Roman Empire was divided into two parts and the city fell under Byzantine control. Afterwards, the Slavic tribes flooded the region (until around 700 AD) and became the majority of the population. During this time the city was known by its Thracian name Stenímachos.

During the wars between the Bulgarian Empire and the Byzantine Empire, the city became a major military stronghold for the Bulgarian rulers. Due to aggravation of the relationships with the Latin Empire, in 1230 Bulgarian Tsar Ivan Asen II strengthened the local fortress Stanimaha and for this reason the city was named after him in 1934 (literally city of Asen). After Bulgaria was occupied by the Ottoman Empire, Roma and Turks settled in Stanimaha, who nowadays make up 15% of the municipality of Asenovgrad's population (Asenovgrad, in addition to 29 villages), the rest 75% being ethnic Bulgarians and 5% – unknown and others.

Tane Nikolov, a well known revolutionary and leader of the Macedonian Struggle, spent his last years in Asenovgrad and died here in 1947.

The city is a destination for religious and cultural tourism. Its main attractions are the monasteries St. Petka (Bulgarian: Света Петка) and Arapov's monastery (Bulgarian: Араповски манастир) and St. Kirik (Bulgarian: Свети Кирик). Around the city there are 5 monasteries, 15 churches and 58 chapels (for which the city earned the nickname "The Little Jerusalem"), also there are historical, ethnographic and paleontological museums and 2 kilometers from the town is Asen's Fortress [first postcard] (Bulgarian: Асеновата крепост).

Outside of the town is the 40 Springs (Bulgarian: 40-те извора) hunting and fishing resort. The climate is very pleasant during the winter and cool in the summer, which made the city and its surroundings very attractive for tourism. The southeast portions of the city are noted for tourist destinations and their urban development, including Parakolovo (Bulgarian: Параколово) and the 40 Springs complex.

In the late twentieth century the town was known for one of the first Bulgarian discos, Jumbare (Bulgarian: Джумбаре), with 600 seats and a round dancing floor, it was completed in 1977 and was located in the Asenovec (Bulgarian: Асеновец) hotel complex, which is full recovering, but the disco no longer exists.

Twin towns — sister cities

  • Greece Naousa, Greece.
  • Greece Kilkis, Greece.
  • Republic of Macedonia Prilep, Republic of Macedonia.
  • Russia Stary Oskol, Russia.

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