Girl Meets Bulgaria

Musings of an American expat in Bulgaria (with detours in Utah and Alaska)


The Legend of Orpheus and Evridika

Statue of Orpheus and Evridika in Smolyan, Bulgaria

Bulgaria’s Rhodope Mountains are steeped in legends and mythological tales. In Greek Mythology, the Rhodope Mountains were created when, in a fit of rage, Zeus and Hera turned Rhodope, the Queen of Thrace,  into a chain of mountains.

Likely the most famous figure around these parts is Orpheus, believed to have been born somewhere nearby. According to the myth, Orpheus was the son of a nymph named Calliope and the great Apollo. Orpheus was said to play the lyre with such beauty, that all who heard him were completely enchanted. His music was even known to charm wild and savage beasts as well as the very rocks on which he stood and the trees in the forest.

He fell in love with the beautiful Evridika (also known as Eurydice) but, alas, their love (like so many in mythology) was doomed from the start.

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One Month in Bulgaria + Introduction to Smolyan (Смолян)

Now that I’ve been in Bulgaria for a month (to the day), I figured it was high time I told you all about the city I now call home–Smolyan.

Side note: This also happens to be my 200th post. Fancy that!

Smolyan (Смолян) is settled in a valley in the central Rhodope mountains, between the Cherna (Black) and Byala (White) rivers. Archaeological evidence dates the region to around 1 B.C. The town’s name comes from the Smolyani tribe, who settled the area in the 7th century. Over its thousand+ years of history, the area passed from the Byzantines, to Bulgarians, to the Ottomans (who ruled for over 500 years), and finally back to Bulgarians–resulting in an incredibly rich history.

The Rhodopes are said to be the birthplace of the legendary Orpheus–the mythical singer and poet who could charm all living things with his beautiful music. Tales of Orpheus are well preserved all over southern Bulgaria, and in the Smolyan region especially.

See the purple arrow?

Smolyan, as it’s known today, is actually made up of 3 smaller villages: Ustovo, Raykovo, and Ezerovo–which were combined in 1960. Smolyan is the administrative seat of Smolyan Province, which includes 79 smaller villages. The population of Smolyan itself is around 30,000 people.

The city is located just minutes from several major ski resorts, including Pamporovo and Chepelare.

The Rhodopes are renowned for their buttery, yellow potatoes. My in-laws grow them at our country house and we eat them almost daily (much to the chagrin of my waistline!). There are lots of other foods the region is known for, but I’ll leave those for another post (or ten!).

Smolyan itself is also known for: it’s planetarium and observatory (the largest in Bulgaria), The Cathedral of Saint Vissarion of Smolyan (the largest church in southern Bulgaria), The Rhodope Drama Theatre, and regional historical museum.

In time I hope to do more posts detailing all of these and more.

I find the people here to be gracious and welcoming; the food to be varied and delicious; and the land to be  vast and beautiful (how could you not love living in the mountains?!).

I was here once before for a month, but I have definitely gotten to know the city better this time around (and I don’t plan on stopping!). I can’t wait to search out more nooks and crannies and explore all the surrounding villages.

Downtown Smolyan (Blvd. Bulgaria) 2009

As much as I sometimes wished we lived in the faster-paced Sofia (or even Plovdiv), I am just fine living a quieter life here in the south (for now, anyway!).

Hope you liked this brief intro to my new hometown!



Our apartment block

Small church in the Raykovo area

Blvd. Bulgaria (pedestrian portion)

Smolyan Planetarium

The Cathedral of Saint Vissarion of Smolyan

Strollin' in Smolyan

Some photos taken by some friends of ours from Alaska (when they visited in October):


To see all the photos from my previous trip to Bulgaria, visit my Flickr!