The Pearls of South-Eastern Bulgaria – Mezek and Villa Armira
Enjoy this impressive trip around the Thracian Tombs in Aleksandrovo and Mezek! Feel the majestic Roman world in the luxury Villa Armira! Have a walk around the Medieval Fortress Mezek and Ivaylovgrad Dam! Taste the incredible wine of Mezek region!
Villa Armira – the richest private palace of Roman times in Bulgaria
The magnificent mansion Villa Armira lies some 4 kilometers southwest of Ivaylovgrad. The amazing archaeological site was discovered in 1964 during construction works for a dam.
It was named after the Armira River, a minor tributary of the Arda.
Villa Armira, a sumptuous palace villa, is one of the largest and the most richly decorated Ancient Roman villas excavated in Thrace.
The villa dates to the second half of the 1st century AD and originally belonged to a noble of Roman Thrace who is thought to have been the governor of the surrounding area and built the villa in the finest Roman fashion.
Structure of the house
The two-story U-shaped villa spreads over 3,600 square meters amidst a garden, with an impluvium (swimming pool) in the middle. The swimming pool was covered with mosaics and decorated with fine marble sculptures and columns.
Villa Armira had 22 separate rooms! on the ground floor alone in addition to a panorama terrace. There was a bathhouse cum sauna too.
There are mosaics with figured and geometric motifs depicting animals and plants ( even swastika!). Intriguing are the capitals, the Hermes ( stones with human heads), the profiled fragments of columns, pilasters, cornices, and marble cladding.
The swastika is a very ancient symbol of luck more than 7000 years ago.
The mosaics in the master’s chamber depict the 2nd century AD owner with his two children: these are the only Roman-era mosaic portraits to be discovered in Bulgaria. The children were a boy and a girl with legs bowed by rickets.
The swimming pool was decorated with marble Medusa heads, and the mythical creatures were supposed to protect the home and its inhabitants from evil.
Gorgon Medusa’s head greeted visitors and looked at them also from the mosaic on the floor.
On the way to Mezer, I suggest to dedicate some time and enjoy the beauty of the gorgeous Ivaylovgrad Dam. There are another two large dams of the Arda upstream – Kardzhali Dam and Studen Kladenets Dam to the west of Ivaylovgrad Dam.
Ivaylovgrad Reservoir is an attractive place for tourists and fishermen, where you can fish rudd in great numbers.
The Thracian Beehive Tomb in the village of Mezek (4th – 3rd century BC) is situated on the outskirts of the village of Mezek, a municipality of Svilengrad.
In 1908, a villager found a bronze sculpture of a wild boar in natural size, weighing the unbelievable 177 kg. Nowadays, the find is situated in the archaeological museum in Istanbul – Turkey, because in 1908 this region was still within the borders of Turkey. A plaster cast of the original is placed in the museum in Haskovo.
Although in modern society the image of a boar evokes mixed feelings, in fact, its symbolism is incomparably strong – an expression of sincerity, honesty, and dedication.
In ancient times, the boar was regarded as a symbol of the spiritual warrior in man – a leader filled with divine abilities, while the mud to which he is attached is associated with the earthly mysteries.
This majestic find has become a significant landmark for the village of Mezek and there are unlikely to be locals who do not feel bound by the magic of this place, soaked in the power of our ancient history.
Graffiti in front of Mezek Tomb – the Wild Boar
The tomb was found accidentally by local residents in 1931. It was the largest and one of the most interesting and impressive beehive tombs of Mycenaean type in Thrace.
The tomb is covered by an impressive mound embankment with а height of 14-15 meters and а diameter of 90 m at the basis.
One can enter the tomb by a corridor more than 20 meters long (dromos)!
Then two rectangular anterooms follow, and after them – around the funeral chamber with a beehive dome and a stone sarcophagus. The total length of the installation is about 31 meters.
A large number of articles made of gold, bronze, iron, glass, and ceramics, which are exhibited in the museums in Sofia and Haskovo have been found in this tomb. Among them was a bronze candelabra (a large three-legged candlestick with lamps), 134 cm high, decorated with a large statuette of a dancing satyr ( another symbol of this fairytale place).
It is thought that the tomb was used as a temple of a Heroon – a place where the cult of the godly diseased person had been celebrated by specific religious rituals.
It had been used multiple times and most probably it had served as a family tomb of a Thracian aristocrat. Traces of six funerals were found. A woman had been buried in the anteroom.
The tomb itself is a magnificent architectural work, fully preserved.
For the fans of the street art, the paved driveway to the entrance of the Thracian tomb is littered with contemporary 3D graffiti, recreating different episodes of the funeral procession, Thracian symbols or artifacts from the Mezek Tomb.
As a big art fan, for me, this was an unforgettable experience to see them!
Mezek Fortress – the pearl of South-Eastern Bulgaria
The Mezek Fortress, (6,500 square meters) in area, is among the best-preserved Bulgarian medieval castles. It dates to the 11th century.
The fortress had the functions of a border guard fortress. There was a military facility on the site of the easternmost tower built during the Cold War.
The locals call the castle Kaleto.
9 round towers took care of the fort’s protection.
The fortress walls were destroyed for the purpose of using the stones for the construction of Turkish barracks in Svilengrad.
Wine tasting in Mezek – a piece of authenticity for every wine fan
You can’t have a tour in the region, without tasting the famous wine from the area in winery Mezek.
The winery philosophy is to offer wine tasting as a tourist attraction and to produce eco-friendly wine with technology as close as possible to “home wine”.
All production processes in the cellar are done manually.
How did all start?
The owner, a lover of nature and a man of art puts his heart and soul into making this wine adventure.
He built everything by his own idea – from the construction of the double-wing gates, the entrance to the cellar, to the numerous drawings on the walls of the rooms and the exquisite sculptures.
He believes that not only wine but everything that a person does, bears his character, his vibrations and his attitude to the world.
With much work, diligence and dedication, he completed the facilities in 2000 and the winery officially opened its doors to anyone wishing to touch the wine ritual.
Thracian tomb of Aleksandrovo
The Aleksandrovo tomb is a Thracian burial mound and tomb excavated near Aleksandrovo, Haskovo Province, South-Eastern Bulgaria, dated to c. 4th century BCE.
The tomb was designed to give refuge to an unknown Thracian ruler, whose name remains a mystery to us.
In 2000 the tomb was accidentally uncovered by an earth-moving machine. Looters subsequently entered the tomb, damaging some of its frescoes.
The tomb has a round chamber of about 3 meters in diameter, accessible through a small antechamber and a tunnel, approximately 10 meters long.
Mostly hunting scenes (boar and deer hunting) and funeral feast were depicted. Both scenes probably relate to the world beyond.
It is well known that in the notions of the Thracian aristocratic teaching there are ideas of “eternal hunting” and “eternal feasting and drunkenness” in which the deified heroes spend their time.
The fresco in the main chamber depicts a hunting scene where a boar is attacked by a mounted hunter and a naked man wielding a double-axe. The double-axe is interpreted as representing royal power, the naked man as representing Zalmoxis, the Thracian solar god corresponding to Zeus.
Wall paintings exhibit the change in appearance due to Greek influence. In other words, in the wall-paintings beards, tattoos, cloaks, boots, hats, top-knots disappeared. Greek footwear replaces their boots.
In the South-Eastern region of Bulgaria, history comes to life and whispers with its magical voice the endless mysteries of nature.
Mezek – this corner of paradise, located just a kilometer from our state border, has not accidentally won the title of “pearl of South-eastern Bulgaria” and has several priceless cultural landmarks – 2 Thracian domed tombs and Kaleto Fortress.
With its frescoes and architecture, Aleksandrovo tomb is one of the masterpieces of Thracian cultural heritage in Bulgaria and ranks as one of the largest facilities of its kind found in the Bulgarian to date. The tomb’s unique murals are unparalleled and have great artistic value.
Villa Armira is indisputably the richest and most lavishly decorated home of Roman times found on our lands. You will feel the grace and splendor of Roman times after visiting this place!