Kale Fortress

"Kale" is one of the most preserved fortresses in Bulgaria, located on the north slopes of the Balkan Mountains. ...

City: Belogradchik

Country: Bulgaria

The fortress is the main attraction of Belogradchik (population: ca. 5,300), situated 545 metres above sea level and 50 km south of the Danube. The citadel (10,210 m²) was an inspiration for the name of the town, meaning literally “small white town”. The name of the fortress, Kaleto, comes from the Turkish “kale” (fortress). The complex of three separate courtyards is connected via gates and walls (2 metres thick, up to 12 metres tall). The earliest structure of Roman origin (1st‒3rd century) was built on the top of the rocky hill, integrating the natural defence of the surrounding 70-metre-tall limestone rocks. Another Roman outpost nearby is the Latin Fortress, a part of the famous Belogradchik Rocks, a candidate for the UNESCO World Heritage List, nominated for the new Seven Natural Wonders of the World. It was the well-preserved natural beauty of the site that won Belogradchik the European Destination of Excellence award in 2008. The legionnaires stationed here used to control the military road to the Roman logistic centre, Naissus (Niš, Serbia). The road started in Ratiaria (later Colonia Ulpia Traiana Ratiaria; near the modern-day Archar, a village in Vidin Province), where Legio IV Flavia Felix was based until the conquest of Dacia (106 AD), together with the Roman navy (during the reign of Emperor Vespasian). Ratiaria, also on the Danube Limes road, was commercially important because of a gold mine in its vicinity. Also worth visiting is the archeological site Anishte, on the Salash–Belogradchik road east of Granichak. Ruins of an ancient village, pottery fragments and coins from the 3rd century AD, a Roman road station destroyed in the early 4th century were found here.

The strategic advantages of the fort were recognised by the Byzantines, Bulgarians and the Ottomans, who took over in 1396. The fortress got its present look in 1805–1837. It is a mix of typical Ottoman-style architecture with some elements added by French and Italian engineers. Explore the garrison buildings, the old prison and the entrance to the secret tunnel to the downtown mosque. As from 2014 visitors will be able to access the fort via a new road. A Visitor Centre and a hotel are next to the site. When in Belogradchik, don’t miss the Museum of Nature and Science (tel. +359 936 3231), and the History Museum. A must see are the nearby Magura Cave and the Vrachanski Balkan Nature Park.

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