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The Secrets of Dobarsko Village

Georgi Georgiev, www.VisitBulgaria.NET

The spring has already come and the weather becomes more and more appropriate for hiking in the nature. I was thinking about some familiar place and I remembered that last summer I was in a small, lovely village, named Dobarsko. It is situated in the southern foothills of the Rila Mountains, 20 kilometres north of Bansko resort.

It was early afternoon, in the middle of Agust, when I parked the car in the centre of Dobarsko. It was hot and sunny but the mountain freshness was tangible even in the hottest time of the year.

There are many stories about the foundation of the village but the most popular tales that the soldiers of King Samuil are the founders of the settlement. The soldiers were coming back after they were defeated by the Byzantine army near the village of Klyuch, in the Belasitsa Mountains, in 1014. 14 000 captured men were blinded by the order of Emperor Basil (Basilius) II. He left one one-eyed man in a hundred blinded to lead their comrades on their way back. History tales that the heart of King Samiul sank, as he saw his tortured soldiers and he died of sorrow. The Byzantine Emperor was called Basil (Basilius) II Bulgaroktonos (Bulgar-Slayer) for his brutality. Some of the blinded soldiers wanted to find an asylum in the Rila Monastery but the winter captured them in the mountain. They settled down in the region of Dobarsko, where they founded a singing school. They were attracted by the mild climate and the healing waters, which cured their wounds. The evidences for this story are featured in the frescoes of “St. Theodore Tyron and St. Theodore Stratilate” church, which is under the aegis of UNESCO.

Probably the church is the most interesting attraction in the region. It is situated in the centre of the village. Officially, it was built in 1614 but the stone plate, dug under the altar, points that the temple existed much earlier – in 1122. My friends and I entered the church courtyard and we were fascinated. The small temple was heavily laden with thousands of colourful, fragrant flowers. The place was more like a botanical garden than like a church. It was so quiet around and the song of the birds, hidden in the rose bushes, and the murmur of the healing water fountain were the only sounds, which pleasantly disturbed the silence of the hot summer afternoon, that day.

The curator met us at the entrance of the church and let us in the temple. The smell of frankincense and wax was filling the premises. The icons and frescoes are the most important thing in the church. Although the building is small, it is rich decorated and some of the images are really mysterious. The frescoes have never been restored, but amazingly the colours are still well saturated and lively. Even when the Ottomans turned the church into a hamam (Turkish bath) in the 19th century, the unique images survived.

The portrait of the patrons of the temple is depicted at the entrance of the church. St. Theodore Tyron and St. Theodore Stratilate were Byzantine soldiers, who died in the name of God. The portraits of the church-donors, Bogdan, Hasiya and his son, and the icon-painters Spas, Stanko and Smilen are on the left side of the door. The legend tales that Hasiya took a holly ground from Jerusalem to Dobarsko and every visitor of the small church in the village could receive the blessing of the Holly Land.

The icons of St. Theodore Tyron and St. Theodore Stratilate, Virgin Mary, Jesus Christ, St. John the Baptist and Archangel Michael are arranged at the alter. 30 years ago, the relics traveled around the world and now they are home again. One of the most amazing and enigmatic frescoes is the scene of the Transfiguration, where Jesus sits in a rocket shaped facility, looking at the Earth from above. The icons of St. George and St. Dimitar are also very interesting. The saints are depicted in a full size body portrait, not on a horse, as usual. “St. Theodore Tyron and St. Theodore Stratilate” church and Aton are the only places, where these saints are represented that way. The scene with the blinded soldiers, washing their missing eyes with the healing water from the church courtyard, is also very impressive. I have to say that the experience I had in this small sheltered temple was much stronger than the moments I have spend in some big and rich cathedrals.

We went out of the church and the sun dazzled us for a second. We said “good bye” to the curator. He told us about the landmarks in the vicinity – Shtrokaloto waterfall and 500 year-old pine spruce, 7 km away from the village. We left the shrine and we made our way to the waterfall. Unfortunately, when we reached there we saw that the 30 metres high cascade was dry. We sat down on the rock, heated from the sun, staring at the abyss, were water crashes when the river is high. Then we took to the venerable pine spruce.

After an hour of walking along a well maintained eco trail we reached the tree. It was nothing special at first sight, but when we rounded it, we were impressed. The spruce was tight clung to the cliff slope, fighting with the time and the weather more than 500 years. The bare roots of the tree were like a home of some fairy tale heroes. And we wouldn’t had been surprised if a dwarf or an elf had appeared from the tree to tell us: “Hey, who are you. How you dare to disturb my peaceful afternoon sleep”. And we knew these creatures are very powerful, so we couldn’t take the risk to provoke them and to be transformed into donkeys or frogs. We left the site quietly and now I think it is time to go back there.



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