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Strolling trough the parks of Hissar

Georgi Georgiev

Hissar is probably the most famous and the biggest spa resorts in Bulgaria. There are 22 mineral springs in the town and its vicinities. The water is good for both drinking and healing. But it is not only the mineral springs that make the town special. Hissar has a curative power over the human psyche with its relaxing atmosphere. The heart of the town is a beautiful well–kept park surrounded by the centuries-old fortress walls of the ancient roman town Augusta – later known as Diocletianopolis. Here are two other splendid parks near by, full of calmness and verdancy.

Romans had first appraised the water wealth of the site and built there an impressive town here. It was the largest city in the Thracian province after Filipopolis (Plovdiv) and Beroe (Stara Zagora). The ancient settlement suited all requirements of roman construction. There were wide straight streets, many graceful statues and public baths. The contemporary town of Hissar has kept its ancient spirit and the time spend there gives an unique sensation of calmness and felicity.

Passing by the ruins of the north fortress wall I found myself in Momina salza (Maid tear) Park. It is the centre of Hissar and it is the oldest park in the town. There are many cosy restaurants, alcoves, statues and fountains. The archaeological museum and the orthodox temple “St. Pantaleimon” are also situated there. But I was really impressed by the statue of a maid carrying a big charger above her had, from which the water was streaming down. The other monument that fascinated me was the colonnade near the statue. It was built in 1960 and it is just like the ancient roman colonnades. The seven ancient divinities of health – Yazo, Pantasya, Hidayah, Epione, Mohayous and Podalirius are drawn on the vault arch of the colonnade. After I tasted the warm mineral water of the fountain I made my way to the next fountain statue which I saw. It represented a young man holding wine vessel. Probably this was Ganymede, the cupbearer of the gods. Further down, at the end of a wide straight alley, I saw the white pavilion of Momina salza mineral spring. Its water is very favourable to gastric- intestinal diseases.

The legend about the spring tells that a beautiful Bulgarian maid refused to be a concubine of a Turkish bey. He punished her as he forced her to serve his guests naked. The girl did it but when she reached the bey she dropped the heavy charger over his head and killed him. The maid perished on the stake for what she had done. When the flames grabbed her body two warm tears broke of her eyes and the spring named Momina salsa (Maid tear) flushed from them. The legend is depicted in the statue of the naked girl in the centre of the town. The ruins of the biggest roman bath are situated around the spring. The bath dates back from the 4th century.

The floor and the walls were made of white Rodopean marble. There were hot and cold bathing premises, resting place and two pools. In other rooms the priests made curative procedures with massages and sweet-smelling oils. There was a nymph temple connected with the bath. The nymphs were honored as the healing, warm water deities. Complex heating systems helped the hot water to be used for heating as well. It is interesting that Emperor Diocletian, whose name was given to the town, first introduced the bath entry taxes.

I passed the pavilion of the Momina salza spring and I went out of the fortress walls. Beyond them I found myself in woodland. There was an incredible silence which was interrupted by a gentle warbling. It came from a small robin alighted on a tiny branch right above my head. Later I was astonished to understand that this site was called Slaveev dol (Nightingale dingle). The narrow path which I followed took me in front of the entrance of a roman tomb. Unfortunately it was closed.

I returned through the same path and I took my way along the south fortress wall. Although the time had damaged it seriously it is evident how imposing was the fortress. Soon I reached the south gate – one of the symbols of Hissar. I went on along the walls while I entered the other park – Orpheus dol (Orpheus dingle). A nimble squirrel welcomed me and quickly got lost among the leaves and left me wandering alone in park. I found myself in front of the open-air theatre, which was built like the ancient amphitheatres. The eternal fortress walls and columns loomed trough the abounded vegetation and picturesque alleys were real fairy roads to the picturesque and cosy restaurants and public places.

Momina banya (Maid bath) Park spreads east of Orpheus dol. It was named after the homonymous mineral spring. Folk imagination created a lovely and sad legend for this spring too. It tells that the local governor’s daughter loved to bathe in the spring beyond the fortress walls. Once the town was attacked by the enemies and the soldiers closed the gates.

The boyar’s daughter and her friends left outside the town. They preferred to drown themselves in the waters of the spring than to be captured by the enemies. People say that every night the maid comes out from the spring and a spatter of water could be heard in the bath. Nowadays a beautiful pavilion surrounds the spring and helps the legend to become alive.

That’s haw passed my day among the parks of the magnificent spa resort Hissar. But just several kilometres away of them in Miromir district another interesting site – the catholic temple “St. Peter and Paul” is situated. The residents of Miromir took the Catholicism in a mass in the distant 1646 and Miromir became the first catholic settlement in South Bulgaria, where the orthodox is official religion.

But Catholicism was established as religion through the centuries and permanently mixed with the customs of the local inhabitants. There are many other evidences, except the temple, bespeaking of the honour to the western Christianity. Some of them are the chapel of Virgin Mary and the large white cross. This lonely pillar rising in the middle of the field was the last thing I saw, while I was leaving Hissar and its surroundings. And I’m sure that its shadow protected me for a long time on my way home.



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