After a late arrival in Kazanlak, we are excited to just walk out the door of our accommodation, cross a street, walk up a path in the adjacent park, and arrive at the Thracian tomb well within ten minutes. Actually, we have passed the real Thracian tomb, which was accidentally found by soldiers looking for shelter for air raids back in 1944, and have arrived at what is supposed to be an exact copy of the tomb. Researchers want to protect the real tomb against the influence of visitors on the frescoes. After taking our ticket, we study the tiny museum, and then head into the tomb itself. A corridor leads to the chamber where the dead were actually laid to rest. The ceiling of both the corridor and the chamber are finely decorated by frescoes, which appear brilliant. They have a surprising old look to them, depicting persons, horses and carts, kings and queens.
After walking around Kazanlak, visiting the Rose Museum as well as the Historical Museum where we learn more about the Thracian culture, we are ready for exploring the Valley of the Thracian Kings. We have pinned them on our map, and even though there is no real road going there, manage to arrive at the Sveitsata mound, in the middle of the fields. We manage to open a door and have a peek into the tomb, even though we cannot see more of it, as it is officially closed. The next mound is Ostrusha, where we are greeted by a lady who sells us a combination ticket for all accessible Thracian tombs. She gives us a tour of the tomb, dating back to the 4th century BCE. With six rooms, it is one of the biggest tombs of the Thracians in this area. As was tradition for the Thracians, animals were sacrificed and buried with their rulers: a horse covered in armour and a full set of silver ornaments was found in one of the rooms that was spared robbery. The ceiling of the tomb proper is a massive granite block, with niches embellished by frescoes. While the colours are still visible, most are very damaged, except for one which holds a clear image of a lady.
From here, we drive a little further north, and find a complex with three mounds: Griffins, Helvetia, and Shushmanets. Like all mounds here, their entrance is on the south side, but they all have a different appearance. The Helvetia tomb is rather small, the Griffins tomb has a much wider corridor, but the Shushmanets tomb is the largest of them all. Once a temple, tuned into a tomb, it is remarkable in that a Doric column supports the circular celling. No less than two dogs and four horses were sacrificed here. The last officially open tomb is the one of Seuthes III, the largest one, with an especially long corridor running from the rectangular first room to a circular antechamber and marble decorated doors, and the tomb proper has a sarcophagus-like covering. Artefacts are on display, which were buried with the dead as items needed in the afterlife. Apart from armoury and weapons, this included vessels with Thracian wine. In the tomb, a bronze head with alabaster eyes of Seuthes III was found. Originally built as a temple in the 5th century BCE, it was converted to the final resting place of King Seuthes III at the end of the 3rd century BCE. After his interment, the doors were closed, and the corridor was filled with stones and earth. After this impressive tomb, we head to a last one marked o our map, and find a mound with a closed tomb from where we have great views over the valley. The closer you look, the more mounds you discover all around - this is an extremely rich area, and must be a great region for archeologists. Still impressed by the Thracian culture, we head further north.
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