Sore legs, aching muscles—what’s a monkey to do to escapes the rigors of travel? In 2002, the Monkey made haste for the healing waters of Hisariya, one of the great spa towns of antiquity.
Hisariya (or Hisar) is a town at the foot of the Stara Planina mountains that run like a spine across central Bulgaria. Once a Thracian settlement, it was taken by the Romans, who called it Augusta, and under them the town became one of the great thermal baths and springs of antiquity. Jealously guarding the natural treasure of its waters, the Romans put up massive walls around the prized hot spring. Later, when the Ottomans took control, they renamed the town Hisar (“fort”) due to its formidable walls. Here, the Monkey poses by some of the excavated Roman baths in Hisariya.
The Monkey ponders the ancient Roman walls that defended Hisariya and its valuable water supply on four sides. The interlacing of stone and red bricks, seen in other ancient walls like those of Constantinople, provided flexibility and strength. The fact that the walls were also up to 3 meters thick certainly didn’t hurt their defensive capabilities either. Despite its well-preserved historic relics and the Communist-era development of a spa center drawing from the ancient spring, Hisariya is little known outside Bulgaria.
The renowned Camel Arch in Hisariya was one of the portals through the Roman-built walls. It is unclear whether the name was given because camels once passed through the gateway or because the arch’s humps resemble those of a camel. The Monkey was less concerned with this debate and more intrigued by the idea of living in a place where locals have to maneuver their Ladas and Opels through a 4th Century arch in order to enter or exit town.
The Monkey plays fence-sitter by an Ottoman-era mosque in Hisariya. Though he was unable to verify it, it appeared the mosque had been converted to a private residence.
Having practically forgotten about the healing waters, the Monkey spent much of his visit to Hisariya clamoring over its ancient walls. Note: Being a preservationist at heart, he only clamored on the rebuilt sections…
On the old “Pod Planina” (“Beneath the Mountains”) road across central Bulgaria, the Monkey encountered this remnant of the Communist era, a red star on a rusting road sign.
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