Asen’s Fortress has a special place in my heart because of the countless times I claimed its rocks even before they put proper stairs. I went there with friends or with my family but I also went there alone at all hours of the day. The time has come to tell you all about this beautiful place.
Asen’s Fortress is the gate to the Rhodope Mountains in Bulgaria. It’s located 2km from the town of Asenovgrad and it is the biggest Cultural and Historical site in the area.
The earliest archaeological findings date from the time of the Thracians, the area of the fortress being also inhabited during the Ancient Roman and Early Byzantine period. The fortress gained importance in the Middle Ages and it was even conquered by the armies of the Third Crusade.
It was considerably renovated in the 13th century (more precisely 1231) during the rule of King Ivan Asen II to serve as a border fortification against Latin raids, as evidenced by an eight-line wall inscription. The fortress is named after this famous Bulgarian king.
The best preserved and most notable feature of Asen’s Fortress is the Church of the Holy Mother of God from the 12th-13th century. The whole fortress was left to decay after the Ottoman conquest in the 14th century and only the church remained standing in its original appearance as it was used by the local Christians and now it is in regular use as a Bulgarian Orthodox church.
Taken by the Byzantines after Ivan Asen II’s death, the fortress was once again in Bulgarian hands at the time of Ivan Alexander in 1344 only to be conquered and destroyed by the Ottomans during their rule of Bulgaria.
The town of Asenovgrad takes its modern name from the fortress, formerly being named Stanimaka, which in translation means “Stand up, Mother”.
As an ancient place with a huge strategical role, the fortress is the object of many legends. One tries to explain where the name Stanimaka came from. According to it the last Christian king – Кing Kaloyan was hiding in the fortress with his mother. One day she was busy frying fish when a soldier rushed in saying that the fortress was surrounded and it will soon fall. The King, however, didn’t believe him and when the soldier came time and time again with the same message, he got so mad that he screamed: “I’ll believe that only if the fish in the pan comes back to life!” In that very second, the fish jumped from the pan to the ground and the terrified king turned to his mother with the words: “Stand up, mother, we need to run!” This how the nearby town got his ancient name.
The Asen’s fortress is one of the 100 National Tourist Sites in Bulgaria and awaits quietly its next visitors.
Boring but very useful information:
As I said the fortress is 2km from the town but the road is pretty clear. When I say road, I mean road. It’s up the hill and you can get there by car or by using your own two feet. No matter what you choose, you need to be careful because the road is not very wide and there a lot of turns, so go slow if you’re driving and keep to the side if you’re walking.
You have to pay for a ticket to get to the fortress. For that, you’ll have to go in the Tourist Centre across the fortress entry. Now, I only remember the price for an adult – 4lv but there is, of course, a student discount.
Remember to be very careful because it is a hill and it is a fortress so don’t run around – it’s not safe. Other than that – have a good time.
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