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Nicopolis ad Istrum and Lesicheri Obelisk

Nicopolis ad Istrum and Lesicheri Obelisk


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Today I went on an excursion with 'F' and a couple of others to Nicopolis ad Istrum, the remains of a Roman and Early Byzantine town about 20km north of Veliko Tarnovo.

Nicopolis ad Istrum is in the countryside very close to the little village of Nikyup (pronounced Nik-yoop) - a small collection of old-looking houses with tiled roofs. Horses wandered around; apparently they belong to the gypsies who live in Nikyup and travel around by horse and cart. These carts are very small - we passed two or three of them. The women wore coloured headcloths and sat in the back while the men stood at the front to drive the horse. The whole way from Veliko Tarnovo to Nicopolis ad Istrum I kept an eye out for white storks, but although I saw a big stork's nest on the chimney of a house in a town we passed through, I never actually saw any of the birds.

When we arrived at the site of Nicopolis ad Istrum there was only one other car in the little car park and the entrance to the complex was locked up.

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Just as we walked over, a guy climbed over the wall and said there was nobody there apart from him. He was just leaving. He said he was from Romania and chatted with us for a while. The wall was only about three feet high, so we scrambled over it and began our walk round. 'F' said that if the chap selling tickets did turn up, he wouldn't mind us having got in already; he'd just sell us the tickets then instead.

Although apparently there is still a lot to be uncovered and excavated, the layout of the town was still clear, with a forum in the middle surrounded by public buildings and two main streets.

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These two streets had massive slabs of stone as paving stones, now very uneven. In a couple of places holes had appeared, revealing tunnels below - the sewer system, I assume.

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The sun was out, the air was filled with the sound of birdsong and for most of the time we were the only people there. It was so lovely and peaceful. Apparently later on the summer lots of brightly shimmering lizards appear and sun themselves on the walls of the foundations. In one of the trees I spotted three martenitsas tied to a branch. We stayed for a couple of hours and nobody official ever arrived.

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We took a roundabout route back to VT because we decided to stop at Lesicheri Obelisk, a Roman pillar in the middle of a ploughed field a few kilometres away from Nikyup.

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Apparently nobody knows anything about this obelisk apart from the fact that it's Roman. Every time the fields are ploughed, hundreds if not thousands of fragments of old pottery are uncovered, but no excavations have ever been done. Farmers are so used to it, they completely ignore whatever comes up. As we walked across the field we looked for interesting finds; I felt a bit like I was beachcombing. We didn't dig at all, we just looked on the ploughed earth as we walked. There were indeed lots of pieces of broken pottery, but I only kept one small fragment that looked like it had been glazed and was possibly part of a handle to something.

After we'd got to the obelisk we looked round it for a bit and then climbed to the top of a little hill about 100 metres away. The rest of the countryside was so flat, I'm convinced this was a burial mound. There was a big hollow at the top, so maybe if it was a burial mound, grave robbers had been and gone a long time ago.

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Posted by 3Traveller 01:50 Archived in Bulgaria Tagged bulgaria roman_remains nicopolis_ad_istrum lesicheri_obelisk traditional_customs Comments (0)

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