Author: арх. Анна Енчева

The architectural heritage of Southern Dobrudzha Part 3: About settlements and buildings


Factors for settlements to emerge
- the sea, river and plain
- winds and aridity
- orientation and roads
- peace and wars

     From the east and north – water. It is a blessing, but a devastating element as well. It is a widely open door, but also a barrier. It is a boundary, but also a connection between shores and peoples.
Between the sea and the river – plain fertile soil. It is the cradle of human life. It is also a groove for sowing and a keeper of treasures and secrets. It is also a foundation for construction and a necropolis.
The ocean of the sky is above. The gods who determine human fate are there.
The sun – the supreme god – is in the sky.

Black Sea

     Here the abundance of water in the sea and river are combined with the aridity of the plain, and the summer heat with the ice-cold wind.
     The settlements emerged in places where there is water, or a road, or land to plow, or pasture for the horses and livestock, or conditions for defense from attacks. Archeologists believe that the remains in Durankulak are of the most ancient human civilization – from 8 millennia ago. Since then, life in this land has not faded. Traces of all stages of the development of human communities are scattered throughout Dobruja.
     The piercing cold is to the north, the life-giving warmth is to the south. Birds have drawn a road in the sky, and people – on the ground. Greeks came by sea from the south and created the city-colonies along the coast. Istros, Tomis, Callatis, Dionysopolis, Byzone were major commercial and cultural centers connected to each other by road on the mainland.
     The Romans came from the south on this road and called it Via Pontica (Black Sea Road) – we travel on it even today. They built fortresses on the right bank of the Danube and paved Via Istrum (the road by the Danube) – through Sexaginta Priscilla, Transmarisca and Durostorum. Durostorum connected with Marcianopolis, Sexaginta Prista and Tropaeum Trajani - with Dionysopolis. At Dionysopolis began a road to the west - to Sexaginta Prista.

     The plain became a crossroads.

     Later, around the Roman fortresses and the stations by the road, settlements appeared that became cities. In the inland, the Romans found mostly villages with Thracian or Celtic names. A century later the villages (vicus) had Latin names. The Romans created a single new city far away from the sea and the river - Tropaeum Trajani (between Durostorum and Tomis).
     When the Roman Empire split into two parts, the center of the province of Scythia Minor became the city of Tomis. It had strategic location, it was the biggest port and the one with the largest population. In the documents from that time the names of settlements are mentioned, many of which are known from earlier sources. However, because of the constant threat of barbarian attacks on the northern border of the empire, construction was focused on building fortresses - along the Danube and south of it, in the plane. Remains of fortifications have been found in many places in Dobruja.
     The chronicles tell, "And this king inhabited villages and towns .... this king (Asparukh) created great cities – on the Danube - he created the city of Drastar... and the city of Pliska ... And this king inhabited the land of Karvuna"
     After settling in the former Byzantine province, the Slavs and Bulgars changed its map. For example, the fortress near Dionysopolis ceased to exist, but Karvuna appeared there. There were settlements of different sizes, there is evidence of a lively trade between them. Through the Black Sea ports they traded with other countries. After the adoption of Christianity, monasteries spread - not only in the settlements but also outside them (rock monasteries are a separate topic).
     At the beginning of the 11th century, the new (old) ruler of the northeastern Bulgarian lands - Byzantium, did not take special care of their safety. The Pechenegs took advantage of this and, as a result - the devastation, victims, migration of the Bulgarian population south towards the Balkan Mountains. Nature intervened as well - unseen convulsions of nature led to famine. Life continued only in the Danube and coastal cities, whereas the plane turned into a "desert".
     At the end of the existence of the Second Bulgarian State "The Province of Karvuna" had as its first center Karvuna (Balchik), then Kaliakra. It was an important factor in domestic and international relations at the end of the 14th century and was the scene of fateful events.
     After the Ottoman conquest, the map was remade once again and the settlements - renamed. It is not known when exactly, but in the "deserted wasteland"of the plane, a new city appeared. Evliya Celebi, in the 17th c. (circa 1650), wrote about Hajioglu Pazardzhik: ... "The autocrat Isa Celebi, the son of Bayezid Khan The Thunderbolt, captured the city from the King of Dobruja and leveled its fortifications to the ground" ... "Because this city was brought into a flourishing state by the brave commander [...] Hajioglu, for this reason it is called Hadjioglu"..."It is a lively and decorated rich city ... situated in a picturesque field with many meadows... There are 150 houses covered with tiles and reeds, with vineyards and gardens, with large families. It has 20 shops and 3 bazaars with all utilities, with iron doors, built of stone like fortresses, a tekke, two inns, a chapel, two mihrabs, a mosque covered with lead by Ahmed Pasha (from 1573). It enjoys another mosque, near the bridge – the mosque of Mehmed Agha. Because the air and water of this city are pleasant, there are many cereals, vineyards and gardens."
     And people continued to walk on the old roads. When there was a threat from the north – the road to salvation was to the south.
     "After the Russo-Turkish War /1828-1829/, 800 families from Glavan with the priest Mihail Stefanov Kiranov at the head, left with the retreating Russian troops. The road was long and heavy. Many died. Part of the people of Glavan remained in northern Bulgaria where they founded their village of Glavan /the present village of Glavan, Silistra province/. 167 families reached Bessarabia where they founded a third village of Glavan. The Bessarabian people of Glavan still preserve their language, as well as their customs. There are families who have returned to Bulgaria from Bessarabia. Since they left after harvesting their fields, when the winter started they were in Dobruja. And there they remained. They live in the villages of Geshanovo, Vladimirovo and others."
     Many tribes and peoples have passed through the roads of Dobruja – some of them built fortresses, others destroyed them; some plowed and sowed the land, others trampled on it and destroyed its fruits; some created riches, others grabbed them. Years of peace alternated with years of war, and prosperity - with devastation and deprivation.
     The last major migration was in 1940. Without war, but on the same roads, on the north-south route, in both directions simultaneously.

Characteristics of buildings
- purpose and functions
- structure and materials
- main parts and details
- the usefl and the beautiful

     In the previous section of the exposition I quickly went through 25 centuries, but only to give a general idea. I have made a proviso in advance that I will expose in detail the architecture of the past two centuries only, and that up to the middle of the 20th c.
     According to their PURPOSE, the major groups of buildings during the period I am studying are: residential, production, public.

     The varieties of residential houses are determined by the location, the number of storeys, the number of rooms, the functional scheme, and the structure.
     In the old (we call them "traditional") homes the fireplace is the center - as a function and as design. It is a source of heat - for food preparation and physical survival, a source of light in the dark part of the day; it draws around itself the family members and is conducive to spiritual closeness.

     The basic elements of traditional homes are:
     - houses with a fireplace and a water place – for cooking, eating, housewifery
     - room – for sleeping and guests
     - closet – for products, clothes and household items
     - porch – a covered, part of the home but without walls; it is a transition between the outside and the inside, it provides shelter before the entrance and, in addition to that, is the place for a large portion of the household activities, especially in the summer.
     In the houses of wealthy landowners and merchants during the Revival the central room appeared – a lounge; as well as an internal staircase in the case of two store houses. In urban houses after the Liberation, as a rule, the example of European cities was followed, but the variety is great - from direct replication of projects to excellent examples of intertwining inherited ideas and forms.
     Production buildings are of three major varieties: agricultural, artisan and industrial. Agriculture, stock breeding and crafts are activities of great antiquity, whereas factory production spread into the country during the Revival.
     The public building group is the largest one:
     - especially important are buildings for worship – churches, chapels, monasteries; only because of the flame that burned in them the Bulgarians preserved the Christian faith and did not vanish as a people; the buildings of other nations and religions that remain in our lands deserve attention as well - they were created by talented artists, including Bulgarians.
     - schools are no less sacred for Bulgarians – they are temples of science and “science is a sun”; the church schools did not have a building of their own, but larger schools were something different - it was a prominent, bright and welcoming building; high schools - male or for girls, are impressive and austere.
     - the third temple for Bulgarians was the cultural center; it appeared in the 19th c. as an organization for culture and education; it is the culprit for the evolution of Bulgarians from obedient slaves to rebels and freedom fighters.
     It is striking that churches, schools and cultural centers during the Revival were built mostly with public funds - money and work of the population. Without a doubt, these buildings truly deserve to be called "public".
     - I place in the category of administrative buildings those of the government (konaks, and after the Liberation – municipal buildings), post offices, train stations, barracks, as well as banks.
- commercial buildings including shops, inns, taverns, hotels.

     According to their STRUCTURE, the buildings in the 19th c. (“traditional construction) are light or solid.
     Light houses have a wooden supporting skeleton and filling of intertwined twigs or adobe.
     The solid ones have masonry supporting walls – of stone or adobe.
     As a rule, the foundations are of stone masonry. The floors and ceilings have wooden beams of round or hewn beams.
     The roofs are wooden, with a slope, and are covered by single-gutter tiles. Stone slabs are not typical of Dobruja.

Foundations of stone masonry
Foundations of stone masonry
Wooden skeleton, filler - twigs 
House in the v. of Brestnitsa, Tervel municipality – a light structure with adobe filling 
Wooden roof structure of round beams (the tiles are from a later renovation) 
Wooden roof structure

     Over the wooden structure – wooden boarding (in the picture on the left) or reed casing (in the picture on the right)

- foundation, walls, roof 
- stairs, railing 
- chimneys
- joinery

- construction
- decoration

MATERIALS and PRODUCTS used for construction and decoration in the traditional building:
- stone – for foundations and supporting walls
- brick – for supporting walls and as a filler of walls with a wooden skeleton
- adobe – for supporting walls and as a filler of walls with a wooden skeleton
- clay – as a filler, in putties, plasters, bricks, tiles
- lime – for binding solutions, plasters, paints
- sand – for construction solutions
- wood – for columns, beams, roof structures, stairs, intertwined twigs, plating, joinery
- iron – for structural and binding elements, casings, railing and lattices
- glass – for the joinery
- paints – mostly lime-based
- straw – as a “reinforcing” and insulating filler of the adobe
- reed and sunflower stems – for insulation matting of ceilings and roofs
- hemp rope – for sealing

Wooden supporting structure 
Wooden ceiling beams 

     The bearing structure consists of a column, a beam and the beams of the ceiling.

Wooden door
 Wooden window with iron lattice
Wooden lintel 
Wooden doorstep
Wooden railing

     The eave has been extended with additional wooden consoles, the tiles are arranged on a clay putty, and underneath - thin branches.

Stone steps and wooden planks
Wooden staircase 


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