On our trip through Bulgaria we discovered Thracian tombs, Roman remains, medieval fortresses … but we also found surprises that seemed to have come from other planets. Who would think to meet some Transformers in the middle of the country? Ok, we didn’t go to the planet Cybertron, but it looked like it. Or, at least, that reminded us of the 1300-year-old Monument of Bulgaria in Shumen, also known as the Founding Monument of the Bulgarian State.
Visible from 30 kilometers away, we could not miss the opportunity to approach. Although, we have to confess that beyond its grandiosity, we were not very clear with what we were going to find … And that made it even better.
TRAVELING TO CYBERTRON, THE 1300-YEAR-OLD BULGARIAN MONUMENT
We do not know if it was because of the snow that covered the entire floor of the monument because we were almost alone – there was not only snow, it was also very cold – or simply because the shapes of the sculptures could not remind us otherwise. It was setting foot on the monument and inevitably thinking about the Transformers. The Kanes who created and dominated the Bulgarian Empire for centuries, with their imposing size and right angles, seemed totally inhabitants of Cybertron. Ice, snow, leaden gray sky … completed the decoration: we had changed the planet.
THE MONUMENT: ORIGIN AND MEANING
Beyond robots and science fiction, the Monument to the 1,300 years of Bulgaria makes a journey through the history of the country since its creation in the year 681. With this data and with the name … it is not necessary to take more than one account to know which was inaugurated in 1981 – commemorating that thirteenth centenary.
When you have overcome the shock of being face to face with Optimus Prime, look at the details, because everything has a meaning. Do not forget to ask for the brochure, they have it in Spanish when you buy your ticket –3 BGN–.
The eight concrete blocks that form the monument are grouped together creating two squares – if the ground is wet, be careful, it slips a lot. The organization is not accidental, they mark the two stages of the empire: the first years and the Christian era. We have already said that everything has a reason, the artist Krum Damyanov, author of the monument, left nothing to chance.
Together with Krum Damyanov, sculptor Ivan Slavov, architects Gueorgui Gechev and Blagoi Atanasov, painters Vladislav Paskalev and Stoyan Velev and engineer and builder Preslav Hadzhov also worked on the construction. Obviously, a good number of workers also worked to move the 2,300 cubic meters of land and place the 2,400-ton metal armor on which 50,000 cubic meters of concrete were poured during the 22 months of the construction of the monument. Don’t tell me the numbers don’t impress as much as the Transformers too.
THE FIRST YEARS OF THE BULGARIAN EMPIRE
The first figure we found, knee on the ground and with a gigantic sword stuck in the ground in front of him, could not be other than that of the founder of the Bulgarian Empire: the kan Asparuj. Behind him a horse and a dog, symbol of nomadic life and sacred animal respectively for those first Bulgarians.
The three kanes that appear next – yes, we go from ruler to ruler – are Travel, Krum, and Omurtag. The position of the hands of each of them gives a hint of how his reign was.
CHRISTIANIZATION AND THE INVENTION OF THE CYRILLIC ALPHABET
In a gap between two concrete blocks seems to hide, willing to jump on us, the kan Boris. It was this who adopted Christianity as a national religion. If you notice, there is a negative cross – a hole in the concrete blocks where light enters – on its throne.