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Bulgaria's second capital

The first Bulgarian capital was Pliska. An incredibly interesting place if you're into history. And even so if you just like to use your imagination at an ancient place. The same counts for Veliki Preslav, the second capital of the First Bulgarian Empire. Surprisingly, a lot of the site remains after the excavations. With the necessary renovations, we can now partly see what was once a city of over 3 square kilometres. Veliki Preslav was the Bulgarian capital from 893 to 972. Not too long, however the city really grew in this era. Even when Pliska was the capital, the city was already growing. The cities are actually quite near, at about 45 kilometres from each other.

Tsar Boris I decided to move the capital from Pliska to Veliki Preslav, back in the day only called Preslav. Tsar Simeon, the successor of Tsar Boris I, then rapidly developed Veliki Preslav into a political and cultural center. The Preslav Literary School, initially based in Pliska, was moved to Veliki Preslav by Tsar Simeon as well. We can confidently state that the Preslav Literary School was home to the development of the Cyrillic script. Therefore, it has helped the development of all Slavs. Veliki Preslav was eventually conquered before the year 1000, by the army of the senior Byzantine emperor John I Tzimiskes. The city then got renamed to Yoanopolis. Then, during the Ottoman era, the city was destroyed and on the site, a new town was built. It was named 'Eski Stambulchuk', Old Istanbul. Then, after the town got to be a Bulgarian center again, it was named Veliki Preslav. Even though the city was of some relevance after the partial destruction, it lost the importance it once had. The final blow was when Tatar troops raided the city.

Tsar Simeon

During the era of Simeon, from 893 to 927, the Bulgarian empire stretched between the three seas; the Aegean, Adriatic and Black Sea. It was during this period that Veliki Preslav had its golden age. Tsar Simeon, the son of Tsar Boris I, played a vital role in this. The word 'Tsar' stands for Emperor. Because Tsar Simeon was the son of Tsar Boris I, he was at first a 'Knyaz', a prince. Initially, Simeon's oldest brother, Vladimir, was to take over the throne. Simeon was still expected to become a high-ranking individual in the First Bulgarian Empire. He was therefore sent to Constantinopel, where he received excellent education. Simeon returned to Bulgaria around 888. He went to Preslav and settled at the monastery. He translated several important works. Note that he spoke fluent Greek, learnt in Constantinopel. This helped him translate texts to Old Church Slavonic, the oldest documented Slavic language. The country had already converted to Christianity, when Vladimir, the oldest son of Tsar Boris I, tried to reintroduce paganism. This forced his father to return into politics and, quite radically, he blinded his son. Then Simeon was appointed to be the ruler in place of Vladimir. There was a second son, Gavril, for unkown reasons the younger Simeon was appointed to the throne instead of him.

Eat, drinks and sleep

On the road down to the complex, you will find Restaurant Omurtagov Most right after the junction. It's on your left side and there's a lovely terrace. There's restaurant Panorama nearby as well, just search for 'Panorama Preslav' in Google. In the area are many excellent hotels and guesthouses. One example is the Mutafova Kushta.

And what to do nearby?

The complex has an architecture museum, which is interesting to visit.

At 3,3 kilometres, best traveled by car, is the partly abandoned monastery Pantaleimon. A beautiful architectural structure. It's featured on the cover of my book The Abandoned Buildings of Bulgaria.


In the area, you'll find a lot of sites from antiquity, and otherwise interesting places. Visit this page to read about what to see in the surrounding area! It's definitely best to visit the area by car. You'd be spending a lot of time traveling by public transport, however you can easily reach Shumen from Sofia both by bus and train. This includes the overnight train between Sofia and Varna, stopping in Shumen. Check the schedule on the website of the Bulgarian National Railways. There is a bus connection between Shumen and Veliki Preslav. They leave once every four hours. If you have a car, there's so much to include in your itinerary!

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