By Eli Ivanova -

Some time ago I read a story about the brave Bulgarian king Kaloyan, who defeated the Latin Empire and the knights of the fourth crusade in the 1205 year. According to the story in question, this happened at the gates of Adrianople, nowadays Edirne, and our king's command post was the fortress Bukelon, 8 kilometers from Edirne, then Adrianople.

Through this victory, our king Kaloyan virtually destroyed the Latin Empire and helped Byzantium to rebuild as a state.


I was deeply impressed with this story and somehow by myself, my desire to visit Bukelon Fort became quite a priority. In a nutshell: I wanted it - it turned out :).


We visited the Bukelon fortress in question near the village of Matochina in early May, one of the several weekends past St. George's Day. Yes, it wasn't really the entire fortress, but the hill on which it was built and the remains of it.


The rest of the fort

The word debris sounds too large compared to what can be seen today from the fortress.


In fact, what remains of us that can be seen is the main tower of the fortress. A little comfort is the fact that this tower is quite large, has several functions, and that is probably why it looks like a miniature castle ... yes, and we Bulgarians have their own medieval castles, though only runaway remains of them due to the devastation and devastation of 5- they centuries of Turkish slavery.


The castle tower is visible even before it enters the village and serves as a landmark. It can stop very close to it - after turning left from the main road, there is a small expanse immediately with a fountain that holds several cars. From there to the fortress there are no 5 minutes walking.

Bukelon Fortress and the path to it

The Turkish border is literally a few meters away.

The border with Turkey

The lonely tower of Bukelon Fortress welcomes its visitors from afar. As I mentioned, the tower is visible even before it enters the village of Matochina.


The first thing that impressed me after leaving the car and heading for the fort was the view of it, up there on the hill with the stone steps leading to the tower. That lone castle tower that I keep mentioning, withstood not only the enemy troops, but also the raids of the times.


Shortly before the last steps to the tower, there are two signboards dedicated to the history of the fortress. I stopped and read them both carefully. In their engagement at the tower, I searched for signs left by some ruler to identify the fortress.


According to the plaques, at the top left of the front door of the Bukelon Tower, there is a cross monogram made up of red bricks, with the help of which the letters M N L are inscribed, and these are believed to be the initials of the Bulgarian Tsar Mikhail Shishman.


I searched for it and of course I found it. Here's what I actually found on the entrance arch of the tower.

The monogram

To be fair, I will say that there is another interpretation of the monogram. He may also be associated with Manuel Apocavk, who in 1341 was appointed ruler of Adrianople and, together with Anna Savoyska, opposed the influence of John Cantacuzin. Three years later, Manuel Apocawk crossed over to Cantacuzin. So he left Adrianople and went to Bukelon.


In a nutshell: who exactly ordered the placement of the monogram and to whom it is dedicated is not yet clear.


Aside from the monogram, I also dedicated some time to the interior of the remains, trying to figure out which room it was used for. Some time ago I read that the castle tower consists of 3 floors, the first one being a prison, the second one a church and the third a storage room and a bedroom.

Bukelon Fortress inside

Frankly, I couldn't figure out what it was. Entering the castle tower, there are several rooms at the entrance level. The upper floors cannot be viewed because they are in ruins and difficult to access. My only guideline to determine roughly what the church was was that the village falls south of the fort, which means that the altar of the church must have been to the right of the entrance.


To say the least about the views behind the tower - there is a panoramic view to the south. A major part of this view is the city of Edirne.

The back of the castle tower

The battles near Bukelon Fortress

History of the 15 is known for the great battles at Edirne (Adrianople) in different periods from antiquity to the present day, with most of the battles being Bulgarian. Two of these battles, both important and significant battles, are said to have taken place near Bukelon Fortress.


The first of these is the battle of Adrianople from 9 August 378 between the Gothic tribes and the Roman legions led by Emperor Valent. The Romans were greatly defeated, and their emperor was badly wounded in the battle and died.


The second major battle of Edirne was on 14 April 1205 between Bulgarian troops led by King Kaloyan and the Knights of the Fourth Crusade, led by Emperor Baldwin Flanders. Our king Kaloyan decisively defeated the Crusaders and captured their emperor.


The name Bukelon is inscribed on a marble column from the time of Kan Krum, found near the old capital Pliska, a possible explanation is that the fort was conquered by Kan Krum in 813 along with several other Byzantine fortresses.


The Bulgarian king Michael III Shishman is also connected with the fortress Bukelon, which in the 1328 year occupied the fortress and later exchanged it with Byzantium against Sozopol. That is why one of the possibilities for reading a monogram on the entrance arch of the great tower of the fortress is related precisely to Tsar Mikhail Shishman.

How to get to the village of Matochina

Bukelon Fortress is located near the border village of Matochina in the southern slopes of Sakar Mountain. The village is part of Svilengrad municipality and is about 40 kilometers from the municipal center and about 110 kilometers from the district center of Haskovo.


On our way to the village of Matochina we passed along the road from Svilengrad through the villages of Dimitrovche, Raykova mogila and Sladun to the village of Matochina, which in some places was a disgusting - an old asphalt road, made decades ago during the time of "socialism" and has not been touched since. A road that literally falls in many places from the various atmospheric conditions in the region and, accordingly, is not touched in those places by the local authorities, which should keep it in good condition.


On the way back from the village of Matochina to Svilengrad we passed another route - through Sladun, Studena and Levka. To take this route, coming from the village of Matochina, turn right just before the village of Sladun, and then in the village of Levka at the sign pointing to the right of Svilengrad, continue straight, and then the road is new, new, probably built according to European programs. As a distance, this route is longer by 8 kilometers than the previous one, but the duration is definitely taken faster.


In fact, this second route was recommended to us by a grandmother who we stopped at from the village of Matochina to Svilengrad. Our wife told us some interesting stories about the region. Her problem was that her loved ones lived in Svilengrad and needed her help, and she didn't have many options to reach them - public transportation to and from the village of Matochina was only 2-3 times a week…


Very close to the village of Matochina, near the nearby village of Mihalic (along the first route) there is an interesting rock church that we visited, and in the village of Matochina there is another rock church, which unfortunately we were not able to visit. I really hope that one day we will return to these places and what we have not been able to do so far - to visit and what we have seen - to see again.


I was impressed by the place: the remains of Bukelon Fort, the hill and the whole area. Somehow I was fascinated by the views from above. A strange calm enveloped me, on the top of the hill. Calmness that only a faithful guard can inspire to the one he guards. And this applies with full force to Bukelon Fortress.


For more of the endless beautiful routes in Bulgaria, visit Eli's blog -

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