Borino is located at an altitude of 1140 meters (3,625 feet) in the Western Rhodope Mountains of Bulgaria, the mountains of Orpheus. The village is situated in a valley, protected from wind and the elements by high mountain ridges creating a beautiful panorama. The valley surrounding the village resembles an enormous carpet, woven from hundreds of green, white, and brown plots created by potato fields and mountain meadows. The valley is criss-crossed by the brown strands of woodland roads leading visitors to wild and untouched nature. Borino is a multi-ethnic village where Turks, Bulgarians, Bulgarian-Muslims, and Roma live like neighbors, creating a unique example of ethnic tolerance. A popular saying in Borino says that neighbors, regardless of ethnicity or race, are closer than relatives. As a municipal center, Borino includes the villages of Yagodina, Chala, Kozhari, and Buinovo.
The municipality as a whole offers a unique, preserved local culture and wild untouched nature. You will see one-of-a-kind woven crafts with rich colors and designs, and traditional dress and folklore preserved from ancient times. The area is saturated with natural beauty and attractions. The most famous of these are the Yagodinska Cave, Devil's Throat Cave, Trigrad Gorge, and Bujnovo Gorge. There are also many places which are still known only to the local people such as Devil’s Bridge, The Old Roman Bridge – Kemera, Videnitsa Peak (the possible temple/shrine of the God Dionysus), and the Kastrakli Nature Reserve.
The Rhodopes are considered one of the cradles of European civilization. It is estimated that primitive people settled the region around 65,000 to 60,000 BC. The oldest evidence of human presence in the Rhodopes, flint instruments, was discovered in Borino by an archeological excavation near the current Orpheus Chalet. During fall and winter, eneolithic people lived in the caves of the region. Experts have discovered hearths from this time period dating from 4000 to 3000 BC in Yagodina Cave and idyllic figures connected with the cult to the Woman-Mother and the Sun Cult in Haramiska Cave near the Devil's Throat Cave.
Two-thousand years ago in the surrounding areas of Borino lived the Thracian tribe of Bessi. From these tribes have been discovered Thracian burial mounds on the Turlata Peak, located near Borino, and many shrines scattered throughout the area. The Shrine of Dionysius in the Rhodopes and the musical culture of the Thracians are connected with the name of the mythological Rhodope singer Orpheus, who fascinated the wind and wild beasts with the sounds of his lyre. He is the creator of the philosophical study Orphism. There exists a hypothesis, that on the Videnitsa Peak was located the famous Shrine of Dionysius – visited by Gaius Octavius and by Alexander the Great.
As the Thracian civilization started to fade Roman rule entered the Rhodopes. Near Borino pieces of roads and the bridge Kemera can still be seen from this time. Near Borino ran the direct road from Philipopolis (Plovdiv) to Nicopolis ad Nestum (Gotse Delchev) and Macedonia.
Creation of Bulgaria
During the 6th century the Slavs began to settle the Balkan Peninsula. Following the Slavs, Proto-Bulgarians arrived in the 7th century. These two new tribes, together with the Thracians created the state of Bulgaria in 681 AD. From the Proto-Bulgarians they took the name for the new state, from the Slavs they took the language – Slavic, and from the Thracians their cultural heritage and traditions. At that time each of the three tribes avowed to a different religion. To unify the people of Bulgaria Christianity was declared the state religion in 865 AD and Bulgaria was baptized as a Christian state. However, in the Rhodopes, Christianity has been spreading three centuries before the baptizing of Bulgaria. It is well known that the bible was translated into the language of the Thracians – the Bible Besika.
In 1396 AD the Rhodopes, like all of Bulgaria, fell under the Turkish yoke. From this period, in the Jumaya Duzu region near Borino, there is a medieval necropolis (graveyard) where the first graves are Christian and later graves are Muslim. Most of Bulgaria was freed from the Ottoman Empire in 1878, however according to the Bulgarian-Turkish agreement of 1886 Borino remained in the Turkish Empire. After the Balkan Wars, in 1912 Borino was finally returned to Bulgaria according to the Treaty of Bucharest (1913).
Until 1934, Borino carried the name Karabulak. There is a local legend for Kara Bula – translated from Turkish which means the black veil (a widow with a black veil). She arrived in the territory of Borino together with her four sons from the nearby village of Gjovren. Here the brothers started their families in four different places in the valley, thereby creating the four neighborhoods of the village. Unfortunately for the time period before 1934 there are no preserved written records for the naming, development, and history of the village. A large part of this information has been verbally passed down through the generations and preserved in local folklore and culture.
From Gas Lanterns to the Internet
In Borino until 1930 the population was exclusively Turkish. After 1930 Bulgarians began to settle in Borino from villages near Smolyan – Sokolovtsi, Gela, Solishta, Stoikite, and others. They bought land from local Turkish families who were emigrating to Turkey. Here they found better conditions for sheep raising and were nearer to their lands on the Aegean Sea (The White Sea, or Бяло море, in Bulgarian) in present day Greece.
After 1945 the village continued to develop with the major priority being infrastructure and social-health structures – school, culture house (Chitalishte), and a new road to the village. In 1960 the village was supplied with electricity.
One of the black spots in the most recent history of Borino is, as it was called by the government, the “Regeneration Process,” which began in December 1975 and continued until the beginning of 1990. This process is associated with the forcing of the Turkish and Bulgarian-Muslim minority in Bulgaria to change their names (both first names and family names) to "Bulgarian" names. In spite of the efforts to violently divide the ethnic groups, toleration as a whole remains.
We are surrounded by nature which gives us a sensation of endless freedom and an awareness of eternity and permanence. This is how nature has been known to others before us and this is why we want it to be conserved so as to be known by those who come after us.
The meadows of the Rhodopes are home to abundance of rare and beautiful flowers, some of which are found nowhere else of Earth. In the territory of Borino there arer nearly 2,000 recorded plants species. Many of these are of great ecological importance. Of these, 69 are protected species in Bulgaria and 11 are included in the European list of rare and threatened endemic plants. Some of the more interesting are:
- Alpine Clematis (Clematis Alpina) – a herbaceous (grassy) perennial with climbing stems, which grows around bushes and coniferous trees. This flower is protected in Bulgaria.
- Silivriak (Haberlea rhodopensis) – a perennial flower with dark green leaves and a violet flower which grows limestone rock. Silivriak is a Balkan relict endemic, left over from ancient flora, which withstood the Ice Ages. It can only be found in the Rhodope Mountains and is known as the symbol of the Rhodopes. According to legend, it sprouted from the blood of Orpheus. Silivriak has the unique ability to come back to life if it is put in water even after it has been pressed for years.
- Rhodopsko Omayniche (Geum rhodopaeum) grows around damp mountain meadows, with bright orangish red blossoms. It is a Bulgarian regional endemic.
- Rhodopsko Lale (Tulipa rhodopea) is found in limey/chalky rocky soil, blooming with large bright red flowers. This flower grows nowhere else in the world except the Rhodopes.
In the old growth forests of the Borino Municipality there is an abundance of wild fruits which have thrived for centuries in the Rhodope Mountains – wild blueberries, wild strawberries, raspberries, and rose hips. Also the Borino Municipality is well known for its delicious wild mushrooms – manatarka, maclovka, curnelka, and pachi krak. You can also pick a bouquet with an assortment of fragrant herbs – marjoram, thyme, St. John’s wort (tutsan), yarrow, crane's bill, and others.
The Borino area is also home to a wide variety of animals many of which are of national and European significance – brown bears, wolves, wild boars, deer, elk and wild goats. For birds lovers in the area there are wood grouse, golden eagles, falcons, kingfishers, and the famous Wallcreeper in the Trigrad Gorge.
The average elevation of the region is 1,200 meters, with brown forest soils. The forested land of the Borino Municipality is over 5,280 hectares (13,200 acres) which is predominantly spruce and pine forests. In the region of Kabata, there is one-of-a-kind natural hybrid tree which baffles specialists. The tree is a mix of a pine and spruce tree – the bark of a pine and the needles of a spruce.
In the territory of the Borino Municipality is located the nature reserve “Kastrakli.”
The reserve is 124 hectares and was created with the purpose to preserve the old growth black pine and natural landscape. The reserve is an extraordinarily beautiful landscape with impressive rock formations, old-growth forests of Black Pine, Scots Pine, and fir, as well as beech, sycamore, hornbeam, and aspen. The average age of the trees is more than 200 years old. The average elevation of the reserve is 1,200 meters. The highest point is 1,291 meters and the lowest 911 meters. The terrain is extremely varied with parts being extremely steep and nearly inaccessible while other areas are gently sloping. The steep and long vertical cliffs are magnificent with their numerous edges and terraces. A wide variety of plant and animal life is located in the reserve. In the Kastrakli reserve there are twenty-five protected plant species, twelve endangered, and eleven categorized as rare.
As a whole the natural resources of the region have not been studied extensively. While over 2,000 plant species have been discovered there is most likely many more yet undiscovered, in particular – mushrooms, lichens, and mosses.