THE VILLAGE OF BRASHLYAN
It is located 14 km northwest of the town of Malko Turnovo and 64 km from Burgas, 1 km from the main road Zvezdets – Malko Tarnovo.
Coordinates: 42°02’46.70” N, 27°25’40.61” E, 318 m above sea level
The village used to be called Sarmashik and it is with this name that it entered history. Two small rivers Pantaleyska and Churka pass through the village before flowing into Katun River. The present village dates from the late 17th and early 18th century when the inhabitants of three cottage settlements – Yurtet, Selishte and Zhivak came down from the mountain and settled in the oldest part of the village - "Dolna Mahala". In the past, Brashlyan was a well developed livestock center. In the whole region there are traces of ancient human presence – dolmens, mounds and sanctuaries. The village church St. Dimitar dates from the late seventeenth century. Near the south church gate there is a belfry. In old times the whole village consisted of one-storeyed houses, which specialists refer to as “binary”. In the nineteenth century the local notable Atanas Kurbelov organized the production of charcoal, which he exported as far as Constantinople.
The Revival infused fresh blood into the life of the village. In 1870 the last Greek priest Constantine was expelled from the village and the following year a church school was opened. It has been converted to a museum by public-spirited residents of the village. In the old Revival tradition, the school was built in the churchyard but it was used as a school only for a few years. Later on, an old building near the church was turned into а school with four classrooms. At the beginning of the last century a new large school was built.
The former population of the village had strong ancestral ties and was divided into two main groups – that of Malko Turnovo or rupska and fakiyska, also called tronkska. This explains the existence of two types of architecture. The relatively long distance from other settlements made it possible to preserve the medieval architectural type of the Bulgarian house. According to experts, the oldest type of houses dates from about the seventeenth century. It is presented by the Kurtova house, which is of the so called old “zemalni” type of houses. The two-storeyed houses in Sarmashik appeared in the first half of the nineteenth century. Their ground floor served as a barn and the second floor was lived in. At the end of the XIX century the village was influenced by the trend of the so-called "Black Sea houses", adapted to the needs of the local merchants and landlords. The common local house remained relatively poor, as was the life of the local people. Although wood was always used in the construction of houses, woodcarving remained undeveloped, not counting the rare and frugal attempts to decorate. Until the late nineteenth century almost all the houses here were traditionally even without windows, and fresh air and light came in only through the doors.
Brashlyan remained untouched by the great achievements of our architecture from the Revival. The main idea was to avoid showing anything that could attract the eyes of the gangs of robbers which had been raging for centuries throughout the Strandja region. Starting with the Catalan mercenaries of Emperor Andronicus, going through the gangs of Turks and Kurdjalii, and ending with the pillaging raids of Circassian settlers, the local people always had what to fear.
The village of Brashlyan had a heroic historical past in the years of the Ottoman rule. Residents of Brashlyan fell victims to both the struggles during the Heteriya (The Greek National Liberation Movement) in 1821, and during Preobrajensko Uprising (1903). Vasil Levski came to the village and the house where he stayed is still preserved. It is also famous for the Sarmashik affair which claimed the first victims of Preobrajensko Uprising. On April 2, 1903 Baluva house (now an architectural and historical monument) was surrounded by Turkish troops. In the shootout Voivode Pano Angelov and rebel Nikola Rivashola were killed. The Turks took three ox carts from the village. On two of them they loaded seven of their killed soldiers, and on the third one – the bodies of the rebels which they wanted to show around the local villages for edification. Many people from Brashlyan were arrested. Some of them managed to escape, but 11 were captured and taken to Malko Turnovo. The attempt to organize an ambush on the bridge of Ai Dere in order to release them failed and they were sentenced to 15 years of hard labor in the fortress Payas Kale in Turkey.
The event inspired Yani Popov, the voivode from Lozengrad, to compose the song "Yasen mesetz vech izgryava" – the "Marseillaise" of Strandja. The residents of the village took an active part in the uprising. During the suppression of the uprising Sarmashik suffered greatly. All the 150 houses were looted and the population fled the village.
The village of Sarmashik was annexed to Bulgaria in 1913, after the Balkan War. After the middle of the 20 century a large part of the population emigrated to Malko Turnovo, and later to Burgas. From 650 in 1926, today the population has decreased to 44 permanent residents, but there are quite a few non-resident inhabitants. Many of today's inhabitants of Malko Turnovo are originally from the village of Brashlyan. The village was declared an architectural and historical reserve with a decree by the Council of Ministers of 16.02.1982. There are over 80 cultural monuments. Examples of how the houses of Strandja have changed in the last 300 years have been preserved. The church school, the chapels St. Panteleymon" and St. Leftera, and the belfry of St. Dimitar church have been preserved thanks to the efforts of the local Society for the Protection of the Natural and Historical Heritage of Brashlyan and the Village Hall. Also, an ethnographic collection has been put together.
Brashlyan is the most authentic among all the villages in Strandja. This is why as early as the 1980s it was declared an architectural reserve. The special atmosphere of the place, the well preserved typical architecture and the construction of new buildings in compliance with certain rules (required because of the status of the village) are the guarantee that this is a special place and one that cannot be neglected. Brashlyan is a great example of how enterprising people can benefit from the history and use it to their advantage, only if they invest their heart, efforts and time in the undertaking.
Back in the mid 1990s after the announcement of the Natural Park, the local people, led by their enterprising mayor began to work actively to turn the village into an attractive destination for visitors from Burgas first and later from the whole country. The efforts of the local people did not go unnoticed and Brashlyan became one of the most successful examples of local initiative (supported by the Directorate of Natural Park Strandja and NGOs) which has led to local prosperity.
Every summer the village is visited for a day by hundreds of tourists holidaying on the Black Sea coast. The guest rooms are occupied by holidaymakers for longer stays. The village offers its visitors a variety of folklore events, dishes and drinks from Strandja. Women always try to diversify what they offer to the tourists. Marked hiking trails will take you to some of the most beautiful places in the vicinity of the village, to old trees, chapels, dolmens, mound necropolises or habitats of rare plants such as wild orchids in Gogovo area, “the road of yasniya mesetz”, etc. The village borders on "Vitanovo" reserve and Veleka River valley. In Dvata Vrisa, Boriloto, Kobarelovata Mill and St. Panteleymon area there are shelters, which offer a great opportunity for relaxation among nature. The chapels in the area are a good incentive for short walks and family holidays. The folklore program and visits to museums in the village will satisfy the cultural interests of the more curious tourists.
August 9 is the holiday of the village of Brashlyan when local people celebrate their patron - St. Panteleymon.
Brashlyan is a place which you revist with pleasure because of the special blend of atmosphere, people, hospitality and human relations.
The landmarks of the village of Brashlyan are:
St. Dimitar church – the spot where at the end of the seventeenth century the church was built used to be the site of a Thracian sanctuary in ancient times. It is believed that it was dedicated to the god of wine and fertility Dionysus, and to Zeus the Thunderer. The church is an example of the local revival religious architecture. In 1975 it was declared a cultural monument, and in 1982 – an architectural monument of national importance. The unique bell from the first half of the nineteenth century, which was cast in the city of Yaroslavl – Russia, can be seen today. The temple was dug in the ground and in the past was surrounded by a wall about 2.50 m high. The central interior space is dug in the ground in order to provide more space inside. On the outside, there are elaborate facades created by well-carved blocks of travertine. The open vestibule (narthex) and the room for the church school were added to the building around 1870. A marble altar of Zeus-Dionysus with an inscription in ancient Greek has been built in the pulpit of the church.
Church school – an architectural and cultural monument. It is housed in the annex to St. Dimitar church. The school was founded in 1871, after Bulgaria received ecclesiastical independence. During the first years of its existence it was attended only by 12-13 year old boys who were taught to read and write in Bulgarian and joined the priest during church services. Today the small room is restored to its original form when the children did not sit at desks but on pieces of fur on the floor, and instead of writing on a blackboard, they wrote with sticks on warm, wax plates.
Ethnographic museum – housed in a 150 years old building which has been preserved in its authentic form both externally and internally – interior design and arrangement of the rooms. From an architectural point of view, it is a two-storeyed house dating from the Revival period, with a ground floor build with stone and a wooden second floor. The museum provides insight into the specific features of life and crafts in the village of Brashlyan from the second half of the nineteenth century to the first half of the twentieth century. In the big room on the second floor there is a typical fireplace, built with stone against the wall (badja). The ground floor (dam) used to serve as a livestock barn in the past. Today it has been turned into a crafts room, where visitors can see an authentic loom and can try to weave.
Museum of the traditional lifestyle and culture of Brashlyan – devoted to the traditional agriculture of the Revival. Under a purpose built shelter and all around the yard there are exhibits of old agricultural tools used in the past by people in Strandzha. In the indoor part of the museum there is a loom and various artifacts from the life of the residents of Brashlyan which have been donated by the local people. Women from the local association demonstrate the normal activities during the long winter evenings – spinning, knitting, singing and others typical of a women’s get-together. The courtyard of the museum is often too small for the round dances which the tourists dance together with the local women, and for the typical of Strandja games that they play – “filek”, “narichane”, etc.
All the above mentioned sites are serviced, opened and interpreted by women from the local Association for the Development of Brashlian (Contact Siika Yankova).
Balyuvata House – an architectural and historical monument. It was built in XIX century. The architecture is typical of the houses in Strandja. The ground floor is made of spalled stone and mud and has two wooden sashes. The second floor is made of wood.
St. Panteleymon Chapel – located 1 km south of Brashlyan. There are many centuries-old trees around it, a shelter with tables, benches and a fireplace.
St. Marina Chapel – located at the eastern end of the village of Brashlyan.
St. Petka Chapel – located about 2 km east of the village of Brashlyan.