The only preserved ancient Thracian city on the territory of Bulgaria, despite the numerous Thracian artifacts and tombs found in the country, is located on the road to Burgas and the Black Sea. Only about 7-8 kilometers away from Yambol (280 km from Sofia and 76 km from Burgas), on the way to the most popular Bulgarian beaches and sea resorts, you can stop and be transported back millennia into the past by visiting the ancient city of Kabyle. There you will learn more about the Thracian life, the city’s transformation over the centuries, and the religious beliefs of its inhabitants. In addition, the museum exhibition is extremely interesting, and the tour guides on site will tell you fascinating stories about the trade and battles on these lands.
Alexander the Great visited Kabyle
The city played a crucial role in religious, cultural, and economic matters during its historical period. It arose around 2000 BC following a large cult phenomenon on Zaichi peak, which we will tell you a bit later. Over the centuries, Kabyle was conquered by Philip of Macedon and later visited by his son – Alexander the Great, who wanted to destroy the cult of the goddess Cybele, but failed. Kabyle was also the residence of the Thracian kings Spartok and Skostok, it was the capital of the Odris kingdom, and had its own mint.
Subsequently, it became part of the Roman province of Thrace. In this period, it also became one of the most important military fortifications for the Romans and a place where the Roman legions returned after battles. At that time the city reached a population of about 4,000 people, 500 of whom were Roman soldiers. To this day you can see the remains of the barracks, the town bath, the public toilet, and the private bath of a wealthy Kabyle resident.
After the spread of Christianity in the region, Kabyle became an episcopal center. The central basilica, notable for its size, also originates from that era. Its fame did not dim until it was destroyed by the Avars in the 6th century. Subsequently, there was a small medieval settlement on the site, but Kabile regained its old glory recently with the help of archaeologists and historians. Tourists today can explore the Thracian fortress wall with its towers, the western gate, two Roman baths, two early Christian basilicas from the 4th century, parts of the Roman military camp, the barracks, granaries, and even an entire ancient district from the 4th-6th century. The history museum is extremely interesting, so do not miss to see its antique set of 158 vessels, amphorae, lamps, idol statues, combs, jewelry, hair rollers, a rich collection of amphora seals, military diplomas, statues of Asclepius and Hygia, and even an ancient “juicer”.
The goddess Cybele is carved into the rocks of Zaichi Vrah, riding a lion
Undoubtedly the discover of the legends of Zaichi Vrah and the ancient sanctuary on top of it is the most captivating element of visiting Kabyle. Supposedly, the temple is an age-old solar observatory. There are also very interesting biometric and astronomical observations made on the spot. Since it is a mountain peak, to reach Zaichi Vrach you will have to work hard and climb the steep mountain side. In that period the peak was even harder to reach as it was hidden behind the surrounding rocks, and only priests and rulers had the right to go there. Fortunately, today along the hiking trail, which is rather short, there are recreational areas with panoramic views of the surrounding wilderness. The peak’s name originates from people’s imaginative perception of a rabbit-shaped rock.
If you have a tourist guide or if you look closely at the cliffside, you will be able to see the image of the goddess Cybele, sitting on a lion, carved into one of the rocks of Zaichi Vrah. It was her sanctuary that Alexander the Great tried to destroy during his visit to Kabyle centuries ago. The goddess Cybele is also called the Great Mother or the Mother of the Gods, and is worshiped in Asia Minor and Thrace. She personifies the forces of nature, the rebirth of new life, and is also the patroness of mountains, forests and beasts. So it is not by chance that the goddess is mounted on a lion on Zaichi peak. In Rome, Cybele was identified with the Greek Rhea – the mother of Hera and Zeus, as well as with the goddess of crops and harvest Ops.
The image of Cybele on Zaichi Vrah is illuminated by the sun in a specific way during the summer solstice (21st June).. At the foot of the shrine, to the side, hides another idol, a stone resembling a huge head with holes for eyes and mouth. Some claim the idol is older than Cybele’s carving and her worshippers. Because of the slow draining of water after rain, some theories posit that the hill that ends at Zaichi Vrah is actually hollow. What is beneath the soil is a question unanswered.
Local tour guides claim a team came to Zaichi Vrah to measure the magnetic field of the sanctuary. They brought their own devices, but also took measure of climbers’ medical indicators before and after a several hours stay. The results were astonishing. The magnetic field of Zaichi Vrah and the sanctuary itself is 7 times stronger than the planet average. The participants in the experiment have significantly improved their general state of health. Their blood pressure and heart rate are normalized. The peak seems to heal people who visit it at least once a week. The healthy influence is strongest between the two rocks, which prevent the sanctuary from being seen from the opposite side of Kabyle.
Kabyle Archaeological Reserve works all year round, without a day off. From 1st April to 1st October, opening hours are from 08:00 am to 06:30 pm During the rest of the year, the opening hours are 09:00 am to 03:30 pm. The price of the entrance ticket is BGN 6, while schoolchildren, students and people over 65 pay the half of it – BGN 3/per person. Discounted group tickets are also available. Children up to 7 years old enter for free. The price for the general guided talk is BGN 10, and the private guided talk is BGN 25. You can also get an audio-recorded talk for BGN 3.