Last week we brought you the story that archaeologists had discovered two vampire graves in Bulgaria. Now one of those skeletons, complete with an iron spike through his chest, is going on display at the National History Museum in the Bulgarian capital Sofia.
The medieval skeleton will be revealed to the public this Saturday. No word yet on how long it will be on view.
Museum head Prof. Bozhidar Dimitrov has tentatively identified the skeleton as a man named Krivich, who was both a pirate and the mayor of the town of Sozopol where he was buried. When the Genoese besieged the town in the 14th century, Krivich bungled the defense. The town was sacked.
When Krivich died, he was punished for his failings in life by being staked through the chest. According to folk belief at the time, this kept him from becoming a vampire or ascending to heaven.
Even if you don’t get a chance to see the dead vampire, the museum is well worth a look. Bulgaria has a rich heritage stretching back to earliest times. I visited the museum when I was excavating a Bronze Age village in Bulgaria and found the collection truly impressive.
In addition to many prehistoric artifacts, there are golden treasures from the Thracian period, fine art from the glory days of the medieval Bulgarian Empire and more modern displays showing the struggle to become independent from the Ottoman Empire.
Besides history, Bulgaria offers beautiful trails in the Balkan Mountains, beaches along the Black Sea and very cool people. It’s a country worth visiting.
[Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons]
Bulgarian archaeologists have discovered two vampire graves in the city of Sozopol on the Black Sea. The burials, which are about 700 years old, were each held down with a massive iron stake through the chest. One vampire was buried in the apse of a church – a spot usually reserved for aristocrats – and showed evidence of multiple stab wounds.
Bozhidar Dimitrov, head of the Bulgarian National Museum of History, says more than a hundred vampire graves have been found in Bulgaria. He says that most suspected vampires were aristocrats or clergy. Interestingly, none were women.
One possible explanation for the vampire myth comes from anthropologist Paul Barber in his book “Vampires, Burial, and Death.” He posits the vampire legend started because people didn’t know how bodies decomposed. Rigor mortis is only temporary. After a few days the muscles ease up and expanding gases in the body will actually shift it within the coffin. Blood seeps out of the mouth and the face and belly get a flushed and puffy look. So. . .a guy dies, they bury him, and shortly thereafter several more people die. The villagers decide the first guy is a vampire, and when they open up his grave they find he’s moved, looks fat and flush with life, and has bloody teeth. When you drive a stake through a body filled with corpse gas it lets out a shriek.
There are several good vampire attractions in Europe, such as Dracula’s Castle in Romania, the Vampire Museum in Paris and Highgate Cemetery in London, scene of a wave of vampire sightings in the 1970s.
Vampires have long captured the imagination. Vampire stories were popular in the nineteenth century and some of the best early horror films are vampire tales. “Nosferatu” (1922), a still of which is shown here in the Wikimedia Commons image, sticks close to the Bram Stoker novel. A different take can be found in the film “Vampyr” (1932). Both monsters are spooky, kick-ass killers, not the angsty pretty-boy teens of today’s vampire craze. As Bart Simpson once said, “Girls ruin everything, even vampires!”
Today’s Photo of the Day was taken indoors but the bright lights and orange glow make it feel like a hot summer day, or perhaps the inside of a tanning bed. Either is likely at the Bulgarian resort town of Varna where Flickr user PMania85 captured this scene with an iPhone camera. The photo features one of the most popular summer spots on the Black Sea. Every year, thousands of Eastern Europeans flock to the Bulgarian coast to tan under the sun or under the lamp, but preferably both.
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A Museum of Socialist Art is opening next month in Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria. The museum exhibits statues of Lenin, paintings of Bulgarian Communist Party leaders, and other artwork from Soviet times.
The former Eastern Bloc country is the last such nation to open a museum to its totalitarian past. The socialist government fell in 1989 and Bulgaria had its first free elections the following year.
Not all vestiges of the past are sitting in museums. Many of Bulgaria’s current ruling elite were members of the old regime, and the last-minute name change from “Museum of Totalitarian Art” to “Museum of Socialist Art” is making some Bulgarians question just what the purpose of the museum is.
I worked in Bulgaria as an archaeologist in 1994, and the country was full of Soviet art. With the economy bottoming out, grannies set up stalls in the streets to sell old medals, uniforms, and busts of Marx for next to nothing. If only I had bought more than a few mementos, I could make a bundle on eBay! Most people were glad the old regime was gone, but the dire state of the economy had many people questioning the value of a free market system. I haven’t been back in more than a decade. Can anybody out there tell me how the majority of Bulgarians feel about the transition more than a decade on?
[Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons. This Soviet stamp from 1969 commemorates the 25th anniversary of the Socialist Revolution in Bulgaria. The text says, “The friendship between the Soviet and the Bulgarian people- indestructible for eternity.”]
Fish are pretty and shipwrecks are cool to explore, but how would you like to dive a
Communist airplane in the Black Sea? A 1971 Soviet-made Tupolev-154 was submerged this week off the coast of Bulgaria to create an artificial reef for SCUBA divers. Orlin Tsanev, chairman of Black Sea Dive Odesos association, told Reuters: “The submerging of the plane aims to make it an attraction and (a place) for training divers.”
Made for former Bulgarian Communist ruler Todor Zhivkov, the plane’s engines and interior were removed and the body of the aircraft is now 22 meters deep, making it the largest plane underwater in the world. The plane has been grounded since 1999 but once also carried Communist leaders such as Fidel Castro. Zhivkov’s private yacht was previously purchased for cruises on the Danube River.
The new dive site is located near the resort town of St. Konstantin and Elena, just north of Bulgaria’s “summer capital” of Varna. Read more about travel in Varna here.
Photo courtesy AP