Saturday, April 4, 2009

The golden vessels of Thrace

Our second stop in Boyana was the National History Museum. The guidebooks said it was only 2 kilometers from the church, and as this was all downhill, I suggested we walk. This meant Jodie's feet were tired before we arrived.

The building, a former government palace, reminded us of the Knesset. What do you think?


The museum houses Bulgaria's "most worthwhile assemblage of ancient and medieval artifacts," according to the guidebook. Here the guidebook was correct, but it was out of date when it noted that "English-language labeling is almost nonexistent." This turned out not to be correct, as although the main signs were in Bulgarian, all of the items had English explanations.

What was most fascinating at the museum were the gold and silver vessels associated with the Thracians, who inhabited the eastern Balkans during the pre-Christian era. As the guidebook notes, the most eye-catching of these are the rhyta (drinking vessels) designed in the shape of animal heads. One archaeological site recently discovered apparently offered more than 15,000 individual items of gold.



Upstairs was a hodgepodge collection of recent Bulgarian memorabilia, from theater posters to military uniforms. One thing we found interesting was this hannukiya, given a few years ago by the Jews of Washington to Bulgaria in thanks for the country's efforts to save its Jewish citizens during World War II.

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