Hisarya - Starosel - Krupnik  

At the end of March 2013, I went to Bulgaria for 10 days to visit my brother Greg, his wife Emi, and Greggie, Joyce and Mina. After a night in Sofia, we went to Husarya, near Plovdiv, which used to be the ancient Roman town of Diocletianopolis from the 4th century AD. Its mineral hot springs have attracted visitors for many centuries. It was one of the few Roman towns build for tourism rather than military purposes. On the way back to Sofia, we stopped to visit Thracian sites near Starosel which were much older (5th-4th century BC). I always liked archaeology, and studied it at university, so the sites were of great interest. After another night in Sofia, we went to the village of Krupnik in the south near Blagoevgrad, where Emi's parents live and Greg has a house, to visit with family and friends.


Much of the old Roman wall around the center of Hisarya still exists, as shown on the map below. The area around the main springs is mostly park and archaeological sites. We visited the mineral hot springs and a local museum, and I took some time to walk all around the Roman wall.

Map of Hisarya . park . park
Map of the center of Hisarya showing the Roman wall and main gate at bottom center; the park between the mineral springs
church . church . Spa Club Central Hotel
The Orthodox Church; our hotel across the street

Minaret . Interior of the mosque . plaque on the mosque
The minaret and its tiny mosque built in 1464

amphiheatre . old collective vacation center . abandoned homes
The town amphitheatre; an old vacation center; abandoned homes (many families have emigrated, and heirs cannot decide on inherited properties)
view from hotel window . houses and Roman wall . Greggie, Mina and Joyce at museum
Rooftops in Hisarya; the Roman wall behind the houses; teenagers' response to a museum visit

The mineral springs
Greg and Greggie . path to the springs
Walking down through the park to the springs
Roman public building . Roman public building . Roman public building
A Roman public building for a library and other activities near the baths

Roman baths . Roman baths . Greg and Roman baths
The Roman baths

family looking at Roman baths . Family by springs . Roman ruins
Roman ruins and the modern springs where people line up to fill their water bottles

Roman amphitheatre . modern mineral springs . family at springs
Remains of the Roman Amphitheatre; the modern springs; Joyce, Greggie, Mina, Greg and Emi at the springs

story of the springs . spring . Roman baths
The story of the springs; springs and Roman ruins

Roman house with peristyle . plaque, house with peristyle
A late Roman building with peristyle; plaque in Bulgarian and French

Roman tomb
Mina and Joyce walking down to the tomb . interior Roman tomb . text on Roman tomb
A short walk outside the walled town led to a Roman tomb from the second half of the 4th century AD

plaque on tomb . pictures of Roman tomb
The plaque describing the tomb, and pictures of the exterior and interior

Roman walls of Hisarya (4th century AD)
Main gate . plaque by main gate . plaque
The "camel" gate, or main gate to the town, which had square towers on either side. The walls extend for 2,315 meters and form an irregular rectangle.

detail of main gate . family at main gate . Main gate, detail
Details of the main gate, with a staircase up to the tower

Roman wall . plaque on wall . Roman wall 
The double wall on the North side, with projecting square towers

Roman wall . Roman wall . Roman wall
New buildings beyond the walled town
Roman wall . Roman wall . Roman wall
The walls and square towers now form a green belt around the town

Roman wall . Roman wall . Roman wall, carved lintel
Tunnels through the walls led to square towers; carved stone lintels

Roman wall, corner . Roman wall, corner . plaque, South-east corner tower
The southeast corner tower
Roman wall . Roman wall, spring flowers . Roman wall
The southern wall

Roman wall . Roman wall, soldiers' barracks . plaque, soldiers' barracks
The wall beyond the main gate, with barracks behind it for the military garrison
Roman wall . Roman wall . Roman wall
Northern part of the eastern wall


There are many tumuli from Thracian times on the plains around Starosel, but the temple in the one we visited was only discovered in 2000. It dates from the 5th-4th century BC and is beautifully preserved, retaining even some of the original colouring on its carved decorations. The precision of the stonework is amazing.

Map . text about sitethe tell
Map of the area around Starosel with many Thracian monuments; the tumulus (artificial hill) in which the cult center was found

Emi and GregGreggie,  Joyce, Mina, Emi and Gregview from the temple
Emi and Greg, and the whole family on the path to the Thracian cult center; the view from the tumulus

stairs in temple . wall of temple entrancestonework
The entrance to the temple, showing the excellent stonework

temple entranceinner entranceinside templeGreggie and Greg
The outer and inner doors to the temple were of stone; the inner sanctuary was a perfect circle over 5 meters in diameter, with half-columns and painted decorations

grooves for stone doors . stones with metal fasteners
The stone doors had greased rollers in carved channels; stones were held together with iron bars set in lead

pictures of finds . pictures of finds
The treasures found in the cult center are now in a museum

Grave of a Thracian ruler

Grave of Thracian ruler . grave
Near the temple was the grave of a Thracian ruler of the 5th-4th century BC

view from grave . family and tumulus
There were beautiful views from the temple site


My brother Greg and his wife Emi built a house in Emi's village next to her parents' home, where they have many fruit trees, grow wonderful vegetables, and have an abundant supply of eggs, putting up many preserves for the winter. We eat very well there.

Greg's house . back of the garden
The village street with Greg and Emi's house behind the tree; the back of their garden with snow-covered mountains beyond

Krupnik . Krupnik village centre .
The village of Krupnik; the village centre with stadium and Orthodox Church in gold

While we were in the village of Krupnik, enjoying the early spring with fruit trees and flowers starting to bloom (late this year), we went for a walk through the upper part of the village, which is up on a hillside, and up along a rushing stream into the forest above, with views of the snow-covered mountains across the valley. On another day, we hiked up another path with spectacular views of the village and the valley.

new village street . upper village . street in the upper village
Walking up the village of Krupnik

village scene . village scene . view from the village
Views in the village
near the top of the village . Joyce and Emi . walking up into the forest
Greggie, Joyce and Emi walking up into the forest; Joyce and Emi; Greggie, Greg, Joyce and Emi in the forest

Greggie . Greggie . Greggie . the twins, Greggie and Joyce
Gregory Dahl (Greggie), and with his twin sister Joyce

Greggie, Joyce and Emi . view from the forest . view over the village
Greggie, Joyce and Emi; views from the forest over the village

Greg and Greggie in the village . walking down to the village . Horse wagon and recycling
Greg and Greggie in the village; a horse-drawn wagon with mare and foal, and 3 recycling bins in the village
Village of Krupnik . view over the valley . valley and mountains
Looking down on the village of Krupnik; the seismic observatory and the valley beyond

the trail up . Emi and Greg . first buds of spring
The trail up; Emi and Greg in a mountain pasture; the first buds of spring

river in the valley . clouds and sun
Valley bottom with the river; sun and clouds over Krupnik

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Last updated 6 April 2013
Photographs copyright © Arthur Lyon Dahl 2013