Foreigners Focus on Bulgaria's Secret Trade

Novinite Insider » FEATURES | Author: Henry Rowlands |June 4, 2009, Thursday // 17:13| Views: | Comments: 0
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International Media Focuses on Bulgaria's Secret Trade: Foreigners Focus on Bulgaria's Secret Trade Golden Thracian treasures in Bulgaria's National History museum. Photo by

A large number of international media companies have become interested in Bulgarian treasure smuggling over the past few years, with TV channels from Japan, the US, Germany and Russia having made detailed documentaries on the issue.

To my surprise a German TV company recently contacted me about Bulgaria's secret trade. After a few days of constant ringing, the phone stopped, and the German TV crew surprisingly turned up at the door. What followed was a real whirlwind journey of discovery around Bulgaria.

After being asked to arrange everything for the filming at a moment's notice, in typical German style we were marched off to the National History Museum in Sofia. There we met the Director, who was kind enough to let us film the most expensive Golden treasures in Europe that are kept in the main exhibition hall. These treasures were discovered by treasure hunters, who were captured while trying to smuggle them out of the country to Western Europe and the States. The museum itself is in a wonderful position at the foot of Mount Vitosha and is really well worth a visit. One hour later we were taken from this glorious location into a meeting with the head of the Secret Services here in Bulgaria.

After getting lost on the back streets of Sofia, we eventually arrived at the gates of Bulgaria's MI5/6 and were welcomed by a gate guard telling us to go and park somewhere else (never argue with a man who has a gun the size of a canon!). Amazingly following that the security was extremely poor, they even forgot to check my passport at the main door. Inside we were met by a very small old man - The Boss - who looked more like the cleaner than a secret agent - he took us into his office and revealed to us all the information we needed and much, much more.

I was shocked by some of the statements he made - in all the raids they had made on treasure smugglers, they has recovered literally tons of coins, jewelry and even large golden chariots. Even more stunning was the lack of punishment for these cultural robbers, which he was quite ashamed of. He gave us the examples of Turkey and Greece, where the punishments for such crimes include a life term in prison - here the maximum prison term is 10 years and only a handful of the hundreds of smugglers have been given this sentence.

Leaving Sofia, we headed back to Nikopolis ad Istrum, 20km North of Veliko Tarnovo - a wonderful old Roman town that has now been awarded 24 hour armed protection due to the illegal search for goodies. The town itself is very well preserved and is really off the tourist trail so is certainly worth a look. You may need to leave your car at the end of the entrance road and walk 2km to get there if you haven't got a jeep, because even by Bulgarian standards the pot holes are large. We were not allowed to film at the site as we had no permission, so off we went again - North to Nove.

Nove is right on the Danube, East of Svishtov, and was used as a Roman fortress rather than just a garrison town. The views are wonderful across to Romania, and the undiscovered treasure is very tempting, some doggy style digging might just uncover something special. After a long filming period, the Germans headed off into a small village near Nove and returned with the star of the tour - a boy on a moped. He took us 1km down the road to a Thracian tomb that he and his friends had recently searched- the tomb was roughly 4m tall and there was a very well excavated hole from its top right down to its bottom, he refused to tell us what they had found, but by the look of his brand new sparkling moped, maybe something interesting.

As the plunder continues, is it time for us to campaign for the saving of these priceless artifacts or have you already stopped reading and headed off to buy a metal detector and shovel?

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