Montana province occupies the central part of north-west Bulgaria to an area of 3 635 sq. km. which is 3,2 % of the territory of the Republic of Bulgaria. The northern border of the province is the Danube river which is also the state border with Romania. To the southwest, the province borders on Serbia, to the south, it is limited by the northern slopes of the Balkan mountains. The neighbouring province to the west is Vidin and to the east – Vratsa, to the south – Sofia province.
An important advantage of the province related to its location is the fact that two European transport corridors of TINA network run through its territory – corridor No 4 (road Е 79) Vidin-Montana-Vratsa-Sofia-Kulata (Republican road (РП) І-1) и corridor No 7 (the river Danube). The territory of Montana province also houses the route of the shortest road from Vidin to Sofia – second-class road ІІ – 81 through the Balkan pass Petrohan which services Lom port ensuring for it a connection with Thessaloniki port. These factors may have a stimulating impact on the total development of industry, agriculture, trade and tourism in the province.
In terms of administration, the province is divided into eleven municipalities: Berkovitsa, Boychinovtsi, Brusartsi, Varshets, Valchedram, Georgi Damyanovo, Lom, Medkovets, Montana, Chiprovtsi and Yakimovo. The provinces of Montana, Vidin and Vratsa form the north-west planning region.
HISTORY OF THE CITY OF MONTANA
The first name of the city given to it by Romans was Montanesium. The Slavonic tribes gave the city the Slavonic name Kutlovitsa. During the Turkish reign, it was called Golyama Kutlovitsa.
In 1891, Golyama Kutlovitsa was renamed Ferdinand earning by this gesture the benevolence of Knyaz Ferdinand I and obtaining the status of city.
In 1945, the government of Fatherland Front renamed the city to Mihaylovgrad after the name of the communist figure Hristo Mihaylov who had worked in the organization of the Bulgarian Communist Party and took part in September Riot in the city and then died in 1944.
In 1993, a decree of the President Zhelyu Zhelev changed the name of the city to Montana (after its ancient name Municipio Montanensium).
NATURE SIGHTS IN MONTANA PROVINCE:
- Kom peak– (2016 m) is a peak in the western part of the Balkan mountains, south of Berkovitsa. It is also known as Golyam Kom. Together with the lower peaks Sreden and Malak Kom east of it, it forms an elevation of approximate orientation west-east, a rounded grassy ridge, a steep stony northern slope and a slanting south slope. The most impressive view is looking north of the peak – one can see Berkovitsa, Berkovitsa plain and Montana and Ogosta dam 30 kilometers away.
- Mishin Kamak cave is between the villages Gorna Luka and Prevala (2 km north-west of the village of Gorna Luka, on the right bank of the river Prevalska Ogosta) in Chiprovtsi part of the Balkan mountains, in the forest park of the same name. It was formed in medium-layered Lower Cretaceous (Aptian) limestones. It was declared nature sight to t total area of hectares. The cave is known for its multiple white crystal formations and underground lakes but has not been studies yet. It was conserved to be protected from destruction and plundering.
- Chiprovski waterfall – exclusively beautiful, 18-meter waterfall in the territory of the village of Chiprovtsi. It can be reached along Demyanitsa eco path.
- Gornata Koriya Nature Reserve near Berkovitsa – situated on the northern slopes of Western Balkan Mountains at the foot of Kom peak to a total area of 161 hectares, of which 146.1 hectares are afforested and 14.9 hectares are barren. The altitude is from 1100 to 1700 m (on average 1500 m) with northern, north-western and north-eastern exposure.
- Kopren Protected Zone – Kopren – Ravno Buche – Kalimanitsa – Deyanitsa is a protected zone in Bulgaria. It is in the territory of the city of Chiprovtsi and the village of Kopilovtsi and unites four areas in the Kopilovtsi part of the Western Balkan mountains. The various landscape including century-old deciduous and coniferous forests, colourful meadows spread with many protected and rate representatives of the flora, rock pinnacles and crystal clean streamlets and rivers.
- Vodniya Skok waterfall in Chiprovska mountain is a part of the group of so called Kopren waterfalls. These are 3 not large but extremely picturesque waterfalls in Chiprovka mountain – Durshin Skok, Lanzhin Skok and Vodnia Skok.
- Mramorna cave – nature phenomenon that is situated near the city of Berkovitsa. It is a part of a protected territory encompassing also a forest park. The cave is not one of the most popular destinations because it has not been studies very much aiming to preserve its natural form but this does not mean that it is not as beautiful as the remaining caves in Bulgaria. It is known for its marble formations and animals living in it.
- Stovtsi peak is situated west of the village of Smolyanovtsi, Montana province, in the western part of the Balkan mountains. Its height is 866 meters. As early as Roman times, there was a watch-tower at the peak due to the strategic position of the area called Sto Ovtsi [one hundred sheep].
- Haydushki waterfalls they consist of several small waterfalls to a height of not more than 2-3 m. They are 9 km west of the city of Berkovitsa. They are part of Hayduski Vodopadi eco path. Grounds for seeing nice views and making pictures, garden houses and places for fire suitable for picnic have been constructed around the waterfalls.
- Ogosta dam – 4 kilometers away from the village of Bistrilitsa near the city of Montana in south-west direction. The capacity of the dam is approximately 500 million cubic meters which makes it one of the largest in the country.
CULTURAL AND HISTORICAL SITES IN MONTANA PROVINCE
- Lapidarium – an archeological exposition in the open near the city of Montana. The exhibition is in a garden and includes 56 monuments that were found in the region. Each single monument was declared a cultural value and was subject to archeological studies before it was exhibited in order to find its origin and dating.
- Castra ad Montanesium fortress is situated in the north-west end of the city of Montana, on Kaleto hill, therefore, the hill was not built-up and was preserved as a monument of ancient history. The settlement dates back to prehistorical times. Its first inhabitants lived in Stone Age and Copper Age. In later period, the settlement was inhabited by the Thracian tribe Tribals that built a fortress for defence against aggressors.
- The Old Bath is situated in the very center of the city. It was built by the local Muslim population in XVI century. There are suggestions that the bath existed as early as Roman times. An evidence supporting the theory is the found supplying water pipeline from Roman time. Materials from the fortress on Kaleto hill were used for its construction.
- Montanesium City Park – the first name of Montana given to it by Roman people is Montanesium. The park with the same name is situated in the city center and offers entertainment for the old and the young. There is a lake surrounded by various green plants and benches in the park. There are children playgrounds and a gym in the open. The park is a pleasant place for sport, walk and repose.
- Historical Museum – Montana – created in 1951 and at the beginning, it was Museum of September Riot. In 1991, it was transformed into Historical Museum due to its political orientation and the collected precious exhibits from the rich history of the region. The Museum has archeological, ethnographic and a number of other sections related to various parts of history.
- Mihaylov’s house – The museum site Mihaylov’s house, opened in 1955 as Hristo Mihaylov house-museum is the oldest preserved monument in terms of architecture and construction in the territory of the city of Montana. It is in close proximity to the Orthodox temple of St. St. Kiril and Methodius and the archeological exposition Lapidarium. Mihaylov’s house is the only renovated and conserved late renaissance house in the city of Montana. In the house, there is the ethnographic exposition In the World of Our grandparents which shows the urban lifestyle from the end of ХIХ and the beginning of ХХ century. There is a preserved corner for the patron Hristo Mihaylov whose name the city had during socialism.
- The historical museum in the city of Lom – founded in 1925. Nowadays, it is housed in an old building of the town hall. The exhibits in the museum are displayed in 5 main sections: Archeology, Bulgarian ХV-ХIХ century, Modern History and Artistic.
- Ethnographic Museum – Berkovitsa shows the lifestyle and customs of the local population. Thousands of items of artistic crafts and folklore customs – carpets, fabrics, clothes, jewels, items of domestic activity and old rituals and traditions are kept there.
- The Clock Tower of the city of Berkovitsa was built in the period 1762-1764 by unknown masters. It is nearly 22 m high are features stylish architecture. The mechanism of the Clock Tower was manufactured in 1764 by Bessarabian Bulgarians in Bucharest which makes it one of the oldest functioning mechanisms in Bulgaria. A Russian soldier put on top of the tower a bronze cross as a symbol of the victory over Turkey.
- Ivan Vazov House-Museum, Berkovitsa – an architecture and construction monument of national importance. It was constructed at the beginning of XIX century. In 1940, it was declared national historical monument representing Bulgarian renaissance architectural and construction tradition.
- Historical Museum – Varshets – founded in 1999. The building housing the museum was built in 1930s as a private house and has a unique architecture. The museum has several sections – Antiquity, Balneology, Archeological Finds and Coin Collection, and Ethnography. The most precious exhibit the museum possesses is a bronze sculpture of II century B.C.
- John the Forerunner Monastery of Lopushna – situated in the recesses of the Balkan mountains near Montana. There was a monastery at this place as early as the time of the Second Bulgarian Tsardom but, as many other monasteries, its was destroyed during the Turkish yoke. It was restored during Renaissance and played the role of an important spiritual center.
- St. Kiril and Methodius Monastery of Klisura – situated at the foot of the Balkan peak Todorini Kukli (1785 m), 9 km away from Berkovitsa and 12 km away from Varshets. It was founded in the first half of ХІІІ century and was called at that time Monastery of Vreshtitsa because of its location in the valley of the river Vrestitsa. In the long years of its existence, the monastery was destroyed, robbed and restored several times.
- Saint Ivan Rilski Monastery of Chiprovtsi – situated at the foot of Yazova mountain (part of Western Balkan mountains) in the valley of Chiprovska river, 6 km away from the city of Chiprovtsi and 30 km west of Montana.