Professor Mary Beard from the University of Cambridge, a globally renowned expert in ancient Rome, has written several large volumes and filmed several extensive series about what does it mean to be Roman. We decided to cut short and find this out by visiting a trail in the Macedonian parts of Belasitsa Mountain, connecting the villages of Gabrovo and Bansko.
The trail can be taken in both directions but we decided to start at the Roman Baths in the village of Bansko. The latter is mostly known for the high-quality mineral waters, presently being used, as it seems, only by pensioners sent here under some national health-security scheme. The important thing is the same mineral waters obviously attracted the Romans too, many centuries ago, so they settled and built a huge spa complex. One that we’d gladly use even today.
The entry info board told us about the role of baths in the everyday life of the Roman Empire – for cleaning, yes, but also for communication, gossip and politics. The trail winded above the Bansko Baths and took us into the lovely forests of Belasitsa where a short while later we found the second info board telling us about the most interesting inhabitants of the mountain, such as the Wild Boar, the Salamander and the White-Backed Woodpecker.
The third info board was dedicated to the gifts nature provided for men, obviously since the times of the Roman Empire and probably even earlier. It paid special attention to nuts, forest fruits and what else but the Caesar’s Mushroom. Further into the forest, we were informed about the most interesting and precious among its plant population – both trees and flowers.
At the end, we discovered the “most guarded secret of Belasitsa”, as our Roman guide Marcus Populus had written for us – the wonderful waterfalls that hide in the depths of the mountain and reveal themselves only to those who persist.
After having learned what Romans found most valuable in their lives, we finished our journey by a truly Roman feast on the green lawn of the Kostadinov family in Gabrovo. And guess what we did next? Of course we paid respect to the excellent Roman tradition of taking a break after meals and allowing blood to re-distribute itself between brains and digestion.
You’re welcome, Prof. Beard!