Tales about ancient bridges

Kadin Bridge (Nevestino)
Photo: wikipedia
Ancient bridges can be seen across Bulgaria. They’ve withstood the vicissitudes of time and the exposure to the seasons. Most of them were built by self-taught stone-masons. There are many legends about these bridges and today’s Folk Studio on Radio Bulgaria is about them. 

In the village of Develets, in the region of Gabrovo in Eastern Bulgaria there is a stone bridge over Belitsa River. Locals claim it was built some 200 to 300 years ago, that is, long before the time of the prominent mason Kolyu Ficheto. The name of the stone-mason who built the bridge over Belitsa River has long been forgotten but the story of how he defended his honor still lives. So the story goes as follows. While he was building the bridge suddenly a heavy shower began to rain. In no time the bed of the river turned into a powerful stream of raging waters which destroyed the bridge. The local Ottoman governor, because this happened during the times when Bulgaria was under Ottoman domination, made the stone-mason rebuilt the bridge. He however vowed to take the life of the mason if he failed to do so. When the bridge was nearing completion, the waters of the river began rising. The scared assistants asked their master to run for his dear life and hide in the woods but he was sure he had done a great job. He was sure that the bridge would withstand the raging river. The waters of the river rose and overflowed the bridge but the mason remained atop all night long. In the morning, when the waters receded, the mason came down. The Ottoman governor praised him for his excellent work and paid him well for it. The secret of the mason was hidden in the fact that he used iron cramps to make the bridge stronger and long-lasting.

Not far from the town of Kyustendil in Southern Bulgaria is Kadin Bridge. A folk tale says that during its building, stones rolled down from the mountain and aligned themselves by the bridge. People argue about the origin of its name. Some say it was built by a cadia (meaning ‘judge’ in Turkish). Others say it comes from the word cadana meaning ‘young lass’ or nevesta in Bulgarian. They have some grounds because the nearby village is called Nevestino.
Another folk tale speaks of how three brothers were the stone-masons who built the bridge. They worked a very long time but they still couldn’t finish the bridge. According to ancient believes, that meant the bridge asked for a sacrifice – in this case it asked for a shadow to be built in it. The three brothers decided to build in the shadow of one of their wives, nevesti in Bulgarian, and it had to be the one who first came to the construction site. The two elder brothers warned their wives secretly not to come. However the youngest was a man of his word and he didn’t say anything to his wife. Hence her shadow was built in the bridge.

The legend holds it that a dramatic love-story was the reason why Tomin Bridge was built in Vratsa region in Northern Bulgaria. Tomo was a young musician who once went to watch young lasses dancing in the village of Krivodol. He grew so impatient than he started playing. All girls were so amazed by his melodies that they gathered around him. One of them gave him her bunch of flowers – a token she wanted to marry him. She came from a rich family while he was a poor musician. After the feast, the two newly in love fled from the village. The girl’s father sent for people to chase them. The two got to a river they couldn’t jump over. Then Tomo made an improvised bridge with the branches of the nearby willows. He went first to test the bridge. In the meantime, the chasers caught the girl and took her back to the village. Later, people built a bridge at the place Tomo and his girl attempted to cross the river and named it after him – Tomin Bridge.

English version: Delian Zahariev
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