Samuil's fortress is one of the 100 national tourist sites in Bulgaria. It is situated on the right bank of the Strumeshnitsa River just above the road from the town of Petrich to the Bulgarian-Macedonian border, in the outskirts of the Belassitsa Mountain. It was built in 1009-1013 as part of a major fortification system aimed to protect Ohrid, the capital of the First Bulgarian Kingdom.
Today this secluded historic site is a place of intensive activity. Dozens of workers are doing their best to turn it into a unique place for tourists from Bulgaria and abroad. The project "1000 years from the battle lead by Samuil", which is worth just over BGN 1.9 million, is implemented by the Petrich Municipality. "We hope that the official opening of Samuil's fortress for visitors will be in April. This is the place of one of the most dramatic events in our national history. Every Bulgarian who will visit the fortress will feel proud of the glorious past of his/her country mirrored in the realized project", says Velyo Iliev, the mayor of the Petrich Municipality.
The fortress offers a magnificent view to the entire valley. It was erected during the rule of tsar Samuil. People believe that it has played a major role in the great battle between Bulgaria and Byzantine near the village of Klyuch (5 km away from the fortress). This battle is considered as the beginning of the fall of the First Bulgarian Kingdom.
Today the park – museum is visited not only by Bulgarians, but by as many Greeks and Macedonians, as well. The number of tourists continues to grow year by year. 2013 was marked by a record number of visitors – more than 17 thousand people. "They show great interest in history and the activities of Samuil. People come even from Varna and Bourgas. And as for the Greeks and Macedonians, this is a prime destination, as it is along their way. Since the beginning of 2014 the inflow has become even greater due to the celebrations in connection with the 1000-year anniversary of the battle between the armies of Samuil and Basil II. This round anniversary will be marked by a number of events", says the director of the History Museum in Petrich Sotir Ivanov, adding that there are more tourists for Central and Westerns Europe, too - Germans, French, Poles, Czechs.
Quite soon Samuil's fortress will meet its guests in full glory. The area has been cultivated and the whole infrastructure has been improved. The watchtower, the protective rampart and the covered dugouts have been restored and preserved, and the two museum buildings have been renovated. Effective lighting and 25 video cameras have been installed. The site for archery is almost finished. There is an open air stage where concerts and other events will take place. Four trained animators will offer children to play the game "Young Archeologist". In a specially constructed sandpit replicas of various ancient objects and fragments of clay and ceramics will be buried. The kids will search for archaeological finds. Films about the life and work of Tsar Samuil will be displayed on screen in the halls.
Since 1982 the Samuil's fortress has been one of the national park museums in Bulgaria. The monument of the tsar and the watchtower are built in the style typical for the buildings and monuments in the entire country at the end of the 70-ties and the beginning of the 80-ties of last century. The site is a small but spacious park with nice paved walkways and benches shadowed by wooden sheds. There are paths leading to all the interesting parts of the fortress. Right next to the entrance is the Strumeshnitsa River, which is picturesque in all seasons. Shortly after passing the railway bridge over it a full-height bronze statue of Tsar Samuil attracts the eyes of the visitors. Paved pathways lead to the watchtower. Next to it there is a small building open for visitors exhibiting some of the excavations from the Samuil’s fortress site. From the watchtower there is a view to the surrounding mountains and planes, and further on to neighboring Macedonia. The place is very beautiful and peaceful. "We have not only preserved the Samuil's Fortress intact, but with the new design we are turning it into a tourist attraction, too. We believe that in the coming years it will attract the attention of tourists from all over the world", say the citizens of Petrich.