Preserving the Memory of Baba Vanga in Rupite
A quick online search will give you an endless supply of predictions made by Baba Vanga, some of which could be said to be true and others, outlandish sensationalism. Known all over the world for her divine gifts for envisaging future events, she was also a healer who gave people help and comfort. Much has been written about her, but in case you’ve never heard of the Balkan’s Nostradamus, here’s a brief background.
Born in Strumica, (part of Macedonia today), she lived through a young childhood of hardship. At the age of 12, Vangelia Pandeva Dimitrova wandered into the fields and went missing for days after a sudden storm which had flung her into air and buried her under sand and stones. Days later, she was found with blood coming from her eyes and no longer being able to see. During the storm, she is said to have had her first paranormal experience and heard her first voice of dreams.
Subsequent years brought about a life of difficulties, and she never did regain her sight. During the 1940s, she began to prophese and retold the ‘information that invisible creatures’ gave her about space and time. While many people have grossly exaggerated her abilities and predictions, an important aspect that is often overlooked in favour of sensationalism was how she was acknowledged by ordinary people who looked to her for support and protection on a daily basis.
Ironically, despite Communism denouncing all things superstitious, she was one of President Zhivkov’s, and his daughter, Lyudmila’s, most trusted advisers. She also worked for Institute of Suggestology during the 1960s from a special office where she received Party clients and her predictions were written down by scientists who studied ‘the Baba Vanga phenonomen’ with positive results.
In 1970, she moved to Rupite believing it was a sacred place which gave her energy. Today, adhering to her requests, the grounds, house, church, museum and her tomb are free to enter for believers and tourists to visit. For more than 25 years long lines of crowds would queue for hours just to be welcomed or healed from herbs by their celebrated clairvoyant and private meetings were held with politicians, poets and composers. Vanga dedicated her life to helping people until her death in 1996.
The big, black iron gates lead you into the complex where beautiful gardens with hundreds of trees are spread out before you. As we follow the cobbled stone pathway that lead to different directions, we take the path to the mineral spring with a temperature of 75 degrees and is divided into two fountains but only one of which can be drunk from. The grounds are also home to a bronze statue and the tomb of Baba Vanga.
The modest home of Baba Vanga, where she welcomed the people coming to her for help, has been left as it was when she lived here. Walking through the narrow corridors of the house, the dimly lit rooms are forbidden to enter but you can peer in and get a sense of her home with all her personal belongings, simple furniture, icons and displays of artwork.
Church & Museum
The Church of St. Petka Bulgarska with its impressive bell tower is said to have appeared in one of her dreams through Saint Parascheva telling her to build it so she’d be,’closer to the people’. The modern building and paintings were created by the artist, Svetlin Rusev, and it took two years to build becoming one of the first in the Republic of Bulgaria after the fall of communism in 1989.
The small museum next to it is dedicated to the life and work of Baba Vanga exhibiting photos, portraits and documents. The kiosk sells souvenirs, books and art and is worth buying something from as a donation to the upkeep.
Opposite the church, on the volcanic rock on Kozuh Mountain, there is a huge memorial cross in honour of those who died by the Kozuh volcano. The stone cross was a gift from Bulgarian sculptor Ivan Rusev and is set horizontally on the ground. It’s said to remind us that we’re not stronger than nature but should respect it and its laws.
Close by, on the other side of the garden wall, are a series of shallow mud pools where the brave can wallow in the mineral waters. Frequented by locals, I looked for those who were actually lying in the water as the pools have varying degrees of temperature, some of which were too hot to sit in. If you do manage to get in, you’re not advised to stay in the heat for too long! Nevertheless, it’s very relaxing amongst the scenic protected area and clean air.
Rupite is very close to Petrich, Melnik and Sandanski or en route to Greece and Macedonia