The rock formations around the town of Karjali (the central town of the Eastern Rhodopes) were formed thousands of years ago as a result of intense underwater volcanic activity during the Paleocene. The riolithic volcanic tuffs were later sculpted by the sun, the wind and the rains. The rocks are of different colours because they contain iron, manganese and other oxides. The bizzare shapes of the rocks have long ago provoked the imagination of the local people who told legends about them and gave them names: Skalen prozorets (Rock window), Vkamenena gora (Stone forest), Skalite na Ustra (Ustra’s rocks), Gubata (The Mushroom), Lavat (The Lion), as well as the Hladilnata peshtera (The Refrigerator cave) and 6 other caves.
The Stone Mushrooms situated near the village of Beli Plast an the Stone Wedding Party near the village of Zimzelen are maybe the most curious rock formations.
The Stone Wedding Party can be reached on foot from the town of Karjali.
The mushrooms have pink stumps and greenish hoods which reach 2,5 m in diameter. They form a fantastic composition over a territory of 3ha.
An old legend is told about this wonderful place.
It was a cool autumn morning. The sun had just risen. Laughter was heard from the stone towers of the fortress of Perpericon. The four daughters of the charcoal-burner Radoun started for the well beyond the walls of the fortress with buckets. On the way, one of them, named Gyusha, shouted: "Oh, my God!"
She had seen a large army coming from the forest. Panic overtook the fortress. The fight began. The siege lasted a whole week. But the few brave people in the fortress were defeated by slyness. Traitors opened the gates of the stronghold and the invaders went in. They started killing everybody and burning everything. People tried to escape to save their lives.
The most beautiful women were captured including the four lasses. The leader of the army sat on a white Arabian horse and watched the women. He thought how many to keep for himself and how many to sell in Odrin.
They watched him with hatred although they were hungry and powerless. Gyusha told the others to throw stones at the leader and soon he was killed. The women rushed towards a monastery. One of the invading army, named Omur followed them on his horse. In the evening he found them. He cut down Gyusha's head with his sword. And the miracle happened ... she was turned into a beautiful stone mushroom. The same thing happened with the other three girls. Omur was frightened. He tried to escape but at the same moment he turned into a big black rock.
Old people say early in the morning one can see tears dripping from the mushrooms ... the tears of the pertified lasses.
Stone Wedding Party
The Stone Wedding Party (also called The Stone Pyramids) occupies a much greater territory than that of the Stone Mushrooms. The rocks coloured in pink, yellow and rusty red have whimsical shapes – some resemble pyramids and others – birds, animals and human figures.
Many legends are told about this place. One of them goes:
A handsome young man fell in love with a charming lass from the nearby village. But because she always wore a headcloth he had seen only her captivating eyes; he had never seen her face because of a local custom. He loved her very much and fell ill because of the pain.
His father was worried and went to the girl's family to save his son's life. He bought her, according to the custom in those ancient days, for a lot of gold. A cheerful wedding began.
The wedding guests took the lass and set off for Zimzelen. Riding a mule and dressed in her fine new gown, the bride was thinking about her native home but was happy to marry the young man. The father-in-law walked next to her with his son (the happy bridegroom) and all the wedding guests from the two villages.
As they passed through the clear stream, a sudden gust of wind blew away the bride's headcloth. The father-in-law saw and was awe-struck at the beautiful face of the young lass. But that lasted just for a moment. He came 'round and evil thoughts entered his mind.
The wind understood him and got furious. A storm began and then the worst thing happened - the bride turned into stone, as she was all dolled up, on her mule. After her the father-in-law and the wedding guests were turned into stone too. The young man could only stand in the terror and agony of the moment, but soon he began to wail and begged the storm to turn him into stone too. So it happened. He turned into stone but even today, there's a puddle shining in front of him. The old people from the village say the drops in this glimmering puddle are his tears.
Other places of interest in/near Kardjali