Welcome to the land of ancient Thracians and the most prominent of them the mythical Orpheus!
You must have heard the legend of the legendary Thracian singer Orpheus. He played his lyre with such an inspiration that even the wild beasts and trees were charmed by his music. Orpheus was called “the father of songs” and asserted to be a son of the Thracian river god Oiagros.
When you come here you will surely and immediately realise that it is the beauty of the nature around that inspired him and will inspire you.
The village of Gela is located in the Central Rhodope Mountains at approximately 1500 m above the sea level just at the foot of the most impressive peaks of the Rhodope Mountains – Grand Perelik (2191 m), Orpheus (2188 m) and Tourlata (1825 m).
This small village has more than 3300 years of history and is considered to be one of the cradles of the European civilization. In early antiquity Gela was inhabited by the richest members of the Thracian tribe of the Bessi. The ancient Thracian fortress Gradishte can be seen at 5 km south of the village.
In Roman times Gela was an important cultural, trade and defense center. The Tourlata peak was once a fortress, and its remains can still be seen nowadays on the top of the peak. There are more Roman artifacts around the village such as the many pieces of Roman roads connecting Aegean towns with the Upper Thracian Valley.
In the Middle Ages Bulgaria was under a Ottoman oppression for nearly five centuries. Despite this the local population was not affected by the mass conversion to Islam. The people here are proud with the fact that their small village had managed to preserve its two churches and four chapels.
The village of Gela is famous not only for its history and culture but for the beneficial health effects of the microclimate in the region. The fresh mountain air and the unique Fion wind coming from the Egean Sea mix. This air mass is the air you breath in Gela, charged with negative ionization, making the stay in Gela exceptionally favorable especially for people with respiratory problems.
The climate in the region is considerably tempered by the southern influence. The average annual temperature is 9°C. Winters are mild and summers warm and fresh, thanks to the local mountain breezes. Gela is one of the sunniest places in Europe with more than 280 sunny days per year. It is not coincident that the Rojhen observatory – the 5th astronomy observatory in Europe and the largest in the Balkans, is built in the region.
Despite the fact it had been inhabited for thousands of years, the region of Gela still preserves some wild places that seem to be untouched by humans. This region is a remote refuge for many exceptionally rare plants and animals. This is the only place where you can see the symbol of the Rhodopes – the Orpheus flower (Heberlea rhodopaensis). This is a unique endemic and the only one of its kind in the world, which when even extracted and kept dry for up to 34 weeks comes to live when replanted. The forests around Gela abound with wild fruits, briars, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries and mushrooms. There is also a great diversity of herbs and healing plants.
Scattered among 7 different hamlets, the village of Gela seems to have changed little over the last few hundred years. Local people continue to maintain a traditional rural existence ploughing the fields by hand and tending their livestock on the surrounding meadows and pastures. With only 98 inhabitants, 200 sheep, 20 cows and 10 goats at a territory of 18 km2, Gela is one of the loveliest places in the Rhodopes. The silence here is broken only by the sound of cow-bells and the music of the bagpipes.