Massive Ottoman Era Buildings Discovered Underneath ‘Baron Hirsch’s’140-Year-Old Railroad in Bulgaria’s Simeonovgrad
Massive buildings which are seemingly date back to the period when Bulgaria was part of the Ottoman Empire have been discovered by construction workers during the reconstruction of a railroad in the southern Bulgarian town of Simeonovgrad.
Construction workers rehabilitating a railway line at the Simeonovgrad train station have unearthed walls and arches, reports local news site SakarNews.
Interestingly, the walls of the Ottoman Era buildings were not covered with soil or rubble but were found to have stood hollow underneath the railroad at the Simeonovgrad train station.
The walls are over 50 cm think, and were made of stones, bricks, and mortar. At least two rooms in the underground ruins have become accessible as a result of the construction digs.
One of the rooms has a thick arched roof, two windows, and a door; the second room seems to have had door even though it is unclear where it led.
The newly unearthed massive Ottoman Era ruins are expected to be explored by archaeologists. The report notes that they survived the passage of heavy freight trains right on top of them for the past 130 years.
Bulgaria was part of the Ottoman Turkish Empire between 1396 and 1878/1912, a period known in Bulgarian history as the Ottoman Yoke.
It has been suggested that the newly uncovered buildings were storage facilities before the construction of the railway in 1870-1874, shortly before Bulgaria’s National Liberation from Ottoman Turkey in 1878.
The supposed storehouses may have been used by merchants trading along the Maritsa River (which used to be partly navigable at the time).
During the construction of the railroad and the Simeonovgrad train station, the buildings were not destroyed but must have been covered, and the rail lines and platforms were built over them.
At the time of its construction, and later, at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century, the railroad in question was popularly known in Bulgaria as “Baron Hirsch’s Railway”.
It was named after Baron Maurice de Hirsch (or Moris von Hirsch), a German Jewish magnate known as the founder of the Jewish Colonization Association, who ran the Oriental Railway Company (Chemins de fer Orientaux).
Baron Hirsch’s Oriental Railway Company was tasked with the construction of a railway line from the Ottoman capital Istanbul to the capital of Austria-Hungary, Vienna, which it achieved in 1888.
Baron Hirsch’s Railway, i.e. the first section of the Instanbul–Vienna railroad, was built between today’s town of Lyubimets in Southern Bulgaria and Belovo in Western Bulgaria, with an extension from Simeonovgrad to Yambol.
This was the second railroad to be built in Bulgaria, and in the Ottoman Empire; the first was the railway connecting Ruse on the Danube and Varna on the Black Sea coast, which was completed in 1866.
During the same period, between 1870 and 1874, the railway was extended to Istanbul, and another extension was built from Adrianople (Edirne) to Alexandroupoli (Dedeagach).
The Bulgarian section of the railroad remained part of the Oriental Railway Company (which hosted the Orient Express between 1889 and 1937) until Bulgaria’s Declaration of Independence in 1908 (in 1878-1908, Bulgaria was still a vassal state of the Ottoman Empire).
After a diplomatic arrangement involving the Tsardom of Bulgaria, the Ottoman Empire, and the Russian Empire, it was bought out by the Bulgarian government in 1909.