Up until the mid-20th Century the people of Malko Tarnovo had a peculiar habit while passing through the Propada locality. Regardless of the weather, they would take off their hats, dismount from their donkeys, mules or horses, and cross the area on foot. 

They did this because they knew Propada was an ancient burial ground and because they wanted to pay tribute to long-forgotten dead. 

ancient roman necropolis propada bulgaria

In Roman times the area was a graveyard which probably belonged to the people working in the nearby imperial mines between the 2nd and 4th centuries. About 40 burial mounds and dozens of the so-called cyst graves (made of small stone slabs) cover the area, together with four tombs built from local grey marble. Interestingly, the tombs' design was old-fashioned at the time of building: They have corridors, pediments and cupola-covered chambers just like the tombs in pre-Roman Thrace. But this "anachronistic" look is not that strange and has been seen elsewhere in Roman Bulgaria, including in tombs in the nearby Mishkova Niva and also in Pomorie. 

ancient roman necropolis propada bulgaria

The modern visitor could only guess at the size of the necropolis at the time the ancient people used it. After the place was abandoned in the 4th Century AD, the memory of the buried faded, and the sturdy Strandzha oaks reclaimed the ground, growing from within mounds and cyst graves, breaking them apart. 

ancient roman necropolis propada bulgaria

Archaeologists first excavated Propada in 1979. Regrettably, archaeological excavations and the digging of treasure hunters have left many of these old graves in a lamentable state. The coverings of countless cyst graves are now missing, as if their inhabitants had had enough being dead and set out to a new place. Without the protection of their mounds, the tombs are falling apart. Overgrowth has taken over and, combined with the pestering Strandzha midge flies, visiting the necropolis is nothing short of an adventure. 

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