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The Rhodope Mountains

The Rhodope Mountains are the most lyrical of Bulgarian mountains combining the relief of mild oval forms, the colourful rugs of nature animated by the architecture of picturesque villages, by the hospitality of the people and the legendary songs of Orpheus.  Over 83 per cent of its area are on Bulgarian territory, the remaining are in Greece. It is located in the most southern part of the country and is the main mountain system in the Rila-Rhodope Massif. With its highest peak Mt. Golyam Perelik (2191 m) it occupies the 7th place among Bulgarian Mountains.

The Rhodope Mountains do not have a clearly outlined orthographic skeleton. They are a huge maze of hills of different length, height and direction divided by deep river valleys. The mountain has left an imprint on the history of Bulgarian nation. Its present name has been preserved through the centuries since the legendary Orpheus. It has been also called Slaveevi Gori (Nightingales Woods) and Dospatdag but these names havent remained, and the Rhodope (Rodopa) has survived. The origin and the sense of this name still remains unclear. Some people relate it to the ancient pagan goddess Rhodopa but others argue that is composed of the Slavonic words ruda  (ore) and ropa - pit and this hypothesis has some reason given the fact that the mountain has been known for its ore-mining since ancient times.

The Rhodope Mountains are some of the oldest mountains in Bulgaria, composed mainly of gneiss, amphibolits, karst and granite rocks. Very interesting are the karst areas with their deep river gorges, large caves and specific sculptured forms. The tuff in the Eastern Rhodopes has created strange natural sculptures - mushrooms, pyramids, etc. The mountain had not undergone a glacier period so typical glacier forms can not be found.

The location of the Rhodope Mountains in the south-eastern part of the Balkan Peninsula determines to a great extent the climate here. It is influenced both by the colder air coming from the north and by the warmer breeze from the Mediterranean (The White Sea coast). The average annual temperature in the Eastern Rhodopes is higher and steadier and is about 12-13С. The temperature in the Western Rhodopes under the influence of the higher altitude varies from 5oC to 9С. The transitional character of the climate in the Rhodope Mountains is demonstrated in the annual record of precipitation. The maximum value of precipitation in the Eastern Rhodopes is in December, while the minimum is in August. On the contrary, in the Western Rhodopes summer rainfalls prevail. The mild climate combined with some other factors favours the development of recreation and tourist activities. The Pamporovo Resort is an excellent example, where the microclimate permits a thick snow cover to be preserved for a long time - a real paradise for skiing. 

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