Legend of Princess Mara

A great danger threatened the kingdom of Tarnovo because of the Turkish invasion from south. Ivan Shishman, the tsar of the Bulgarians was faced with a difficult dilemma. Time was what he needed to draw away the enemy’s forces. However, sultan Murad had heard about Ivan Shishman’s beautiful sister and wanted to take her to wife. The tsar felt heavy at heart but knew that he had to sacrifice her. Princes Mara had to adorn the Turkish harem in order to save the Bulgarian lands and people.
When the sultan’s people came to take her away, she asked them to let her go and see the places where she was born and where she grew up. At dawn she left Tzarevetz Hill, walked along the Arbanassi plateau, and climbed the white rocks above Liaskovets. There she had a look around her beautiful native lands and cried for long in desolation. They say that where her tears fell grapevines burgeoned out, people grew them up, and they bore wonderful grapes. Such grapes had not been grown on that lands ever before. The berries were big, pellucid, and heavy just like the tears of the princess. Even to this day, in the middle of August, on Virgin Mary’s Day or Mariinday as they call it, people thereabouts gather grapes, call down blessings on the Mother of God, and take mention of the Bulgarian princess.
Mara continued walking and reached the field below the tsar’s palace. There she had to say goodbye to her near and dear: her family, her friends, and all Bulgarian people. Very painful was that parting, everyone realized the high price that Ivan Alexander’s daughter had to pay.Everyone cried and prayed for her and himself. That night the bells in Tarnovo did not ring for the evening service and no one lighted the icon-lamp in his house. Darkness descended upon the town and the souls of the Bulgarian people. The citizens of Tarnovo called the place where they saw off their princess Marino Pole(Mara’s field).

Collected and retold by Zhivka Radeva