Ayazmo is one of the most emblematic places in Stara Zagora. The park ranks among the biggest and most beautiful parks in the whole country. It draws its visitors with a huge variety of plant and animal species as well as with its landmarks and rich history.
Ayazmo occupies 3,2 square kilometers. It is a wonderful place for walks, relaxation or a pleasant afternoon with your family and friends. Walking down the park's alleys will take you to the Saint Theodore Tyron Chapel; you can drop by the Hall of laughter's twisted mirrors or go to the zoo.
According to the legend, Tsar Boris I was christened in this precise location in 864 and Christianity become Bulgaria's official religion thereafter.
The legend tells of the Bulgarian boyar, Knyaz Tsolyu, who ruled the region of Stara Zagora during the rule of Knyaz Boris I, while he was still a heathen. The residence of Tsolyu was at the foot of the Ayazmo and in close proximity to a big garden and a prison for Byzantine captured Christians. Tsolyu had a daughter named Tsvetana.
There was a centuries-old forest at the top and a holy pagan site close to a healing spring, according to the information collected by the local Metropolitan Methodii Kussev in 1917 and subsequently detailed in his book "The history of the Ayazmo in Stara Zagora." When Tsvetana fell ill, Tsolyu agreed to allow the captured Christians to heal her.
They baptized her in the Ayazmo holy spring and named her Theodora (this was the name of the mother of the infant Byzantine emperor Michael III). During this baptism, she was miraculously cured. Knyaz Tsolyu was christened as well and he ordered the construction of a Christian temple named after Saint Theodore Tyron. A year later, Knyaz Boris arrived in Beroe and was baptized in that same temple on the top of the Ayazmo.
According to Ivan Savich Palmov, who taught Slavic history at the St. Petersburg Theological Academy at the beginning of 10th century, Saint Knyaz Boris met with the Byzantine Patriarch Fotios on three different occasions, in the Zagora region. It is a known fact that parts of Knyaz Boris' retinue were opposed to the Christening of the Bulgarian people. Knyaz Tsolyu was the only one who supported Boris as he was already baptized and he became the patron of the actions in this regard.
There are many pieces of proof in support of the veracity of the claim that this location was the center of a powerful Christian network of 10 monasteries and hermitages scattered in the region.
The park's ensuing story continues to be interesting. The Metropolitan Methodii Kusev started talking about building the park at the end of 19th century. However, the city's inhabitants were skeptical that such a grandiose plan can be brought to life. In spite of the widespread disapproval, he started working devotedly on it. He contacted monasteries and religious communities all around the world. He asked them to send him seeds from all kinds of different species of trees. As a result, today you can observe a unique combination of traditional and exotic flora.
At the time of the park's creation, most inhabitants believed that the afforestation and the upkeep of such a useless space is a folly and their cattle's grazing was far more important. Methodii Kusev managed to accomplish his goal after much pleading and convincing. In the end, he created a truly beautiful and rich park, which subsequently became an object of pride for the city.