For 2000 years, in days of darkness, wars and cataclysms, in days of peace, upsurge and grandeur, the only preserved castle on the Bulgarian territory Baba Vida has survived, so that its secrets could still whisper to us. On the waterfront of the Danube, in the farthest north-western part of Bulgaria, its stone walls and towers dominate the view. Its legendary name is hidden in the depths of our historic memory and reminds us of its proud ruler Vida, who gave her name to the castle Baba Vida, also known as Babini Vidini Kuli.
Baba Vida is the only authentic and fully preserved medieval castle in Bulgaria with a past as both a military fortress and a rulers' residence. The Castle towers in the north-east part of Vidin on the curving bank of the Danube river. This place, dominating the surrounding valleys, encompassed the ancient city's fortification and resisted many an enemy raid. The castle has been reconstructed and extended several times.
Its history dates back as long as 2000 years ago and covers different construction periods: the Ancient period 1-4 century AD, the Bulgarian period 10-14 century, and the Ottoman period 15-19 century. Reconstruction works were done in the 20 century.
The original construction plan of the castle was not changed very much over the centuries. The Castle was built on an area of 9.5 acres, surrounded by a moat, 12 metre wide and 6 metre deep. The castle has got a nearly sqare shape, its angles pointing at the four geograghical directions, each side about 70 metre long. It comprises two walls: the inner one is tall, 2.2 metre thick, and holding 9 towers (4 angular ones and 5 sidelong), and an outer one, not as tall and connecting 2 towers. Brick and crushed rock were laid with mortar randomly into the walls. The construction itself was decorative to a certain extent - there have been preserved brick belts, dead-end arced alcoves, a variety of geometrical figures.
Both walls form an almost unfinished inner court yard. The area, enclosed by the inner wall, is laid with adjacent vaulted premises, which surround a small inner court yard. This part comprised the residential area of the castle. The residential premises are arranged on two floors. The upper terrace is accessible through winding stairs and a platform, used for hauling heavy cannon guns, as well as through wooden stairs in a few of the towers.
The castle can be approached only from the north, where the gate tower is situated. In the past it was accessible through a moveable bridge across the moat filled with water from the Danube river. The wooden bridge has been replaced with a stone one. The gate leads to the first court yard. Circular stone stairs lead to the inner court yard. During the Middle Ages the inner court yard was larger and there was a single-nave church, a solid building and a wattle and daub detached house. These buildings were demolished to clean the area for the construction of warehouses and sentinels' premises in the late 17 and early 18 century.
The Baba Vida Castle was built upon the foundations of the ancient fortress of Bononia, which was probably erected upon the ruins of a Thracian settlement in the early 1 century AD. The remains of the Bononia fortress have been preserved best in the composition of the north-eastern angular tower, which was later walled up into the foundations of the Baba Vida Castle. It comprises the earliest Roman level of the Castle.
10 century is assumed to have been the first medieval construction perid. The well-preserved south-eastern bastion dates back to that time. The modification of the fortress into a castle was accomplished by the first rulers of the Bdin Principality. The final extension of the casle was accomplished by King Ivan Sratsimir, whose name is related to the main tower of the castle. The outer castle walls also date back to the medieval construction perid. The embrasures from thet period are distinctly marked on the facades.
Since 15 century the castle was a military fortress with defensive functions only. Construction modifications were accomplished in the late 17 and early 18 century, when the introduction of firearms demanded such fortification. An additional row of premises was built around the inner court yard. The medieval embrasures were blocked with stone and battlements with new embrasures were built.The construction plan was extended into a bypass court yard and barracks' buildings attached to the western outer wall of the castle.
Having survived the stormy tumult of the centuries, today The Baba Vida Castle is the most impressive monument of the Bulgarian fortification architecture in the Middle Ages.