Water of Life Spring in Pernik, Bulgaria

In the southern part of the Vitosha Mountain near Sofia, the green forests hide a little treat for the occasional traveler: A dragon-shaped stone set on a pile of rocks that starts spitting water when you least expect it.

The history of the spring is almost unknown, although documented human presence dates back to at least the 12th century when a hermit monk stayed in a nearby cave. The spring itself was first mentioned in the 17th century in an Ottoman traveler’s notes.

The fountain’s most distinctive part, the carved dragon head, may look ancient but the granite indicates that it probably dates to around 1934, when Vitosha was made a nature park and extensive infrastructure including huts, fountains, roads and trails were built to accommodate the first tourists, with the building material sourced from an on-site quarry.

The subject matter of the fountain is however peculiar as dragons, through their local representation as zmei, often appear in local folklore but are rarely represented in ornaments and even less as standalone decorative elements. However, this fiery appearance might be intentional, as to corroborate a local legend making the dragon a judge of character.

Either walking up to the fountain or staying for a rest in the nearby awning, one might notice that sometimes the spring falls silent, while at others it ardently spits its water torrent. This led locals to believe that when a good man was standing in front of it, the spring would provide its blessing. If the man was a sinner, it would refuse to do so.

It’s more likely that the water flow is controlled by the underground pressure in a cave that gradually fills up and empties. 

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