A Travellerspoint blog


Veliko Tarnovo's Big Surpise

sunny 15 °C

In view of some recent disturbing developments you might be looking for somewhere well off the radar to hunker down for awhile, and northern Bulgaria might be just the place for you. This is the scenic mountain city of Veliko Tarnovo not far from the Romanian border...
Wages are poor by European standards but the resultant cost of living is low. Houses can be bought for less than 10,000 euros with fully furnished villas going for less than 70 grand, ($100,000.Cdn). Retired north Europeans can snap up a bargain here and live well on an Old Age Pension. It is true that Bulgarian is not the easiest of languages, but most of the youngsters speak some English and almost everything in the shops and on restaurant menus is as British as Fish & Chips. This is a clip of menu from Hadji Nikoli Inn – a Venetian style palace built in 1856 that is now a great restaurant...
Veliko Tarnovo, the ancient capital of Bulgaria, is not the easiest place to get to, but we took a very comfortable 3 hour minibus ride from Plovdiv for just ten Euros (15 dollars). Although the highway was busy with the latest models of trucks and cars we saw occasional glimpses of a recent past when we zipped past horse-drawn wagons laden with vegetables heading to the markets. The leeks are truly enormous - so long you can buy them by the foot..
However, in general, city dwelling Bulgarians are bang up to date and wouldn't look or be out of place in Vancouver or London. But we're not here to see smart modern apartment blocks, multi-lane highways and teens in jeans. We are here to see history – and there is plenty of it...
This is the 900 year old castle of Tsarevets which is too big to get into one photo – so here's another...
The cathedral like monument replaced the original great cathedral which was destroyed by the Ottoman Turks in 1393...
Velika Tarnovo and its castle of Tsarevets was one of Europe's cultural strongholds after the decline of the Byzantines, but its history goes back nearly five thousand years. The city lies at a crossroads between Europe and Asia with Turkey and Ukraine on one side, Greece to the south and Hungary on the other. Bulgaria has been conquered many times and signs of previous civilizations are everywhere. The fortress in Velika Tarnovo contains old tombstones taken from Roman graves that were already a thousand years old when these walls were built...
Despite thousands of years of conflicts and 50 years of communist rule Bulgaria has a lot to offer. Most tourists head to the ritzy all-inclusives that line the black sea shores, but we prefer the real thing – Veliko Tarnovo.

Posted by Hawkson 11:49 Archived in Bulgaria Comments (4)

Bulgaria's Best Kept Secret

Perfect Plovdiv

sunny 19 °C

Here's an idea. Pull out a map of Europe and stick your finger on Plovdiv – No! Can't place it? Incredible. Like us, you probably thought a Plovdiv was a polite form of 'plonker' or a Polish sausage. Nope – Plovdiv claims to be one of the oldest known cities in the world and it is in southern Bulgaria. Plovdiv, previously known as Philippopolis, has been continuously occupied for at least six thousand years and there is evidence that these ruins are some eight thousand years old...
However, Plovdiv is better known for its modern architecture...
This Roman amphitheatre is not even two thousand years old – the concrete is barely set.
Just to give you an idea of how big this joint is, Sheila, our very own sound tester, is sitting in the upper circle. From there she can see all the action and hear a dagger drop on the stage...
Seven thousand Romans could enjoy a rollicking good show here in 135 AD thanks to Emperor Hadrianus Augustus. He was the same Emperor Hadrian who built a wall across northern England to keep out Scottish immigrants – but did he make the Scots pay for it?

Not content with a monumental theatre, Hadrian then built an Olympic sized sports stadium where thirty thousand people could watch all manner of games and feats of strength. Most of the stadium is still buried under nearly two thousand years of development, but one end was unearthed when Plovdiv's main market square was ripped up in the 1970s...
All manner of Roman buildings are concealed under Plovdiv's 20th century streets and squares. This is the central square...
If you still think that Plovdiv is just an insignificant blob on the map it is worth considering that the oldest American educational institution outside the United States was founded in Plovdiv in 1860. Today it is the American College of Sofia.
Lucian, a Roman writer wrote in the 2nd century A.D. “Philippopolis is the biggest and loveliest of all cities. Its beauty shines from far away.”
And to cap it all, Plovdiv has been selected as the European Culture Capital 2019.
We are not surprised. In addition to the Roman ruins, Plovdiv has masses of beautiful old houses along its winding cobbled streets...
And its restaurants serve meals fit for an emperor...
This is a single portion of mixed grill that cost less than $10 Cdn in a traditional Bulgarian eatery. So, before we explode, we are heading to the hills – the mountains of Bulgaria – in search of more great historical sights.

Posted by Hawkson 07:22 Archived in Bulgaria Comments (5)

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