Samovedene Street has been a shopping street since the Middle Ages. It is for pedestrians only, lined with shops and featuring craftsmen at work. Side streets have some interesting 19th Century houses. Access to one end of Samovedene Street is up a flight of stairs by a small square.
The fortress is the main attraction - 6lev entry but nice old ruins and good views from the church at the top
Arbanasi - very old village 3km out of VT, high up with great views and a quiet feel. 30 churches in all but only 3 are accessible. Nativity church is very old and 3lev entry, also Dimitar church is free but cant go in.
Old town-just walk around the old cobbled streets of the old town and stop to look at the shops selling hand made items
This is a nicely laid out Art Gallery showcasing works by Bulgarian artists from the National Revival period to the present day. The collection is housed over two floors in an interesting modern building, completed in 1985 as part of the 800th anniversary celebration of the founding of the 2nd Bulgarian Empire.
The ground floor hosts a permanent exhibition of paintings, drawings and sculptures with a very local theme, including of course works by Boris Denev himself, and has some striking historical canvases of the events leading to the 2nd Empire formation.
The upper floor is a more general collection of Bulgarian art with rotating exhibitions from the gallery's five and a half thousand works.
The gallery is open from 10 am to 6 pm, closed Mondays, and the entrance fee is 3 leva (Jan 2010). It is located in the park formed by the loop of the river in the city centre, next to the striking Monument to the Assens, and is accessed by the river bridge at the end of ul Alexandar Stamboliyski which leads off ul Hristo Botev (just after the City Pub).
This is worth spending a couple of hours in and groups can arrange guided tours in several languages.
In addition to being a fascinating historical site Tsarevets, with its hilltop location, also provides stunning views over the city and the surrounding mountainside. The bell tower of the Patriarch's Church provides the highest viewpoint but that was shut on my visit. However you do get great views from just about anywhere in the grounds and so here's a few pics:
On this, my second, visit to Veliko Turnovo I did indeed make Tsarevets my main priority and so as soon as I finished breakfast on the first morning of my stay off I set.
On a January morning, with about four inches of snow covering the site, I pretty much had the place to myself and stunning it was too. The first thing that impressed me was the sheer scale of the place. The circumference of the outside walls must be at least three kilometres and these were built up to 3.6 metres high and about 1.5 metres thick along with crenellated abutments and guard towers - that's a lot of stonework!
There really is something truly majestic about this site. Because it is mostly ruins it makes it easier for me to imagine it as busy, working, stronghold and palace unlike say Prague Castle or Wawel Hill in Krakow. Because these latter have been fully restored (and superbly, I should add) in some ways that renders them sterile and obviously a place for the tourists, as if that's what they've always been. Here at Tsarevets though I could hear the clanging of the hammers on anvils at the armourers smithies, I could hear the cavalry horses snorting in the winter air. I could smell the woodsmoke from the myriad of cooking and heating fires. I could feel the buzziness of the streets market stalls and imagine the richly-dressed Tsars and Nobles haughtily going about their affairs of state whilst the scruffy servants and traders haggled vociferously over the price of the daily necessities.
The place is quite well signposted, in several laguages, making it easy to understand the function of all the main buildings, leaving the 400, or so, lesser ones for your own imagination to slot into their places. You can see the foundations of former artisans homes and workshops, the main streets and the dozens of churches and the mind's eye rebuilds and peoples them.
Overlooking it all is the partially-restored Patriarche's complex, with its rebuilt church and bell-tower, and slightly lower (as the Tsars felt it should be) the, in the process of restoration, Palace.
I spent a total of four hours just wandering, taking pics and letting my mind run free - in fact it was only when I checked the time that I was surprised to see that it had been that long and had the cafe been open I would probably have lingered longer.
Awesome! And well worth the 6 leva (??) entry.
For the two centuries of the Second Bulgarian Empire (1185 to 1396) Veliko Turnovo was Bulgaria's capital city. During this period the fortress of Tsarevets was constructed on its eponymous hill as the home and citadel of the ruling Assen kings.
As the Empire flourished the stronghold became one of the grandest and most significant fortresses in Europe. Its supposedly impregnable walls (rising to 3.6 metres in places) girdled the Royal Palace, the Patriarchate (Orthodox church complex) and numerous dwellings, shops, workshops, other churches and monastaries.
In 1393 the Ottaman Turks laid seige to the citadel and after 3 months finally conquered it (sources imply some sort of betrayal) and razed it to the ground.
In 1930 work began on its reconstruction and the modern reconstruction is now a major tourist attraction.
Unfortunately I didn't have time this visit to do it justice and so haven't done the tour. Number one of my list for my next visit though!
For some pretty detailed info use link below and go into "sightseeing".
Contemporaneously with the construction of the fortress of Tsaravets a second fortress was built on the neighbouring Trapezitsa Hill. This was the township of the nobility of the period and is the site of the earliest (c 3000 BC) archaelogical evidence of there being a settlement in the area.
It looks as if this too is intended to be a tourist attraction but I can't seem to find any information as to what and when it's going to happen. Another reason for a revisit!
This is the old town of Tarnovo's main street which was renamed for the Russian General Gurko whose army liberated the city on 7th July 1877. The houses here were built in the Renaissance period of the late 18th and early 19th centuries and the area has seen little modernisation.
The area is currently undergoing major restoration, partly funded by the United Nations Developement Program, and so much of it was a bit of a building site when I was there. But even so it was worth a wander and many of the houses are indeed architecturally interesting. I don't know what it is like in the summer but on a November morning I had the place prettty much to myself with just a few locals, some builders, and a very small tour group to share it with.
The memorial to Vasil Levski here in Veliko Turnovo is appropriately enough on ul Vasil Levski on the city's main street.
Levski was the leader of the anti-Ottoman revolutionary movement from the late 1860's until his execution by the Turks in Sofia on the 18th February 1873. Levski was both a hands-on freedom fighter as well as an ideological revolutionary. In the early 1860's he was an active member of the First and Second Bulgarian Legions, based respectively in Serbia and Romania, where his courage earned him his name - Levski meaning "like a lion".
In the later half of the decade he was a founder member of the Bulgarian Revolutionary Central Committee where he drafted his ideas for a Bulgarian Democratic Republic based on the French Revolutionary principles of "Liberty, Egality and Fraternity". He saw the struggle against Ottoman rule not against the Turks as people, nor against their religion, but rather against authoritarianism and oppression.
Bulgaria's freedom was his overriding passion and in the 1870's he spent much of his time secretly travelling around the country, often on foot, organising resistance cells. Just as the movement was gaining momentum and support from within Bulgaria Levski's assistant, Domitar Obshti, without authorisation, successfully robbed a Turkish postal convoy. However the Turks identified Obshti as one of the participants and he, along with several others, were arrested. In their forced confession they revealed Levski's revolutionary role and so he became a sought fugitive.
Intending to escape to Romania Levski first needed to rescue some potentially damaging papers from the committee archive in Lovech but was betrayed when staying overnight in the nearby village of Kakrina.
He was arrested on 27th December 1872 and taken initially to Veliko Turnovo for interrogation before being transported to Sofia where he was tried and sentenced to death. During his interrogation and trial he admitted nothing but his identity and steadfastly refused to reveal names or details of the organisation.
He had always been prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice. As he is quoted on the monument: "If I shall win, I shall win for the entire people. If I shall lose, I shall lose only myself."
Levski, warrior, poet and free-thinker, is often referred to as "The Apostle of Freedom" and in a 2007 television poll he was voted "The All-time Greatest Bulgarian".
Veliko Turnovo was one of the five main centres of the Bulgarian resistance movement during the later years of Ottoman rule.
It has a long history of rebelliousness. The city withstood a three month seige in 1893 before capitulating to the Turks (by some accounts its fortress Tsaravets was only conquered through betrayal). During its occupation the citizens rebelled several times, most notably in 1598, 1686, 1875 and 1876.
Following the national liberation in 1878 the city was briefly the new State of Bulgaria capital with the first National Assembly ratifying the Turnovo Constitution (Bulgaria's first) there on 16th April 1879. This ironically resulted in the transfer of the capital to Sofia.
The building where this first National Assembly met is now the "Museum of the Renaissance and Constituent Assembly" (to give it its full title). The museum is very much an educational resource and has exhibits of photos, original documents and other bits and pieces from the 15th to 19th centuries but mainly showcasing the history of Veliko Turnovo's role in the liberation and early independence of the fledgling state.
On my visit I was the only person there which caused quite a flurry of excitement from the two custodians as first they didn't have any change for my 20 Leva note and then tried to dissuade me from buying a photography ticket - whether because they didn't have the correct change or were trying to save me money I don't know. Then they had to unlock the exhibition room and run around switching the lights on.
I can't remember what the opening times are but the entry fee (for us tourists anyway) was 5 Leva and the photography ticket another 3. Even though most of the exhibits and signs are in Bulgarian there's just enough English translations to give you an idea what it's all about and enough to enable me to do my own further reseach.
This is a little street in the old part of Tarnovo. Here you can find a lot of workshops where people used to practice their handcrafts.More of them are still active.Everybody should stop and buy a souvenir. It's also interesting with its houses from the end of XIX century.That was the time when this street was founded. Women from the village Samovodene came here to sell the vegetables they had produced. Since then people started to call it Samodovskata charshia.
Tsarevets is a natural fortress.It is all surrounded of the River Yantra.The castle was used in the time when Veliko Turnovo was capital in the Second Bulgarian Kingdom (1187 – 1393).The fortress was ruined after the Ottomans conquest.
It should be seen also in night,when sometimes there is light show - wonderful.
Visit Tsarevets Fortress
Very peaceful – few tourists go far inside. Quiet, relaxing. Excellent views of town and surrounding countryside. Some nice e.g. not restored remnants among all of the restored walls and walks.
Remnants of servants quarters can be identified – small houses surrounding the palace. Outer walls of the Fortress are mostly restored. Occasional Roman remains to be seen – especially columns.
Walkways are of rough cobblestones only at the beginning of the climb upwards – continuation is flat field stone and crushed gravel - much easier walking.
The church was built at the top of the hill in reaction to the Turkish rule that no church may be higher than the local mosque. The Palace is a bit lower down on the hill.
For a good historical review, to appreciate what you see more, see: Wikipedia
I was in Veliko Turnovo 19-23 April, just a few days before the Orthodox Easter. While walking down towards the entrance to Tsaravets Fortress I came across an interesting sight...
A number of people were walking to church with home baked goods and cakes. Others were coming out of the church carrying green leaves. I was told afterward that these leaves are used to make crowns and to put up on the doorways of their homes.
Indeed I did see some people walking around the Tsaravets Fortress with wreaths of green leaves. As I understand it the more religious people continue to wear the wreaths all day.
I stepped inside the church. It was a beautiful sight to see. People lined up to place their offerings (donations?) on a table, then joined a line to receive a blessing from the priest and the leaves. People of all ages, from small children to older individuals...
The scent of aromatic incense was intense, the lighting from candles, the silence total...
A marvelous and totally unexpected experience.
Visit the Monument of the Assens and the Boris Denev Art Gallery
There are nice shade trees. Even in the heat of summer you can walk down and back up in the shade.
The monument commemorates the 4 Bulgarian Kings that ruled during the Mediaeval State when Veliko Turnovo was the capital of a prosperous and successful nation.
There are four horses with one of the kings on each of them. Walk around the monument and get a good view from each side.
Nice views of the town and the houses on the hillsides from here too.
The art gallery is closed on Mondays.