As you wander around Karlovo you'll notice various wall plaques, in Bulgarian, at all sorts of odd places. These seem to be a work-in-process of developing a Levski Heritage Trail inspired by a local historian Stoyan Kichev. As yet there seems to be no published guidebook but the Levski Museum has details of the various places such as where he cut his hair off and other known-to-few facts.
The logical start point would be Levski's birthplace with the end point the memorial on Levski Square. In between there's all sorts of places that have significance and if tied in with a few local bars and restaurants (if you can find any open!) would certainly get me back for a revisit.
Here's a few pics just to give you an idea of what's around (and link below has a few more).
Whilst much of the town is dominated by Levski-inspired historical markers it does have a rich history and culture in its own right. Evidence dates it back to Stone Age times and through the Thracian and Roman periods it was a local trade and manufacturing centre. During the late Ottoman and National Revival years the town blossomed as a hub of artisanal manufacture, especially that of woolen braids and rose oils. The 20th century saw the advent of heavy industry with the building of one of Bulgaria's first hydro-electric schemes and post-WWII the Socialist-led investment in major factories including armaments.
On entering the town History Museum (itself a building with its own history, being formerly one of Karlovo's first public schools) you are greeted with yet more Levski. In this case an exquisitely wood-carved bas relief filling the whole entranceway. That however is pretty much the last of Levski, apart from a brief mention upstairs, that the museum has to offer. Instead is showcases the town's evolution as a trade, cultural and educational nexus. Although most of the exhibits are signed only in Bulgarian (with an odd English note) it is laid out in such a way that the exhibits speak for themselves visually and if you've done a little background research you'll soon get a grasp of what it's all about.
This is well worth taking an hour or so to wander and don't forget to look up when you arrive at the upper floor and note the carved-wood ceiling - its pretty impressive.
As far as I can gather the museum is open 7 days a week from 9am to 4 pm, closed for 30 minutes at lunchtime, with an entry fee of 2 leva. I was the only visitor on a sleety January early-afternoon and the curator had to run round ahead of me switching lights on and keeping me pointed in the right direction.
Unfortunately no photos are allowed inside which caused the curator a bit of consternation when I got my camera out. All I was doing tho' was showing him the pic of the sculpture from the main 20th July Square. Although he didn't speak any English and my Bulgarian is confined to ordering beer we did manage to ascertain that the sculpture in question didn't really commemorate anything specific but was just a piece of "Komunista Propoganda" - see "General Tips" for details.
Vasil Levski was born Vasil Ivanovich Kunchev, the eldest son of Ivan and Gina Kunchev, here in Karlovo on the 18th July 1837. His father was a wool dyer by trade at a time when the town was one of the Ottoman Empire's main suppliers of woolen braid.
The house where he was born and bred, along with his two brothers and elder and younger sisters, was a typical artisans cottage where the family shared their living space with the equipment and material of the trade.
Levski himself never owned a house and so his birthplace has been reverently restored as the centrepiece of the National Museum in his honour. This is one of Bulgaria's most popular historical sites and gets over 35,000 visitors a year.
The museum is open every day (except perhaps Christmas Day) from 8.00 am to 5.00 pm with an hour closed for lunch and the entry fee is (Jan 2010) 2 leva.
This is definitely the "Must Do" here in Karlovo and as a bonus you get a friendly welcome and a little guided tour (in English if required).
This is probably the Bulgarian people's best known monument and every year on February 19th, the anniversary of his execution, thousands come to pay homage from all over the country. The monument is situated, appropriately enough, on Vasil Levski Square in the old town. To get there from the modern town centre take the main road heading downhill towards the mosque and turn right at the blue building - this is Vasil Levski street and leads, through the old town, to the monument.
The Old Town is a historical place which shows the spirit of the old houses of the Bulgarian National Revival. About a hundred houses have been preserved in this part – monuments of culture, two-storey, beautifully plastered and yards with decorative portals.You can also see the Mazakov house ,it’s an ethnographical exposition to the Historical Museum, the house of Daskal Botyo, in which Hristo Botev lived for several years.
Historical museum of Karlovo is located near the Vassil Levski monument. The building was built in 1871 for a boy school .Now it is one of the most representative buildings from the time of the Bulgarian Revival. In the exhibition you can see the archaeological heritage of the Karlovo valley,its traditional culture, the development of the education, and the participation of the town population in the liberation fights.
The monument of the Apostol is in the old part of the town, in Vassil Levski square.
During the last few years monuments of the Apostle were created in many Bulgarian settlements as well as in some foreign cities – Washington, Bucharest, Buenos Aires and Salonika.
The house-museum Vasil Levski is located in the western part of Karlovo. It is working as a museum from 1937 in the place of the house where Vasil Levski (the Apostle of Bulgarian Freedom) was born . It is one of the most visited memorial museums in the country.
The house has 3 rooms and а hiding-place where the Apostol had hiden from the Ottomans.There are 2 exibition halls where you can find valuable possessions, documents and art exhibits connected with the life and deeds of Levski.Also in the yard there is a small chapel where could be seen the hair of Levski.In the yard there is a monument of his mother-Gina
First weekend of June, each year in Karlovo is the Roses festival. As usual there is roses-picking ritual on the fields in the morning, which is followed by a good concert on the main square. The programme continues till about lunchtime, and there is a second concert in the late afternoon and evening with international guest of Karlovo.
The week before the festival theatre is a rich cultural programme in the town – the Rose Queen selection, theatres, concerts and a souvenirs and crafts exhibition.
This is the best time for a visit to Bulgaria - just at the beginning of the tourist season, while the Nature is fresh and green and rivers are full with water.
St. Virgin church, is restored in 1851. The Apostol served as a deacon there from 1859 to 1862. The church has impressive size with a plan of pseudo-basilica with a nave and two aisles.
St. Nikolai church was built in 1847. In its yard is the tomb of the mother of Levski – Gina Kuncheva is. The icons in the church were painted by famous artists from Samokov and Bansko.