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Veliko Tarnovo is a city in the north of Bulgaria and is known as “City of the Tsars” as it is situated on the three hills of Tsarevets, Trapezitsa and Sveta Gora.
It was known as the capital city of the Second Bulgarian Empire and was chosen due to its strategical mountain location, plus being on the banks of the river Yantra.
The city is one of the oldest settlements in Bulgaria with a history of over seven millennia. It was once called Tarnovgrad and had the strongest fortification of the Middle Ages. It even had the name of ‘The Third Rome’. It was home for the most powerful noblemen at the time, due to being one of the most prestigious cities in Europe and the administrative, economic, educational and cultural centre.
The Ottomans eventually conquered the city, even though it did take them a hard fought 3 months in 1393, which then led to the take-over of the whole of Bulgaria. The Russians ended the Ottoman rule in 1877. It was renamed Veliko Tarnovo in 1965, which means Great Tarnovo, due to its rich and importance past.
The area has a vast array of Flora, with beech, hornbeam, oak, cherry, poplar and lime trees making up the majority of the lush forest area that dominates the hills and mountains in the region. Due to this area having so much forest terrain it is home to 350 species of animals. There are hares, foxes, deer, boar, hedgehogs and squirrels. Birds include partridge, crow, quail, pheasant, stork owl and goose. There are also 180 species and a large selection of fish too. Therefore, the area has always been popular with nature lovers and is one of its attractions today.
The most dominate feature of the city is Tsarevets Medieval Fortress, being on the site of some form of structure since the third millennium BC. It has three entrances, the main one is located in the easternmost side of the hill. The castle complex is located in the center, surrounded by an internal stone wall, two battle towers and two entrances – north and south. It consists of a throne hall, castle church and the king’s chamber. The restoration of the Tsarevets began in 1930 and was completed in 1981 in honor of the 1300 anniversary from the establishment of the Bulgarian state. Petar the fourth, Asen the first, Kaloyan and Ivan Asen the second are the most famous Kings that lived there.
The whole structure and surrounding hill is part of a spectacular light, laser and music display, which is unique and emotional. Sound and Light have obtained a viewing gallery/room, so the company can present this visual masterpiece, that is beyond imagination, so is an evening time must. Tsarevets is also a great place to visit in daylight too, as there is so much history and heritage involved, so it would be advised to have a Guided Tour to do so.
One of the other popular place in the city and way to understand the important history of the region is to visit the Multimedia Visitors Center (also known as Museum of wax sculptures). It maps out and depicts the mayor events and helps visitors understand why ‘Tarnovo’ (as some people call it) is so vital to the history of Bulgaria. The artistry in making the figures is of a very high quality, some visitors say, better than the ones in Madame Tussauds in London!
It is also known as the city of churches, as there are so many. Visitors who love to look around religious buildings could spend several days doing so, the most popular are ; the Holy Forty Martyres, St George, Church of the Ascension, Sts Constantine and Helen, The Nativity of the Holy Mother Cathedral and Our Lady of the Rosary Catholic Church, but there are several more.
Other popular venues are the Architectural Museum, The Museum of the National Revival and Constituent Assembly, Prison Museum, Museum of Contemporary History, Sarafkina House Museum, Park of Miniatures (Mini Bulgaria) and the State Art Gallery.
Samovadska Charshya is an artisan area which contains a multitude of art and craft shops, plus gallery’s, souvenir shops, cafes and restaurants. It is definitely the place to strole around all afternoon, taking in the style and atmosphere of the city.
Gurko Street is one of the most beautiful and picturesque areas and is another place to walk around and take in the architecture and ‘feel’ of the city.
There are many important monuments to find around the city, the most popular are; Mother of Bulgaria War Memorial, Monument of the Assen Dynasty, Velchova Zavera, Vasil Levski, Nikola Piccolo, Hanged Rebels Memorial and Monument of Independence.
It has many bridges and they are a feature of the city. Stambovo Bridge was built in a dramatic arch style, which was designed by an Italian architect. Bishops (Vladishki) Bridge is the oldest in the city, build around 1674 and there is also Kings Bridge which is also known as the ‘stone bridge’.
The Economic Region, which is important for the area, is spilt into 4 zones; Central, North, South and West. The main manufacturing and production is the making of electronic parts, a large brewery and a Pepsi plant, medical equipment, clothes, wood furniture and plastic bags, which provides necessary employment. Tourism is increasingly becoming the major industry for the city and is one that the whole region is finding ways to develop and increase, therefore the Municipality and local companies are always looking for investment and collaborations.
The city has many great café, bars and restaurants, plus quality accommodation too, so visitors are not short of places to stay, drink and eat.
Veliko Tarnovo is as beautiful in the winter as it is in the summer, so it truly is an all-year-round destination.