This year I wanted by all means to visit Veliko Tarnovo. One day we went walking from our hotel by the Information Center towards the ‘Kuban’ hotel. There a young man was handing out some booklets. I took one as an exception. And can you guess what was written on it? Exactly! There were offers by Neckerman, and by the way some of them were for excursions to Veliko Tarnovo. The Neckerman’s tourist center is right next to the Information Center, that is to say - a few minutes away from our hotel.
The only thing we had to do was to go there. A young, nice lady and a young polite man presented us the excursion in a perfect German. They explained to us that it was about a two day excursion where we can visit Arbanasy, Veliko Tarnovo, Dryanovski Monastery, Gabrovo, and Etara, the Shipka passage, Shipka town and Kazanlak as well. The price of 179 leva per person included two lunches, one dinner, one breakfast and a night, spent in a village in Balkan Mountains as well. Of course we made reservation straight a way. The programme was full of promise and the price seemed normal to us.
We set up an international tourist group, composed of four Russians, four Englishmen, two Polish and two Germen. We had at our disposal four tourist guides, so each group had its own interpreter. The bus driver was a Bulgarian of Turkish origin, who knew German very well, although he had been working in Austria for five years. Horst and I were sitting next to him during the trip and we could talk with him.
Along the South part of Balkan mountains and then through the Passage of the Republic:
At last it happened! They took us at 6:00 am from the 'Bor' hotel. We were traveling through the villages as long as on the North of Burgas we entered highway 6. Along it we followed the South part of Balkan Mountain through Aytos, Karnobat and Sliven up to the small town of Gurkovo. It is named after the Russian chief commander during the Russian- Turkish war in 1877/78. Here we made the first photo-pause. We took photos of a lavender field and of some mulleins.
And now up in the mountains. We crossed the Balkan Mountains through the Passage of the Republic. This passage was built in 1946 during the communist regime by the 'voluntary' labour of students. However it was, the Passage represents a very important connection between North and South Bulgaria.
We visited ‘Saint peter and Pavel’ Monastery after we crossed the Balkan Mountains. There are a lot of monasteries in Bulgaria, but not each of them is interesting. In any cases not interesting for me. Here I am talking about a Catholic monastery and the Bulgarians are mostly Orthodox. But Bulgaria used to be Catholic for about a hundred years and this monastery was built at that time.
After the 'Saint Peter and Pavel' monastery, according to the schedule, it was the turn of the architectural village Arbanacy.
There we visited a church, but I didn’t take photos of it. There was an American tourist group, which had diverted from its journey along the Dunav River. A Gregorian choir, which sang in the church, was included in their programme. The door was closed, and although we couldn’t see anything it was amazing to listen to the music in the church, while sitting.
An inside view from one historical house:
This is the lavatory. Some information before you start laughing: Even in the famous worldwide Versail Palace at that time there wasn’t anything like that. There they made c… in empty rooms. Now you can laugh.
We wanted to have a snack. But as it is known- the prize is after the hard work. As it was in our case - we had to deal with the asphalt. The street towards the restaurant was just covered with asphalt. There was no way to pass. So everyone got off the bus and went on foot. Fortunately it wasn’t far.
The real fun was when we had to go back from the restaurant. The machine, laying the asphalt, has just reached the place where we had left the bus. So here was already impossible to pass. The bus driver needed several tries to find an exit from this village. The chief tourist guide was indignant, the driver was nervous, and I had really fun. That’s the way it is - who travels has what to tell…
We marched forth Veliko Tarnovo, the capital of the Second Bulgarian Country, after the lunch.
the old town
In Veliko Tarnovo we also had a funny experience. Horst and I spent the 1 hour free time that we had in one bar. Naturally, with our cameras, it was easy to recognize us as tourists. And when I ordered our drinks in Bulgarian, the young waitress (about 16-17 years old) couldn’t calm down till the end of her shift. She wasn’t used at all to tourists ordering in Bulgarian.
You cannot escape from the history in Balkan Mountain. Here the legendary April Uprising against the Turkish oppression had burst in April/May 1876. The Uprising had been brutally suppressed and the Turkish had started a horrifying massacre among the civil people. But this act turned against the Turkish-a reaction of indignation arose in Europe, Bulgaria was placed at the head of the ‘political agenda’. The result was that Russia proclaimed war against Turkey. The liberty of Bulgaria from Turkish oppression was achieved as a result of that war (1877/78).
On the way to the Dranovsky Monastery there is a monument that reminds people of the heroes of the year 1876.
This plaque reminds of the visit of the Bulgarian national hero Vasyl Levsky in May 1871. Levsky was hung by the Turkish in 1873.
The building for public receptions
The house with the relics. The remains of the perished people in the April Uprising are preserved here.
In front of the Monastery:
We fairly gained our free time in the evening after so much culture and history during the first day. We spent the night in the small village Feneritz in the Balkan Mountain. First there was a common dinner and we were still sitting tightly next to each other after it. As we had sat, it happened that I was celebrating together with four Russians- all of them were from Moscow. We really had a lot of fun.
The houses are the same as they were 150 years ago and are under protection.
Then we went on for Gabrovo. Hristo- the person, who had covered the Berlin Reichstag, was born here. The people from Gabrovo are recognized to have bouch, respectedly scotish qualities - they are considered to be tight - fisted.
The local people had built a monument of the founder of the city on a little island in the middle of the river. In this act the rest of the Bulgarians see a prove for their niggardliness- they didn’t even have a little piece of land for this monument.
Some photos from the inside of the town, with a lot of houses in secession style:
Etara, another village museum, was the next stop in our programme
We crossed from North to South the Balkan Mountain after we saw the Etara. This time we traveled through the Shipka Passage. Here was the scene of the most important victory over the Turkish during the war in 1877/78. About 5000 Russians and Bulgarians successfully suppressed more than 30000 Turkish. A monument was built on the top of the mountain to keep a reminiscence of that. Each year on 3rd of March here is officially celebrated the national holiday of Bulgaria - The liberty from Turkish oppression.
We had some lunch after we passed through the Balkan Mountain. Then we went sightseeing Shipka and the memorial church.
The town of Kazanlak was our next stop, where we went to visit the recently found Thracian vaults. Actually there was nothing to be seen, except the dark graves- the treasures, found there, are on a worldwide exhibition. That’s the reason why I don’t have any photos.
It was one incredibly wonderful excursion. I hope that the photos represent at least one small part of what we saw.
We had an unbelievable luck with our tourist guide. It could be seen that she has guided tours round Bulgaria for Marko Polo. Her competence was befitting.
We got luck also with our group. People from so many nationalities, not at any rate, could stand each other, but all the participants were interested in Bulgaria. It wasn’t a competition in drinking, considering all the things