Part 2: What places do Bulgarians visit in their own country?
Written and photos by Clabbe Bjurstrom, edited by Lindsay Martin.
Have you ever wondered what places Bulgarians visit in their own country?
If you are keen on exploring more towns and villages that are often missed by many tourists, then we have more suggestions for you in this second article of a series where we select interesting towns and villages in Central Bulgaria that are worth a visit.
Koprivshtitsa is a nice little town situated in the Sredna Gora mountains and is mostly famous for its authentic Bulgarian architecture, and many folk-music festivals. Calling the town picturesque is an understatement as it contains more than 300 architectural monuments from the 19th century- the period known as the Bulgarian National Revival. As can be learned during a visit, most of these monuments are currently being restored to their original appearances. Works of art, national costumes, ethnographical treasures and many more items and collections are displayed around town from this important period of Bulgarian history.
On 20 April 1876, Koprivshtitsa became the place where the first shots were fired in what later became known as the “April Uprising” in the fight for independence from the Ottoman empire. Many of the houses are open for the public to enter. Take special note of Todor Kableshokov’s house, one of the architects of the April uprising, and its amazingly carved wooden ceiling. Looking over the town, on a hill to the east, stands the monument of Georgi Benkovski, another native son to the town and one of the leading revolutionaries in the April Uprising.
If you are into history then you know that Bulgaria was once part of the Roman empire, mainly noticeable in Plovdiv with its amphitheater or the excavations in Sofia from the previous town of Serdica. Lesser known is the town of Hisarya, not far from Plovdiv.
A small resort town where one can stroll and listen to the birdsongs in the shaded parks or enjoy any of the 20 or more natural mineral water springs. But one would mainly travel here to see the impressive remains of the former Roman city, which includes the enormous walls of the city – the best-preserved walls in Bulgaria, that still stand to almost their original height. There are also remains of a small theater, garrison barracks, and the foundations to some of the oldest churches in Bulgaria. The majestic south gate of Hisarya makes you grasp some understanding of the importance of the city in the 3rd century.
The Roman emperors Septimius Severus and Diocletian visited the city, further proving the importance and popularity as a resort already back then. Diocletian renamed the city from then Augusta to Diocletianopolis. Today we can only imagine its significance from the remains scattered around town.
Kalofer is a small city founded in the 16th century on the outskirts of Stara Planina mountains and is mostly known as the birthplace of the Bulgarian poet and revolutionary Hristo Botev. The city grew in the following centuries as an important cultural and commercial center, which preserved and observed Bulgarian traditions and national holidays.
In Kalofer, on the 6th of January every year, an all-male ensemble dances the traditional horo in the river to celebrate the epiphany and birth of Hristo Botev – which is quite a sight for the eyes considering the low temperature in the river.
Looking at the city today, one should know that it has been burnt down at least three times but every time it was rebuilt by the citizens to keep life going. The mornings are filled with the sound of church bells due to the numerous churches and monasteries that are available to visit in the area.
Visitors can enjoy a visit to one of many knitting ateliers, which produce the famous Kalofer lace or weaving of the traditional rugs. Hristo Botev has his own museum, which as a big monument is keeping a watchful eye over the city, standing side by side with the Russian war memorial, which you can´t miss from the main square.
You could easily visit all three cities in one day in your own car.
If you have the time, public transportation is also an option for visiting these towns. Trains depart several times per day from Sofia to Koprivshtitsa, or by bus to Zlatitsa and change to train.
Kalofer is reached by bus departing twice daily from Sofia. You could also take the train to Karlovo and change but there is only one bus daily to Kalofer from Karlovo.
The easiest way to reach Hisarya is by bus or train to Plovdiv and change to a bus taking you the last bit to Hisar. These depart several times per day from Sofia and Plovdiv. You can also take the train from Plovdiv to Hisarya but these only depart 5 times in a week.