Monday, 1 July 2013

Bulgaria - former capital Veliko Tarnovo (1)

We paid an orientation visit to Veliko Tarnovo (VT) the former capital of Bulgaria, also referred to as the City of Tsars by locals. It has a long and complicated history, as is the case with all of Bulgaria and much of the greater Balkan region for that matter. The region has seen wars and dominance by foreign powers and empires which to this day still causes friction and upheaval - reference Serbia and Kosovo.
Don't forget WW1 erupted in 1914 because of an assassination in Sarajevo the capital of latter day Bosnia Herzegovina, which was part of Tito's Yugoslavia, within the greater Balkan region.

We were taken by Dimitar in his yellow cab to VT and he suggested dropping us in the centre at the Tourist Office, also from where he would later pick us up. The Tourist Office supplied us with a map and we wandered off towards the Old Town. Across the road from this office was a very imposing monument, shown on the map as Maika Bulgaria (Mother Bulgaria). It commemorates the fallen from Bulgaria in four conflicts - Russian / Turkish War, two regional Balkan Wars and WW1.

Maika Bulgaria

Bulgaria entered WW1 on the side of the Central Powers (Germany) and fought with distinction on the Macedonian (Balkan) Front against the British, blunting their attack near Doiran in 1917. However with the imminent collapse of Germany in 1918, Bulgaria capitulated and was the first to sign an Armistice.

Commemorating the fallen from WW1

We carried on walking towards the Old Town, now dominated by small shops and outlets selling arts and crafts from what appears to be a thriving 'Artisan quarter' within VT. The main street is for pedestrians only so makes for a safe and enjoyable visit. It is clean and colourful and has various cafes and eateries in this visitor friendly part of Veliko Tarnovo - well recommended!

We stopped for lunch at Restaurant Ethno with a wonderful view over the Yantra river, which flows into the Danube in northern Bulgaria near the Romanian border. Service was good and the food even better, quiet, plush and relaxed ambiance, on a weekday. Spent a wonderful two hours there.

Restaurant Ethno

View over the Yantra river

The Asen's monument

The Asen's monument commemorates the establishment of the Second Bulgarian Empire under the Asen Dynasty from the 12th to the 13th Centuries, with Veliko Tarnovo as capital. The Asen's ruled over a prosperous and militarily strong Bulgaria which declined after their demise and with the ascendancy of the Turkish Ottoman Empire. The Ottoman Turks ruled supreme in Bulgaria for the next almost 500 years.

Homes overlooking the Yantra river from the hills of Veliko Tarnovo

There is more to see in this (small) city and a second visit will be made soon.

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