Veliko Tarnovo

The royal city of Veliko Tarnovo, the capital of the Second Bulgarian Kingdom (1187-1393) is situated on three hills - Tsarevets, Trapezitsa and Sveta Gora. Around which the Yantra River has cut magnificent gorges in the sheer rocks rising into the sky. Perched one above the other on the rocks the rows of houses start down at the riverbank.

Veliko Tarnovo is one of the most ancient Bulgarian towns. The picturesque situation and panoramic view of the town, its centuries-old history and culture, its rich cultural and historical heritage wins Veliko Tarnovo the recognition as a historical, cultural and tourist centre of contemporary Bulgaria.
The town was founded at the foot of the Northern Fore-Balkan Range. Historians date it back to the 4th millennium B. C. The town of Veliko Tarnovo had inherited centuries-old Prehistoric, Thracian and Antique culture and in 1185 it became a centre of the Bulgarian Uprising against Byzantine domination and the capital of the restored Bulgarian state. The medieval town of Tarnovo was rapidly expanding and developed into the strongest Bulgarian fortress during the 12-14th cc. It became the most significant, political, economic, cultural and religious centre of Bulgaria. The Tarnovo Schools of Literature and Arts were established and developed here. Remarkable architectural monuments were created; miniature and monumental painting, literature, plastic arts and crafts achieved high artistic level.
During the 15th-19th centuries period Tarnovo was a symbol of the former Bulgarian state system and stronghold of the Bulgarian national spirit, a leading centre of the struggle for national liberation, for religious and for cultural independence. During the Bulgarian National Revival period in the second half of the 18th and the 19th centuries the town was an important administrative, trade and industrial centre. The rapid economic boom was set as a favorable premise for a dynamic cultural and educational process. Unique monuments of the material and spiritual culture were created.
After the Liberation from Ottoman domination in 1877 until the wars in 1912-1913 and in 1915-1918 as a historical capital Tarnovo played a significant role in the political, administrative and cultural formation of independent Bulgaria. In 1879 Bulgaria was restored for the second time. Then the Constituent Assembly drafted the supreme fundamental laws of the nation - The Tarnovska Constitution in the hall of the former Turkish konak. The 1st, the 3rd, the 4th, and the 5th Grand National Assemblies (in 1879, 1887, 1893 and 1911) were held in Veliko Tarnovo. Prince Alexander Batemberg was elected a head of the state by the First Grand National Assembly in 1879. Prince Ferdinand proclaimed the independence of the Bulgarian Kingdom exceptionally solemnly in 1908.

Things to see:
Tsarevets Hill is a natural inaccessible fortress where the royal palace, the patriarchate and a multitude of small cross-domed churches, were built. The fortress walls were up to 12 m high and 3 m thick. The basic fortress elements determining its silhouette have been restored today. The remaining archaeological finds are displayed as originally discovered: the foundations of numerous residential and administrative buildings that were part of the royal court, churches and streets provide an image of the former appearance of Turnovgrad's main fortress. A central place is occupied by the ruins of the royal palace erected on three terraces owing to the rocky terrain.
Baldwin's Tower in the hill's south-eastern part, commemorating the victory of the Bulgarian Tsar Kaloyan over the knights of the Fourth Crusade in 1205, was restored in 1930-1932. The so-called "execution rock" from which traitors were pushed into the river, rises high above the Yantra to the north. The Holy Ascension patriarchal church has been re-erected on top of the hill. It contains murals painted by contemporary Bulgarian artist Teofan Sokerov, which reflect the historic and spiritual growth of the Bulgarian nation.
Trapezitsa Hill rises on the opposite bank of the Yantra River. Remains of fortress walls, embrasures, towers and fortified gates have been discovered here. The hill housed the residences of the “bolyars” and some public buildings, mostly churches above. The homes of the urban population were located at the foot of the two hills, outside the fortress walls and near the river. Several mediaeval churches dating from the time of the Second Bulgarian Kingdom have been preserved in the Assenev quarter. The St. Dimiter of Salonika church has a sculptured and picturesque exterior with brick decorations. Besides being the city's oldest church, it is also one of the earliest examples of the Turnovo School of architecture and painting. It was here that the “bolyar” brothers Asen and Peter declared the uprising for Bulgaria's liberation from Byzantine domination in 1185. The church has been reconstructed and the murals have been conserved. The Holy 40 Martyrs church was built in honor of Tsar Assen II who defeated the feudal lord Teodor Komnin in 1230. The church preserved the oldest Biblical calendar in the Eastern Orthodox world, along with the in-built columns of Khan Omourtag and of Tsar Ivan Assen II - two of the few surviving written monuments of Bulgarian mediaeval history. The Sts. Peter and Paul church, also with a spiking brick-decorated facade, was built during the second half of the 13th century, and painted during the 14th, 16th and 17th centuries. The murals depicting Biblical scenes carry the clear mark of the Turnovo School of painting - one of the most impressive ones in the Eastern Orthodox world, questing for the portrait and psychological individuality of the figures. From the 12th to 14th c. Sveta Gora Hill was the country's spiritual and cultural centre. The Turnovo School of literature and painting gave the world the Manassiev Chronicle and the Tetraevangelia of Tsar Ivan Alexander. Its traditions have a significant and lasting influence on the whole of south-eastern Europe. Besides being a mediaeval capital, Turnovo was also a National Revival city. Its 18th-19th century houses seem to grow right out of the steep slopes flanking the river and crowning them with their gables and overhanging eaves. Gurko Street provides a fine example of an architectural ensemble.This is where you will find the large Sarafkina House, whose salon runs across both floors (it now houses the 19th Century Turnovo Lifestyle exhibition).  Turnovo is also the place of one of the finest architectural achievements of the self-taught master builder Kolyu Ficheto - the foremost representative of Bulgarian National Revival monumental architecture and building. He revived and ennobled mediaeval traditions with new elements, conforming to the terrain and construction materials. His works include the parish churches the first of which - St. Nikola - was begun by another master, Ivan Davdada to be precise, and completed by Kolyu Ficheto in 1836. Followed the churches Sts. Cyril and Methodius (1860-1861), St. Spas (1862-1863), and Sts. Constantine and Helena (1872-1874), the latter being one of the most impressive and representative Turnovo churches in whose monumental structures elements of urban architecture are skillfully imbued. Kolyu Ficheto also built the Konak (1872), the former town hall of the Turkish administration (now housing the National Revival and Constituent Assembly exposition), the House with the Monkey at Vustanicheska Street, as well as Han Hadji Nikoli (1858). The rooms on its two top floors, where travellers were accommodated are linked by open verandas galleries whose vaulted arches above the capitals are visible from the opposite bank of the Yantra River (the building now houses the National Revival and Ethnography exhibition). Brought back to life in Turnovo are also the Samovodska market street with its attractive small workshops where icon painters, master goldsmiths, potters, carvers, weavers and pastry cooks still pursue their crafts, and the old photo studio. Veliko Turnovo is more than just a beautiful city surrounded by magnificent scenery. It is a city that is destined to survive...

Photos from Veliko Tarnovo

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