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Famous historical and culture places, Bulgarian monasteries, Rural tourism in Bulgaria

Bozhentsi culture and rural complex

The village of Bozhentsi is an Architecture and Ethnographic Reserve, situated at a distance of 28 km west of Tryavna along the road to Dryanovo; on foot it may be reached for about 1-1.30 hours from the Sechen Kamuk Hill on the road to Gabrovo) - almost all the buildings here were built during the 18th and mainly during the 19th century in the typical of this region of Bulgaria Revival style. In Bozhentsi one is carried away into the past and finds out an unsuspected idyll and calmness among the spirituality of the old houses. There is a museum, too.

Every year in the beginning of September the village hosts a plain-air “Autumn in Bozhentsi”, and from June to September - an exhibition-bazaar of works of art is held there, too. It is possible to find accommodation in some of the houses - Ivan Karadimitrov’s House (19th century), Maria Savekova’s House (18th-19th century), Tsana Mihova’s House (19th century), Ivantsa Boncheva’s House (20th century), Parlapanov’s House. Tel.: 363 through telephone orders for Bozhentsi. There is a regular bus transport from Gabrovo and Dryanovo. Patterns of ancient architecture are preserved in the near small villages of Skortsi, Dobrevtsi, Kereni, Kissiitsi, Genchevtsi. There are regular buses from Tryavna.

Etura - famous ethnographic complex in the foot of Balkan mountain

The unique in south-eastern Europe open-air museum - the architectural ethnographic complex of Etura is situated at the distance of 8 km south of the centre of the town in the immediate proximity of the Etara quarter and past the Sivek River (at the distance of 3 km from the road-fork to Shipka). It is the most interesting place of interest in the town and one of the most visited site all over Bulgaria. Located over an area of 60 decares the complex lives the authentic life of a typical craftsmanship settlement from the period of Bulgarian Revival. The way Bulgarian people lived 150 years ago can be perceived and felt here. One can hear the rattle of wheels and mills moved by water, the whiz of the mills for woollen cloths and for flour. Metal ornaments, pottery articles, copper utensils, braids, hot buns and whatever else come out from the skillful hands of the masters there. The little cobblestone streets, the stone cheshmi (drinking-fountains), the gas lanterns, Sakov’s house, the house with the tavern, the clock tower and a lot of other authentic details complete the whole picture. All of these is predominantly the work of the great patriot Lazar Donkov who dedicated his life to this noble cause – to create this authentic ethnographic complex. There is a town bus running to Etura.

Chiprovtzi culture tourism

The town of Chiprovtzi (2915 inhabitants, about 500 m above sea level) is picturesquely situated in the folds between Chiprovska and Iazova Mountain (Western Stara Planina) on the banks of Stara Reka and Martinovska Ogosta rivers. It is 120 km to the northwest from Sofia and 35 km to the west from Montana. Centuries-old stronghold of Bulgarian spirit.
History. Chiprovtsi is a very old settlement, originating in Thracian time, when ore mining in these lands is dated back. There were ledges of copper, lead, gold, silver and iron. In Roman age the region around the village had beenamong the gold mining centres of greatest importance on the Balkans. The village is named after the Roman name of copper - cupprum. It was named Kiprovets first, then Chiporovtzi and finally the today’s Chiprovtzi (renamed in 1956). In late antiquity ore minimg had been of great importance for the development of military production in the Rome Ritsaria (today Archar). Slav people had come here after 6th century and borrowed production experience in ore mining from the local inhabitants.

In 13th-16th century Chiprovtzi had been a busy mining village that enjoyed great favours. Here settled Saxon miners, who gave a further impetus to this activity. It is not accidental that right here in the flourishing feudal domains of the Bulgarian boyars Soimirovi a great part of the Bulgarian aristocracy settled after the Ottoman invasion. Chiprovtzi reached its economic, political and cultural boom in the first three centuries under foreign rule. Goldsmith’s trade developed most in comparison to all other handcrafts. High artistic production had outlined the town as the biggest goldsmith centre on the Balkan Peninsula in 16th and 17th century along with Tsarigrad, Thessa-lo-niki and Belgrade. Trade with the famous cups made in Chiprovtzi flourished not only on the Balkans and the Ottoman Empire but extended to Central Europe, too. Churches, monasteries, schools, rich and beautiful houses were built in this environment of considerable improvement and culture.

In 16th century the Literary School of Chiprovtsi emerged. Its “heights” are: “Abagar” by Fillip Stanislavov, the theological, philosophical and historical works of Petar Bogdan, Yakov Peyachevich and Krustyu Peikich. Petar Bogdan and Petar Parchevich headed the struggle for national independence in the middle of 17th century. In the beginning they relied on help from our western neighbours and the Pope, but were disappointed and began an independent preparation of a people’s revolt. In September 1688 broke the Uprising of Chiprovtsi that was headed by Georgi Peyachevich, Bogdan Marinov, the brothers Ivan and Mihail Stanislavovi and Petar Parchevich. The decisive battle took place in the area called Zheravitsa, where the troops of the Turkish vassal - the Magyar count Emerik Tekeli - defeated the Bulgarians. Those surviving fortified themselves in Chiprovtsi and in the Chiprovtsi (Gushovski) Monastery, but their defence was overcome, too. Outrageous slaughter and brutality occurred. More than half of the inhabitants were slaughtered. A great part of the survivors looked for refuge in Vlashko (Romania), Magyar and Croatia. The town was burnt down, devastated and ruined, after which it never reached its past glory. Chiprovtsi rebelled in 1836 (Manchov’s buna) and in 1837 (headed by Varban Penev). Its inhabitants took part also in the uprising in Vidin in 1850.

In 19th c. carpet manufacturing developed very much. The famous Chiprovtzi carpets are handmade from pure wool on a vertical loom. Even today they find markets all over the world, and now in thousands Bulgarian homes the colours of nature in Chiprovtsi beam, collected and immortalized by the tender hands of the carpet masters in Chiprovtzi.

Thracian Tomb of Kazanluk

The Thracian tomb of Kazanlak was discovered by accident in 1944 beneath a huge mound. It is located near remains of the historical city of Seutopolis, the capital of the Thracian king Seutes III, and is part of a large Thracian necropolis. The tomb is made of bricks, while the entire building is covered with stone pieces from the outside. It has a narrow corridor and a round burial chamber. What makes it a part of the world’s cultural heritage are its murals representing Thracian burial rituals and culture. These paintings, covering 40 square meters, are Bulgaria''s best-preserved artistic masterpieces from the Hellenistic period.

Within the burial chamber, a central place is taken by the painting of a burial feast. One can distinguish a renowned Thracian king and his wife in the middle of the composition, surrounded by slaves, maids and musicians. Another wall-painting of a smaller size that depicts a dynamic cart race occupies the upper part of the dome. Both frescoes are extremely realistic and of high artistic value.

After its discovery, the tomb was covered by a special protective construction, equipped with an air conditioning system aimed to preserve the valuable paintings. Nearby the tomb, tourists can visit its precise copy that is open to visitors during the day all around the year.

Tryavna town of historical and architectural landmarks

The town of Tryavna is situated in a narrow valley of the Tryavna Balkan Mountain, 242km away from the city of Sofia. The small mountain town (with less than 13,000 inhabitants) is halved by the Dryanovska river, which adds to its enchantment.

Established as a village around a church built by the Assen dynasty in the 12th c. AC, the town of Tryavna grew into one of the cultural centres of the Bulgarian Renaissance period. The town saw its apogee in the 18-19th c. with the development of crafts, applied arts and trade. The famous Tryavna Art School left its biggest impact on the town''s looks of that period, which are largely preserved to date. Felix Kanits, who visited the town in 1872 named it '"The Bulgarian Nuernberg'".

At present the old part of the town is declared an architectural reserve with some 140 monuments of Renaissance art. The most prominent examples are Dyado Nikola square, Slaveykov street, Petar Bogdanov street, Kachaunska Mahala, etc. Apart from its rich historical and architectural landmarks, the town has also drawn on visitors for its curative climate ever since the end of the 19th c. The first of the country''s children sanatoriums for lung diseases was built here in the early 20th c. with a donation from Queen Ioana, wife of King Boris III.

Rila Monastery

The Rila monastery lies in the very Rila mountain, at 1,147 meters above sea level. It is situated 117km away from Sofia to the south, and is no doubt the most popular tourist site among all monasteries in Bulgaria equally for its size, natural surroundings, architecture, wall paintings and ancient history. The monastery is flanked by the small mountain rivers of Rilska and Drushlyavitsa and is only 4 hours walking distance from the Malyovitsa peak, rising at 2,729 meters above sea level. The highest peak of the Rila mountain, Mousala (2925 meters), which is also the Balkan peninsula’s highest point, is further away at about 8 hours’ walk. The monastery offers a great view to the surrounding peaks of the mountain and represents a developed tourist sight with all the accompanying facilities such as souvenir shops, restaurants and inns.
The monastery is believed to have been founded by a hermit, John of Rila, in the 10th century, during the reign of the Bulgarian Tzar Peter (927-968). St John of Rila, whose mummified relics are exhibited for pilgrims in the main church, in fact lived in a cave about half-an-hour walk away from the present-day monastery complex. The monastery itself is considered to have been built by his scholars, who came to the place to be taught by him.

Bachkovo Monastery

The second largest Bulgarian monastery, the Bachkovo cloister, lies in the valley of the Chepelare river (also known by the locals as Chaya), about 10km to the south of the town of Assenovgrad. On all sides, the monastery is surrounded by the hills of the Rhodopi mountain, which together with its size and ancient spirit make is one of the most visited monasteries in Bulgaria. The complex and its neighbourhood have grown into a developed tourist sight where dozens of small shops, stalls, and restaurants stand on both sides of the walkway to the gates and appeal with their variety to visitors. One can find here everything that grows or is being manufactured in the Rhodopi mountain – rare herbs, home-made jams of wild fruit, yogurt and white cheese made of sheep or buffalo’s milk, woolen carpets, etc.
The monastery was founded in 1083 by the Byzantine military commander of Georgian origin, Grigorii Bakuriani and his brother Abazii. Yet only the two-storey bone-vault, which lies about 300m to the east of the present-day complex, is still kept from that time. The bone-vault is a must-see building there, for its unique wall-paintings, which rank among the most valuable works of Orthodox art of the 11th –12th c.

Arbanasi Monastery

The St. Virgin Mary convent can be found at the very beginning of the Arbanasi village, which in turn is situated 5 km away from Veliko Turnovo on the road to Gorna Oryahovitsa. It is one of the cloisters scattered around the former capital of Bulgaria, which hold painful memories of the Turks’ invasion in Bulgaria. A visit of this monastery can be a part of a nice day off or a weekend in the ancient village of Arbanasi. Another monastery, St Nikola lies at the other end of the village and can complement a visit in the neighbourhood.
The St Virgin Mary cloister was established at the time of the second Bulgarian state, which ended with the fall under Ottoman rule in the end of the 14th century. As soon as the Tsarevets fortress of the Bulgarian king (in the nearby Veliko Turnovo) is conquered by the Ottoman troops, only a few houses of Arbanasi, including this monastery, survived the invasion. During the first years of Ottoman domination, the monastery remains a wealthy convent, but was later abandoned following a series of raids by groups of the so-called Kurdzhalii. Yet in 1680, local people raise money and erect the monastery’s church, which has survived to date. It is an interesting building for its being quite different from the gorgeous churches of other cloisters – it represents a low and longish building (18 meters long, 6 meters wide) with two entrance halls and a spacious chapel, without external brilliance or bell-tower. Its walls were painted by the Krastyo, Tsonyo and Georgi masters in 1704. Soon afterwards (in 1716), the Troyan monk Danail initiates the construction of monks’ dwellings and brings the monastery back to life. In 1762, the church and the chapel were additionally decorated with frescoes. Besides the wall paintings, a few icons, painted by the Tyavna master Zahari Stefanov and his son, Tsonyo, have been also preserved to present days. The bell-tower is brand new and stands out just above the main entrance of the monastery.