When a Sunday morning starts with a sudden urge to drink my coffee in… Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria
Rainy and awfully crappy Sunday morning. By the look of it, seemed like I would be confined indoors for the rest of the day and definitely this wasn’t an option for me. So, after a short brainstorming with my friend Crina we decided to run south. In this case south means, Bulgaria, Veliko Tarnovo. There was a logic behind our decision. We were hoping to leave somehow the rain behind and we knew that Veliko would be an interesting destination as well. Actually, that day we did not have a better option..therefore, against all odds, it turned out to be a good choice after all.
The distance to Veliko Tarnovo is 182 km and implies a border crossing since it is in Bulgaria. The trip there it can take up to 3 hours or even more if there is a long queue at the border control.
I was not expecting to like that much this city. It is true, I visited only the old city but even so, I realised I would not mind if I will return one day to see more of it.
The old city is placed on three hills forming a gorge on Yantra river. Tsaravets hill where an impressive fortress was built, the last stronghold against the Ottoman Empire and the capital of the second Bulgarian Empire, home of the Bulgarian Emperors. Trapezitsa hill on which nobility villas, numerous churches were built. This hill seemed to be inhabited since 2nd Millenium BC.
Veliko Tarnovo is the oldest inhabited place in Bulgaria and by 12th to 14th century it became an important cultural and religious centre in Bulgaria and Balkans claiming to be the third Rome. Being a cosmopolite town was home for Armenian, Jewish and catholic merchants. It greatness disappeared when it was conquered by the Ottoman armies which destroyed the fortress after 3 months of siege.
The surrounding walls are tall and thick being quite impressive, reminding me about the Saint John Castle from Kotor Montenegro. The fortress itself has a strategic position being able to control those passing through the gorge on their way to the south of the county.
Destroyed after the Ottoman conquest, for centuries, the fortress was mostly made out of the ghostly ruins, a reminder of what Bulgaria once was. The restoration begins in 1930 and it was finished in 1981. Part of the surrounding wall was rebuilt, also the remains of the palace and the Baldwin`s Tower. On the top of the hill in 1981, the Patriarchate was rebuilt as well.
I walked around the fortress aimlessly being bewitched by the autumnal atmosphere and by the serenity of that place. Although, once upon a time it uses to be full of life, the very centre of Bulgaria. People were living their lives between those walls. People were executed between these walls. People were dying defending those walls. Despite all this, the autumn colours were turning that grim fortress into a magic place.
A lesser known place in Veliko Tarnovo is Trapezitsa Hill, the twin hill guarding the Yantra River along with Tsaravets Hill. Trapezitsa hill was the home of the nobility and numerous churches were built there. The clock tower was the only one surviving the passing time and in recent years an assiduous Restauration work was taking place. 1.2 million of the Restauration money were donated by Azerbaijan Heydar Aliyev Foundation. The access to Trapezitsa Hill is made by a cable similar with the one in Porto, Portugal.
I was running away from the rain but somehow the rain managed to find me. But, by the time rain found me I was already having a late lunch at a restaurant not very far from the fortress. I was attracted by the interior design being so friendly and cosy and the big windows overlooking the Trapezitsa Hill. Usually, the restaurants with a beautiful view have crappy food. Here, on the other hand, it was delicious ,the taste reminded me of my mother`s cooking. The name “The Green Restaurant“ did not say to me much but the food and the interior were speaking very highly about it.
At the end of the day, on my way back to Romania, I was thinking…I had my coffee, I had my trip to a city which forced to me read another page on the history of the Balkan states and I had my delicious meal. All`s well that ends well…in this case, that ends wonderfully….