The town of Veliko Tarnovo is a district centre. The town has a population of 66 000 inhabitants and lies at a distance of 220 km northeast of Sofia. Veliko Tarnovo is the municipal centre of 88 settlements. The administrative centre is located at a picturesque valley cut by the Yantra River at the foot of Fore-Balkan. The Thracian name of that ancient river is Yatrus, meaning "fast flowing" and the Slavic name - Etar. The meanders of the river form three peninsulas -Tzarevetz, Trapezitza and Sveta Gora. The settlement is built over these three hills.
The first inhabitants of the region were the Thracian tribes which maintained relations with the whole Aegean world. The next cultural layer is from the Early Byzantine epoch from IV-VII c. The fundamental buildings, the fortified wall and other traces speak of vigorous growth during the period. Later on a medieval Slavic settlement sprang up over the ruins of the early-Byzantine fortress on the Tzarevetz hill. The settlement continued its existence throughout the whole period of the First Bulgarian Kingdom and in the years of the Byzantine domination. In XII c. it became a strategic Byzantine fortress and an economic centre. In 1185 after the rebellion of the Bulgarian boyars Asen and Peter Turnovgrad became the capital of Bulgaria.
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There is a tremendous development in the sphere of architectural monuments, monumental and miniature painting, book-printing and artistic crafts. During the Ottoman yoke the old capital of Bulgaria was the centre of many rebellions among which are: The First Turnovo Rebellion(1598), The Second Turnovo Rebellion(1686), The Marino Rebellion(1700), the Rebellion of Captain Dyado Nikola (1835), The Hadzhistavrev's Rebellion (1862), the Philip Totyo' s Rebellion (1867), the Stefan Karadzha and Hadzhi Dimiter's Rebellion(1868). After the Liberation of Bulgaria from the Ottoman yoke in the period from 1877 until 1918 the town played a significant role in the political, administrative and cultural development of Bulgaria. It is in Veliko Tarnovo that in 1879 the first Bulgarian constitution was approved - the Tarnovo Constitution.
The tourist sights of the town are: the architectural museum-reserve "Tzarevetz", the churches "St. Dimiter Solunski" (1185), "St. forty martyrs"(XIII c.), "St. Peter and Pavel"(XIII c.), "St. Georgi" (XIV c.), the "Samovodskata charshia" market place, the Kokona Anastasiya's House, Dimo Sarafina's House etc.
On the territory of the district are located: the remains of Nikopolis ad Istrum, Arbanassi - an architectural reserve, the Plakovo, Kilifarevo, Kapinovo, Patriarsheski, Preobrazhenski, Petropavlovski, Saint Apostles Peter and Pavel, Holy Virgin monasteries and other monasteries from the Veliko Tarnovo Sveta Gora Complex. In the region of the village of Hotnitza was discovered a gold treasure of 44 objects. They were found among the remains of a Late Eneolith housing building in a settlement mound dating back to the second half of the V c. B.C.
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In the region of Veliko Tarnovo are located the following natural landmarks: the reserves "Byala krava"/White Cow/, "Savchov chair", "Haidushki chukar" and the Negovanovo eco-path by the village of Emen.
An important ornithological site in the region is the Danube island of Vardim - a natural marshland forest with protected and rare birds.
The architectural reserve "Tzarevetz" is situated on the Tzarevetz hill where the medieval town was located. In 1185 the brothers Asen and Peter proclaimed Veliko Tarnovo for a capital of Bulgaria. The medieval town developed quickly and became a significant political, economic, cultural and religious centre of Bulgaria. The ancient town was situated on three hills - Tzarevetz, Trapezitza and Sveta Gora which are surrounded by the wide meanders of the Yantra River. The Tzarevetz Hill was populated by the king and his court, the king's palace, the boyars and the patriarch. The hill was engirdled by a fortified wall built over the natural steep rocks above the river. The fortress had three entrances. In the middle of the fortress stands the palace and on the highest point of Tzarevets is the patriarch's church.
The "St. Dimiter" church in Veliko Tarnovo was sanctified in 1185. It is here where the rulers Asen, Peter and Kaloyan were crowned kings. The temple was preserved as a Christian one until 1779 and later on the church was restored.
The "Saint Forty Martyrs" church in Tarnovo was built by King Ivan Asen II to commemorate the victory of the Bulgarian over the Byzantine troops in 1230 at Klokotnitza. In XIII -XIV c. it was the most beautiful and the richest church. During the Ottoman yoke it was transformed into a mosque and the mural paintings were whitewashed. The church was later on restored.
The "St. Peter and Pavel" church in Veliko Tarnovo dates back to the end of XIII c. and the beginning of XIV c. It has a rich wall decoration from different periods. After the fall of Bulgaria under the Ottoman yoke the Bulgarian patriarchate was moved to this church.
The "St. Georgi" church in Veliko Tarnovo was built in 1612 at the site of a medieval church demolished by the Ottoman conquerors. The church has precious mural paintings.
The "Samovodskata charshia" in Veliko Tarnovo is an ethnographic complex situated in a small street. It represents the typical atmosphere of the Revival period of buildings with small workshops and shops. A large number of the houses were restored. However, the masters who still work in them are using old technologies and original tools.
Arbanassi is an architectural-historic complex lying at a distance of 4 km from Veliko Tarnovo with a view to the Tzarevetz and Trapezitza hills. It has unique XV-XVIII c. houses and churches with rich internal decoration. 143 buildings in Arbanassi are proclaimed for monuments of culture. The external and internal outlook of the housing buildings is extremely varied. The houses in Arbanassi were built of stone with huge stone fences. Interesting are also the Arbanassi fountains. The Kokona's fountain was built in 1786 by Mehmed Said Aga. On its façade there is an inscription in ancient Arabic saying: "Whoever looks at or drinks from this fountain will find light for his eyes and soul". Interesting are also the seven Arbanassi churches. They were built and painted in several stages during XV-XVII c. The architectural, iconographic and wood-carved iconostases are of such a high historic and artistic value that they are proclaimed for phenomena in the Balkan culture of that time. Architecturally the churches are single-nave, single-apside ones with a semi-cylindrical vault under a double-layer roof. They are built of stone with small windows and iron bars. They have two compartments - one for men and one for women.
The Plakovo Monastery by the village of Plakovo lies at a distance of 18 km from Veliko Tarnovo. The monastery was founded at the time of the Second Bulgarian State and was demolished after the fall of Bulgaria under the Ottoman yoke. In 1450 it was restored after which it was demolished and burned down several times. The monastery complex consists of a church, housing and farming buildings. The church is a single-nave, single-apside one with a dome. The icons were painted in 1852. The housing sections and the tower-bell were built by the master-builder Kolyo Ficheto. The belfry is 26 m high.
The Kapinovo Monastery lies at a distance of 20 km from the district centre and 2 km from the Plakovo Monastery. The monastery was founded in 1272. It was an important religious centre at the time. During the Ottoman Yoke it was plundered and burned down many times. The monastery church was built in 1835 by master builders from Dryanovo and was later painted in 1845. In the monastery church there is a wood-carved iconostasis from XVIII c. and many precious icons.
The Kilifarevo Monastery in Veliko Tarnovo District was built in 1348-1350 by the prominent Bulgarian clergyman Teodosii Tarnovski. The monastery became one of the most important centers of the Bulgarian Enlightenment. Here was formed the Kilifarevo Bookman School. In 1360 it had 460 students. The most famous among them is the Bulgarian Patriarch Evtimii Tarnovski. The monastery was surrounded by thick fortified walls. The monk cells were on the internal side of the fortified wall. In the middle of the yard there was an impressive observation tower. After the fall of Bulgaria under the Ottoman yoke the fortress was completely demolished. The monastery was restored in 1718. The big single-nave dome church "St. Dimiter" was built in 1840 by Kolyo Ficheto and the housing buildings were built in 1849. The wood-carved iconostasis was made by representatives of the Tryavna art school.
The Preobrazhenski Monastery lies at a distance of 10 km from the district town at the foot of steep rocks on the left bank of the Yantra River. From the monastery is revealed a magnificent view towards the river gorge and the Patriarch Monastery situated on the other bank of the river. The monastery doesn't have any buildings preserved from the time of its establishment. The present-day buildings were built in XIX c. The church "Sveto Preobrazhenie Gospodno" was built in 1834-1861 by Dimiter Sofialiyata and Nikola Fichev. The church has a unique painting decoration by Zahari Zograf. He worked on the masterpieces of the Revival period art for three years (1849-1851). Pope Vitan Junior made the iconostasis of the church.
The Patriarch Monastery is the oldest monastery from the group of monasteries in the Tarnovo Sveta Gora Complex. In 1368 the hermit Teodosii Tarnovski retreated in a small cave in the rocky massif. He was soon followed by other monks. At that period the monastery was supported by the Bulgarian kings Ivan Alexander and Ivan Shishman. At the end of XIV c. when Bulgaria was conquered by the Ottoman troops 300 monks from the monastery were slaughtered in front of the eyes of the inhabitants of Veliko Tarnovo. Shortly before the Liberation of Bulgaria the monastery was restored with the help of Kolyo Ficheto and Zahari Zograf.
The Petropavlovski Monastery in the town of Lyaskovetz lies at a distance of 6 km from the district town. During the XIX century the monastery was an important educational centre.
The ancient town Nikopolis ad Istrum in the village of Nikiup lies at a distance of 18 km from the district town. The Roman emperor Trayan called the town -"The Danube town of victory" in honour of his victory over the Daks in 102-106. The town reached its zenith at the time of Emperor Konstantin the Great and Justinian during III-VI c. Nikopolis ad Istrum was destroyed by Avars and Slavs. The French epigraph Syor started archaeological excavations in 1900 and discovered that the town had temples with colonnades, wide streets with stone tiles, modern water conduit and drainage system, part of which are preserved till today. It was one of the biggest Roman towns on the Bulgarian lands.
The town of Svishtov has a population of 32 000 inhabitants and lies at a distance of 84 km northwest of Veliko Tarnovo. The town is the administrative municipal centre of 15 component settlements. The town is located on the bank of the Danube River in its most southern point at an altitude of 100 m. It was the first Bulgarian town liberated in 1877 from the Russian army.
The region has been populated since ancient times. The Roman fortress Nove was built at the site of a Thracian settlement in I c. Nove was a significant strategic centre along the Danube River around which a settlement was formed. In III-IV c. the camp became a fortress for both civil and military people. During the Revival Period Svishtov was a cultural and economic centre. It was liberated on 16th July 1877 and the Svishtov Province was founded.
The tourist sights of the town are: the history museum, the churches "Sveta Troitza'/The Holy Trinity/ (1867), "St. St. Cyril and Methodius" (1873), "St. St. Peter and Pavel" (1644), the clock tower from 1763, the museum of Aleko Konstantinov, the remains of the ancient town of Nove, the oldest higher education school in Bulgaria, the Svishtov monastery "Uspenie Bogorodichno"/The Assumption/, the island of Vardim.
Svishtov is the birth place of the Revival Period artist Nikolay Pavlovich, the writer Aleko Konstantinov, the statesmen Dragan Tzankov and Grigor Nachkovich and Tzvetan Radoslavov - the author of the national anthem.
The ancient town of Nove was built at the sight of an ancient Thracian settlement. In 45 here originated a camp for the VIII Augustus legion and in 69 here came the First Italian legion. The fortification was erected immediately next to the high Danube bank. At the end of III c. and the beginning of IV c. the military camp was transformed to a fortress town. Here were discovered many statue pedestals, inscriptions, parts of bronze statues and coins. One of the rare sculpture portraits of the emperor Karakala (211-217) was also found here. One can see evidence of mass baptizing in Novae setting the beginning of Christianity along these lands.
The Great people's movement brought forth a change in the development of the ancient world. Numerous tribes appeared and disappeared. One of them was the Goths tribe. In 332 Emperor Konstantin the Great settled about 300 000 Goths along Mizia and Thrace. In 376 they obtained the statute of federates within the limits of the Roman Empire. So the Novae fortress became the centre of the Goths federates in the Roman Empire. In 391 Alarih I was chosen for a king of the Thracian Goths and in 395 he set off with his troops to Rome to enter the world history as the first conqueror of Rome in 410. For almost 15 years the Goths ruler Teoderih the Great (456-526) governed Novae who became later on famous as the King of Ravena and entered the German mythology as Ditrih Fon Bern and the Norwegian mythology as Tidrik.
The church "Saint Troitza" /The Holy Trinity/ was finished in 1867. It was built at the highest point of the town by the master-builder Kolyo Ficheto. The three-nave scheme is combined with a central dome on four columns. The icons of the church were painted by the talented artist Nikolay Pavlovich and the iconostasis was made by masters from Kalofer. The church's belfry was built in 1886. The earthquake of 1977 caused serious damages to the temple which was later restored in 1992.
The house of Aleko Konstantinov represents an exhibition related to the writer's life and works. Aleko Konstantinov was a famous Bulgarian short-story and feuilletons writer. He created the most-famous satire image in the Bulgarian literature - Bay Ganyo. Aleko Konstantinov founded the organized tourism in Bulgaria. The museum was stablished in 1929.
The clock tower in Svishtov was built in 1763 and is 23 m high.
The town of Kilifarevo has a population of about 2 500 inhabitants and lies at a distance of 12 km south of the district centre. The town is situated along the Belitza River. Near Kilifarevo is located the spa resort Voneshta Voda and the Kilifarevo Monastery.
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The town of Elena has a population of 6 000 inhabitants and lies at a distance of 39 km southeast of Veliko Tarnovo. Elena is a centre of a municipality with 124 component settlements.
The town is situated in a beautiful valley of the Elena River at an altitude of 300-600 m. The town has been popular with the name Elena (or Stramen) since 1430. In XVIII-XIX c. Elena was a craftsman's, trade and cultural centre. There are 147 monuments of culture in Elena, 7 of which of national significance. The clock tower was built in 1812 by an unknown master-builder. From all ancient houses in Elena the most interesting one is that of Ilarion Makariopolski.
The tourist sights of the town are: the First Bulgarian Pedagogical School, the church "Uspenie Bogorodichno" /The Assumption/ (1837), the church "St. Nikola" (XVI c.), and Revival period houses from XVIII-XIX c.
The Elena class school was built in 1844. Around the school there is a whole complex of Revival period buildings of architectural value.
The churches "Uspenie Bogorodichno"/The Assumption/ and "St. Nikola" were built in 1837 and 1804. They have a beautiful architectural style and artistic mural paintings.
The town of Gorna Oryahovitza has a population of 34 000 inhabitants and lies at a distance of 7 km northeast of Veliko Tarnovo. The town is the centre of a municipality with 13 settlements. The municipality is located on the border of Fore-Balkan and the Danube Plain. This is the reason for the significant differences in the altitude varying from 92 to 500 m.
The earliest settlements in the region date from the third millennia before Christ. There are two partially preserved Neolith settlements in the region. In V-VI c. there was an ancient fortress which was fortified in IX c.
During the Roman Empire at a distance of 14 km from the present-day town of Gorna Oryahovitza originated one of the biggest towns of the Lower Mizia Province - Nikopolis ad Istrum. The ancient town was built for the emperor Trayan. From here on starts the road to Augusta Tryana (Stara Zagora) and with the purpose of defending the road were built many fortresses. One of them is Ryahovetz. Its name comes from the Persian word "ryah" meaning "road". From this ancient name comes also the present-day name of the town. The ancient fortress lies at a distance of 3 km west of the present-day town. During the Second Crusade the fortress was captured and destroyed by Vladislav III Yagelo in 1444. Later the region around the fortress was populated again and thus the present-day town was formed. During the period of the Ottoman Yoke Gorna Oryahovitza developed as a thriving trade centre with market places well-known all over Bulgaria. In 1870 the settlement was proclaimed for a town.
The tourist sights of the region are: the monastery "Saint Prophet Iliya" (XIV c.), the Thracian settlement in the Kamaka site, the history and ethnographic museum in the town, the churches "St. Atanas" (1393), "St. Georgi" (XVIII c.), "Uspenie Bogorodichno"/The Assumption/ (1789) and "Saint Troitza"/The Holy Trinity/
The medieval fortress "Ryahovetz" lies at a distance of 3,5 km west of the town. The fortress had fortified walls with three towers. From the defense system have been preserved only the foundations.
The Kamaka/The Stone/ is a Thracian fortress with a sanctuary. The remains of the fortified wall with a length of 350 m and some remains of the Thracian sanctuary have been preserved.
The town of Pavlikeni has a population of 12 000 inhabitants and lies at a distance of 42 km northwest of Veliko Tarnovo. The town is the municipal centre of 19 component settlements. The town is located at the central part of the Danube Plain at a distance of 4 km from the Rositza River.
The present-day town sprang up in XIII-XIV c. The first settlers belonged to a strong medieval religious movement - that of the pavlikyans. The Pavlikyans were followers of the religious movement that originated in VII c. in Armenia which later reached Syria, Byzantine and Thrace. Hence the name of the settlement became Pavlikeni. The settlement developed as a craftsman's and trade centre. After the Liberation Pavlikeni was a small village. A boost in its development was the construction of the railway line Sofia-Varna. In 1943 the settlement was proclaimed for a town. It is the birth place of the famous Bulgarian opera singer Nikola Gyuzelev.
The tourist sights of the region are: the ancient ceramics centre from II-III c., the history museum and the art gallery.
The ancient ceramics centre lies at a distance of 4 km west of the town. It is a unique complex for the manufacture of household, artistic and building ceramics dating back to II-III c. During excavation works were discovered the foundations of housing buildings, workshops and furnaces. It is the biggest and unique centre on the Balkan Peninsula. Here was manufactured the Tera Sigilata ceramics made of fine clay modeled in moulds. The decoration of the ceramics is either relief or engraved with a sign (from where comes the name of the ceramics - sigilium). The ceramics manufactured in this centre were competitive in terms of quality and diversity to the ones in Northern Italy, Southern Galia and Panonia.
The town of Polski Trambesh has a population of 5 000 inhabitants and lies at a distance of 37 km north of Veliko Tarnovo. The town is the municipal centre of 14 component settlements. The settlement is described in the Ottoman documents from 1438 under the name of Taranbesh. In the region of the town were discovered traces of settlements from the Halcolith, the Ancient Times and the Middle Ages. Polski Trambesh is an agricultural centre.
The town of Zlataritza has a population of about 3 000 inhabitants and lies at a distance of 25 km east-southeast of Veliko Tarnovo. Zlataritza is a centre of a municipality with 23 settlements. The first settlers of the town are ore-miners from the region of Chiprovtzi who came to obtain gold from the adjacent rivers. From here comes the name of the town because "gold" in Bulgarian is "zlato"- and hence the name of Zlataritza. In the region of the town were discovered Byzantine coins.
The tourist sights of the town are: the history museum, the ethnographic museum, one hundred Revival period houses proclaimed for architectural monuments, the church "St. Nikola" from 1884. The municipality is a rich agricultural region.
The town of Suhindol has a population of about 2 500 inhabitants and lies at a distance of 60 km northwest of the district centre. The town is the municipal centre of 5 settlements. Suhindol is a wine-making and vine-growing centre.
Tourist sights in the town are the church "St. Apostles Peter and Pavel" built in 1901 and the clock tower from 1895.
The town of Strazhitza has a population of 5 000 inhabitants and lies at a distance of 40 km northeast of Veliko Tarnovo. The town is the municipal administrative centre of 21 component settlements. In the region of the town were discovered remains from the Halcolith, a necropolis from II -III c., settlements, small fortresses from the Ancient Times and the Middle Ages. The first written evidence of the town is in the Ottoman documents from 1573 where it was written under the mane of Kada Kyoi. The Municipality of Strazhitza is specialized in the production of grains, fodder and vegetables.
The town of Lyaskovetz has a population of 9 000 inhabitants and lies at a distance of 10 km northeast of Veliko Tarnovo. The town is the municipal centre of 5 component settlements. Lyaskovetz is an old gardening, vine-growing and winery region.
The settlement began its history from IV c. B.C. In the region of the town were discovered settlement and tomb mounds from the Eneolith, remains of Thracian and medieval settlements. During the period of the Second Bulgarian Kingdom here was built the "St. Peter and Pavel" Monastery (the Petropavlovski monastery) which gave a boost in the development of the town. The settlement was mentioned in the Ottoman documents from 1430 and was proclaimed for a town in 1880.
The tourist sights of the town are: more than 100 buildings - monuments of culture grouped in several ensembles, the churches "St. Atanas", "St. Vasil", "St. Georgi", "St. Dimiter", "St. Nikola", the museum of gardening and vine-growing.
The town of Dolna Oryahovitza has a population of 3 000 inhabitants and lies at a distance of 6 km from Gorna Oryahovitza. The town is situated along the Yantra River. In the region there is a Thracian-Roman tomb necropolis. The first written evidence of the town is from the Ottoman tax registry books from XVII c.
The town of Debeletz has a population of 4 000 inhabitants and lies at a distance of 6 km south of Veliko Tarnovo. The town was established in XIII-XIV c. A tourist sight of the town is the church "St. Marina" from XVII c.
The town of Byala Cherkva has a population of 3 000 inhabitants and lies at a distance of 4 km south of Pavlikeni. The town is located at the central part of the Danube Plain on the left bank of the Rositza River. The settlement lies on the road connecting Svishtov, Sevlievo and Gabrovo. The settlement has preserved traces of the ancient period when the region was populated by Thracian tribes attracted by the fertile and beautiful land. The ancient road connecting Nikopolis ad Istrum to Melta (Lovech) and Serdika (Sofia) passed by Byala Cherkva. The church "St. Dimiter" was built in 1832 with built-in columns from the ancient town of Nikopolis ad Istrum. The settlement is famous for its active participation in the April Rebellion from 1876.
The tourist sights of the town are: the history museum, the house-museums of Tzanko Tzerkovski - a poet and a public figure, Rayko Daskalov - a politician, the church "St. Dimiter" and the monumental belfry.