There are places that anyone who wants to dive into Bulgarian customs, traditions and crafts should visit. Gabrovo region undoubtedly tops this list.
At the beginning of the 4th week of the 66-day trip around Bulgaria I had the opportunity to visit Veliko Tarnovo, the surroundings and the Elena Balkan. Now I had to descend to the Gabrovo region. In just two days, in an extremely intensive program, I was going to visit Tryavna, Gabrovo, Etara, Dryanovo, Sevlievo and some interesting places along the way. A really difficult task.
The region around Gabrovo was a major trade center during the Revival period.
Due to its strategic location, over the Shipka Pass, the main road connecting the South with Northern Bulgaria and leading to the Danube port (Ruse), this region became a prominent trading center, and thus various crafts flourished.
After the Liberation, due to the entrepreneurial spirit of Gabrovo people, the area became one of the pioneers of the Industrial Revolution in Bulgaria, as well as the most prominent textile center in the country. Gabrovo became known as the capital of the factories or the Bulgarian “Manchester”. In 1917, the town numbered less than 10,000 people, while at the same time having 8 banks, 23 factories for fabrics and yarns, 10 leather, 5 knitting and 5 shoe shops, as well as numerous small workshops.
Between 1905 and 1978, Gabrovo transformed itself into the most industrialized town in Bulgaria.
All this serves as a context for us to understand more about the legacy left today. Many of these crafts have been preserved to this day, and in addition to the Ethnographic Center “Etara”, they are being developed and displayed in Tryavna as well as in workshops throughout the region.
In addition to history, culture and traditions, Gabrovo region is particularly rich in nature. Located at the foot of the Balkan Mountains, it offers many walks and adventures in nature.
Let’s start, however, in a row, coming from East (the town of Elena).
The story tells that Tryavna originated in the 12th-13th centuries during the reign of the Asen brothers. According to legend, struck by the fairy tale nature, they chose this place for their personal mansions.
From my very arrival, I realize that the above is probably not just a myth. The view that opens to the visitors of the town is truly stunning.
Crafts: During the Revival period Tryavna was a prominent cultural center and to this day many of the ancient crafts have been preserved. Local craftsmen make demonstrations for anyone who wants to get to know in detail the art behind their craft.
The Old Town: It is worth it to walk around and enjoy the Old Town, as well as explore places such as the Clock Tower, the Old School Museum, and the Daskalov House Museum.
Coffee made on sand: One of the preserved traditions in the town is coffee made on sand, served in ceramic cups and with white sweet. To fully enjoy it, the idea is to drink it slowly (although, pressed by time, I couldn’t follow this last recommendation).
Apart from all of the above, Gabrovo is also known for the frugality and wit of its inhabitants, as well as their love of humour. In its full glory, this can be seen in May, during the Humor Festival, though when visiting the city we realize that Gabrovo jokes are everywhere, even in museums. Proof of this is
the only House of Humour and Satire in the world
In my limited time in the city, following the valuable recommendations from the Tourist Information Center, I had the chance to discover and meet fabulous places and people.
Interactive Museum of Industry: The first museum of its kind in the Balkans deserves every second spent in it, learning about the development of Gabrovo from the Liberation to the present day. All of this s presented in an attractive way, without missing the humorous features typical of the people of Gabrovo.
Gradishte Fortress: When in Gabrovo, I strongly recommend everyone ascend to this fortress dating from the early Byzantine period (IV-VI century). The view from above is breathtaking and the scenic path leading to the top is accompanied by many WOW moments.
Gabrovo Plus: The best way to get to know the region is through the locals and I personally do not know better prepared people in Gabrovo than Lucho and his colleages, true creators of experiences: active, cultural, culinary, environmental and more.
Ethnographic Complex “Etara”: a visit to Gabrovo would not be complete without a visit to Etara, a kind of time machine travel that shows us what the town looked like during the Revival.
Sokolski Monastery: I was fascinated by this monastery, located very close to Etara. Sokolski is one of the most picturesque monasteries I have visited, and the view from above is stunning.
Unfortunately, on this trip I did not manage to pay enough attention to this town, but in the little time I had I was able to explore some of the surroundings and get acquainted with interesting experiences, following the recommendations of Destination Dryanovo, local enthusiasts strongly committed to sharing with their visitors the most interesting places and things to do in the region.
Bakardjieva Guest House: In addition to a beautifully hidden corner, near the Balkans, the hostess offers the guests demonstrations and lessons on weaving a horizontal loom, a true experience.
Yalovo Winery: a boutique winery not far from Veliko Tarnovo, where by prior reservation one can taste varieties typical of the region.
Dryanovo Monastery: a fabulous place and one of the main centers for the preservation of Christianity and Bulgarian culture over the centuries.
Waterfall “Синият вир”: Right next to the monastery, it’s worth a walk to this picturesque waterfall (as seen in the photo).
Located right in the heart of Bulgaria, not far from the Balkans, Sevlievo is a charming town that has managed to preserve its cultural and historical heritage.
Hotalich Fortress: This early Byzantine and medieval fortress, located high above Sevlievo, is a must stop for anyone passing through the region and offers wonderful views of the city. One tip: Avoid lunchtime visits during the summer seasons.
Pumpkin Museum: one of a kind in Bulgaria, this is the most impressive place in Sevlievo, at least for me. Pumpkin is an essential ingredient in Bulgarian cuisine, but it is something even more important for Sevlievo people, to such an extent that every October takes place the Pumpkin Festival, the town’s most prominent fest . As a pumpkin lover, I can’t wait to visit it.
The Historical Museum and Dandolov Houses Ethnographic Complex: a place to learn more about the history of the town over the centuries.
Dano Kolov Museum: south of Sevlievo, a mandatory stop on the road to the mountainous area is the village of Sennik, home of the great fighter Dan Kolov, who has reached heights in sports and life.
One weekend is not enough for one to even get an idea of all that this part of Bulgaria has to offer. The above is just a fraction of the places worth visiting.
For cultural and historical tourism lovers, the region offers many interesting places, with a special inclination for crafts and traditions. In addition to the landmarks described, numerous folk festivals and cultural events are periodically organized to represent the traditions and customs of past times.
For adventurers, the possibilities are perhaps even greater. Situated at the foot of the Balkan Mountains, the possibilities for walking on eco trails, mountain climbing, water sports and many other adventurous activities are endless, always combined with indescribably beautiful views. There is enormous potential for the development of bike tourism as well, given that many of the roads of the area are both, unloaded and extremely picturesque at the same time, making of it great conditions for any cycling enthusiast.
At the same time, Gabrovo is centrally located, at the crossroads between North and South Bulgaria, near the Shipka Pass, less than an hour away from Veliko Turnovo, as well as on the road leading to the main Danube port, Ruse.
Gabrovo region has all the prerequisites for becoming a distinguished tourist center for alternative tourism.
At the end of this 4th week, I made my way to the Troyan and Teteven Balkan areas as well, and also visited Lovech. More about it very soon…