No matter if you come from the Balkans or the Danube, take your time to explore Lovech, Pleven and the surrounding area. Their story will enchant you in a way you can hardly imagine.
Following the fourth week of this 66-day trip around Bulgaria, during which I wandered around the Central Balkan mountain, ending with the Troyan and Teteven area, now it was time to go north, to the Lovech and Pleven regions.
After an intense mountain adventure, which attached me deeply to the Balkan mountain, part of me did not want to leave this area. At first glance there is a complete contrast between mountainous and urban environments, but this does not mean that cities have nothing to surprise even the most experienced travelers. This was no doubt the case with Lovech and Pleven, as well as with Kozloduy (a small town on the Danube river coast), where I managed to get somewhere in the middle of this fifth week.
These cities played an extremely important role in the history of Bulgaria, participating in the decisive battles that led to the creation of the Second Bulgarian Kingdom, as well as during the Revival period and in the conquest of Bulgaria’s freedom in 1877-1878. The legacy that remains today is impressive, a symbol of the immense contribution of these bold, unwavering and strongly driven people.
A city that struck me with its rich cultural and historical heritage. Lovech received its first settlers in antiquity, attracted by its favorable location, between the Balkan Mountains and the Danube Plain, as well as near the Osam River. Later, this region was also populated by Thracians. Above all, however, Lovech is known as the site that laid the foundations of the Second Bulgarian Kingdom, after a decisive battle between the rebel army of Assen and Peter and Byzantium on Hisarya Hill.
I only had one night and half a day to enjoy this beautiful town. I used this time to explore its old neighbourhood, Varosha, declared in the 70s as an Architectural and Historical Reserve. I wanted to absorb as much of the history as possible in a place that has preserved stories of different times and cultures.
Covered Bridge of Kolyo Ficheto: Considered the symbol of the city, it is the only covered bridge in the Balkans and connects the old town with the rest of the town. In addition to its practical function, the bridge is a true architectural masterpiece, the work of one of the most distinguished master builders in our history, Kolyo Ficheto.
Hisarya Fortress: its settlement is believed to have its roots in the Roman Empire. The fortress itself, the place where the Second Bulgarian Kingdom was proclaimed, played a key role in the defense system of the kingdom. Next to it is the highest national monument of Vasil Levski (14 meters tall).
Vasil Levski Museum: Here, in Lovech, the national hero Vasil Levski laid the foundations of one of the most active committees of restless Bulgarians, a place that played a huge role in the revolutionary organization for the Liberation of Bulgaria. The exhibits in the museum are authentic and I had the opportunity to see some great artefacts such as photographs, weapons and personal belongings of Vasil Levski.
Old public bath “Deli Hammam”: Dating from the XVI-XVIIth centuries, nearly five years ago, the old bath has been restored and turned into Europe’s one of a kind Virtual Museum of water. The combination of multimedia and high-tech effects and the specific design of the building creates a very singular atmosphere that is worth experiencing.
“Old Lovech” Guest House: If there is a place where one can feel the real atmosphere of Old Lovech, it is in this house. Its name is not accidental, since it has been turned into a peculiar museum of the town. Its co-creator, Dimitar, has done his best to preserve many paintings illustrating how the town has changed over the years, as well as a unique book of Lovech’s history. No less impressive is the hospitality, with which the hosts welcome their guests and the delicious and rich breakfast they prepare.
Unfortunately, this time I did not have time to explore the surroundings, but a few months earlier, during the bike-trip around Bulgaria, I was able to visit a small part of the places, which every traveller around the region should take the time to visit.
Krushuna Waterfalls: with its magnetic natural beauty, no doubt this is one of the wonders of Bulgaria. The set of waterfalls, each unique in their own way, the small rivers they leave behind, the eco-trail surrounded by an amazing leafy vegetation … visiting the Krushuna waterfalls is a true experience.
Devetashka Cave: Magnificent and Majestic, it is without a doubt one of the most mysterious caves in Bulgaria. One of the top three shelters for hibernation of bats in Europe, here winters a colony of over 35,000 animals. Bats are, however, far from being the only inhabitants of the cave, since the favorable conditions welcome a variety of mammalian species. The cave gained worldwide popularity as the team of The Expendables 2, led by Sylvester Stallone, shot here some key scenes for the famous Hollywood production.
In the heart of the Danube Plain, Bulgaria’s seventh largest city played an essential role in the history of our country. The region has been inhabited for thousands of years and during the Roman Empire this place was located in the heart of the province of Moesia. In the 7th century Slavs and Proto-Bulgarians settled here.
The city played a crucial role in the course of the Russo-Turkish Liberation War and in 1877, during a 5-month siege, some of the bloodiest battles took place here. On December 10, 1877, the city was finally conquered by the liberation troops, what is considered as the turning point in the war. The day was subsequently declared an official holiday of the city.
Pleven Panorama: If there is a place where these historical moments are best depicted, it is the Panorama museum. Built exactly 100 years after the glorious final battle, this place manages to recreate in a uniquely authentic way the epic battles which took place in this exact location, above the city of Pleven. Painted by skilled artists, the Panorama walls are a true work of art, while the preserved artifacts allow landscapes to literally come to life before our eyes.
After Lovech and Pleven, it was time to embark on an adventure through the Danube Plain, which took me to the banks of the Danube river and to the beautiful town of Kozloduy. I didn’t have much time to walk around, but I was able to feel a really calm and at the same time charging atmosphere, only disturbed by the many reforms all over downtown… at the same time, surely next year Kozloduy will be even more enjoyable for visits.
Radetzky Ship: April 1876, a group of brave and relentless patriots, led by national hero Hristo Botev, arrived at the coast of Kozloduy aiming to join the April Uprising against the Ottoman Empire which had just started. They continued their way towards the interior, where they later tragically fell in battle. Although the April Uprising did not succeed, it set the stage for the events that lead to the Liberation of Bulgaria two years later. The most famous ship in the entire history of Bulgaria, used by these brave men, has its own replica made exactly as the original. A visit to this ship turned into a museum feels like traveling back in time.
Traveling through the Danube Plain is a real off the beaten path adventure. Far from the sight of the mass tourist, this place may not have the greatest facilities and the most glamorous sights, but it has retained its authentic spirit.
Those that truly love history…
and want to get to know in depth the events surrounding the establishment of the Second Bulgarian Kingdom and those who led to the Liberation of our country,
… here will find answers to many questions, answers that will open the appetite for new exploratory journeys across the Bulgarian latitudes.
After traveling through the Danube Plain, I headed towards Belogradchik in order to later descend to the foot of the Western part of the Balkan mountain. I will soon share my insights about these adventures…