In the course of history big rivers and the resources they provide have played a key role in the settlement of tribes. Around them were formed empires and later modern cities. The second largest river in Europe, the Danube, makes no exception…
At the beginning of this 3rd week of the 66-day trip around Bulgaria, I visited the surroundings of Varna and Shumen Highlands. After that, it was time to get to the north and embark on an exciting adventure on the hilly Danube Plain.
The settlement of these lands has been happening since ancient times, in fact many ruins of the Roman presence still remain present today. Lower Moesia, as the Romans called these lands, was a strategically important region, and evidence of it was the construction of fortresses that still rise above the hills of the Danube Plain, as well as on the coast itself.
This region is not only interesting from a historical perspective, but also from a cultural and social point of view.
It is interesting to learn what role it played in its strategic placement in people’s lives at different stages of human development.
Last but not least, the natural richness of these lands is impressive. Not to mention the visit of Rusenski Lom Nature Park, home of rivers, caves, unique rock phenomena, shelter of many hermits, who created in them rock churches and monasteries.
Unfortunately, I could only briefly visit the town of Razgrad, but I did not miss to visit a place of historical significance.
Ancient Town of Abritus: My impressions of this town were really superb. When here, make sure you do not miss the interactive museum (a true experience, which I describe further below) where the friendly and dedicated staff will share interesting insides about the history of this place.
“Little Vienna”, as many people call it, and is not undeserved, impressed me again with its classic style. The truth is that the city has no analogue in all of Bulgaria and architecturally does not give way to the famous tourist destinations in central Europe, which are visited annually by millions of visitors.
The town has its own style, different from other Bulgarian cities, benefiting from its geographical location, alongside the Danube. It has turned itself into the most developed city at the time of the Liberation, when most of the trade took place on water, and the port played a key role.
There was no better way to get to know the history of the city than with Ruse Summer Free Tour
Our tour guide, Katerina, not only walked us through the city center, showing us some key places, hidden gems and details, but also shared interesting stories of prominent local people, legends and curiosities.
I also managed to get inspiration from other places:
KOUKERY Art & Festival Travel Bulgaria: a local tour operator specializing on tours around the region, with special appetites for festival tourism, was where I took ideas for the trips to come in the surrounding area.
The English Guesthouse: a house with history where the stay is really special because of the dedication of its hostess, Vessy, one of those people who love their city and do their best to allow travellers make the most of their visit.
The region is extremely rich in historical heritage, as well as of some extraordinary natural creations.
Basarbovo Rock Monastery: personally for me one of the most impressive places, turned into a real invention of art by the power of the human spirit.
Ivanovo Rock Churches: Running on tight schedule, this time I was not able to visit them, but during my visit a few months ago I was stunned by this unique creation that received the recognition of UNESCO.
Medieval town-fortress Cherven: Today we can see the ruins of this strategically important fortress from the time of the Second Bulgarian Kingdom.
Orlova Chuka cave: the highlight of my visit to the region, not so much because of the incredible creations of the mother nature that one can see, but because of the unique way in which they were recreated by the tour guide who gifted us with a real performance, playing songs, the piano and the harmonica. If you do not believe it, go there and see for yourself. Unforgettable!
Преживяването в Орлова чука е от съвсем друго измерение. 40 минути абсолютно забавление включително 🎤🎹🎼. Невероятно!!
The most amazing cave experience ever! Cave tour + singing + piano and harmonica playing…this is the best caveman you can possibly imagine!!!
Posted by Insaiders on Sunday, July 21, 2019
Alongside the Danube river
I was very pleasantly surprised by this little town, a prominent fishing village in the past. Following Maria’s recommendation from Travelling Buzz, I embarked on an interesting fishing adventure.
Museum of Danube Fishing and Boat Construction: a very nice spot, little but neat, which illustrates the importance of fishing in the city, a craft that gave jobs to nearly 5000 people (out of 10,000 people population), fed thousands of families and supplied with fresh fish throughout the country as well as neighboring countries.
Архитектурен резерват Рибарска махала: тук имах възможност да се запозная с последния майстор лодкар, който ръчно изработва и поправя автентични дървени рибарски лодки и който също ръчно плете рибарски мрежи (както се вижда на демонстрацията). Мястото е изключително интересно, разполага и с ателие за интересни ръчно изработени сувенири от местната флора, като също така, с предварителна заявка, човек може да дегустира прясна риба.
Architectural Reserve Fisherman’s Village: I had the opportunity to meet the last master boatman who makes by hand and repairs authentic wooden fishing boats and who also manually knit fishing nets (as shown in the demonstration below). The place is very interesting, since it also has a workshop with interesting handmade souvenirs from the local flora. Here, with a preliminary request, one can taste fresh fish.
Srebarna Nature Reserve
Unfortunately, I did not have much time to walk around the reserve. The summer heat does not make the most suitable conditions for it. Moreover, the most prominent inhabitants of the reserve, the Dalmatian Pelicans, have recently emigrated to the south, and will be ready to welcome their visitors again in February-March next year. Here is the only place in the world where this species can be freely observed in its natural environment.
The reserve is home to a number of rare species, not only birds (over 200), but also mammals, amphibians and reptiles, building a truly unique and rich of life ecosystem.
Silistra: The last point on the Danube coast on the territory of Bulgaria, a town with a lot of history. Dating since roman times (then called Durostorum – picture above), through the Medieval up until the present day, for 1900 years, Silistra has been inhabited without interruption.
Ruse, the city and the region along the Danube Plain have exceptional tourist resources whose potential is yet to be unlocked.
Cultural-historical tourism is leading, but the region has also enormous potential for development of natural-adventurous and biking tourism as well.
Ruse is the central point where the EuroVelo 6 cycling route goes by, but unfortunately not so popular among the millions of biking enthusiasts in Europe. Only if they knew of the great natural wealth these lands have! A further impetus in this direction also provides the idea of linking EuroVelo 6 with the Black Sea route project, an idea developed by our friends from the Black Sea Tourist Route project. Events such as the Danube Ultra are extremely helpful for the development of this type of tourism too. There are many reasons for optimism and I believe the best is yet to come.
The rich cultural program of the city of Ruse, which keeps attracting interesting guests, is another great testimonial for development. In the tour of the city I also met the group that was about to perform in the next festival organized in the city. Entrepreneurial local people are developing interesting initiatives, such as Miroslav Dimitrov, who, along with other local enthusiasts, is planning to illustrate and share the history of the less familiar places in the city through the installation of QR codes.
However, in order for this to continue happening, the city and the region must receive visits to justify all the resources invested. Instead of just a place where people transit,
Ruse has the potential and should become a receiving destination, a peculiar “hub”, the starting point for travellers seeking to explore the region.
The easiest way, in theory, this can happen on water (the nearest airport is in Bucharest, 100km), but that also requires a lot of work.
After each of the visits of the dozens of key historical sites, I still have a feeling that we have not been able to properly recreate the rich history of this place. Simple presentation of information via information boards no longer works. Today’s tourist rapidly loses interest in memorized talks presented in a monotonous way.
Happily, places like the ancient town of Abritus in Razgrad are one of the pleasant exceptions. Renovated 4 years ago, the exhibition center and, in particular, the interactive museum are an occasion for national pride. Small but tidy and made with extreme care, where every detail is in place, every visitor engages in the history of this extremely interesting place. They also invented interesting games where, through gamification methodology, a group of visitors can find key locations in the complex. I hope more sites in the country will take its example and so to create memorable experiences for their visitors.
Ruse has the capacity to become a starting point for travellers in search of adventures across the Danube Plain, a potential still to be developed.
After the end of this third week, I headed south to the former capital of Bulgaria, Veliko Tarnovo.More about this will be coming soon…