In Bulgaria there are several unique ethnographic towns and reserves where you can feel the spirit and atmosphere of the 19th century. They are characterized with beautiful colorful houses from the Bulgarian National Revival period that will enchant you with their style and architecture. All of these places are very pleasant for walking and generally not that crowded with tourists, but you should also be prepared with a comfortable walking shoes because many of the streets are with rough 19- century pavement.
The Old Town of Plovdiv
The Revival town of Plovdiv is situated on the three hills that were the birth place of the ancient village, nowadays in the perfect city center. The houses there were built by the rich Bulgarian merchants in the middle of the 19th century. Many of them now are restored in their authentic style and work as a different kind of museums.
The most popular ‘entrance’ to the old town is from the main pedestrian street, from the point of the Roman stadium, where you will start going up to the hills. On one of these hills is also situated the 2nd century Roman theater- very well preserved with about 5000 seats. Very close to the theater, you can visit the house of Klianti, which was recently restored and works as a museum. After that you will continue walking to the main square of the town. There you will see its old church- saint Konstantin and saint Elena- with a very well preserved and handmade carved iconostasis. Next to the church you will find probably the most beautiful house of the old town, which nowadays works as an ethnographic museum and inside you can see authentic furniture and clothing from the 19th century. Between the church and the ethnographic museum lays the authentic gate from the middle ages, called “Hisar Capia”. On the other side of the gate, in an enormous red house is situated a rich historical museum. Finally, you will go up to the top of Nebet hill, where the ancient Thracian fortress was situated. From there you can enjoy magnificent panoramic views of the town with the other three hills and the river Maritsa.
The small charming town of Koprivshtitsa is situated in “Sredna Gora” Mountain. This makes it a great place for escape from the summer heats. In the 19th century, it was the home of many rich Bulgarian merchants but also the birthplace of important revolutionaries and national heroes who struggled for national liberation from the Ottoman Empire.
You can start your walk there from the monument, erected in memory of the April Uprising. Just before it is situated the house of Luben and Pekto Karavelovi- definitely one of the house- museums that you should visit to see the authentic rich furniture as well as to learn more about the lives of the two brothers. After that, your next stops should be Oleksov and Debelyanov houses, which are very beautifully and colorfully painted. Another must visit house- museum is the one of Todor Kableshkov- an important revolutionary from the April Uprising. This house will capture you with its size and rich furniture. A little bit further from the center of the old town is the last famous house worth seeing, related to another important revolutionary- Georgi Benkovski.
In Koprivshtitsa you will find many pleasant local restaurants where you can try some traditional dishes. Some of the houses also work as hotels so you can have a longer relaxing staying.
The Old Town of Nessebar
The old town of Nessebar is situated on a small peninsula in the Black Sea, very close to the main land to which nowadays it is connected with a land bridge. It is recognized as a UNESCO heritage site. Obviously, the best time to visit it will be during the summer when you can feel the fresh sea air and the lovely sunny weather. The old houses of Nessebar are not that colorful as the ones in Plovdiv and Koprivshtitsa but still bring the 19- century spirit and atmosphere from the Bulgarian National Revival period.
When you approach the old town, you will see the lovely windmill which is one of its most popular symbols. Then, you will enter it through the remains of its old fortress town gate and walls. In the old town of Nessebar there are 23 old churches spread around it. The most remarkable are Saint Stefan from the 11th century, Saint Joan from the 14th century, Saint Spas from the 17th century, Saint Sofia from the end of the 5th century.
From the Roman period of the town there you will see the remains of the Terms as well as the old theater which is often used during the summer period for different performances and events.
Probably the best place to take a relaxing walk is along the street that goes around the old town so that on one side you will see the sea and on the other- the charming houses from the 19th century. You should also definitely stop at one of the restaurants and try its sea food. There are also many shops from where you can buy typical local souvenirs.
Ethnographic Reserve “Etara”
This ethnographic reserve was specially built in the 1960s with the goal to represent the architecture and the way of life of the local people during the 18th and the 19th century. It is situated in the region of “Stara Planina” Mountain, close to the town of Gabrovo.
In the reserve exact copies of typical houses from this period can be seen and it is a very pleasant and relaxing place to have a walk. In many of the houses are presented and demonstrated the old crafts of the people such as pottery, “sweater” (making sweat things and desserts) and sewing. Many of their products that are made now in real time, are available for purchase as souvenirs. In the beginning of every September there is a big crafts fair.
In Etara you will find some charming local restaurants where you will be able to try the traditional delicious local cuisine.
By Vasil Nachkov