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Veliko Tarnovo: the medieval capital of Bulgaria

Veliko Tărnovo is a beautiful Bulgarian town located along the course of the Yantra river. This city was the capital of Bulgaria from 1185 to 1393 during the Second Bulgarian Empire. Veliko Tarnovo is one of the oldest settlements in the country. Veliko Tarnovo experienced the heyday in the Middle Ages between the 12th and 14th centuries. It was conquered by the Ottomans in 1393, after three months of siege, and remained under Turkish occupation until 1877.

The historical part of the city is located on three hills, and has many historical monuments. These include the ruins of the castles of Tsarevets (with the Royal Palace and the Patriarchal Palace) and Trapezitsa, the church of St Demetrius of Thessaloniki, the church of the Forty Martyrs and numerous houses with typical Bulgarian architecture.

Veliko Tarnovo is connected with bus and train services with Sofia, Burgas and Varna. The nearest airports are located in Varna (240 km) and Sofia (220 km).

TOURIST ATTRACTIONS: WHAT TO VISIT IN VELIKO TARNOVO

Among the many things to visit in Veliko Tarnovo we find: the old quarter, the medieval walls, the Tzarevetz Fortress, the Baldovino Tower, the Royal Church of Saints Peter and Paul. In particular, the area of the Tsarevets hill has been declared an archaeological reserve, the defensive walls and the so-called Baldwin Tower have been restored.

One of the most interesting structures on Tsarevets hill is the Palace of the Tsars of Bulgaria (Royal Palace). This building consists of a fortress which encloses an area of over 4,800 square meters. The palace preserves the Throne Room and the royal church of St. Petka, the structure was built between the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries and was destroyed after the Ottoman conquest.

Also on the Tsarevets hill is the Patriarchal Palace. A building built in a dominant position above the Royal Palace, occupies an area of 3,000 square meters, inside there is the Patriarchal church with a bell tower.

On the slopes of the western part of the hill, near the river, there is one of the most important buildings of the medieval period of the city, the church of the Forty Martyrs, built in 1230. In this same neighborhood, called Assenova Mahala, which occupies the two sides of the river there are three other important churches: Sv. Dimitar Solunski, Sv. Georgi and Sv. Peter and Pavel.

TO VISIT IN THE SURROUNDINGS

Arbanasi (4 km), picturesque ancient town.

The Preobrajenski Monastery (7 km), located under insurmountable rocks overlooking the left bank of the Yantra River. The monastery is famous for its four churches, built by the best Bulgarian masters since the Renaissance period.

The churches carved into the rock of Ivanovo (70 km). This is a site included by UNESCO in the list of World Heritage Sites. It is a complex of churches, monasteries and chapels of the XII-XIV century with murals of exceptional beauty.

Kazanlak (100 km) is another site included by UNESCO in the list of world heritage sites. It is a tomb from the Hellenistic period (4th century BC), located near Seutopolis, which was the ancient capital of the Thracian king Seutes III. The tomb has a narrow corridor and a round sepulchral chamber, both environments are richly decorated with murals representing the Thracian burial rituals. These paintings are the best examples of Hellenistic painting preserved in Bulgaria.

Sveshtari (130 km). Near this village there is a Thracian Tomb from the 3rd century BC also declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The tomb features figures carved in high relief and murals.

Madara (150 km) is another site included by UNESCO in the list of world heritage sites of humanity. Here on a 100-meter high rock wall is found carved in the rock the figure of a knight triumphing over a lion, with an inscription next to it that narrates the events that occurred between 705 AD. and 801 A.D. Madara was the most important sacred site of the first Bulgarian Empire before the conversion to Christianity in the 9th century.

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