Veliko Tarnovo is an administrative, cultural, historical and tourist centre of Bulgaria. The city is a geographical and communication center of the Northern Bulgaria and is also a centre of one of the 28 administrative districts of the country. The district of Veliko Tarnovo is 4662 sq. km. in size and includes 10 municipalities with 14 towns/cities and 322 villages. The population is about 295 000 people.
The town is nearly at equal distant from the largest cities in the country - 241 km northeast of Sofia, 228 km west of Varna, 192 km northeast of Plovdiv and 224 km northwest of Bourgas.
The population of the city of Veliko Tarnovo alone about 65 000 people, but with the students of ''St. St. Cyril and Methodius'' University (second biggest in the country) and the Vasil Levski National Military University added, the population increases by about 12 000.
The location, the good climate, the natural resources, historical heritage and preserved architecture, and the preservation and development of the traditional arts and crafts give Veliko Tarnovo even better prospects for future development. Veliko Tarnovo is an important landmark for Bulgaria, and the statistics show that the city and its region are in the top ten of the most visited tourist destinations in Eastern Europe. In 1997 Veliko Tarnovo was presented with the Sustainable Development Award for Central and Eastern Europe.
The nearest airport to Veliko Tarnovo is located 10 km away in the city of Gorna Oriahovitsa. It has the most modern equipment and works 24 hours, unfortunately it only serves cargo and charter flights from Europe, Africa and Asia.
Regular flights are available from all over the world to the capital Sofia and from there you can get public transportation to Veliko Tarnovo. During the active tourist season (May-September) charter flights are also available to the two big ports on the Black sea coast - Varna and Burgas.
From most of the bigger Bulgarian cities, you can travel to Veliko Tarnovo by train or bus.
Regular bus service is available from Sofia and Varna to Veliko Tarnovo with the buses arriving at the Yug (South) bus station or next to Hotel Etar (depending on which company you're using). The journey takes about 3 hours.
The buses from Plovdiv (a 4 hour journey), Ruse (2 hours) and Burgas (5 hours), arrive at the Zapad (West) bus station.
You can travel from Plovdiv and Ruse directly to Veliko Tarnovo by train, and from Sofia and Varna you can get a train to Gorna Oriahovitsa, and from there to Veliko Turnovo you can get a connection train, taxi, mini bus or local bus line No.10 (distance to VT is 7km.)
Every day there are international trains to Istanbul and Bucharest, which pass through Veliko Tarnovo. Also from Gorna Oriahovitsa train station you can get a connection to Athens or Belgrade.
If you're traveling with a car, Veliko Tarnovo lies at the cross road between E85 (Ruse - Burgas) and E772 (Sofia - Varna, with the Hemus (A2) Motorway at both ends).
Whether you come here for the first time or this is just another trip to your favorite city, there's always something new for you to discover.
If you're interested in the old history of Veliko Tarnovo or the places connected with the glory of the Bulgarian kingdom during the Middle Ages, you must visit the emblem of the city - the fortress hill Tsarevets, located at the eastern end of the city and protected on three sides by the Yantra river. Opposite Tsarevets to the North-West lies Trapezitsa hill with its excavated 17 church foundations. Between the two hills lies the beautiful Asenova Mahala (Asens' Quarter) with the churches of St. Dimitar, Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, St. George, and The Assumption of the Holy Virgin, as well as the Bishop's bridge.
Don't miss the chance to stop at the Cathedral church The Birth of the Holy Virgin - the biggest active church in the city, as well as the museum of The Bulgarian Revival and the Constituent Assembly, located at the old Konak (Turkish municipal building), built by master Nikola Fichev. This is also the building where the Turnovo Constitution was made in 1879. The archeological museum is also located next door.
A stroll down Gurko street will bring a touch of romance from the Revival period, with the unique architecture, the beauty of the Sarafkina house, the church of St. Constantine and Elena, as well as the gorgeous view of the YantraRiver and the Asens' Monument.
Another part of the old town from the same period is Varosha. There you'll find the Samovodska Charshia with its traditional crafts work shops, souvenir shops and art galleries. Also you will find the St. Nicolas and St.St. Cyril and Methodius Churches, and from the highest points of the quarter you can witness a breathtaking view towards the whole city.
Walking along the main street you can't miss the House with the Monkey and Mother Bulgaria monument.
If you go down the Stamboliiski street and cross the Stambolov's Bridge, you'll end up in front of the Asens' Monument and the City Art Gallery at the foot of Sveta Gora Hill, which is connected with the cultural and spiritual greatness of the Bulgarian country during the middle ages. Today the Veliko Tarnovo University is located there.
While you're at Veliko Tarnovo, don't miss the chance to witness the unique audio-visual show Tsarevgrad Tarnov - Sound and Light. If you have more time on your schedule and would like to enlarge your trip around, the architectural reserve village of Arbanassi is a good choice.
You can also visit one of the many beautiful monasteries in the region or the ruins of the Roman city Nicopolis-ad-Istrum. For the people who enjoy outdoor activities the region of Veliko Turnovo can offer many opportunities and pleasant surprises.
The monument of the Assens
During the reign of the Bulgarian Kings Assen the 1st, Peter, Kaloyan and I Assen the 2nd, from 1185 to 1241, the Bulgarian Medieval State, with Tarnevgrad as its capital, reached its highest political, economic and cultural peak. The monument of the Assens, is dedicated to these leaders. And was built in honor of the 800th anniversary from the proclamation of Tarnovo as the capital of Bulgaria. It is the most prominent monument in the city, and near it the Stambolov Bridge and State Art Gallery are located.
The monument of the Assens is situated on a beautiful terrace above the curb of the Yantra River and offers a magnificent view of the old town with its unique architecture and lay-out of the town.
Monasteries and Churches
Many monasteries and churches were built during the time of the Second Bulgarian Kingdom in Veliko Tarnovo and the region, and they became the centre of an intense spiritual and cultural life. It was because of them that we protected and kept our language, religion, culture and traditions during the difficult days throughout history. It was in their libraries that all the volumes of the old Bulgarian books were kept and re-written. They are the real witnesses and guardians of the history.
Preobrazhenski Monastery (the Monastery of the Transfiguration - Preobrazhenie) is the biggest of the monasteries around Veliko Tarnovo and the fourth largest in the country. It lies at a distance of 7 km from Veliko Tarnovo in the wooded gorge of Derventa, below the caves in the cliffs which surround the Belyakovo Plateau. It was founded in the 11th century as a branch of the Vatopedi Monastery, but became autonomous about 1360 when Tsaritsa Theodora-Sarah (the Jewess whom Ivan Alexander married as his second wife) and her son Tsar Ivan Shishman gave a lot of money for its reconstruction and redevelopment. That is why it is also called Sarah's or Shishman's monastery. It was built on the present site in 1825 by Father Zotik, a monk from Rila Monastery. Its buildings rise around a rectangular paved court, shaded by old pergolas. The principal Church of the Transfiguration of Our Lord was begun in 1834 by Master Builder Dimiter Sofialiyata, who took part in Velcho's Conspiracy (1835), and after he was hung it was completed by Master Kolyu Ficheto who continued the work of building the monastery.
In 1857 he finished the south-eastern wing with a small parlour and built the main entrance with a colonnade. In 1861 he built the belfry with a clock. The small Church of the Annunciation was built in 1863, above the underground chapel of the Holy Apostle Andrew, built by Dimiter Sofialiyata in 1834. The work of building the monastery continued after the Liberation from Ottoman bondage. The cemetery Chapel of the Resurrection of Lazarus was completed in 1891.
The mural paintings in the Church of the Transfiguration of Our Lord were painted by Zachari Zograph, the Samokov icon painter, in 1849-1851. He also painted the large icons of the iconostasis. He left his signature in the lower righthand corner of the church icons of The Transfiguration, and painted his self-portrait in the north-western angle of the women's section, next to those of SS. Cyril and Methodius. "The wheel of life" is one of the most popular murals and it is painted on the outside of the church.The open-work car¬ving of the royal altar gates is particularly beautiful.
During the Russo-Turkish War of Liberation (1877-1878) an army hospital was quartered in the Monastery. In gratitude for its hospitality after the Liberation the Russian troops presented bells, chandeliers and liturgical books for the church to the Monastery. The Monastery possesses valuable icons, painted by the Tryavna Iconpainter Papa Vitan the Younger, and Stanislav Dospevski, the Samokov icon painter, who had studied abroad at academies and was Zachari Zograph's nephew.
In 1991, a gigantic boulder fell from the cliff above and broke into smaller pieces before crushing a few monastic cells. One large chunk split in two and the pieces miraculously ended up on either side of the central church. Fortunately, no one was hurt.
The region around Veliko Tarnovo boasts many attractive landscapes and scenic landmarks. The appearance of the city's immediate surroundings is shaped by deep valleys flanked by steep limestone rocks, making it Bulgaria's premier spot for rock climbing. In addition to the numerous rock climbing routes, there are remarkable trails, such as the Negovanca eco-trail (in the village of Emen), Preobrajenska eco-trail just a few kilometers outside of the city, eco-trails to the village of Arbanassi, Dryanovo monastery's eco-trail and many more, which will take you to scenic sights such as caves, narrow gorges, waterfalls and spectacular lookout points.
The region of Veliko Tarnovo is also quite popular for mountain biking, as well as horseback riding. Near the village of Arbanassi you can find excellent riding grounds, as well as many streams, rivers and lakes perfect for swimming and fishing.
Sources and pictures: http://www.veliko-tarnovo.bg