Inside Bulgaria: Getting the Groove in Veliko Tarnovo

July 2, 2012 at 5:55 am 4 comments

Bulgarian Outfit
It was early in the morning when we left the black sea coast for Veliko Tarnovo. Since a couple of stops were scheduled along the way, our guide thought we needed a good head start to make it to the hotel before dinner time.

Bulgarian Horseman
Our first stop was the village of Madara to see the bas relief of a life-size horseman slaying a lion with his spear. It was fashioned on a vertical rock during the 8th century AD in honor of a Bulgarian king. In 1979, it was included in the Unesco list of world cultural monuments.

Madara Cave
It started raining as we climbed the stairway with 346 steps leading up to the horseman. When the rain turned into a downpour, we found shelter inside the nearby cave considered sacred and mystical before Bulgaria’s conversion to christianity in the 9th century AD.

Our next stop was the village of Arbanasi to visit the Church of Nativity of Christ and the Konstantseliev House. I’d love to take pictures inside these places and share them with you, but, sorry, it wasn’t allowed.

Nativity Church
The Church of Nativity of Christ was completed around the 17th century AD. Its plain and simple exteriors belie the beauty within. Under the Ottoman rule, the Bulgarians were not permitted to build domed churches. The walls inside the church are decorated with icons and colorful scenes from the bible in classical, Eastern Orthodox style.

By classical, Eastern Orthodox style, it means that the icons and religious objects are rendered in two dimensions (2-D) only. Unlike in the Catholic church, you won’t find any statue of Jesus and the saints in the Orthodox church.

Konstantseliev House
The two-story Konstantsaliev House dates back to the 17th century during the time of the Ottoman rule. It was originally built for a wealthy trader named Tafrini. It owes its present name to Atanas Konstantsaliev who purchased and restored it. It has now become a museum.

The house was built like a forbidding fortress with barred windows and fortified entrances. Once inside, however, you’d get the feeling of a real home with richly decorated and furnished rooms fit for a sultan’s family.

Walking in the Rain
We stayed for three days and two nights in Veliko Tarnovo. It rained most of the time, but we made the most of it, knowing that we didn’t have the luxury of time. After Veliko Tarnovo, we’d be heading back to Sofia and ended the tour where it started.

Veliko Tarnovo Citadel
Our sightseeing included a visit to Tsarevets Hill where the ruins of the medieval fortress, towers, and gates built during the reign of second kingdom of Bulgaria now stand. In the rain, we marveled at this most popular tourist spot in Veliko Tarnovo. The place also provided us with a panoramic view of the city and its surroundings.


We went around the traditional arts and crafts street of Samovodska Charshiya. We visited several shops where local artisans and craftsmen gave us a demonstration of their skills.

Woman Fetching Water

Offered for sale in one of the shops is a carving of a young woman fetching water for the family. In the old days, a guy could propose to her by asking for a drink of water. When she obliged, it meant that she was interested. When she refused, he could kidnap her to force the issue of marriage on her family.

Once married, it would be for eternity. On her death, she would be buried in her wedding dress so that her husband could recognize her in the afterlife. If it didn’t fit anymore, it would be cut and the pieces spread over her body.

On our first night, we received an invitation to watch the dress rehearsal of a Bulgarian dance ensemble in the nearby town of Gorna Horyahovitsa.

Bulgarian Host
In adherence to local custom, we were offered the welcome bread by our beautiful host.

Gorna Dance Ensemble
Although we were the only audience (there were 14 of us), they performed with such passion and joy, delighting us with their traditional folk songs and dances.

Single Man
As a point of trivia, when a man wears a flower on the left side of his headgear, it means that he’s single and available.

From Veliko Tarnovo, we headed back to Sofia via the danube plane and forested mountain hills of Stara Planina. On the way, we stopped at the village of Glogovo where Pomak people live. The Pomaks are descendants of orthodox christians who converted to Islam during four centuries of Ottoman rule.

Kindergarten Graduation
We were invited to attend a kindergarten graduation in a government run school. The local TV station came to tape the program when they heard that Americans were coming. The mayor of the village also came to greet us.

We toured the school facilities and see the classrooms, recreation room, nap rooms, and dining room.

School Children
In the recreation room, we met the children from higher grades who sang for us. We sang the ABC song for them in return. The children wondered if we came from different parts of the world. I guess it was my fault. I looked more Japanese or Chinese than American to them.

School Lunch
For lunch, the children had bean soup and bread. We were served the same fare as guests of a Pomak family living in the village.

Pomak Family
We found the Pomak family to be a gracious host. we were overwhelmed by their kindness and hospitality.

Pomak Family
They served lunch and entertained us with traditional folk songs to the accompaniment of Bulgarian musical instruments.

Pomak Dress
The woman of the house in traditional Pomak woman attire. On the back, she wears and displays their unique family emblem on her waist.

We arrived at the hotel in Sofia early in the evening. It was our last night in Bulgaria and the original plan was to have a farewell dinner together, but we didn’t do that.

Bulgarian Folk Dance
Instead we went to see the gala performance by three national folklore ensembles of Bulgaria, Macedonia, and Serbia at the National Place of Culture, an event occurring once in 50 years. It was all worth it. It was a nice send off from a tour of a great country.

Entry filed under: Blogroll, daily prompt. Tags: , , , , , , , , , .

Inside Bulgaria: Into the Black Sea a chance to give back

4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Abby  |  July 4, 2012 at 3:09 pm

    Thank you for writing about your recent trip. I really enjoyed reading your experiences and observations in Bulgaria.

    • 2. plaridel  |  July 4, 2012 at 9:26 pm


      you’re welcome. i’m glad you liked it. šŸ™‚

  • 3. uniquelovelygifts  |  December 5, 2016 at 5:06 am


    • 4. plaridel  |  December 6, 2016 at 9:04 am


      thank you. i’m glad you liked it.


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