This is a tale of history, a tale of past glory, present chaos and future … well, just future
It all began in the early summer, when after a trip to the town of Sandanski, a small group of BOR’s finest travelers decided a trip needs to take place to visit the old Bulgarian capitals – Pliska, Preslav and Veliko Tarnovo.
During the preparation for the trip a few good heroes dropped out due to a various number of reasons, but the rest of us made up for them:).
On a beautiful Saturday morning we took off from the parking in front of our office, which turns out to be our new starting point. Due to some misunderstanding between the three drivers we had to split up and come back together at a gas station near the town of Pravetz. This gave the team the opportunity to have a quick snack.
After we reconnected with our lost third car we re-started the trip and soon Stara Planina Mountain was already behind our backs. After we got off the Hemus highway and took the road to Veliko Tarnovo something amazing happened. Imagine you are in a fantasy movie and you are walking on a road so straight you can’t see a turn anywhere kilometers ahead. And everything around you is covered in a soft, white fog, just came out of the ground and going up to the sky in silky thin lines. It wasn’t anything like the thick, heavy fog that comes into mind when we read the word fog, just a meter off the ground, and almost ghostly transparent. Everything was so magnificent that even now I regret I had to drive instead of just looking at it and enjoying it.
With no other interesting things while on the road we finally got to Veliko Tarnovo. After reserving a villa in advance during the week before the trip it turned out we can’t find it as easy as we thought it will be due to some of the people in the group already been in this city before. However this happened to be a real adventure with us going round in circles for about almost 45 minutes :). Finally, with our last drops of patience running out we found the villa just beneath the legendary Tzarevetz and its fortress.
Since it was already late in the day and all of us were starving we decided to take a walk in Veliko Tarnovo and find some nice place to have something to eat. We were told of a nice restaurant we ca have a good meal for a good price, but when we arrived it was full and we had to find somewhere else to go. After a few attempts we found a big enough table in a pizza restaurant. Without any hesitation all of us ordered something and while waiting we enjoyed the beautiful view to one of Veliko Tarnovo’s monuments – The Town Gallery.
I have traveled a lot in BG, but I can say with a clean conscience, that the pizza I had that day was one of the most delicious ones I have ever had. And this goes not just for that pizza, but for all the meals we had that weekend.
After a quick walk we decided to go back to the villa and start preparing our BBQ dinner:). And then the fun started. The owner of the villa was still living in the 80’s or even 70’s. He had to explain everything to us twice, which was not bad, but then we started being charged for small things he “forgot to mention”, like tourist taxes, toilet paper, hot water for doing the dishes after wards(the water for the baths was not included thank God ) and so on and so forth. At the end we even had to go and look for our own BBQ preparation products such us charcoal, light and others. Since it was already too late and we have already pre-paid the villa we had no choice but to stay. Other than that everything else was OK and we started preparing the “pardzholi”.
One of the reasons we went to Veliko Tarnovo was to witness the “Sound and Light” spectacle. Since I have already fired up the BBQ I didn’t had the chance to go and see it from the best point of view possible, as the others did, but had a pretty good view from where the villa was situated. Although the show was not in its full length and without all the effects it was great. To see this fortress during the night with the different lights shining it up is really a lifetime experience and a true “must see”.
A curious thing happened then. When the others went to see the “Sound and Light” spectacle they seem to forgot I didn’t go with them and lock me outside the villa doing the BBQ. The BBQ however was placed on a balcony with no other entry inside or outside of the villa except the one already locked:). The dining room was even locked, which was strange as it was inside the villa doing this was meaningless. Good thing the fridge was not locked out as well as all the beer was in it:).
Without going into details about the rest of the night I can only say everyone lost of bit of himself that night:).
In the morning we finally went to see the fortress itself and experience what it was to live in one of the world’s most biggest and majestic cities of the old ancient times.
I won’t go into details about all the historical facts and legends about the town and the fortress itself. This information can be found in many places, one of which is below:
The better way to describe it in my opinion would be to explain how it felt to walk into the steps of the kings, to feel the blood that our ancestors spilled to protect it, the glory of the Bulgarian empire, to which even the roman emperors have claimed their loyalty, some of them even died in the fortress’s towers.
But let’s start from the beginning….
For a person from the southwest end of Bulgaria, where there aren’t such big and well preserved ancient or medieval fortresses I was astonished by the sheer size of the walls, of the town behind them and everything in it. I am also really keen on learning historical facts and study ancient offense and defense strategies. Based on the town’s location and the way the fortress was built I can surely say that no man would have ever taken it if it was ruled and maintained properly. 3-4 meters wide walls, that surrounds the whole Tzarevetz hill with some of them going down into the river bed surrounding it in combination with the height of the hill itself and the near vertical rocks makes the fortress a true marvel of the ancient Bulgarian military strategy. Unfortunately we all know what happened in 1393 A.C.
We didn’t have the time to walk around the whole hill, but from what I could see the things historians say about it not having a spot where a church, a castle, or another administrative building wasn’t built are true. In its peak the hill had 3200 inhabitants, most of which were the people ruling Bulgaria at that time. During our walk I saw that the actual architecture of the city was really beautiful and everything that was built inside the city walls was in a perfect order, regardless if it was a water tank, a church, or the king’s palace.
We had a tour around the city walls, or at least the front side, just next to the main city gate. During this time, although most of the fortress’s walls were restored and are not the original ones, while I was walking on and around them I felt like I have belonged there all my life, and I am certain all people that have visited the site that day with me felt the same. It is really
But the best feeling for me on that trip was yet to come. After we finished our tour around the city walls we went to see the King’s palace and its citadel. Half of the citadel’s surrounding walls were well preserved we were able to see them. Imagine what was my feeling when I stood just in front of a 20 meter high, 5 meter thick wall made of stone. I felt like something very, very small, but at the same time I was proud my ancestors were able to build such defense installations back in 14th century.
We then went on the top of the wall and checked out the view. I could see the whole city of Veliko Tarnovo and even further away! Great strategically placed fortress!:)
After all this we went to see the church, which was positioned on the top of hill the fortress was built on. In there we found that it is a newly built one, but an almost 100% match to what the old ancient church was during it’s original state. On the top of the church there was a platform (again, as per the ancient church’s design), on which the Bulgarian Kings could see what is happening in the city below and give orders in times the city was under siege.
This is where for me the best moment in the whole trip was. Standing there, with my eyes closed, feeling the wind blowing in my face. And the moments after I opened them. I felt like nothing else matters, I felt part of the history of my country, I felt like becoming one with that history. Knowing I was walking in the steps of the kings that once ruled an empire of Bulgarians, Greeks, Romanians, Serbians and with a title recognized by both the Pope and the The Ecumenical Patriarch felt like a fantasy and something unreal I am not worthy of. It felt great!!!:)
During that weekend I was in Bulgaria’s past with the people the country’s future belonged to. Back to the future!!!