Veliko Tarnovo is a small (just about 75 thousands citizens inhabit it), but very old and unusually beautiful town. It is built on three hills (Sveta Gora, Tsarevets, Trapezitsa) on the rocky banks of Yantra River. The name of the town comes from the Slavic root “tern” (a thorn). Step by step it transformed: first in Ternov, then Tranov, then Tarnov, finally in Tarnovgrad of Tarnovo. The town was called Great (Velik means great) in 1187 after the Assen’s and Peter’s uprising, as a result of which Bulgaria got independence from Byzantium. In the same year Tarnov became the capital of the restored Bulgarian Kingdom and attained abundance and unprecedented prosperity.
The king’s palace and the residence of the Patriarch were located on Trapezitsa hill as well as the mansions of the highest ranks of the clergy and the boyar nobility. The quarter of the monks, artisans and foreign merchants stood separately. In medieval times there were many churches, monasteries, palaces, bridges, fortifications built in the town. Here arose the Tarnovo schools of literature and painting. In 1393 Veliko Tarnovo was captured by the Turks after a three-months siege. After the regaining of liberty in Bulgaria in 1879 the Constituent Assembly adopted the first Bulgarian constitution, the Tarnovo Constitution, one of the most democratic constitutional charters of that time.
The place of interest in the town is the Tsarevets hill, where in the Middle Ages there was a fortress guarding the royal residence and the patriarchal complex. To this very day remained several churches with mural ensembles. In summer the Tasrevets stronghold with its crenellated walls becomes the natural grandiose decoration for the evening “Light and Sound” performance, dedicated to the centuries-old history of Bulgaria and its struggle against the Turkish yoke.
Of special interest to the tourists would be the old trade and artisan quarter called “Samovodska charshiya”. It is here where since old times lived and worked the potters, armourers, bakers. Nowadays you can not only buy the goods produced by the masters, but also watch the process of production according to old-time technologies.
Veliko Tarnovo is rarely picturesque town: the streets of the old town are amphitheatrically set on the steep slopes and the beautiful houses from the époque of the Bulgarian National Revival as if grow up from the rocks and hang over the river. There are many observation points in the old town.
Some 4 km away from the town stands the Arbanasi village, architectural and artistic reserve; there are several churches and monasteries that remained from the Middle Ages as well as houses with authentic furniture and utensils.
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