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Veliko Turnovo - A travel report by Adam
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Veliko Turnovo,  Bulgaria - flag Bulgaria -  Veliko Tþrnovo
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adampl's travel reports

Veliko Turnovo and around

  18 votes
This middle-sized town located in an S-shaped gorge of Yantra river used to be the capital of the Second Bulgarian Empire. Now it is one of the main tourist attractions in Bulgaria and people flock here to savour the atmosphere of this place.

Panorama of the old town
Panorama of the old town
Getting to Veliko Turnovo is quite easy no matter from where you want to arrive there (the capital or the coast). The town is located in the middle of the way that links Sofia and Varna making it a great several-days-long stopover en route from the capital to the coast or vice versa. The journey in both directions takes around 3.5 hours and it's better to take a bus rather than a train as the train station on Sofia-Varna route is located in Gorna Oryahovitsa (about 20 km north of Turnovo - thanks Geri for correcting my mistake). Buses from Sofia and from Varna are operated by ETAP and cost 14 leva (one-way). They are very frequent (often hourly) and have a good standard.

Favourite spots:
Typical architecture of Veliko Turnovo
Typical architecture of Veliko Turnovo
Veliko Turnovo is a great spot itself with many cobbled streets and small houses with red-tiled roofs. We could spend many hours just strolling along its narrow lanes and devouring the fairy-tale world of the town.
The town is surrounded by hills which made Turnovo a defensive settlement. The fortifications are well preserved and you can visit them - it's the Tsarevets Fortress. On the hill, behind the walls you can see the remnants of houses and other facilities once used in the town. There is also a newly built Orthodox church, with interesting contemporary murals.
The location of the town on Yantra River made it necessary to build bridges. The most beutiful one is the stone bridge visible from the fortress. You're bound to see an arched bridge before the wood-plank one.

What's really great:
St Dimitar church
St Dimitar church
There are several churches in the town and many of them are worth a visit or at least you should have a glance of their architecture. A must-see is the oldest tserkov of St Dimitar. The church is located near the Tsarevets fortress and there is a wood-plank bridge (watch our - it's lacking several planks!). The beginnings of the tserkov date back to the 12th century. On the door there is a a plate that says the church was built in the place where in 1185 bolyars Peter and Assen announced a revolt against the Byzantine empire. The success of the uprising was the beginning of the Second Bulgarian Empire.
In the old town there are many icon painters' studios where you can buy a hand painter icons. It's a very characteristic souvenir from Bulgaria. I decided to buy an embroidered serviette and several crocheted mats, which are also very typical for Bulgaria. It's best to buy them on the street from women who make them.

Arbanasi style
Arbanasi style
Not only Veliko Turnovo is worth a visit, but I think it's reasonable to devote one day of your stay in Turnovo to visiting it's vicinity. It's rich with churches, monasteries and interesting villages. The best way to do so is to rent a bike. In Turnovo there is a shop that also rents bikes (Gorgona address: Zelenka 2) for peanuts (10 leva per day).
The precincts of Turnovo offer great opportunities for biking, as it's a hilly area. We went by bikes to several places, but the must have is Arbanasi. It's a small town several kilometres from Turnovo. There are many hotels and restaurants (mainly top-end) but the main attraction of Arbanasi is its architecture (see picture). Stone houses topped with characteristic red-tile roofs, all similar to each other, make this place unique. From Arbanasi we went to see the St Peter and Paul monastery. Until this monastery you ride upwards all the time the best starts when you begin to go back to Turnovo. You're going down very fast even 50 km/h.

Cobbled lane
Cobbled lane
Veliko Turnovo has the old town and the new town. Most of the accommodation offered is located in the old town and I recommend staying there. This way all the interesting spots, restaurants and shops will be within a walking distance. There are many hotels available in Turnovo. A Dutch couple we met in the Rila Monastery recommended Hotel Trapezitsa (ul. Stefan Stambolov 79) which is really cheap and offers a good standard. Another advantage is its very central location and a good restaurant downstairs.
First we wanted to stay at this hotel, but just after arrival we were approached by a woman who offered us accommodation in one of her flats. In Veliko Turnovo many people who offer rooms or flats are associated and such private rooms/flats are called there Home Hotels. We had a basic-standard 4-bed room (there were three of us) and paid 10 leva per person per night (it was the middle of September then).

Interior of Shtastlivetsa restaurant
Interior of Shtastlivetsa restaurant
Restaurants in Bulgaria are generally cheap and even the top-end ones are sometimes cheaper that budget restaurants in Western Europe.
During our stay in Veliko Turnovo we ate in only one restaurant - Shtastlivetsa which is located downstairs in the Hotel Trapezitsa mentioned above. According to several sources this is the best restaurant in Turnovo, but still prices are reasonable with the most expensive mains costing no more than 15 leva. Pizzas start here from 3 leva and are really tasty. One of their specialties is a cocktail (without alcohol) with ice-cream and whipped cream (2 lv). Shtastlivetsa is a two-storey restaurant plus an open-air area. The best is to go downstairs as the floor -1 has great panorama of the Yantra River gorge and the old town.

Published on Friday October 5th, 2007

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Mon, Mar 10 2008 - 11:31 AM rating by voyager

Outstanding report. You have done a really good job of capturing the charm of the area and including a lot of helpful information about lodging and food for the tourist. I also appreciate the information about public transportation. And finally, I think your pictures are really first class as well

Fri, Oct 19 2007 - 07:41 AM rating by marianne

I LOVE reading your reports as you give so much useful information, about public transport and exact direction how to get to some places, which is so useful when going on foot.

Mon, Oct 15 2007 - 01:44 AM rating by bineba

Very good report with lots of useful information.

Sat, Oct 06 2007 - 04:32 AM rating by ravinderkumarsi

hi adam,nice work from you ,good report and great pictures

Sat, Oct 06 2007 - 02:55 AM rating by davidx

You continue to add to our knowledge of Eastern Europe. Thanks

Fri, Oct 05 2007 - 11:21 PM rating by louis

I agree with eirissa. Very good report. Lot of usefull informations and personal remarks. Bulgaria is on my wish list, and Velike Tyrnowo also. So you report will help to plan my trip. I would like to visit also Plovdiv and Rilski Monastir. Have you seen them ?

Fri, Oct 05 2007 - 12:24 PM rating by rangutan

Well reported little destination / stop-over, useful and informative. [4.6]
Lev 1.5 = $1 (2006) Inflation only 2%

Fri, Oct 05 2007 - 08:37 AM rating by eirissa

A very good report, nice style of writing, with a lot of personal insight. Thanks.

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