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Veliko Turnovo


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Veliko Turnovo (75,000 residents) is located at 250km from the capital Sofia, at the foot of the Northern fore-Balkan mountain range.

Veliko Turnovo coat-of-arms

Veliko Turnovo panorama

Town history

Historians date Veliko Turnovo back to 4th millennium B.C. The town has inherited centuries-old Prehistoric, Thracian and Antique culture.

The royal city of Veliko Turnovo, the capital of the Second Bulgarian Kingdom (1185-1393) was a town where 22 kings ruled and forged the destinies of Bulgaria.

Picturesquely situated on three hills - Tsarevets, Trapezitsa and Sveta Gora, for 800 years the town has been mirroring its regal face in the waters of the meandering Yantra river. The hills are circled by the deep-cutting river above whose magnificent gorges sheer rocks rise into the sky. Perched one above the other on the rocks, the houses reach right down to the river bank.

Tsarevets hill is a natural inaccessible fortress where the royal palace, the Patriarch's Cathedral, and a multitude of small cross-domed churches were built.

A central place is occupied by the ruins of the royal palace.

Veliko Turnovo, the Tsarevets fortress  and the Patriarch's Cathedral

Baldwin's Tower, where Baldwin, Count of Flanders and Constantinople's first Latin emperor languished and died, is in the hill's south-eastern part.

The tower commemorates the victory of the Bulgarian tsar Kaloyan over the knights of the Fourth Crusade in 1205. It was restored in 1930-1932.

Veliko Turnovo, Baldwin's Tower

Trapezitsa hill rises on the opposite bank of Yantra river.

The hill housed residences of the boyars, some public buildings, and churches above all. The homes of the urban population were located at the foot of the two hills, outside the fortress walls and near the river.

Veliko Turnovo, Trapezitsa hill

Remains of fortress walls, embrasures, towers and fortified gates have been discovered here.

Several mediaeval churches dating from the time of the Second Bulgarian Kingdom have been preserved in the Assens' quarter. The St Dimiter of Salonika church has a sculptured and picturesque exterior with brick decorations. Besides being the city's oldest church, it is also one of the earliest examples of the Veliko Turnovo Literary & Painting School.

The Holy Forty Martyrs church preserves the oldest Biblical calendar in the Eastern Orthodox world, along with the in-built columns of khan Omourtag and of tsar Ivan-Assen II - two of the few surviving written monuments of Bulgarian mediaeval history.

Between the 12th and the 14th century Sveta Gora hill was the centre of Bulgaria's religious and cultural life. In 1356 the Veliko Turnovo Literary & Painting School gave the world the Manasses' Chronicle and the Tetraevangelia (Four Gospels) of tsar Ivan Alexander. Its traditions have a significant and lasting influence on all South-Eastern Europe.

Beside being a mediaeval capital, Veliko Turnovo was also a Bulgarian National Revival city.

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Veliko Turnovo's 18th-19th century houses seem to grow right out of the steep slopes flanking the river and crowning them with their gables and overhanging eaves.

Veliko Turnovo, town view over Yantra river

Brought back to life in Veliko Turnovo are also the Samovodene marketplace with its attractive small workshops where master goldsmiths, potters, carvers, weavers and pastry cooks still pursue their crafts, and the old photo studio.

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The Monument to the Assens' Dynasty - the Bulgarian royal dynasty reigning from 1185 until 1277.

The Forty Holy Martyrs church was erected on the order of tsar Ivan-Assen II in commemoration of the major victory of the Bulgarians over the Byzantine troops at Klokotnitsa in 1230. According to history experts, this is where tsar Kaloyan was buried.

The St Dimiter of Salonika church (1185) is the place where Bulgaria’s independence was proclaimed and the rulers of the restored Bulgarian state - tsars Assen, Peter and Kaloyan - were crowned.

Gurko street provides a fine example of a typical Bulgarian National Revival-style architectural ensemble.

The Samovodene Marketplace and the Sarafkina House (1861) - architectural and ethnographic expositions.

The Museum of the National Revival and the Constituent Assembly (1872). Here was adopted the First Bulgarian Constitution (1879) and the decision was taken to recognize the Unification of the Principality of Bulgaria and Eastern Roumelia (1885).

The Archaeological Museum with its unique golden treasure from the Neolithic age and the biggest collection of earthenware & pottery in Bulgaria, dating from Roman times.

The incredible Sound & Light show presents the city's historic heritage to visitors in an original way.

Veliko Turnovo, Sound & Light Show

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Veliko Turnovo, panorama

Veliko Turnovo, Assens' Dynasty Memorial Veliko Turnovo, Assens' Dynasty Memorial Veliko Turnovo, Patriarch's Cathedral
Veliko Turnovo, in the street Veliko Turnovo, Tsarevets fortress Veliko Turnovo, Gurko street view
Veliko Turnovo, panorama Veliko Turnovo, panorama Veliko Turnovo, Museum of the National Revival and the Constituent Assembly (1872)
Veliko Turnovo, street view Veliko Turnovo, Tsarevets fortress entrance Veliko Turnovo, Assens' quarter

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