Through my eyes

living my life without regrets

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Day 1 - Velico Tarnovo, BG - Велико Търново -

Velico Tarnovo, Bulgaria (BG) - Велико Търново

Look at the Cyrillic again, at least you can read ‘novo’ (hobo), right? And the 4th letter и is an “I”, remember? By the way, novo in translation means ‘new’ and Velico means ‘Great’.

The Yantra River gorge gives this town its character. The river loops around itself a few times and within those large loops the town was built. I found the old town to be very hilly; all the streets were alongside steep hills that made ‘parking’ a challenge.

 Twists of the Yantra River 
Luckily we booked a hotel (Silver Star Hotel) near the center of the old town and the hotel had its own parking garage. Getting into the garage however was almost like an off-road ride. The curves were steep and the bends off-camber. I was glad to be parked inside the garage. Some spots were ‘iffy’ to get through, but we made it to the back of the hotel and into the garage. Getting out will be the other experience.
Rough Road Surface On Your Feet But Also When Riding Your Bike

We booked this hotel for 2 nights knowing we could not even touch on all there is to see in Velico Tarnovo and I am glad we did that. Carol put on her best walking shoes, walking up and down the hills on cobble stone streets sure would be a work out. There were stairs everywhere. The people here must be in great physical shape, everything is built on hills.

Dominating the old town is the Tsarevets Castle, the old Royal Palace. VelicoTarnovo (V.T.), in the time between the Byzantine Empire and the Ottoman Empire, was the Royal Capital. The powers that led Bulgaria at that time must have been strong, because the Bulgarian Empire reached way north and included part of today’s Romania.  I am always amazed how the borders between countries change. Just because countries today have an established ‘border’ means little when looking back through history; the lines between what is and what was, shift in seemingly random ways. Nothing is black and white; there are many tones of gray and even blotches where I expect pure white to be. So it is with V.T., once the capital of a powerful King, now a tourist attraction that brings income and new ideas from all over the world. V.T. at her height of power was as advanced as any other European city. The 400 houses, 18 churches and fortifications starting in the 5th Century and growing until the 14th Century, show it was a stronghold. The buildings also show that the defensive ideas were great, were well thought out, etc. Some part of the walls surrounding the Tsarevets Castle were 10 meters (30 feet) thick and up to 12 meters high (36 feet).
Bird's Eye View of Old Tarnovo
Carol and I ate up the historic part of town, however not the new part of the city. Bulgaria ‘recreated’, ‘fixed up’ or made explorable the old castle, the Tsarevets. This fortress and town had a very pleasing, very grand looking location. It was dreamlike and made me feel warm and comfortable, just looking at it from afar. 
The Church In the Foreground Is the Center Of the Tsarevets


Tsarevets gives you a very good idea how life used to be, how big and organized the society was and that good people were in charge. Ruins still abound and there are no real living sections within the old city walls but you do get the idea when you are inside the historic quarter of the castle. The castle (Tsarevets) occupies the pinnacle of a hill and at the very top is the “Patriarchal Cathedral of the Holy Ascension of God”.  To get to this Cathedral is a struggle. We made it after about one hour of going uphill and when we entered the Cathedral we were in for a shock. 

Inside the Cathedral After 'Improvements' 
The Style Screams Communism

Sad, Dull Colors, Primitive Painting
This was not what I expected. The whole interior of the church was ‘re’-done during the Communist era and now exhibits frescoes and decorations in a ‘modern’ style, bleak, with scary colors and execution. I did not like it; the church felt like it was ‘raped’ of its essence. It was more like a museum, done in a ‘bad’ way.
Stairs, Stairs and More Stairs 

We spent most of the afternoon exploring the Tsarevets and the ruins of the Royal Palace. Twenty-two successive kings ruled Bulgaria. The palace ruins showed it was huge (4500 square meters = 42,000 sq. feet). Our feet were sore and our calves ached from climbing all those stairs.

Colorful Light Show 
Massive Lights In All Kinds Of Hues

For dinner we went to a restaurant that had a fantastic view over the whole historic Tsarevets and while we ate, a sound and light show started. We could not hear the sounds, we did not buy a ticket to be in the right spot, but we did see the light show and it was stunning and colorful and Carol’s dinner turned cold while she was outside shooting pictures. 

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