The beautiful town and provincial capital of Pazadzhik lies serenely on the lush green banks of the Maritsa River at an altitude of 205 m. It is home to 95,485 people. Its busy pedestrianised centre is made up of a series of spacious squares, which are now home to numerous boutiques and cafes. Indeed this is a town with a strong European café culture with many boutique coffee shops and pavement seating, which attracts hundreds of the towns young as well as business people and visitors.
Pazadzhik is located in South Central Bulgaria 114 km to the south east of the capital, which provides the nearest international airport. Bulgaria’s second city Plovdiv is only 36 km away and both cities are connected to Pazardzhik by reliable bus and train services. It is also easy to drive to lying conveniently on the Sofia-Plovdiv Motorway. The town is also close to Peshtera at 20 km away and Panagyurishte at 43 km distance.
A Dip Back in Time
The Tartars established a settlement in Pazardzhik in 1485. Its location on the river bank and centre for trade gave rise to its name, which originates from the Turkish meaning "small Tatar market". The town grew in prosperity developing profitable industries in iron, leather and rice. It was an exceptionally clean town full of striking architecture, so much so that a leading 18th century writer, Gerard Kornelius Drish wrote "the buildings here according to construction, size and beauty stand higher than those of Nis, Sofia and all other places". The area flourished from a small town at the start of the 19th century to a major administrative hub by the start of the 20th century; it became a leading craft and trades centre, home to 25,000 inhabitants. So great was its importance that it staged two large fairs each year and huge, regular bi- weekly markets. There were two single sex schools, a community centre and women's union known as the "Prosveta."
In 1810 the Russian army under the leadership of Count Nikolay Kamensky but it wasn’t liberated from Turkish rule until 1878. The Turks raised the town to the ground on their retreat, but was rebuilt and its population grew; entrepreneurs constructed factories, shops and houses and developed an industrial quarter. By 1959 the town once again became an administrative centre.
Some of the striking, old, stylish architecture can still be seen in the town; the Church of the Mother of God, built in 1837 is now a leading landmark and prestigious monument famed for its architectural style and ornate wood carvings. The Church of the Theotokos is another impressive religious site housing the country’s best collection of icons, which were crafted by masters from the famous Debar School. The collections centerpieces consist of carvings of scenes from the Old and New Testament as well as icons by Stanislav Dospevski. The clock tower dominates the skyline in the town and there are many old and modern statues dotted at strategic points all over the town evoking memories of its past as a home for skilled craftsmen. There is also a History Museum displaying 33,000 archaeological finds from the area in seven exhibition halls and an Ethnographic Museum detailing the life in the town at the time of the Bulgarian National Revival prior to the Russian Liberation. The Ethnographic Museum is housed in an original 19th century Revival house built in the architecture of the Plovdiv Revival Baroque style. The Stanislav Dospevski Art Gallery displays the masterpieces of local artists like Staneslav Dospevski, Konstantin Velichkov, Georgi Mashev, Georgi Gerasimov and Elena Konsulova - Vazova . There are numerous self portraits and many interesting works of artists who grew up in this town. There are several ‘museum houses’, which provide some interesting sites – must sees on this list is the museum dedicated to one of the heroes of the Bulgarian revival, Konstantin Velichkov. The exhibition is staged in the house he used to occupy and includes photographs and original documents of Pazardzhik’s favourite son. Likewise Stanislav Dospevski’s house on the Pasha Arc Canal shows many portraits of the great man and is an architectural temple to the Revival era.
Pazardzhik has a higher than average incidence of interconnected pedestrian zones, which have spurred the relaxing coffee culture environment in this town. The squares and streets are packed with cafes and restaurants and the mild climate and wide open spaces has meant that there are plenty of tables in the open air. Shopping and leisure facilities in the town are also well developed with plenty of malls, cinemas and clubs. There are several festivals held throughout the year including the Winter Musical Evening held each January. This is a wonderful series of musical evenings where the local symphony orchestra plays under the conductorship of Professor Ivan Spasov who is a leading composer, conductor and public dignitary.
Pictures courtesy of www.bulgariaphotos.net