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Ruse City - Bulgaria

Looking for a property, second home overseas or just wanting a holiday? Take a journey back in time: to magnificent Ruse city in the north eastern area of Bulgaria ...

Stunning neo-classical architecture in the city, the Danube river, ancient rock monasteries and even a medieval fortress town!

The first point along your way will be the magnificent city of Ruse (sometimes seen as Rousse) set on the River Danube. Here you will find a Bulgarian city with truly European-style architecture. Ruse city has been a central gate to Europe for a long time and the European influence is mostly apparent in the wonderful buildings, dating from the 19th and 20th Centuries.

Sometimes referred to as ‘Little Vienna’ because of the classical style of the buildings. You will see an abundance of wonderful architectural styles, particularly around the main square.

One or two people who visited recently said it was ‘like Paris but without the traffic’! Two main squares and a network of pedestrianised streets make this a shoppers paradise with ample cafes scattered between the shops and museums.

Must see in the city

There are over 260 architectural monuments in the city and thirteen of these have national importance. On our list of must see things we would have:

The Profit Building - this is probably the most emblematic building in Ruse with its sculpture of Mercury, the winged god on its roof
Holy Trinity Cathedral Church - dug into the ground which the Turkish authorities made them do in those times
The Municipality Building (City Hall) which is shaped like a boat, reflecting the importance of shipbuilding in the city
TV Tower - the tallest structure in the Balkans. Take the lift to the top with a bar/cafe and see great views of the town
Freedom Square - is the main central square surrounded by old buildings, statue of liberty, fountains. Great place to sit and people watch
The Danube Gardens - lovely to stroll along the riverfront
Park of Youth - at the far end of Alexandrovska Street, the park stretches for several kilometers. Tennis courts, swimming pool, bars and cafes. Miles of tree lined walkways to enjoy
Museums - Baba Tonka’s house, the museum of Urban Lifestyle / Kaliopas House (displays of Rousse life at the turn of the century) and the Transport Museum in the original train station complete with oen of the first locomotives.

A city of ‘firsts’

Ruse is a real city of ‘firsts’ ... the first newspaper printed in Bulgaria in Bulgarian came out in Ruse in 1865. The first public pharmacy and the first bookshop were opened in Ruse. In 1871 the first teachers’ association was set up here. The first Chamber of Commerce, the first movie theatre, and more!

Perhaps one of the most significant of these was the building of the Ruse - Varna railway which was the first of its kind in the Balkans and  contributed enormously to the importance of the town.

The Russo-Turkish Crimean War of 1853-56 was a vivid demonstration of how desperately the Ottoman Empire was behind the rest of Europe. There were no highways nor railways. During the war Turkey came up with a strategy for railway construction across its European territories. There were three lines immediately planned, one of which was a line to connect Ruse city with the Black Sea port of Varna.

Meetings and negotiations continued for two years with the British, the French and the Turks, all involved, plus interest from Russia and Austria. The major influence of one of the engineers, Liar, gained the upper hand and he wanted to promote the railway line from Ruse to the Black Sea coast. Despite a permit to construct the line, given in 1856, Liar decided not to build the line. Applications came in from the Bulgarians in Shumen but their application was turned down. In the end, it was Great Britain that got the construction project!

The whole construction of the railway together with a concession to run for 99 years were assigned to a British company lead by the Barclay Brothers. Work started in 1864 at both Ruse and Varna ends. Local Bulgarian labour was mostly used in the construction. To transport materials two small Belgian locomotives were used. In just three months some 160 kms were prepared and rails laid down for 22 kms from Ruse and 32 kms from Varna. This was to become the first railway line in Bulgaria.

The inauguration of the line was cancelled many times but finally on 7 November 1866 it was declared open when the Turkish governor of Ruse district travelled the whole length of the line. The line covered 224 kms with eight railway stations.

It was a British company which first started routine exploitation of the railway line but hopes for it being used for international traffic never came about because of frequent derailings and delays. Nevertheless for two years, 1883 to 1885, the Orient Express travelled on the line. Nowadays it is one of the busiest railway lines in Bulgaria.