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Shumen:The Horseshoe of Culture

Shumen was founded 3,200 years ago lies in the north eastern Bulgaria, 80 km west of Varna and 301 km from Sofia. It has a population of 88, 966 inhabitants and in ancient times it was home to many rich cultures including the Thracians, Romans, Byzantines and early Bulgarians. It is surrounded by hills, which form a horseshoe shape enveloping the city to the west and north with a rocky, narrow valley running through the centre of this formation. Present day Shumen is home to some classic examples of communist architecture; the main boulevard is lined with impressive civic buildings built during this period. The surrounding countryside is truly spectacular and also with so many neighbouring cliffs it’s a popular place for paragliding. The area surrounding the city is rich in historical significance; the first two capitals of the Bulgarian nation, Pliska and Veliki Preslav and the religious centre Madara lie close to the city.

A Dip Back in Time

Emperor Nicephorus burned Shumen to the ground in 811. The town was rebuilt and became a cultural and religious centre under Simeon the Great, around this time its name was changed to Simeonis. In 1087 it was attacked by Alexius I. The city was built around a fortress, which housed a complicated defense system along with civil and religious buildings. In 1388 the Ottoman army invaded and Sultan Murad I ordered the inhabitants to surrender. An unsuccessful crusade by Wladislav Warnenczyk to free the town took place in 1444, but the town was completely destroyed and had to be rebuilt in its current location and renamed with the Turkish name Şumnu. The Russian army mounted several attacks during the 18th century and to combat further attack, the town was enlarged and fortified. After this period, the Turks renamed the town Gazi, which means Victorious. Shumen was once one of the most important military positions in the Balkan Peninsula; in 1854 it was the place where the Turkish army gathered together.
The 19th century brought the period of National Revival and the town began to re-establish itself as a centre for culture with the first celebrations of St Kyril and Methodius, theatre performances, the founding of the symphony orchestra and the building of a girls' religious school. The Russians finally invaded the town on June 22nd 1878 and became a part of the newly-independent Principality of Bulgaria. Between 1950 and 1965 it was called Kolarovgrad, after Vasil Kolarov.

Eating, Drinking and Where to Stay

There are many lovely hotels to stay at during your visit to Shumen. The boutique hotel Rimini Club is a five minute walk from the centre in an elegant 19th century building. The well-preserved building displays all of the glory from the past, whilst the hotel offers all of the comforts from home. Another great place to stay is the Hotel Shumen in the centre of the town. It offers 400 beds including two VIP suites. There is a wide choice of on-site bars and restaurants as well as an indoor swimming pool. The Hotel Madara has 140 beds including some apartments. It also offers its guests a children’s playroom, a cocktail bar, coffee house and two restaurants. The Hotel Bohemi is located near to Shumen within close range of Madara and Pliska at the foot of the Shumen Plateau. It offers comfortable accommodation with scenic views as well as a night club, two restaurants one of which is an open-air restaurant, a fitness centre and an outdoor swimming pool. If you prefer a more rural stay then camping is available in the town of Madara at Madarski Kon Camping. There are 10 small self-catering bungalows, a children’s swimming pool, a barbecue; café, restaurant, children’s playground and the opportunity to hire sports equipment like bikes.
Shumen has many excellent and diverse cafes and restaurants. Well worth trying are Texas Foods, which as the name suggests offer American style cuisine, also goodfood can be found in many traditional Bulgarian restaurants like the Tchiflika Tavern, the Stara Oreh and the Choli BBQ Restaurant.