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The Town Of Lilacs - Lovech

Lovech is known as The Town of Lilacs due to the vast number of huge, beautiful lilac bushes which grow in Stratesh Park and which can be seen from everywhere in the town.

Situated on both banks of the River Osam, Lovech town is both flat and mountainous.

The large Stratesh Park is located on a 250m high plateau in the eastern area of the town. Lovech is surrounded on the south west by the Hisarya and Bash Bunar Hills. Set some 150 kms from the capital, Sofia, other nearby towns are Pleven, Teteven and Troyan.

History

The area surrounding the present town is believed to have been inhabited in prehistoric times. The Thracian tribe Meldi were the first settlers in the town in the 4th-3rd centuries BC, making Lovech one of Bulgaria's oldest towns.

 

Some historians believe Lovech to be the location of the Thracian capital Melta, which acted as a road station between the Thracian tribes who inhabited the Rhodopes, the Maritza Valley and Romania. During the Roman colonisation of the area, a military base was established at Lovech, known as Prezidium. This was a very strategically important point along the Via Trayana - one of the largest Roman roads which connected the sea with the River Danube. Traces of the Roman road can still be seen in Lovech today.

 

During the 17th century, Lovech (Lofca in Turkish) again became a road centre connecting north and south Bulgaria. It is believed that crafts and dealers from Lovech reached as far as Tsarigrad, Odrin, Thessalonike, Vienna and Bucharest, to name but a few.
The town was known as ‘Golden Lovech' (or Altan Lovech in Turkish) because of its trading success.


From 1780-1784 the town rapidly developed, and it was thought that there were approximately 20,000 people living there. Between 1872-1874, the self-taught National Revival architecture master, Kolyu Ficheto constructed the ‘Covered Bridge' (Pokrit Most in Bulgarian) over the River Osam. The bridge was destroyed by fire in 1925, but was successfully rebuilt in 1931 and you can still see this famous landmark today.

During 1901-1959, Lovech became a county centre, and then a regional town. Later, in 1987, it became the regional centre.
Today it is a thriving town which has retained much charm, particularly in the old quarter (Varosha quarter) where traditional Bulgarian houses nestle together with beautiful walled gardens.

Places to See in Lovech

There are two distinct areas to the town - the old and new parts.

The old town is situated in the Varosha district, an architecturally preserved area, and is characterised by the grey stone roofs and covered terraces on the first floor of the houses (chardaks) which protrude over the streets.


Between the old and new towns, crossing the river, you will find the famous ‘Covered Bridge'.


The Plaza Todor Kirkov lies at the eastern end of the bridge, and is the spot where this local revolutionary was killed by the Turks in 1876.


The Art Gallery lies behind the square. It is home to regularly changing exhibitions, and displays of rustic scenes by local artists. It is free to visit.

The new town has a modern centre with pleasant pedestrianised plazas and walkway where you can enjoy the shopping or just sit in one of the many boulevard cafes to watch the world go by.
The Varosha district is clearly marked by the Revival-style façade of a kindergarten. Cobbled streets pass up the hillside lined by buildings that have been constructed in the traditional style (often they are actually modern constructions underneath!).

The Ethnographic Museum can be found in two wooden houses on Marin Pop Lukanov Street. The houses were built during the early part of the 19th century on foundations from the 17th century. One of the houses has an almost Western European 1930s appearance, with a modern kitchen and book-lined study.

Costumes from the period are on display. The other house contains low beds and tables from the later part of the 19th century. A British iron bedstead and some Viennese furniture occupy a couple of rooms. A British steam iron from the period, along with other imported items, make up a display in the workroom. In the cellar you will find a rakia still, a wine press, vats, and a vessel for making soap. The museum is open all year round, with times changing slightly in the winter, and note that it closes for lunch. There is a small entry fee.

 


 

 

OUT AND ABOUT

The Vasil Levski Museum can be found a short way up the hill from the Ethnographic Museum. It is located in a modern concrete building. Vasil Levski co-ordinated a network of revolutionaries and the collection of arms in Bulgaria. The largest base of the movement was situated in Lovech. Levski used to stay in Lovech at the home of Nikola Sirkov, where he would come and go in disguise! The museum contains a uniform from the First Bulgarian Legion, copies of letters written by Levski, an original wooden printing press, and Levski's dagger and sabre. The museum is closed on Mondays, and makes a small charge for entry.

 


The Levski Statue stands further up on Stratesh Hill. A walk up here is great for admiring the view.
The Uspenska Church is located next to the Vasil Levski Museum. The contemporary artwork on the church walls is a combination of new and restored murals. Due to the renovation work ongoing in the church, it is not open all the time.

The remains of the Roman fortress can be found at the top of Stratesh Hill.

 

WHERE TO STAY

There are a few centrally placed hotels in Lovech.
Both modern and traditional bed and breakfast can be found to accommodate all tastes and bugets

There are also some very pleasant traditional ‘mehana'-style restaurants offering good food, and traditional musical entertainment in the evenings. Some restaurants and bars can be found along the river, offering great views of the river and bridge.

 

The area surrounding Lovech town

Devetashka Cave - This can be visited either by yourself, or by joining one of the local excursions from Lovech town. It is found 18 km to the north-east of Lovech and there are many interesting archaeological finds on display.

Troyan

If you travel south through pleasant tree-covered hills from Lovech you will arrive in the semi-rural town of Troyan. The town also lies on the banks of the River Osam.


In the 19th century, Troyan was a major centre for pottery and ceramics, and most of the Bulgarian souvenir pottery is still made here today.

You can visit many of the local potteries, watch them at work, and purchase goods.

There is a Museum of Folk Crafts and Applied Arts in the town's square housing displays of local wood-carvings, pottery, musical instruments and fol dress. There is also a reconstruction of a 19th century house. A fantastic scale model of a street containing houses and workshops is definitely worth a look.

Troyan's Historical Museum is next to the Crafts Museum and houses exhibits from the Uprising and Liberation. If you would like to visit the museum you must ask at the Craft Museum to be let in.

The town's Rakia Festival takes place at the end of September each year. You will be able to experience parades, music, dancing, and obviously, rakia!

Troyan has a few small hotels and restaurants, although there are more small hotels and rooms to be found outside of the town in the neighbouring villages.

Bulgaria's third largest monastery, the Troyan Monastery, can be reached by travelling east out of Troyan town, up through the Cherni Osam valley, and through the village of Oreshak. The monastery was founded in the first part of the 15th century. The church (Sveta Bogoroditsa) at the monastery, built 400 years after its foundation, contains some fantastic religious works of art by the Bulgarian artist, Zahai Zograf. Also inside the church is the ‘Three-handed Virgin' icon which appears to be hugging baby Jesus with three arms! It is believed that the icon can grant wishes and cure illnesses.

In the monastery living quarters there is the legendary hiding place of Vasil Levski, where he would hide in a wooden cupboard from the Turks.

If you feel like a 30 minute walk uphill, you can also visit the Monastery of Sveti Nikolai. Although there is not much to see there as the monastery is rundown, the shaded steep walk is actually quite pleasant through some pretty woodland.

For souvenir pottery and textiles, you would be better off visiting the Arts and Crafts Fair in Oreshak village, rather than buying at the souvenir stalls outside the monastery. Travelling south on the main road out of Troyan will take you along the Troyan Pass mountain route. As the road reaches 1,450 metres, there is an amazing view of the Stryama valley, the Sredna Gora, the Thracian Plain, and the Rhodopes in the distance.

However, there are a couple of turn-offs just after the end of Troyan town which will take you into to nice side valleys. The middle turn-off will take you to Beli Osam village, along the Beli Osam River. This is a pleasant village which then leads on to the pretty village of Chiflik. In Chiflik there is an open-air mineral water swimming pool. The northern turn-off leads to Shipkovo village at the top of the Rashdavets valley. It is a small spa resort with another open-air swimming pool which is popular with families in the summer.

Cherni Osam village lies a few kilometres from the Troyan Monastery. South of the village is the extensive nature reserve of the Central Balkan National Park. If you like hunting, then maybe you would enjoy a trip to the Natural History Musuem in Cherni Osam which houses stuffed exhibits of local wildlife - deers, stags, wolves and bears!

Apriltsi

A large village, east of Troyan. The village is spread over several kilometres, and reaches as far as the suburbs of Vidima and Ostrets. Apriltsi is a good starting point for walking and hiking trips, with maps and guides available locally. There are a few pleasant hotels and guest houses, some with outdoor pools.