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The 14 Museum Towns of Bulgaria

Bulgaria boasts fourteen Museum Towns which are ‘showcases’ for houses built in the National Revival style of the 18th and 19th Century. These are towns where the past seems to come alive and are full of beauty and architectural style. It is very strange how they have come to be called ‘Museum Towns’ as this would suggest a cheerless, colourless and dull atmosphere whereas this could not be further from the truth. The towns are lively, active and inspiring places, full of life.

Arbanassi

Austere houses that resemble minor fortresses on the outside. High, solid walls and heavy gates and secret hiding-places, the houses are spacious and comfortable, richly decorated and furnished on the inside. The farm premises were housed in the ground floor made of stone. Open verandahs on the first floor typify Arbanassi style. Rooms often tiled with terracotta.

Bansko

In the old part of the town (see right) the Bansko fortified house is a masterpiece. Solidly built of stone and wood with high walls and iron-studded doors. The Pirin houses have two faces, stone facades facing the street and an open terrace overlooking the mountain and the courtyard.

Etura

Eight kms from Gabrovo, is this charming ethnographic centre where you can watch craftsmen fashion beautiful gold, silver, copper, leather and wooden items right in front of your eyes. Around this are lovely old houses, flowers on the window sills, small shops with wooden shutters and gas lanterns on the street corners. Mostly two storey buildings, the exact replicas of the homes of the old local craftsmen. The upper floors house the living area, whilst the ground floor was for workshops.

Koprivshtitsa

One of the most charming small Bulgarian towns, still preserving the atmosphere of the National Revival period, is huddled in the mountain folds 111 kms east of Sofia. No other Bulgarian museum town boasts such a large number of listed houses and monuments, most of which have been restored to their original appearance.

White stone walls, overgrown with ivy and wild geranium, fence in gardens full of flowers. Heavy, iron-studded gates hide blue, yellow and red houses with verandas, bay windows and eaves, and the spacious rooms are lit up by brightly coloured rugs and cushions, carved ceilings and cupboards, copper vessels and ceramics. The earliest houses are single storey. Specialists say that every house in Koprivshtitsa is a work of art. The houses built in the second half of the 19th century have exquisite painted facades and sunny verandahs, with carved ceilings.

Bozhentsi

An idyllic village nestling in the folds of the Balkan Range, 16 kms from the town of Gabrovo, which time seems to have lulled to sleep centuries ago. Typically here there are overhanging first floors (see left).

Houses with lavish interiors and wood panelled rooms. Beautiful carved ornaments on the ceilings, doors and cupboards.

Kovachevitsa

An architectural wonder. Amazingly tall houses set on narrow lanes. Solid and austere houses with many covered yards with large stone tiles. First floors have high ceilings. Unusually even at that time houses here had an inside toilet with sewerage! From a distance the houses look the same but with a closer look it can be seen that they are all different.

Melnik

Melnik is the smallest Bulgarian town (about 800 inhabitants), picturesquely situated amidst fantastic scenery. During the 17th - 18th c. it become a flourishing tobacco and wine-producing center, whose fame spread to many European countries.

The beautiful fortress-like houses with broad wine-cellars cut in the limestone rocks date from this period. Steep, strangely shaped sandstone rocks, lovely white houses perched on their slopes and a single street running along the river with steep paths leading to the houses perched above. Two or three storey houses with carved cupboards inside. Ornamental ceilings and double windows.