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Historic Koprivshtitsa

Koprivshtitsa lies on the Topolnitsa River surrounded by the majestic Sredna Gora Mountains. It is one of the country’s museum towns renowned for its 19th century Revival architecture and with a staggering 383 well-preserved historic monuments it is a busy tourist attraction. On display here there are large ethnographic collections containing ancient weaponry, Renaissance art, household items and fine jewellery. It is perhaps best known for its role in the 1876 April Uprising against the Turks and its international folk festival.

 

 

Getting There

The town lies 111 km east of the capital and 80 km from Plovdiv. Neighbouring Panagurishte is around 15 km away. There are plenty of train services from the capital and Plovdiv, but the station is 12 km from the town. Nevertheless, Koprivshtitsa has a reliable and regular bus service to transport passengers to and from the station, there is also a daily bus connection to the capital and to neighbouring towns and villages.

A Dip Back in Time

There is little information regarding the history of the town prior to the invasion by the Ottoman army. It would appear that Koprivshtitsa was little more than a stretch of land strategically placed on a crossroads linking East with West. During the Ottoman rule, Koprivshtitsa withstood many a raid and was raised to the ground on several occasions. It was also pillaged by raiding Turks and many of its native inhabitants were forced to flee. More affluent inhabitants made bargains with the ruling Turks and earned special privileges and their land was not seized by the Turkish authorities. Thus, many Bulgarian traditions associated with the town as well as its patriotic free spirit were kept alive. Many famous Bulgarian revolutionaries were born here including Todor Kableshkov and Georgi Bengovski who lead the April Uprising on April 20, 1876.
There are many legends associated with the town, which have been passed down by word of mouth through the ages. The Legend of “The Jupa”tells how the roads connecting several nearby towns crossed at the exact spot where Koprishtitsa is now located. The reason why it became inhabited is because of its beautiful environment of a green valley kept lush by many small streams making it the perfect stop-over for caravans of travellers and traders. The first family said to have put down roots in the village were a cattle-rearing family called Jupa. Their family expanded and before long their settlement had grown into a small hamlet and later a village. The clan were all nicknamed for their skills or characteristics and these names became the names of the neighbouring villages; Tihanek (from the word quiet), Kozlek (goat keeper) and Lomek (from the word ruin).

Another legend puts the town's foundation down to a young female cattle farmer from Rila who raised her cattle in the area and because she found it so suitable for her needs she obtained a decree from the sultan making her the owner of the land here. In the decree that the sultan named the land Koprivshtitsa “Avratalan,”which means woman’s meadow. Once the women's title to the land was confirmed she only allowed the Turks to pass through town if their horses wore horseshoes. She also arranged permission for the villagers to carry guns, which was forbidden in any other town. As a sign of gratitude, the people of Koprivshtitsa called her Sultanka the Bulgarian feminine form of Sultan and her descendants were known as Sultanekovi for many centuries after.

Other stories tell how the town was founded by fugitives who settled in the area after the Turks conquered Bulgaria. These people were believed to be descendants from well to do Bulgarian traders and farmers. Among the fugitives were three shepherds called Lambo, Toroman and Arnautin and these three men established clans, which expanded and gave their names to the surrounding villages of Toroman, Lambovska and Arnaut.

Eating, Drinking and Where to Stay

Koprishtitsa thrives on tourism and many of its Revival houses are now small family-run hotels with traditional Mehana restaurants. Indeed the town is a favourite place for weekend breaks for those living in Plovdiv and Sofia. There are many places to stay in the town and if you visit the tourist information centre you can obtain a list of private rooms. They staff at the information centre will even show you pictures of the rooms available before you make your decision. Many of the rooms are on the main square and cost as little as 10 Euros per person for one night and include breakfast. The Hotel Boliarka is also a great place to stay with plenty of rooms having their own balcony overlooking the perfectly manicured garden. The Astra Hotel lies on the edge of the town and offers comfortable accommodation with friendly staff. The Hotel Sezoni is another small, cosy hotel with an old world atmosphere.

There are plenty of restaurants, most of which offer traditional fayre. The Lomeva Kâshta Tavern is one such place that offers a warm atmosphere and excellent cuisine particularly the kebab dishes which are served with a delicious salad. The décor is also divine with low ceilings an open fire and tasteful décor in a variety of blue tones. The April 20 National Restaurant is aimed at the tourist market but its food is excellent especially the kavarma. St Georges Tavern attached to the Hotel St George is also well worth sampling – especially the lamb. The traditional interior preserves the Bulgarian Renaissance style; there are 40 seats indoors and 120 in the gardens. The menu is more than impressive with some classic examples of national Bulgarian cuisine including game butter beans from Smilian and rabbit stew but best of all is the roast lamb.