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Exploring around Rousse and the Danube

The city of Rousse on the Danube provides an excellent base from which to explore an area rich in cultural and historical heritage combined with wondrous scenery.

Starting with two amazing archictectural reserves: the rock churches of Ivanovo and the medieval fortress of Cherven, set in the marvellous canyon of the Rusenski Lom river.

Ivanovo Rock Churches
This is a complex of churches, chapels and monasteries carved high in the the rocks, some 6 to 8 metres above ground.

Set near the village of Ivanovo in an amazing landscape, the rock-hewn churches are on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The first cells and churches were carved and dug out by hermits in the 12th Century. Don’t miss the exceptional murals dating from the 13th and 14th Century, preserved in 6 of the rock chapels done by artists belonging to the Tarnovo School of Painting - a treasure trove of Bulgarian medieval and religious painting.

In the whole valley of Lomovete the number of medieval monks’ cells and churches is more than 250.

Medieval town and fortress of Cherven
Dating back to the 11th Century, this was a feudal city with fortress walls of three metres thick. It was one of the most important military, economical, cultural and religious centers of the Second Bulgarian Kingdom. The triangular turret which stands today dominates the whole landscape.

There were eleven churches unearthed during excavations and all were built in the style of the Tarnovo architectural school. Murals of some of the churches have been meticulously restored and are open to visitors. At the fortress of Cherven visitors can experience remnants of the fortress, with one of the best preserved defensive medieval towers in Bulgaria and the two gates.

Exploring out and about
Lipnik Forest Park, great for relaxing and only 12kms east of Rousse. Greenery, serenity and a wonderful spot for fishing and watersports.
Roussenski Lom Nature Park. This whole vally, in the canyon of the Roussenski Lom River, has been given National Park status. It spreads over 3,400 hectares with amazing rock formations and deep gorges along the river. About 20kms south of the city. More than 800 plant and 200 bird species including the golden eagle.

Orlova Chuka Cave. This is near the village of Pepelina in the valley of Cerni Lom. It’s the second largest cave in Bulgaria and was inhabited during prehistoric times.

St. Dimitar Basarbovsko Rock Monastery just 12 kms from Rousse and set high in the rocks. Amazing impression of what life was like in an ancient rock monastery - take the 48 steps which lead to the rock terrace where you’ll be rewarded with a fascinating view across the valley.

The Danube river
The Danube springs from the Shvartzvald mountain in Central Europe and is the second longest river to flow from west to east. After some 2,850 kms flowing through nine countries (Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania and Ukraine) it ends in the Black Sea on the Romanian coast. At the Black Sea the river divides into three branches. Kiliiski branch is the northern branch and is the border between Russia and Romania. Sulinski is the middle branch and the deepest. The third branch is Georgievski.

At the deepest part the Danube is over 30 m deep and the total water area of this magnificent river is 817,000 kms. Many Bulgarian rivers run into the river, some of them coming from the Stara Planina mountain range and some even from as far as Rila.

The Danube is a natural resource for the country. Being navigable it makes transport to other countries easier and many Bulgarian towns were established on the banks of the river because of the wealth such transport and trade provided. From west to east the main Bulgarian towns on the banks of the river are Vidin, Lom, Kozludui, Svishtov, Rousse and Silistra.

Commercial and Military importance
Historically the River Danube has been an important route between western Europe and the Black Sea. As early as the 3rd Century it acted as the northern border of the Roman Empire and because of this fortresses were built on the banks as the main line of defence for the Romans against various enemy invasions.

After this time the river was used to get to Constantinople and the Crusaders used it to travel faster on their quest to regain the Holy Land.

It was during the 18th Century that the Danube began to be used as a commercial link between countries and Maria Theresa who was Queen of Hungary founded a body to govern river navigation.

It is believed that the first boat to sail the Danube for trade set off in 1830 from Vienna to Budapest. From that point and through the 19th Century the river became an essential trading route between the west and the agricultural lands of the Balkan Peninsula.

In 1856 the Treaty of Paris and in 1919 the Treaty of Versailles promoted transport along the entire river and established a commission to control the delta and supervise river transport. After the Second World War a Danube Convention was agreed allowing only Danubian countries to participate in the commission supervising the river transport. Even today the commercial and military importance of the Danube is still recognised.

Flora and fauna
Home to numerous species of plant and animal life, the basin of the Danube is the longest marshland in Europe and contains the greatest stretch of reed beds in the world.

Vast numbers of different species of water lillies, sandy areas along the river covered with Stippa grass, numerous forests with huge dunes... all play a part in the eco-system of the riverbanks.

A big percentage of the world population of bird species live in the area of the Danube basin and the delta is equally important for fish with over 45 species of freshwater fish living in the lakes formed by the delta. A high proportion of Europe’s mink population lives on the floating islands dotted about the Danube.