Project Description

Before my arrival in Bulgaria, I wanted to visit some attractions outside the city of Sofia and this city with such an unpronounceable name was among them. Koprivshtitsa is located in the Sashtinska Sredna gora mountain, 110 km from Sofia and was proclaimed in 1952 a unique city-museum in the country. Since 1971, it has the status of architectural and historical reserve and has more than 388 architectural, historical, ethnographic and cultural monuments. In 1978, it was proclaimed national architectural reserve.

I chose to book my trip one more time with the agency Traventuria, based in Sofia. The agency promotes responsible travel and has environmental, economic and social objectives. Also offering many other trips throughout Bulgaria, I used their service several times and have been very pleased overall. I appreciated the kindness of my driver and guide Svet and his explanations greatly facilitated my understanding of the place.

ARCHITECTURAL AND HISTORICAL RESERVE

We hit the road again for a new day trip. Today, I have a new guide and driver, Svet. As usual, a few words about the town before our arrival, as well as an introduction in video:

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There are many legends about the town’s beginnings. One relates that the location boasted a plentiful store of kop, and that it was particularly fertile. It was therefore a popular resting place for caravans and shepherds who wanted to herding their flocks. It was here that proto-Bulgarians settled with their herds – people known as “Zhupa” – and that was the origin of Koprivshtitsa. Another legend has it that Koprivshtitsa was the base for the “lords of Rila” who settled the area with their livestock and petitioned the Ottoman sultan to proclaim them the rulers of Koprivshtitsa. He issued a decree granting them wide-ranging privileges. In the decree the sultan referred to Koprivshtitsa as the “Woman’s Field” – and that is why the Ottomans called the city Koprivshtitsa in the following years.

A third legend claims that the village was settled by Bulgarian fugitives, heirs of the numerous Bulgarian tribes of Bolyari, herdsman and tenders of livestock, who removed to the region after Bulgaria came under Ottoman rule at the end of the 16th century. Among them were three shepherds – Lambo, Toroman, and Arnautin, who founded the enclaves that today bear their names. All of the legends agree that Koprivshtitsa was founded at the end of the Second Bulgarian Empire, at the end of the 14th century.

From 1793 to 1819, Koprivshtitsa was ravaged by flames three times. After the third fire, the town was almost completely destroyed and after that the current city foundations were laid. The new community gradually expanded as the local population of merchants and artisans contributed to its development. Koprivshtitsa has always been of historical interest, since it is associated with the rise of the Bulgarian people during the country’s Age of Awakening (18th – 19th centuries).

In 1956, a museum directorate was established in Koprivshitsa with the goal of saving, preserving, and popularizing the town’s cultural and historical heritage. Upon arrival, we can see a monument which commemorating deads of the Russian-Turkish war, then we start to explore the city by walking on ancient cobbled streets populated by statues and frescoes.

The first house museum we will visit is the one of the great Bulgarian poet Dimcho Debelyanov (1887-1916).

The house was built in 1830. The museum exhibit follows the brief life and the artistic development of the poet, and includes his crib, his personal effects from the Front, examples of his handwriting, photographs and other items. In the house’s courtyard is the well-known sculpture of his mother constantly awaiting for his return, seated on the ledge of the entrance of Koprivshtitsa. Every year in August in this courtyard, the traditional Debelyanov Evening takes place, when hundreds of poets and musicians gather to perform Debelyanov’s poetry.

We continue our walk and pass next to Sveta Bogoroditsa church, built in 1817 on the site of an earlier church destroyed by the Turks.

Unfortunately, Oslekov house built in 1856 for the wealthy merchant Koprivshtitsa Nencho Oslekov was under renovation and therefore closed to visitors. This is unfortunate given what the museum exhibition has to offer (unique objects ornaments, costumes of men and women, collection of lace and knitted bass). We continue our walk and enter the small courtyard of the house-museum of Todor Kableshkov, built in 1845 in the typical and traditional Plovdiv style.

It was in 1932 that the first museum in Koprivshtitsa was opened there. It became an independent museum in 1954, taking the name of the revolutionary leader who was born there, Todor Kapleshkov (1851-1876). The exhibition on the first floor is a display of the authentic household objects owned by the large family of Todor’s father. Inside are the rooms where the women in the family worked, including the kitchen, dressing room, and the room where Todor was born. The last exhibition in the house, mounted in 2005, displayed the lifestyle of Koprivshtitsa’s influential residents. Among the museum’s holdings are Kableshkov’s school books, two of his guns, the hat he wore as the Belova railway overseer, and his unfinished translation of The Count of Monte Christo. This house reminds me a lot the one of Dimitar Georgiadi that I saw in Plovdiv and is very interesting to visit.

Also very attractive are the town’s many bridges, mainly vaulted stone, erected over small brooks and streams that flow into the Topolnitsa River. The most popular is the Kalachev Bridge, also known as The First Shot Bridge.

It was here in 1786 that the first shot was heard that signaled the start of the April Uprising, as Bulgarians fought to free themselves from Ottoman oppression.

The Ethnographical Museum and Lyutova House, also called Topalov’s House, is our next visit. It was built in 1854 by the family of the influential Koprivshtitsa tax collector Stefan Topalov, and then sold to a wealthy Koprivshtitsa merchant, Petko Lyutov.

On the ground floor can be seen authentic Koprivshtitsa felt objects of uncarded wool. On the second floor is a collection of murals and woodcarvings. A fountain of rosewater freshens the air in the upper salon. The guestroom is appointed with Koprivshtitsa wall hangings and women’s clothing, recalling a traditional lifestyle.

After a short walk from the center, we arrive to the birthplace of Gavril Gruyev Haltev (1843-1876), a hero of the April Uprising in 1876, known by his pseudonym Georgi Benkovski.

The house was built in 1831. In 1966, it was renovated and turned into a museum. Among the most interesting items on display are the gun that Benkovski used during the uprising, a cherry-wood cannon, his uniform, and the banner of the 4th revolutionary detachment. The exhibit also includes numerous photographs. On top of a nearby hill is a monument to the revolutionary hero, erected in 1976.

After our visit, we climb on a small hill to admire the view over the city and also the monument to Georgi Benkovski.

We are approaching mid-day, so we head then to one of the traditional restaurants in the city center and tast some local specialties… Yummy ! The tour ends here and we go back to Sofia.

REVIEW OF MY TRIP TO KOPRIVSHTITSA

Again, this tour was great, as Koprish… Korpish… Koprivshtitsa is a definitely charming city. House-museums are a pleasure to visit, but I have to say that I was just a bit disappointed not to be able to visit Oslekov House. This may be for a future trip. For those wishing to stay there a few days here, the city has many hotels and tourist houses that will welcome you in an authentic atmosphere and the nearby restaurants and taverns will quickly fill you with great Bulgarian dishes made according to local recipes.