Day 10 - Thursday, October 17, 2013 - Tour to Veliko Turnovo; Tsaravets Hill; Konstantsalieva House; Lunch with Students; Bus to Arbanassi; Church of the Archangels Michael and Gabriel; Captain's Farewell Party
We woke up to a hard rain and cold wind, but after breakfast we left the ship at 8:30 for our full day excursion to see more of Bulgaria. The temperature was 56° and the humidity was 95%.
Our driver Evo and our tour guide Elitsa took us back to Ruse and gave us a city tour on our way into the countryside. She showed us the National Heritage Center and the Freedom Square where we walked yesterday.
She pointed out the rich merchant’s villas and palaces of royalty that are now museums or government buildings. During the 45 years that Bulgaria was under the Soviet rule, many buildings were torn down. Then during the “Stalinistic” period many pre-formed concrete apartments were springing up all over the city.
Our first destination of the day was Veliko Turnovo, a 1.5 hour drive from Ruse. This region, once a 12th-century Bulgarian capital, had flat areas of prime agricultural land and then rolling forested hills. The leaves were red, yellow, gold, and brown and at their fall peak but because of the fog and rain, they were hard to appreciate or photograph.
This cosmopolitan city had many churches, most were Eastern Orthodox, but there were also Jewish synagogues and Catholic cathedrals. The colorful houses nestled on the hillsides had an excellent view of the winding Yantra River.
We stopped for a coffee, tea, or water and Bulgarian cookies at the Yantra Hotel. After our morning break, Elitsa took us on a walking tour of the artisan area. We saw coppersmiths, weavers, woodcarvers, and jewelry makers as well as other craftsmen and women of the area.
We had about an hour of free time to look around. The specialties of this area are the wood carvings, as well as products made from roses. Gennie bought some hand lotion, others in our group made major purchases.
There have not been many places for quality souvenirs on this trip. As we are not impulse shoppers, this was OK with us! There were no trips to designated shopping stops – something we are very grateful for!
We drove to Tsaravets Hill to visit the fortress used from 1185 to 1393. With many wars and sieges in this area, the fort is not in great repair, but it is located at a very strategic location overlooking the river.
Back at the hotel at 12:15 we had lunch and were able to speak with a young man from the area. He was a business administration student at the university in town. We were able to ask him questions and get to know a little about the life of young people in Veliko Turnovo, and in Bulgaria. Although a college education is almost free in this country, the prospects for getting a job are minimal.
Our next stop after lunch was the Konstantsalieva House in a neighboring village of Arbanassi. It is representative of the old fortress architecture of 17th century. A museum today, one can observe the rural life of a relatively wealthy family. There is a remarkable Turkish influence and it reminded us of the farm home we stayed in on our trip to Turkey.
The last and most special treat of the day was a visit to the Church of the Archangels Michael and Gabriel. The church is decorated with beautiful frescoes that are remarkably well preserved; unfortunately no photos were allowed. An Eastern Orthodox choir of four men performed for us in front of the altar screen.
We came back to the ship at 5:15 and thanked our guide and driver for a wonderful day.
We had time to shower and get ready for the Captain’s Farewell dinner.
By the time dinner was over and we had finished the photos and the journal, it was time for us to leave Ruse and start our last leg of the journey to Fetești, Romania where we will spend the night tomorrow.
Included meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner ms River Splendor
Depart Ruse, Bulgaria 9:00 pm
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It's been quite a while since I was there, but one of my clear memories is of the Church of the Archangels and the singers there - probably different men now but they were awesome.
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