Veliko Tarnovo

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Flag of Bulgaria  , Tarnovo Province,
Sunday, July 22, 2012

Veliko Tarnovo was historically Bulgaria's capital city. It occupies a dramatic hillside location with the Yantra River winding through it. The city has been inhabited since 3,000 BC, when Thracian tribes lived on Trapezitsa Hill in the Bronze and Iron Ages. It's golden age came, however, when the Boliar brothers declared independence from the Byzantine empire in 1185 in Veliko Tarnovo.

Again we stayed at Hostel Mostel (this time with a variety of dinners) which is in the old part of town between the fort and the first Bulgarian Parliament.

On our first day we wondered around the old town for a bit then spent a couple of hours at the fort.

The Tsarevets medieval fortress is largely reconstructed after the Ottomans destroyed it following a 3 month siege. The ruins are extensive and it was hot work exploring them (especially as it was a steep uphill walk!)

Initially the fortress consisted of three forts and the plebs lived outside the protection of the fortress walls. There appeared to be heaps of church remains (or maybe it was just that the churches where the only buildings we recognised) and the executors rock which instead of being a place where people where hung or had their heads cut off was a place where people were thrown of a cliff into the river below. Even one of the Bulgarian Queen's met this fate after she had an affair with Baldwin I of Constantinople while he was a prisoner in the fortress's tower (now called Baldwin Tower).

On our second day we went on a free walking tour of the town which was very interesting. We had walked past a lot of the sights already but hadn't known what they were. For example, there are a couple of monuments which it turns out are built on the places where the leaders of rebellions against the Ottoman Empire were hung by the Turks. There is also artwork on the sides of several buildings which is old communist art - you can tell this by the fact that everyone has fat arms to represent the working man.

As it has been so hot here, we have treated ourselves to ice creams, Milka make a very nice hazelnut and chocolate ice cream like a trumpet and we also had some flash ice cream from a street vendor, Chris had white liquid chocolate and I had peach and raspberry both of which contained frozen fruit - very yummy!

Tomorrow we head to Belgrade in Serbia via Sofia via bus then on to Zagreb in Croatia in time to watch the opening ceremony of the Olympics. Hope our hostel has cable tv!
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