My journey from Bucharest to Veliko Tarnovo was a bittersweet one. The train ride was supposed to be longish yet smooth. The first part, to the Romanian-Bulgarian border was really fine as I shared the compartment with a fun English-American couple. Time went by really quickly as we were chatting about our travels but actually our train got really delayed and eventually they missed their connection to Varna. That also made me realize that my further journey to Veliko Tarnovo might be in danger as I had to change trains in a small town some 20kms away from my destination. Since my plan for Bulgaria was rather tight I already had visions I will have to skip Veliko Tarnovo, known also as a highlight of Bulgaria. I was checking my possibilities, including a night train to the Black Sea (the biggest advantage of the Interrail tickets is the independence of travels around) but eventually made it to Veliko Tarnovo, even if the train in Gorna Orjahovica had to wait for 50 minutes for me and couple of other people. I thought it’s the end of my worries for the day but I was so wrong. The short ride from Gorna Orjahovica to Veliko Tarnovo was a treat: green hills, spectacular views and me looking outside of the open window, with wind in my hair, trying to take it all in. But as soon as I could see first glimpse of the beautiful town I also could feel a big raindrop on my cheek. Needless to say as soon as I stepped out of the train a massive, torrential rain has started. There was a huge wall of water, the streets were flooding and the whole scenery has changed in just one minute. There were no taxis, no one knew when the next bus to the old town will be, it was getting dark and I was slowly feeling hopeless and super hungry. But then out of nowhere a taxi appeared! Already on the way to the hostel the sky was clearing up, I could see the last rays of sunshine for the day and breath the super fresh, after-rain air. And in the hostel a warm dinner and a glass of beer was waiting for me! My day was saved and I was more than ready to start my day in Veliko Tarnovo!
Veliko Tarnovo – one of the oldest towns in Bulgaria
I spent the evening preparing for my day in Veliko Tarnovo. Very quickly I found out that I don’t have enough time for everything I’d like to see as the city is just packed with attractions and it’s no surprise it’s the highlight of Bulgaria! Veliko Tarnovo is one of the oldest towns in Bulgaria, the first settlements there came from 3rd millennium BC! During the Middle Ages the town, known originally as Tarnovgrad, has been the center and the capital of the Bulgarian Empire. Later, over the centuries, it still remained one of the most important places in Bulgaria and until now it has probably the richest history of all the places in the whole country.
Tsarevets Fortress – the best views of Veliko Tarnovo
When I woke up in the morning, more than ready to see everything in my one day in Veliko Tarnovo, the weather was gorgeous, warm and sunny. I started my explorations pretty early hence for most of the time I had the place (almost) to myself. I started with the Tsarevets Fortress, the major landmark of the city as well as its symbol. It occupies hills at the edge of the town, being a silent witness of its history for over 15 centuries! At first I wasn’t sure if I want to explore it, I’ve thought it’s much more interesting to wander around the town. Well, that would have been a huge mistake! The fortress, or rather its ruins, is enormous! Until now there’re remains of around 400 houses, 18 churches, the royal palace and the execution rock. Basically everywhere you walk you’re surrounded by ruins of buildings that were part of the Bulgarian history. On top of the fortress there’s a Church of the Blessed Saviour with a very interesting interior. But the best thing about the place is the view of the city and surrounding mountains. It’s simply breathtaking! And when you think you’ve just seen that Tsarevets Fortress has to offer you go a little bit further or higher and the landscape looks even better and better!
Market area and another amazing view
Veliko Tarnovo street art
Delicious Bulgarian food
Surprising day in Veliko Tarnovo
Veliko Tarnovo practical informations:
– getting there: there’re regular bus connections between Veliko Tarnovo and Sofia, the journey takes around 3 hours and costs around 10€. There’s no direct train to Sofia (you need to change in Gorna Orjahovica) but the views along the way are pretty amazing! There’re couple of connections every day. If you’re going from Romania there’s one connection from Bucharest (also with the change). It’s possible to get to Veliko Tarnovo from the Black Sea coast and Plovdic too!
– accommodation: I stayed in Hostel Mostel and it was pretty amazing! Centrally located, clean, with free breakfast and dinner AND beer! You can book your stay there here. If you’re looking for a different place to stay here you can book one of the hotels in Veliko Tarnovo
– eating: since it’s a touristy place there’re couple of restaurants to choose from as well as grocery stores. I ate lunch in a very random and modest place close to Hostel Mostel (few steps up the street), clientele was mostly locals and the food was really good and cheap. Too bad I don’t remember the name but you’ll easily find it for sure!
– the ticket to the fortres costs 6 leva (around 3.50$ / 3€ / 13zł) but it’s really worth it. You can buy it from a random window in the buildings on the left side (when looking at the fortress), few steps away from the main entrance through the gate.
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If you think of visiting Bulgaria or just want to read more about the country take a look what else I wrote about it:
- Sofia, Bulgaria – the city that can be a new Berlin!
- Martenitsa – the spring celebration in Bulgaria
- and more!
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