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The Turkish Quarter, Veliko Tarnovo

Veliko Tarnovo


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The Turkish Quarter in Veliko Tarnovo lies at the foot of Sveta Gora Hill, next to the River Yantra. Cross the bridge and Tsarevets Fortress looms up in front and to the right of you. I had passed through the Turkish Quarter by car before, but never looked round it on foot, so I took advantage of no Saturday class this morning to do so.

My walk went in a big circle. Sveta Gora Hill is behind the Assen Monument (the sword monument), so in order to get there I walked along Gurko Street, up Hadji Dimitar Street and round the corner to the bridge to the monument. I wonder how many times now I've walked along Gurko Street since September? Hundreds, I reckon, bearing in mind it's on my way to and from work. I feel so lucky to have been able to do so - it is so picturesque and interesting; even during rain, when I have to dash from overhanging building to overhanging building, avoiding streams of water pouring from eaves and pipes above! All so different to the UK.

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The sun was shining and I was surrounded by beautiful flowers and green leaves. Once I reached the Assen Monument I walked behind it until I got to Sveta Gora Hill - to get to the Turkish Quarter I could just follow the road around the base of the hill, but I wanted to go right up and over the hill instead. Lots of steps up, and then one or two terraces. On one of the steps I nearly stepped on a slow worm by mistake (not a worm, or a snake, but actually just a lizard without legs). The first I've ever seen in the wild.

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More than one tarmac path led off from the terraces down to the right, but I continued upwards until I reached a small and very steep path down through some woods and shrubbery. I had clearly reached the top of the hill and started downwards, but I couldn't actually see where the path was going - I wasn't sure whether if I kept going I would hit the Turkish Quarter or would go past it without realising it.

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I decided to keep going anyway, just to see where I'd end up. It was a pleasant scramble downhill and I managed to keep my footing; the earth was very dry. Maybe if it had rained recently, the resulting mud would have made me slip! I came out onto a road which I soon worked out to be in the Turkish Quarter. At nearly every turn there was a fantastic view of Tsarevets Fortress on the other side of the river.

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I wandered around side streets of old stone houses, cobbled streets and flowers, before turning onto the main street and walking past the blue and white mosque. I had never got a proper look at it until now. The writing on the gate was in Bulgarian and Turkish. Carpets had been flung over stone walls round the back of people's houses nearby - to dry, I assumed.

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Eventually I crossed the river, still in blazing sunshine, and walked back up to my flat to complete the circle.

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A nice cold Diet Coke and a shower were definitely in order when I got in!

Posted by 3Traveller 08:40 Archived in Bulgaria Tagged lizards mosque bulgaria veliko_tarnovo fortifications tsarevets_fortress river_yantra assen_monument sveta_gora_park Comments (0)

Lunch with a view

Veliko Tarnovo


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I was teaching in the morning and I thought Mum was going back to the fruit & vegetable market while I was gone, but when I arrived back I found her just finishing off deep cleaning my bathroom! She hadn't gone to the market after all.

After a while we headed out to lunch at a place I had not taken any visitors to before. It's a little restaurant/ café down a set of steps off the main road; we ate on the wooden balcony with a fantastic view of the sword monument hill and around. This time Mum had pepper burek and salad, while I had mishmash and chips. Mishmash is a mixture of scrambled egg, crumbled up white cheese and chopped up and cooked peppers and tomatoes. It was fantastic; I could tell the ingredients were ultra fresh.

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It was still sunny at this point, but after walking across the bridge to the sword monument, it started raining. Typical! Neither of us had brought our umbrellas. Oh well, it was still nice to look round and get the views of the houses on the hillside opposite. We spotted the balcony where we'd just had lunch. No snakes to be seen this time, though some small lizards skittered about.

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From there we moved on to the supermarket. When we came out of there the rain was hammering down, so we went back inside for a bit until it had subsided a little. We started walking back, but then decided to get a taxi to save us getting completely soaked.

After an hour or two of rest, we went out again, this time to the craftsmen's street but via historic Gurko Street. The sun had come out again by now. I left Mum in the craftsmen's street as I had to go back to work.

When I got back from work at about 9.50pm, Mum had dinner ready! Flattened meatballs with a vegetable sauce and some of the seafood-shaped pasta Kate had given me for my birthday. For pudding we had an 'Eton mess' but made with tinned mandarins instead of strawberries.

Posted by 3Traveller 23:55 Archived in Bulgaria Tagged lizards bulgaria mum veliko_tarnovo bulgarian_cuisine gurko_street assen_monument extreme_weather Comments (0)

More visitors arrive!

Dragizhevo and Veliko Tarnovo


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A very, very hot day today in Dragizhevo, a village not far from Veliko Tarnovo which holds a car boot sale once a month between April and September/ October. A few of us went; I bought several things - half a dozen duck eggs, a book and one or two things I hadn't seen since I was last in the UK - garlic naan breads, a can of Dr Pepper and a tin of condensed milk. I also had a sausage & egg roll from the café. I would have liked to have stuck around for longer in order to look round the village, but I had visitors arriving in a couple of hours and I still needed to finish my preparations...

No sooner does one sister depart from Bulgaria, than the other one arrives :-) An hour or two after I got back from Dragizheno, Kate and Andrew arrived in VT from Varna, where they had been for a couple of days after a day or two in Plovdiv.

Almost as soon as they walked through the door we had a lovely Google Video chat conversation with Mum. After that we went up on the terrace, where my colleague 'R' was hosting a late birthday tea. We had a great time, with great company, food and weather. There was quite a group of us there. The food included homemade bean dip, fresh corn bread, potato salad and feta-like white Bulgarian cheese, then two birthday cakes for pudding - one of them a carrot cake. During the tea party we had an added point of interest in that a wedding party went past on the road behind the terrace - at first we didn't know what was going on because all we could hear was lots of car horns blaring, but then someone said that it might be a wedding party, so we dashed to the side of the terrace to have a look. We just managed to catch sight of a car driving along with balloons attached to the back, with a couple of other cars following along behind. (Credit to Kate for most of the following photos)

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Around 5ish I took Kate and Andrew on a wander through the main part of VT, including the craftmen's street and an amazing look-out point from the side of one of VT's hills.

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Our main destination was Assen's Monument, the massive sword-shaped monument on a raised area at a loop of the river Yantra, which flows through the small valleys between the hills. The bridge was interesting - I don't think I've mentioned this in previous entries, but there are yellow painted outlines of human figures in funny positions on the ground. On our way back Andrew couldn't resist the temptation of having his photo taken while lying in one!

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Our walk round the monument was enjoyable, with wonderful views plus an added bonus for me and Kate because we saw a wild snake on some rocks above the river!

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We returned to my flat via Gurko Street. As with much of VT, it was picturesque, particularly as some of the trees are in blossom.

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After relaxing for a while we went out for a late dinner at Shtastlivetsa - we all had tarator and mains; Andrew had kebapche (flattened meatballs), I had some special scrambled eggs and Kate had what claimed to be 'oriental salad' but didn't actually seem different to a normal one. She said it was tasty, though. We had garlicky sauteed potatoes and grilled vegetables on the side.

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We were so stuffed by the end we had to ask for a doggy bag to take away most of the potatoes and some of the scrambled egg.

Posted by 3Traveller 02:41 Archived in Bulgaria Tagged bridges sisters snakes bulgaria mum veliko_tarnovo bulgarian_cuisine gurko_street assen_monument Comments (0)

Veliko Tarnovo Day celebrations

Veliko Tarnovo


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Veliko Tarnovo Day - the birthday of the city, when religious figures, a military band and schoolchildren parade through the town with pennants, icons, flags, black-and-white photos of the city's benefactors, a long green garland, music and colourful balloons.

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The mayor gives a speech and presents newly appointed honorary citizens. There's a carnival atmosphere in the air, with free concerts in front of the Municipal Hall and street stalls nearby.

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After dark a party truck sweeps down the main street and along to the plaza in front of Tsarevets Fortress with a crowd in tow, partying to the music blasting from the loudspeakers.

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Later that night, fireworks light up the sky...

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...and an amazing laser and 3D-imaging show is displayed on the hill of the Assen Monument.

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I enjoyed all of the above very much. The weather was perfect and everything was impressive. For the laser and 3D-imaging show, Gurko Street was so packed with people I didn't even attempt to get near the front; I went back up to the main street instead, where I viewed the show from one of the plazas that looks out over the river and the Assen Monument.

The almond trees are blossoming - very picturesque.

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On the main street at the moment there are some wonderful photos of Veliko Tarnovo displayed. I took these photos of them as I returned home after the parade.

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Last night I went to a short, free concert by the Veliko Tarnovo Brass Band, part of the Veliko Tarnovo Day weekend celebrations. It was OK, but there was no heating on in the building for some reason, so we all got distracted by the cold! The band had a guest jazz soloist called Theodosii Spassov, who is apparently very well known in Bulgaria. I simply could not work out what instrument he was playing - it looked very like a clarinet from the distance, but it sounded like a cross between a clarinet, flute and recorder. It sounded quite breathy. I only found out later that what he was playing was actually a kaval - a type of end-blown flute traditional to the Balkans and Anatolia. Sometimes he combined playing that with a type of singing, humming and other strange vocal noises. The pieces they played were a little bit samey to be honest, but I'm still glad I went, because it was an interesting experience.

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Posted by 3Traveller 04:47 Archived in Bulgaria Tagged art parties bulgaria procession veliko_tarnovo fortifications tsarevets_fortress gurko_street assen_monument Comments (0)

Bulgarian Chinese food

Veliko Tarnovo


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Edit from January 2019: Although I stupidly forgot to note down the name of the Chinese restaurant at the time, I remember it was near Lidl - having looked at Google Maps, I think it could have been Hua Zhou, just off of Bld. Bulgaria.

The cold weather has finally properly hit us at times this week; it's been a mixture though. Today is the warmest day so far this year, at about 15 degrees, but most of the week has been very cold (although still sunny). Once in the morning it was -8 degrees, on another morning it was about -13! There was a bit of snow around for most of the week, but the weather today has finished it off. Apparently the sunny weather will continue all next week, except for tomorrow when there'll be more snow.

I took these photos of the view from my terrace, Gurko Street, the Assen Monument and the River Yantra the other day;

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On Friday we had a staff meal at a really nice restaurant in town called Shtastlivetsa ('The Lucky Man'). I'd eaten there once before, but back in September at an outside table, so I hadn't been downstairs before. I've forgotten the name of what I had, but it was roasted vegetables like aubergine, courgette and onion on a very thin base of filo pastry. I had Turkish ice cream for pudding, which was an interesting texture - a mixture between normal ice cream texture and a slight stretchiness, like mozzarella but more solid.

To keep on the theme of food, last night I went to a Chinese restaurant for the first time in Bulgaria. I went with 'R', 'F' and a couple of friends of hers I hadn't met before. I hadn't known there even were any Chinese restaurants in VT before then, but apparently there are two or three, in the outskirts rather than the centre. The food was very similar to British Chinese food, except for a simple but delicious salad containing sesame seeds. They also had veal, something I've never seen at a Chinese restaurant in the UK, instead of beef. For pudding I had 'fried ice cream' - ice cream fried very quickly in batter. Only a little bit of it had melted. It was delicious, but very filling! It came with a colourful paper peacock on a wooden stick. Its tail spreads out like a fan.

Posted by 3Traveller 15:40 Archived in Bulgaria Tagged snow bulgaria veliko_tarnovo tsarevets_fortress bulgarian_cuisine river_yantra gurko_street assen_monument Comments (0)

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