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Tryavna: Ice, hot sand coffee and amazing woodcarving

Tryavna


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I went on a lovely day trip today with 'F'. We went to a very historic town/village called Tryavna first, before moving on to Dryanovski Monastery, which is set in a dramatic gorge. Both are within 40km from Veliko Tarnovo.

We went by car, driving along winding roads with a mixture of mountains and fields on both sides. At one point, when we had a hill directly on the right hand side of the road, I noticed great hunks of ice like stalactites on the side of the rock. The water that usually comes out of the side of the rock had frozen. I'd noticed this before on a much smaller scale in Gurko Street in VT, actually - built on the side of a steep hill, water trickles from the wall of rock on one side, both naturally and through the occasional small metal pipe.

We had a lovely walk round Tryavna. There was more snow around here than in VT (where almost all of it had gone) so some of the roads were a bit slippery - neither of us fell over though.

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Tryavna is famous in Bulgaria for woodcarving and icon-painting and also for being the birthplace of the Bulgarian revolutionary Angel Kanchev, who on being captured by the police next to the Romanian border in 1872, shot himself rather than run the risk of betraying vital secrets under torture. It is also a very historic town, full of beautiful National Revival architecture.

We were both a bit peckish when we first arrived, so we found a café and had some coffee and something sweet. The café was a hot drinks and sweets place only - nothing savoury! I tried a 'hot sand coffee'; the waitress brought out an empty, painted ceramic espresso cup first. Then she brought out a mini version of the copper jug with a silver inside and a long wooden handle which I gave my sister Emma for Christmas. She poured my coffee from the jug into my espresso cup; it was a very dark and rich brown colour, richer than normal. It was very similar to the Greek coffee I had at Anastasia's in St Albans a few years ago; you aren't supposed to drink the last drop due to the thick layer of coffee grounds at the bottom. Apparently the copper jug is placed on hot sand; that's what heats the coffee. I imagine no kettles are involved! I don't think this is a traditional Bulgarian thing - I think they got this style of coffee from either Greece or Turkey.

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Opposite the café was Daskalov House, a National Revival house museum originally built for a silk and rose-oil merchant in 1808.

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A little museum of woodcarving on one wing included a reconstruction of a 19th-century woodworker's shop, some carved wooden statues of old Bulgarian Tsars and lots of intricately carved icon frames (with icons inside). In many of them, the frame was bigger than the icon!

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The rest of the house was also small, but interesting. Pride of place are two of the ceilings, which have fantastically carved suns. They were the result of a competition between a master woodcarver his apprentice when the house was first built. They both worked on their ceilings for six months, each room sealed off from the other so they never saw each other's work. When they were both unveiled, the merchant Daskalov said that the apprentice had won, but the Guild of Carvers, who had overseen the proceedings, said that the master had. The Guild were still so impressed with the apprentice, however, that they declared him a master. I've forgotten who did which ceiling, but although they were both impressive, one was definitely a level above the other, in my opinion. The sun in the middle of the ceiling was surrounded by very intricately carved daisies - no wonder it the whole thing took six months to carve!

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After leaving there we walked round Tryavna some more, taking it all in. There are about 150 listed buildings here so I took quite a few photos!

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Eventually we both felt like lunch, so we found a pizza restaurant and tucked in. I had my old favourite, tarator, as a starter and we shared a pizza and a side of stir-fried vegetables.

Then on to Dryanovski Monastery...

Posted by 3Traveller 16:24 Archived in Bulgaria Tagged mountains snow bulgaria house_museum bulgarian_cuisine tryavna Comments (0)

London explorations

Dr Johnson's House, Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, Hunterian Museum, Turkish meze in Bethnal Green


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Day trip to London :-)

Dr Johnson's House was my first destination. This 300-year-old Georgian townhouse is where the famous lexicographer Samuel Johnson lived and worked for a while in the 18th century. In contrast to other parts of London, there are not many other examples of houses of this era within the Square Mile of the City of London.

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It was lovely looking round and seeing all the period furniture and appreciating the wooden panelling and so on, but especially interesting for me were the famous stained glass portrait of Dr Johnson that hangs in front of one of the windows, his framed last will & testament and most of all, the loft room where he compiled his famous Dictionary.

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I flicked through a huge original copy which lay on a table, making sure to stop at his famous entry about Oats; 'A grain, which in England is generally given to horses, but in Scotland supports the people' (unlike modern impersonal dictionaries, Dr Johnson didn't hold back from including one or two of his own opinions).

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From Dr Johnson's House I walked on to the Hunterian Museum, a medical museum within the Royal College of Surgeons. It's not far. On the way there I admired a famous Fleet Street institution; the historic Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese pub. I've eaten here before (it does some really good food as well as drinks) and it's incredibly atmospheric both inside and out. A lot of famous literary characters have drunk here over the years; Charles Dickens, P. G. Wodehouse, Mark Twain, Alfred Tennyson, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and many others. Although there's no written evidence that Dr Johnson ever visited, the fact that his house is only about 100m away and that he was a famously sociable literary figure makes it highly likely that he did.

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The Hunterian Museum was fascinating, just like I guessed it would be. It's filled with anatomical, osteopathic and natural history specimens, mostly from the 18th century but some from since then as well. A lot of them were interesting to me, but the stand-out was the skeleton of Charles Byrne, 'The Irish Giant'. I also loved the 18th and 19th century pictures of exotic animals such as a hippo and one of a yak.

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After leaving the museum I headed eastwards to Matthew & Andrea's new flat, where I met up with them, Mum and uncle Justin for a delicious dinner of Turkish meze. I've read that Bulgarian food has a Turkish influence gained from the Ottoman period; I think I will like it! Soon I will find out...

Posted by 3Traveller 05:38 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged london united_kingdom museum river_thames house_museum ye_olde_cheshire_cheese_pub turkish_cuisine historic_pub Comments (0)

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