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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)

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)

Return to Bulgaria

London Gatwick Airport, Sofia and Veliko Tarnovo


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Another set of goodbyes, a smooth train journey to Gatwick in the middle of the night and a long, sleepless few hours in the terminal waiting area before I could go through security and bag checks. In comparison to my journey through here in September, at least this time I only had hand luggage so avoided the potentially long queues at check-in and could go straight through to bag x-ray and then duty-free. No grumpy x-ray staff this time.

I managed to doze off for a while on the plane but still felt very sleep-deprived on arrival in Sofia. The taxi journey to the central bus station was uneventful and this time I had no problems getting a ticket for the next bus to Veliko Tarnovo. I dozed some more on the bus. There was snow around in Sofia and this continued all the way into Veliko Tarnovo.

I've met the new teacher, who is living in the flat above mine. She seems really nice. Term starts tomorrow!

Posted by 3Traveller 14:39 Archived in Bulgaria Tagged snow trains airport buses sofia bulgaria veliko_tarnovo Comments (0)

Boxing Day

Veliko Tarnovo and Sofia Airport


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We spent most of the day in Veliko Tarnovo, lying in, eating Christmas dinner leftovers for lunch and doing some shopping. I bought myself a lovely real leather handbag and a beautiful, colourful handpainted icon of St George & the Dragon. The latter was something I'd been thinking of buying for myself ever since I arrived in Bulgaria (St George is popular here, so his image often appears in icons). The shop was small, but still managed to have two sections; both were filled with antiques, but the smaller one also had lots of icons on the walls. While I looked at the icons, Dave inspected the antiques and bought a fancy wooden box - he originally looked at another box but it turned out to belong to the owner and was the only one not to actually be on sale!

We took the 5pm bus to Sofia without any problems. I'd bought our tickets in the morning, just in case the buses got booked up (I've never done this in Bulgaria until now, but I didn't want to risk the chance of missing our flight due to not being able to get a bus to Sofia at all). After I'd done that, we both sampled some hot chocolate from the Italian hot drink vending machine in the street in front of the ETAP bus station. These machines are spread out throughout Veliko Tarnovo; the drinks names are in Bulgarian but the instructions are in Italian. The hot chocolate was only 50 stotinki (20p) each and was quite small, but delicious.

At Sofia bus station I hoped the OK-Supertrans taxi desk would be open, but although it was only 8.30pm, it was closed. The opening hours listed there and in my guidebook claimed that it remained open until 10pm. I was hesitant to catch a taxi from outside the station without having gone through the taxi desk, because the only time I'd done that before I'd got royally ripped off, but now it looked like we had no choice. To guard against being ripped off I got Dave to take a photo of their listed rates. Maybe the driver we ended up with had seen us do this (or maybe he was just nice and honest), because as it turned out we didn't get ripped off at all.

It was snowing in Sofia. Inside Sofia Airport it was lovely and warm though and for the first few hours of our wait we were almost the only people in the whole terminal apart from two security staff. Our flight wasn't until 5.30am. We took turns to wander around (Dave went outside and took some pictures of the snow), we played another long game of 10-card rummy and I read part of a biography of Captain Cook on my Kindle. Dave tried to sleep but failed because lying across the seats was too uncomfortable.

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Posted by 3Traveller 09:23 Archived in Bulgaria Tagged snow airport christmas buses dave sofia bulgaria icons veliko_tarnovo Comments (0)

Sofia: Thracian treasure troves & delectable cakes

Sofia


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We left VT on the 09.20 bus to Sofia. There was still quite a lot of snow around, despite the thaw of the last few days. The journey was uneventful, though at one point we did see a shepherd driving a small flock of sheep and goats along quite close to the side of the road. No 6-hour journey this time, thank goodness!

We arrived in Sofia at midday. We walked to our hotel; on our way down Boulevard Vitosha, we were drawn into a cake shop by the fantastic display in the window. Different types of baklava, khaifa, florentines, things that looked like truffles with various toppings, little meringues, syrupy things, fingers of what I think was fudge, biscuits, cupcakes and so on. We bought a florentine, a slice of chocolatey thing and two 'tolumbi', exactly like the syrupy things we'd got at the deli in VT but longer.

Once we had checked into Hotel Niky we rested for a bit before heading out again at 4pm.

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We went to the Archaeology Museum and it was wonderful. There was a prehistoric room, complete with teeth from mammoths and cave bears and some zoomorphic and anthromorphic pottery (which reminded me a bit of Ecuador) amongst other things; a room full of amazing finds from Thracian treasure troves, including several very finely beaten gold burial masks and one more solid looking one, a silver drinking horn, gold jewellery and gold and bronze helmets and breastplates; several icons, including a really beautiful one of St George & the dragon; a room of very early Medieval arms and armour and stone slabs with some of the earliest examples of Cyrillic inscriptions carved into them; and the ground floor, full of Ancient Greek and Roman votive stolae, pillars and statues.

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After that we decided to walk straight to the restaurant I had in mind, rather than go back to the hotel first. On the way there we walked through a Metro underpass where we saw some archaeological remains and a tiny ancient church. We also went into Sveta Nedelya Cathedral for a look round. It was very atmospheric and colourful inside, with painted walls, icons and lots of light. There were several small circular stands with sand inside to put candles in. To one side of the iconostasis at the front of the church, there was a finely carved, raised wooden box; I stepped up to see inside it and saw a shiny metal statue of a saint lying inside it, with a painted wooden icon covering the head. There were lots of flowers on and around the box. Several people came up and bowed to it. As I stood there a priest came out from a door next to the box and started speaking in a very low voice to a couple in front of him - I thought that maybe he was giving them confession.

Mum and I bought a beeswax candle each, lit them and put them in one of the candle stands. Then we left for the restaurant. For dinner we shared bread with a mixture of salt and paprika and an appetiser platter for a starter. For our main courses I had a 'drunken rabbit' and Mum had lamb stew; after that I had a baked apple and Mum had a decaf coffee. This restaurant was pretty touristy but there were Bulgarian groups there too. Its menu consisted of recipes taken from every monastery in Bulgaria and consisted of a great many funny English mistakes.

Back at the hotel we watched an episode of 'Who Do You Think You Are' before going to bed.

Posted by 3Traveller 10:14 Archived in Bulgaria Tagged snow hotel museum cathedral buses sofia bulgaria mum icons orthodox_church roman_remains bulgarian_cuisine boulevard_vitosha Comments (0)

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