Gabrovo is situated at the foot of the central Balkan Mountains, in the valley of the Yantra River, and is known as an international capital of humour and satire, as well as noted for its Bulgarian National Revival architecture. The distance from Golets is 70 km or about 1 hour drive. Gabrovo is also known as the longest city in Bulgaria, stretching over 25Â kmalong the Yantra, yet reaching only 1Â km in width at places. The geographic center of Bulgaria is located near the city.
According to the most widespread legend, Gabrovo was founded by a young blacksmith called Racho, close to whose fireplace a hornbeam (gabar in Bulgarian) rose, so that is story about the name.
Gabrovo originated during the Middle Ages as a strategic settlement, because of its proximity to the Balkan Mountain passes. At the end of the 12th century, Gabrovo was influenced by Veliko Tarnovo – the capital city of Bulgaria during that period. Therefore the town flourished with the handcrafts and trade development. The quick economic growth and the national revival were the reason for the opening of the first Bulgarian High school called after the name of its founder – Vassil Aprilov. Beautiful Revival houses, churches, bridges, drinking-fountains, a clock tower (1835) were built then. During that period of growth the unique Architectural Ethnographic complex â€œEturaâ€ was found as well. The complex represents the authentic life of the typical craftsmanship settlement from the National Revival period.
The open air museum is situated 8 km away from Gabrovo and is one of the most visited tourist attractions in Bulgaria. The visitors will have the spectacular opportunity to see authentic wheels and mills moved by water, metal ornaments, pottery articles, copper utensils, braids, hot buns and many other traditional potteries and colorful rags, made by skillful Gabrovo masters. The narrow cobblestone streets, the stone drinking-fountains, the house with the tavern, the clock tower and a lot more other authentic details complete the unforgettable picture of the architecture preserve.
Sightseeing: One of the most impressive attractions, peculiar to the town is the popular House of Humour and Satire in Gabrovo. Works of authors from 153 countries are exhibited in 10 halls with an area of 8000 square metres. The House collects and popularizes the humour and the satire from all over Bulgaria. Other places of history and culture tourism are the National Museum of history, the National Museum of Education and the first High School of Bulgaria, built by Vassil Aprilov. Gabrovo is also famous for its variety of stone bridges, scattered all over the town.
â€œBaevâ€ Bridge is one of the masterpieces of the Bulgarian architecture. It was declared a monument of culture, and was fully renovated in 1968. Now it is a pedestrian zone. â€œIgotoâ€ (the Slavery Bridge) represents four statues. One of them is the statue of the founder of the town, Racho Kovacha. The others are a roaring lion, a woman, representing Bulgaria and a typical Bulgarian man â€“ strong and vigorous.
Other impressive bridges include the Four-Lions Bridge behind the Theatre Building, the Craftsmanship Bridge and the White Arts Bridge, which has 4 gracious statues – the Music muse, an actor with a theatre mask and two Bulgarian girls, playing â€œrachenitsaâ€ dance in traditional Bulgarian costumes.
Nowadays the town has 3 professional theatres – the Racho Stoyanov Theatre of Drama, The Puppet Theatre and the Experimental Theatre of Satire and Variety.
In August a Balkan youth festival, called Youth on the Balkans is held in Gabrovo. At the end of September the town also hosts the Days of the Chamber Music.
Gabrovo also has its own Planetarium and Zoo, situated in the Gradishte area.
Vicinities: Gradishte area is a medieval fortress wall, which is situated 3 km from Gabrovo and offers a unique overall view of the whole town. The ruins of the Gradishte fortress are remains from a huge complex, built between IV – V C to protect the pass to Shipka Peak. Gradishte area is also a favourite place for picnics.
Very tempting and worth to be visited by tourists is the Lilacs garden complex. It has wonderful mountain location, 16 km away from Gabrovo at an attitude of 840 m above the sea level.
Uzana ski resort, the actual geographic centre of Bulgaria is another point of interest close to the town. It is located 1120 m above the sea level, which favours the development of winter sports. Existing infrastructure, ski and hotel facilities make Uzana a desired tourist destination.
And finally Gabrovo is well kept by ecology lovers. Bulgarka Nature Park was established in 2002 to preserve and maintain the flora, fauna and the cultural heritage of Gabrovo region. The park is a natural habitat of more than 1300 plants, 32 of which are considered as protected species and included in the Red book of Bulgaria.
Wine and Dine: Gabrovo offers a huge variety of traditional restaurants with cosy fireplaces and Bulgarian warm atmospehere, where special national meals and delicacies are served. A sparkling glass of wine and a nice company are the perfect choice to complete the holiday, spent in Gabrovo.
The Architectural And Ethnographic Complex Etar is an open-air museum and a neighbourhood of Gabrovo town in northern Bulgaria. It is located on the northern edge of the Bulgarka Nature Park, between the park and the city of Gabrovo.
The complex itself is an open air museum, which purpose is to present the traditional Bulgarian customs, culture and craftsmanship, the architecture and the style of life in Gabrovo and the region during the second half of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th century. It is located 80 km from Golets, which is about 1 hour drive.
The museum contains a total of 50 sites â€“ houses with craft workshops, water installations and other buildings. The only collection in Bulgaria of technical installations driven by water â€“ filling mills, water mills, grindstones, etc., are situated there. 16 houses can be seen on the crafts bazaar (the central commercial street) in the Etar, which are exact copies of buildings existing in the past in Gabrovo and the region. On the crafts street the visitors can watch in real time the work of the craftsmen. Multiple crafts are presented â€“ bell-making (manufacturing of wrought bells for animals), pottery-making, sugar-making (manufacturing of sugar articles), furriery, manufacturing of copper vessels, etc. Besides observing the authentic technology which the craftsmen are using, the visitors can purchase the articles made before their eyes. Upon a preliminary request, the people working in the complex can organize trainings in traditional crafts.
The visitors of Etar can witness restorations of traditional customs during celebrations, such as Lazarovden (eight days before Easter), St. Georgeâ€™s day (6 May), Midsummerâ€™s eve (24 June), St. Iliyaâ€™s day (20 July), etc.
During the first Friday, Saturday and Sunday of September every year, the International Fair of Traditional Crafts is conducted in the Architectural and Ethnographic complex Etar. During the fair days, craftsmen from the country and abroad present their articles, made by the crafts they master.
Children contests for making of sourvaknitsas (decorated cornel twig used by children to tap peopleâ€™s backs when wishing them a Happy New Year), martenitsas (twined tasseled red and white thread, symbol of spring and health) and scarecrows are organized in the complex every year. An open air drawing of childrenâ€™s paintings is conducted in the month of May. Demonstrations of various old domestic activities â€“ painting with vegetable dyes, draining of a potterâ€™s wheel, knitting of articles of corn foliage are conducted in open air or in the houses on the crafts street every Saturday and Sunday during the summer season.
There are numerous restaurants in the park where tourist could enjoy the delicacies of local Bulgarian cuisine, in which they can taste traditional dishes, prepared according to old local recipes.