The city of Lovech is located in northern Bulgaria 150 km from Sofia. The city has a population of roughly 38,000. The climate is temperate and continental, with hot summers and cold winters. The average temperature in January is 1.5 degrees below 0 Centigrade and during July it is 23 degrees Centigrade.
Lovech is one of the oldest settled places in Bulgaria. The city is built on the remains of the Thracian settlement Melta and the Roman city Presidium. The Hisarya Fortress was built during the First Bulgarian Empire (681-1018 CE). When the peace treaty between Bulgaria and Byzantium was signed here, it marked the beginning of the Second Bulgarian Empire and the end of Byzantine rule over Bulgaria that had lasted two centuries.
The Hisarya Fortress above Lovech is one of the last remaining Ottoman citadels.
Culture and agriculture continued to flourish in Lovech during Ottoman rule. By the 17th century, the city had developed into one of the countryâ€™s most important commercial centers, and traders from Lovech journeyed far beyond the boundaries of the Ottoman Empire.
The Vasil Levski Ethnographic Complex and Residence Museum is located in Lovechâ€™s Old Town, The Varosha Quarter. Lovech is famous as the site of the efforts made by Vasil Levski (1837-1873), who dedicated his life to freeing Bulgaria from the Ottomans. The narrow, cobbled streets of The Varosha Quarter help create an authentic atmosphere carrying visitors back to those 19th century days. At the Old Townâ€™s highest point, near the remains of the Hisarya Fortress, there is a monument to Levski.
The cityâ€™s and regionâ€™s past is preserved in the cityâ€™s history museum.
The symbol of Lovech is the covered bridge that spans the Osam River, connecting the old and new quarters. It was built in 1872-1874 by one of the eraâ€™s best-known master builders, Kolyu Ficheto. Today there are many shops on the bridge selling souvenirs.
In The Varosha Quarter there is an art gallery in the Sveta Nedelya (Holy Sunday) Church, with frescoes painted in 1873. The church was declared a cultural landmark in Protocol â„– 7 of the National Society for the Preservation of Culture on November 11, 1999.
The Bash Bunar Park is situated on the Osam River. Its steep banks are dotted with caves of various sizes. Bones and implements from the Paleolithic Age and the Bronze Age were discovered in two of the caves â€“ The Vasil Levski Cave and The Tabashkata Cave. The park is a fine place for strolling and relaxation.
Stratesh Hill is another popular location for walks in Lovech. The hill has been developed as a park, and the cityâ€™s zoo is located there.
There are also two monuments on Stratesh Hill that honor those who died during the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-1888.
The town of Troyan is located in the center of The Stara Planina (The Central Balkan Range), some 160 km northeast of Sofia and 120 km northwest of Plovdiv. The city is situated on the banks of the Cherni Osam River at an elevation of 450 meters above sea level. The Troyan Pass, which facilitates transportation to southern Bulgaria, is 22 km from the town of Troyan. The town has a population of 22,000 people.
Archeological excavations of the Troyan region have revealed that the area was a Thracian settlement as early as the 11th-10th centuries BCE. The Thracians gave the Central Balkan Range its original name â€“ The Hemus Range. The name Troyan comes from the Latin name for the Roman road through the area â€“ Via Trajana. Along this stretch of the Roman road more than 20 fortresses have been discovered.
During the first half of the 19th century, a number of handicrafts experienced rapid growth in Troyan, such as weaving, blacksmithing, and tanning. Pottery workshops also flourished, and the Troyan school of ceramics came to be highly regarded.
One of Troyanâ€™s major attractions is its museum dedicated to folk art and traditional handicrafts. The museum exhibits offer examples of the artisansâ€™ skill, along with their original tools and photographs illustrating techniques employed by ceramicists and metalworkers. Some 7 km from the town of Troyan is the National Collection of Handicraft and Folk Art in the village of Oreshak. The collectionâ€™s 9 exposition halls display unique works created by masters from every cultural region in Bulgaria.
Near Oreshak there a very large monastery, the Troyan Monastery â€œAssumption of the Virgin.â€ Of particular interest is the The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Church at the monastery, with murals by Zahary Zograf (1810-1853).
In the village of Cherni Osem, roughly 12 km from Troyan, there is an interesting museum dedicated to natural history. The collection includes almost every animal species found in The Central Balkans. The displays are divided into mammals, reptiles, birds, amphibians, fish, and so forth.
In the Osam River valley near Troyan, on the outskirts of the village Lomets, are remains of the Roman Sostra Fortress. This fortress was the sixth way station along the Via Trajana that connected the Danube with the White Sea. The fortress was built as an encampment for Roman soldiers. Close to the encampment there is a settlement, a necropolis, the early Christian basilica â€œSaint George,â€ earthenware ovens, and other artifacts. There are no tours of the site, but it may be visited free of charge.
Troyan is the access point to the Central Balkan National Park, where there are many marked hiking trails. Activities in the park include horseback riding and mountain biking, and there are trails particularly well-suited for bird watching. Troyan also offers excellent opportunities for winter sports. Near the Troyan Pass, 22 km southwest of the town, is the small ski center Bekleme. It has three ski runs serviced by two lifts, and is the best place for biathlon and cross-country skiing in Bulgaria.
Bekleme is also a convenient starting point to hike the trails in the Troyan Balkans.
The Troyan region is a preferred destination for those interested in hot springs. The villages of Chiflik and Shipkovo are both plentifully endowed with such springs. The region also offers excellent opportunities for village tourism.
Troyan is well-known for its plum brandy, and every year the town has a festival celebrating this heady beverage.
There are many kinds of accommodation in Troyan and the surrounding area â€“ hotels, villas, and guesthouses â€“ and the regionâ€™s dining facilities offer diverse possibilities to sample both the local cuisine and national dishes.