Ancient capitals

Ancient capitals
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First day: Arrival at the Sofia airport. Welcoming by a guide. Transfer to the hotel. Accommodation. Dinner. Overnight.

Second day: Breakfast. The journey starts from Sofia with a city tour – “Alexander Nevski” Cathedral, National Art Gallery, National Theatre, “St. Sofia” Church, and National History Museum. In the afternoon we make for Veliko Tarnovo.
  Veliko Tarnovo.
Velko Tarnovo is a sacred town, which evokes a feeling of admiration and pride. Majestic nature and man have created a fairy-tale of stone and wood, of curious shapes and gaily-coloured flowers. Veliko Tarnovo is not just past grandeur, it is not only history, neither is it a mere medieval capital. Built up day by day, having been a witness to progress and fall, having outlived the century-old slavery and having survived in time as a legend, Veliko Tarnovo is a town in which glorious to Bulgaria ages meet one another – the Middle Ages when Tzarevgrad Tarnov was the capital of Bulgaria in XII-XIV century; the Bulgarian national revival when anything new and progressive sprouted wildly. Veliko Tarnovo is a town in which visitors can be carried away at first sight by its superb location. It is like poured out over the steep hills round the peculiar elbows of Yantra. It delights and fascinates every visitor with its houses – light, perched one above another, hushed as if Nature has fixed the place and shape of each of them. This is a town which makes impression with its original, unique, specific Bulgarian national revival styled architecture. The majesty and the glory of Tarnovgrad as a capital was cut off in 1393, when the town put up a last desperate resistance against the invaders and on July 17th was conquered after a siege that lasted for three months. This was the start of five-century Turkish yoke, and during that time the Bulgarians used the name Veliko Tarnovo (The Great Tarnovo) to preserve their Bulgarian nationality, the Slavic literacy and culture. The palaces and the temples were plundered and ruined, the most notable leaders were slaughtered and the spiritual leader and tireless organizer of the defense of the capital – the last Bulgarian patriarch Euthimius was sent to exile. The medieval town was situated on the hills Tzarevetz, Trapezitza, Momina krepost, Sveta gora and the present day district “Asenov” in the valley of the riverYantra. The two major medieval fortresses, known as grad Tarnov and grad Trapezitza were built on the hills Tzarevetz and Trapezitza. On the banks of Yantra between them originated the so called “New town”, where the self-taught master builder Kolyo Ficheto created his unique masterpieces of Bulgarian national revival architecture. His churches framed the squares of the town during the Bulgarian national revival. All of the churches were built by him and have been preserved till present days. The fourteen monasteries had a great importance for the spiritual life in the town. They kept the flame of patriotism during the years of yoke. The oldest monasteries – “ Kilifarevski”, St. Trinity and St. Transfiguration still keep alive the memory of the past glory of Bulgarian spirit.
Dinner. Overnight.

Third day: After breakfast - a city tour with a visit to the Architectural and Ethnographical complex Samovodska charshia, Tzarevetz and Trapezitza, St. Peter and Paul church, the Sarafkina kashta museum, St archangels Michael and Gabriel church.
Tzarevetz. A medieval fortress, which is an open- air museum in present days. It acquaints the visitors with the remains of the tzar`s and patriarch’s complexes, residential quarters and churches. The emotional perception is supplemented by the audio-visual show “Sound and light”.
St.40 Martyrs church.
It was built in 1230 by the greatest Bulgarian tzar Ivan-Asen II (1218 – 1241) and it has preserved the most valuable epigraphic monuments of Bulgarian history.
St. Peter and Paul and St. George churches
Remarkable monuments of Bulgarian medieval architecture and arts
Archaeological museum
Keeps the treasures from the neolith to the late medieval centuries, collections of ritual tablets found in Veliko Tarnovo, pottery, coins, unique golden ornaments.
Samovodska charshia
Architectural complex with operative souvenir, pottery, arms, gold, furriery, carving weaving and other workshops.
Sarafkina kashta
Architectural monument, presenting the town’s way of life in the 19th and the early 20th century. Supper. Overnight.

Fourth day: After the breakfast we make for Arbanasi and visit the Architectural Museum reserve Arbanasi. In the afternoon we make for the city of Shumen. Accommodation. Dinner. Overnight.
The city of Shumen was founded 3200 years ago.For centuries it has always been a cradle of rich spiritual and material culture – Thracian, Roman, Byzantine and Bulgarian. The first two capitals of the Bulgarian state – Pliska and Veliki Preslav are situated near Shumen. The cultural and educational activity was very high during the Golden age of Bulgaria, when the city was called Simeonis. There are three versions about the origin of the name Shumen. One of the versions is that it originates from the name of Tzar Simeon the Great: Simeonis – Shimeonis – Shumen. The second version tells the name originates from “shuma” (leaves) – well – timbered place with many forests. Since its foundation until the 15th century the city was situated near the Shumen Fortress, which was a sophisticated complex of fortifications, residental and cult buildings. After the crusade of Vladislav Varnenchik in 1444 Shumen was ruined by the Turks and rebuilt at its present location at the foot of Ilchov skat.

Fifth day: After breakfast we go sightseeing in Shumen.
Tombul jamia – architectural ensemble of the cult, built in 1744. This is the second biggest mosque on the Balkan Peninsula. It is operative Moslem temple
St. Three Saints church was built in 1857 with donations from Shumen’s guilds on the place of an ancient chapel. The old wicket with an inscription over the entrance, the tzar’s gates and the ancient icons are preserved. There is also an energetic emission of 420 (silos), established after radiestesic examinations.
The Holy Ascension church was built in 1839. The frescoes, the iconostasis and the interior are dated from 1933. There are valuable books, a shroud with pearls, interwoven with gold from 1776 and the icon of St Cyril and Methodius, a gift from the Russian general Belokopitov on July 6th in memory of the liberation of Shumen. Several figures of the Bulgarian national revival honoured for their fate and nationality were buried into the temple, according to the ancient custom. Among them there were two princes Dimitar Muruzi (1766 – 1812) and Valerian Grigorievich Madatov (1782-1829).
Regional history museum. Keeps over 150 000 museum pieces in eight halls. The exposition presents the rich history of the region from antiquity until the end of 19 century. It has a valuable collection of icons, coins, seals and metal sculptures, exposed in the “Sakrovishtnitza” (treasure house) hall. The Thracian vault from the 4th century BC is the only one presented in museum on the Balkan Peninsula.
“Founders of the Bulgarian state” complex. It was created to mark the 1300th anniversary from the creation of the Bulgarian state. The history of the First Bulgarian Empire from Asparukh to Simeon is reproduced by means of architecture and sculpture. It is situated at 450 m above sea level and can be seen from a radius of 30 kilometers.
We make for Madara
Madara is called “The Bulgarian Troy” for a good reason because of the archaeological monuments dated from 4000 BC to 15th century that were discovered there. The most remarkable monument is the unique rock relief “the horseman of Madara”. The only one in Europe, it is an example of the ancient Bulgarian art and symbolizes the power and the glory of the Bulgarian state. The inscriptions around the relief written in Greek unveil the exploit of three Bulgarian khans – Tervel, Krumesis, and Omurtag. The horseman of Madara is proclaimed a monument with a world importance by the UNESCO. Sanctuaries, pagan shrines, Christian churches, and chapels can also be seen there.
Our journey continues to Pliska. Pliska is the first capital of the state founded by khan Asparukh – Bulgaria. The town was a capital from 681 to 893. Archaeological studies that lasted 100 years reveal the remains of an “outer” and an “inner” city, a throne-room, a Small palace, a pagan temple, a palace church, a water basin, baths, business and residential buildings and 1.5 km away from the Eastern gate – foundations of an impressive cathedral temple – The Big Basilica. The remains are conserved and in fact are an open-air museum. Finds from the reserve that are exposed at the museum exhibition present the way of life, the material and spiritual culture of the residents of the ancient capital.
The historical and archaeological reserve is situated 28 km away northeast from Shumen and 2 km away from the modern day town of Pliska.
In the evening we go back to Shumen. Supper. Overnight.

Sixth day: After breakfast we make for Veliki Preslav.
Veliki Preslav was the second Bulgarian capital (893 – 969). The town came into being in the first half of the 9th century as a military camp with fortified palace and garrison during the rule of khan Omurtag . It was declared a capital by Tzar Simeon. Veliki Preslav had the same design of gates, towers, and walls as those in Pliska. Tzar Simeon the Great turned the town into the most imposing city in the whole Southeastern Europe (Golden Age Era). The greatest men of the pen worked here – John Ekzarch, Chernorizetz Hrabar, Constantine Preslavski, Presviter Kozma. Dozens of monuments have been found on the territory of the reserve and the surrounding area, and original work of the ancient Bulgarian and Mid-Byzantine art can be seen at the museum exhibition. Among them are such masterpieces as the icon of St Theodore, the Golden treasure of Preslav and the Ceramic iconostasis from the Palace monastery, a unique collection of lead seals, a valuable collection of epigraphic monuments.
In the afternoon we make for Sofia. We put up in thehotel. Supper. Overnight.

Seventh day: Breakfast. Transfer to the airport.

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