Gabrovo is a small province lying at the
geographical centre of Bulgaria.
Gabrovo is the main city of the Province of Gabrovo. Long
known for producing leather articles and textiles that earned
the town the sobriquet of the “Manchester of Bulgaria”,
Gabrovo is a charmingly laid-back provincial place.
To the Bulgarians, Gabrovo
is mainly known as the home of Humour and Satire, which opened
on Aprils Fool’s Day 1972 in recognition of the position
traditionally occupied by the town in the Bulgarian humour.
People in every country tell jokes about the supposed miserliness
of a particular community, and in Bulgaria the butt of the
jokes has always been Gabrovo.
A Festival of Humour and
Satire takes place in May, comprising masked actors, folk
music, animated cartoons and the giving of prizes. There are
plenty of restaurants in the city itself but the local people
will recommend that you go out of town and visit Bozhentsi
and the Etara complex.
Bozhentsi and Etara
is preserved as an old village museum. There is an ethnographic
open air museum, Etara, nearby. Strung out along the valley,
with its clear bubbling stream and rich bird-life, the Etara
complex has the look and feel of a film set, and even though
it is artificial, it is nonetheless convincing and a joy to
Traditionally crafts were
inseparable from the charshya (bazaar), and the reconstructed
bazaar of the type once common in Bulgarian towns forms the
heart of the open air museum. Throughout much of the day artisans
are at work here, hammering blades, throwing pots, carving
bowls and the like, and everything they make is for sale.
Note that many of the artisans leave an hour or so before
the complex officially closes.
Even if your interest in
crafts is minimal it’s difficult not to admire the interiors
of the old houses, which achieve great beauty through the
skilful use of simple materials. Besides dwellings and workshops,
the bazaar includes a couple of places for grabbing a quick
drink, including a traditional café, and a bakery selling
Turkish Delight and many other sweet treats.
An hour or so walk southwest
from Etara, Sokolsky Monastery perches on a crag above the
village of Voditsi. During Ottoman times the monks offered
succour to Bulgarian outlaws and an assembly point during
the uprising against the Turks in 1876. Nowadays it is a discreet,
little-visited place, with rosebushes and privet shrubs laid
out in a courtyard dominated by an octagonal stone fountain.
Places of interest in Gabrovo province include architectural
reserve Bozhentsi, Ethnographic Complex Etara, Dryanovo Monastery
and Sokolski Monastery. Uzana, a local winter resort is some
22 km away. Hiking is widely available in the Central Balkan
National Park. For admirers of historical tourism Shipka Memorial
is a must-see.