Bloggin’ in Bulgaria: Day 9
After a quick morning visit to a local fruit stand, we were picked up by Dimitar (and Iva) for a road trip A famous Bulgarian town. After a long drive thru valleys and past a gold-mining town (incidentally, the mine is owned by a Canadian mining company), we eventually ascended into the Balkan Mountains. It was then that we came upon the town of Koprivshtitsa.
Despite its apparently isolated location within the mountains, Koprivshtitsa was a wealthy trading centre. Famed for its wool, its traded as far away as Egypt, Turkey and Western Europe. Its wealth lead to the establishment of a bustling town with beautiful homes, much of which is preserved today. In fact, several homes have now been turned into museums. The wealth of the town was notable for other reasons. The inhabitants of the town valued educational attainment (Yay! Koprivshtitsa!), which ultimately help seed its next claim to fame.
During the 1800’s, Bulgaria was under the control of the Ottoman Empire, which treated it as a vassal state, limiting many of its freedoms. Bulgarians ached for their own independence and it was in Koprivshtitsa where the political leaders of the time, decided the time had come for change. In 1876, several leaders launched an attempted revolution, which after several months was put down in a bloody fashion. Despite the sad outcome to this initial attempt for freedom, Bulgaria could achieve its independence after helping Russia two years later finally break up Ottoman rule.
As we walked thru this beautiful town, as well as some of its small, household museums, we were taught a few interesting facts about life in Bulgaria during the 1800’s. One of the most interesting was that churches in Bulgaria seemed quits small and never more than one story. This was because the Ottoman Turks, while tolerating Christianity, limited the size of a church to one story and a building that could be built in one day! The ingenious Bulgarians, in addition to planning building blitzes to maximize their work time, built the churches below ground level, which in effect gave them 1 ½ levels while adhering to Ottoman building rules.
We also noted that outside each home was a wooden bench, where community members, especially the elderly, often sit to visit or talk with passersby. Such was the case today where we were able to enjoy a wonderful conversation (thanks to our translators) with a couple of elderly gentlemen. We were able discuss a wide range of issues and we parted with an invitation to return to take part in a special town celebration two years from now. Wouldn’t that be grand!
After visiting a couple of tiny shops, we headed to a local restaurant for a traditional meal, which was wonderful, and then headed back to Sofia. Here we were able to spend time talking about future partnership possibilities. We all agreed that our trip did not mark the end of this story, but only the conclusion of the story’s chapter. We both look forward to what comes next!