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A plot of land with area of 44 472 sq.m in a complex of two golf courses in progress near Haskovo city. PRICE: 12 EUR per sq.m
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Northwestern Bulgaria
Belogradchik
The town of Belogradchik (6685 inhabitants; 520 m above sea level) is situated between both mountain massifs Venetsa and Vedernik (small sub-parts of Western Stara Planina), among the fantastic world of Belogradchik rocks.
Berkovitza
The town of Berkovitza (16 818 inhabitants; 400 m above sea level) is situated in the northern foot of Berkovski Balkan (Western Stara Planina).
Botevgrad
The town of Botevgrad (23 516 inhabitants; 350 m above sea level) is situated in the valley of the same name. It lies in north foothills of the eastern parts of the Western Stara Pianina along the two banks of Stara Reka River.
Cherven bryag
The town of Cherven Bryag (18 642 inhabitants; 110 m above sea level) is situated at the inflow of river Zlatna Panega in river Iskar.
Chiprovtzi
The town of Chiprovtsi (2915 inhabitants; about 500 m above sea level) is picturesquely situated in the folds between Chiprovska and lazova Mountain (Western Stara Planina) on the banks of Stara Reka and Martinovska Ogosta rivers.
Etropole
The town of Etropole (12 386 inhabitants; 580 m above sea level) is situated at the northern foothills of Etropolska Mountain (the most eastern part of Western Stara Planina), along the two banks of the Malki Iskar River.
Kozlodui
The town of Kozlodoui (14 286 inhabitants; 40 meters above the sea level) is situated by the river Danube, opposite the second biggest island with the same name.
Lom
The town of Lom (27 897 inhabitants; 50 meters above sea level) is situated on the right bank (the Bulgarian one) of the Danube River, at its estuary with the Lom River.
Loukovit
The town of Loukovit (approximately 10 000 inhabitants; 135 m above sea level) is situated on the two banks at the mouth of the Valley of Zlatna Panega River.
Mezdra
The town of Mezdra (13 502 inhabitants; 230 m above sea level) is spread out amphitheatrically along the left bank of the Iskar River where it exits the Balkan Iskar Gorge.
Montana
The town of Montana (49 368 inhabitants; 160 meters above the sea level) is situated on the river Ogosta immediately next to the dam with the same name.
Oriahovo
The town of Oryahovo (7006 inhabitants, from 30 to 226 meters above sea level) is situated on the hills by the river Danube, not far away from the Ogosta and Skat estuaries.
Vidin
Town of Vidin (57 614 inhabitants; 20-25 m above sea level) is situated on the bank of the Danube River, on its big curve in the most northwestern corner of Bulgaria.
Vratsa
The town of Vratsa (69 423 inhabitants; 380 m above sea level) is situated along the two banks of Leva River, in the northern foots of the majestic Vrachanski Balkan.
Yablanitza
The town of Yablanitsa (3312 inhabitants; 420 m above sea level) is picturesquely scattered in between the average size massifs of Dragoitsa and Lissets, offshoots of Stara Planina Mountain, along the banks of Kalenovik River.

Berkovitza (top)
Intro:
The town of Berkovitza (16 818 inhabitants; 400 m above sea level) is situated in the northern foot of Berkovski Balkan (Western Stara Planina).

Full text:
It is at a distance of 89 km to the north of Sofia, 24 km to the south of Montana, 53 km to the west of Vratsa and 25 km to the north of the Petrohan Pass.

History. Berkovitsa is an old settlement. This is confirmed by the remains of a fortress and a church from 4 th century on the Kaleto Hill, situated to the northwest of the town. The settlement is known from the reign of Tzar Kaloyan (the beginning of 13th century) as well and in the time of the Vidim Kingdom (the second half of 14th century) it was a border fortress. Berkovitsa is mentioned in written form for the first time in a Turkish document of 1491. During the Turkish rule, it developed as a crafts settlement – mainly in wood processing and pottery. A great number of refugees from other parts of the country settled here. The inhabitants of Berkovitsa many times have raised their heads against the Ottomans. In 1403, they took part in the uprising of Konstantin and Fruzhin, in 1688 – in the Chiprovtsi Uprising, in 1836 – in the uprising under the leadership of Mancho Punin as well as in the uprising in 1837. After the Liberation in 1878, the town declined, because it remained away from the railway line passing through the iskar Gorge, thus losing markets in the Ottoman Empire for its crafts goods. The national poet Ivan Vazov worked for a certain time in Berkovitsa as a chairman of the court.

Landmarks. The Ivan Vazov House-Museum (2, Ivan Vazov Street, tel. 0953 2235) which is in the central part of the town is arranged in the building where the poet lived in the period 1879 – 1880. The house itself is a precious architectural monument with an interesting exterior architecture with wood carved ceilings and original fireplace, cupboards, shelves. The atmosphere in which Vazov lived is preserved. There is a documentary exhibition showing the period of the period of his work in Berkovitsa – the creation of the narrative poem “Gramadda” (“carin”), the short novel “Mitrofan and Dormidovski”, etc. Permanent ethnographic exhibition – organized also in an architectural monument of culture, in a close proximity to Ivan Vazov House-Museum. The clock tower is remarkable for its solid construction and beautiful upper part in which the clock mechanism still works. It was constructed in 1762 and is one of the oldest towers in our country. The Krustev’s house - built in Revival style. The Holy Virgin Church (1843) has a wood-carved iconostasis and and the “Golde Gospel” – An exceptional work of art from 1892 is kept there.

Accommodation. TOBO Inn-hotel (a folk-style hotel restaurant-23, Nikolaevska Street). Mramor Hotel-Restaurant.

Tourist information. Tourist Information Bureau (4, Hristo Botev Street; at Berkovski Balkan Tourist Association, tel.: 0953 4106) and at the hotels.

Transport. Road and railway transport connect Berkovitsa with the rest of the world. There are regular bus routes to Sofia, Montana, Lom, Vurshets and many other smaller villages in the region of the bus station (tel. 0953 3574) and the railway station (tel.0953 3014 3015) that are in the eastern part of the town (the first is close to the centre). Berkovitsa is the last railway station of the local railway line Boichinovtsi-Montana-Berkovitsa. It is connected through the railway station Boichinovtsi with the settlement along the main railway line Sofia-Mezdra-Vratsa-Broussartsi-Vidin (Lom), as well as the national railway system.

Surrounding areas. The northern slopes of the Berkovski Balkan at the foot of which Berkovitsa is situated are famous for their chestnut woods - one of the two natural finds of tame (mordant) chestnut in Bulgaria (the other one is in Belassitsa Mountain, above the town of Petrich). Berkovitsa is a main point of departure along marked tourist tracks through the Berkovski Balkan (refer to the Stara Planina Mountain related chapter herein). Kaleto - a woody hill (515 m) to the northwest near the town. It is a natural forest-park and a protector of Berkovitsa from wind. Here are the remains of Roman and medieval Bulgarian fortresses built in three belts in terraces. Of interest are the two late antique Christian churches that date back to 4th-5th century. The Ashiklar Area (the valley of the singers in love) is a romantic neighborhood to the south of the town, spreading out to the chestnut woods. A favorite place for recreation in natural environment. Vurshets Resort (18 km to the southeast) is a balneological centre of national importance and is the biggest in Northeastern Bulgaria. It is nestled in a small valley, surrounded to the south by the main ridge of Stara Planina and to the east by the Vratsa Balkan. Since 1860, its thermal waters (temperature from 32.6° to 36.4°C) are used for healing rheumatic, cardiovascular, gastric-intestinal, nerve and other diseases. There are a great number of sanatoriums, holiday houses, villas. Marius Hotel (126, Republika Blvd.) works, too. One could rent private lodgings. The resort is a point of departure of marked tourist tracks in the Vratsa Balkan - to the Byalata Voda Chalet (1.30 hours along a marked track and 7 km asphalt road), to Parshevitsa Chalet (about 8 hours), and to Proboinitsa Chalet (4.30-5 hours on foot). There is a regular bus transport between Vurshets and Berkovitsa. The Klissoura Monastery St. St. Cyril and Metodius (about 10 km to the southeast of Berkovitsa and 12 km to the west of Vurshets) was founded in 1240. It was many times burned and restored in the time of the Ottoman Rule. It remained a real fortress of Bulgarian national spirit in this region. It has a striking outlook. The walls are not painted. One is attracted by the beautiful woodcarvings of the iconostasis, made by Stoicho Fandakov from Samokov and the marvellous icons of the famous icon-painter Nikola Obrazopisov. One can spend the night there against minimal fee. Behind the monastery starts a marked tourist track up to Mt. Todorini Kukli (2.30-3 hours Vurshets) on the main ridge of Stara Planina where one may join the Kom-Emine route. There is no regular transport to the monastery but buses between Berkovitsa and Vurshets stop at the road fork from where one can walk 3 km along an asphalt road. One can also go on foot from Vurshets (through the village of Spanchevtsi) for 1-1.30 h. The village of Burzia - 6 km to the south of Berkovitsa. It is a mountain and balneological resort of local importance. All buses going through the Petrohan pass stop there. Petrohan Pass (1444 m above sea level, 25 km to the south of Berkovitsa) is on the Stara Planina ridge and is a boundary between the Berkovski Balkan (to the west), Koznitsa, and Ponor (to the east). This is the road from Sofia to Berkovitsa, Vurshets, Montana, Lom, and Vidin. It was named after the Petrov's Inn, which had many years served those who passed by it (it is not preserved). There is a motel-restaurant, gas station and a chalet (Petrohanski Prohod Chalet) and another big Chalet (Petrohan Chalet) to the east 30 min on foot. A point of departure for tourist routes along the ridge of the Balkan - to the west: Mt. Kom (2016 m, about 3 hours), the new Kom Chalet (3.30 hours), the old Kom Chalet (3.00 hours), the town of Berkovitsa (about 6 hours) and to the east (except to the Petrohan Chalet): to Mt. Todorini Kukli (about 2.30 hours), Proboinitsa Chalet (5-6 hours), Lakatnik railway station (7-8 hours), etc. All buses going trough the Petrohan Pass stop there. The Haidoushki Waterfall is situated 9 km to the southwest from Berkovitsa in the lovely valley of Goliama Reka where the water goes down with roar on the two falls. The neighborhood district is very beautiful. One can walk to the waterfall in 1.30-2 hours.

Chiprovtzi (top)
Intro:
The town of Chiprovtsi (2915 inhabitants; about 500 m above sea level) is picturesquely situated in the folds between Chiprovska and lazova Mountain (Western Stara Planina) on the banks of Stara Reka and Martinovska Ogosta rivers.

Full text:
It is 120 km to the northwest from Sofia and 35 km to the west from Montana.

History. Chiprovtsi is a very old settlement, originating in Thracian time, when ore mining in these lands is dated back. There were ledges of copper, lead, gold, silver and iron. In Roman age, the region around the village had been among the gold mining centers of greatest importance on the Balkans. The village is named after the Roman name of copper - cuprum. It was named Kiprovets first, then Chiporovtsi and finally the today's Chiprovtsi (renamed in 1956). In late antiquity, ore mining had been of great importance for the development of military production in the Rome Ritsaria (today Archar). Slav people had come here after 6th century and borrowed production experience in ore mining from the local inhabitants. In 13th-16th century, Chiprovtsi had been a busy mining village. Here settled Saxon miners, who gave a further impetus to this activity. It is not accidental that right here in the flourishing feudal domains of the Bulgarian boyars Soimirovi, a great part of the Bulgarian aristocracy settled after the Ottoman invasion. Chiprovtsi reached its economic, political and cultural boom in the first three centuries under foreign rule. Goldsmith's trade developed most in comparison to all other handcrafts. High artistic production had outlined the town as the biggest goldsmith cen¬tre on the Balkan Peninsula in 16th and 17th century along with Tsarigrad, Thessaloniki and Belgrade. Trade with the famous cups made in Chiprovtsi flourished not only on the Balkans and the Ottoman Empire but extended to Central Europe, too. Churches, monasteries, schools, rich and beautiful houses were built in this environment of considerable improvement and culture. In 16th century, the Literary School of Chiprovtsi emerged. Its "heights" are "Abagar" by Fillip Stanislavov, the theological, philosophical and historical works of Petar Bogdan, Yakov Peyachevich and Krustyu Peikich. Petar Bogdan and Petar Parchevich headed the struggle for national independence in the middle of 17th century. In the beginning, they relied on help from our western neighbours and the Pope, but were disappointed and began an independent preparation of a people's revolt. In September 1688 broke the Uprising of Chiprovtsi that was headed by Georgi Peyachevich, Bogdan Marinov, the brothers Ivan and Mihail Stanislavovi and Peter Parchevich. The decisive battle took place in the area called Zheravitsa, where the troops of the Turkish vassal - the Magyar count Emerik Tekeli - defeated the Bulgarians. Those surviving fortified themselves in Chiprovtsi and in the Chiprovtsi (Gushovski) Monastery, but their defence was overcome, too. Outrageous slaughter and brutality followed. More than half of the inhabitants were slaughtered. A great part of the survivors looked for refuge in Vlashko (Romania), Magyar and Croatia. The town was burnt down, devastated and ruined, after which it never reached its past glory. Chiprovtsi rebelled in 1836 (Manchov's buna) and in 1837 (headed by Vurban Penev). Its inhabitants took part also in the uprising in Vidin in 1850. In 19th century, carpet manufacturing developed very much. The famous Chiprovtsi carpets are handmade from pure wool on a vertical loom. Even today they find markets all over the world, and now in thousands Bulgarian homes the colours of nature in Chiprovtsi beam, collected and immortalized by the tender hands of the carpet masters in Chiprovtsi.

Landmarks. The remains of the Santa Maria Catholic Cathedral constructed in 1371 and burnt during the uprising in Chiprovtsi in 1688. The Ascension Church built probably in 14th century. Burnt after the uprising in Chiprovtsi and later it was restored. In 1865 master Danail from Shtip painted the iconostasis. The remains of St. Nikolai Church - it was constructed in 17th century and burnt after the uprising. The Museum of History is arranged in a house built in 1896 as a school. Working hours: 8 a.m. -17.00 p.m. all the week round. The museum and the above-mentioned churches are on the Historical Hill. Sharenata cheshma (the colourful drinking fountain) -the only monument survived after 1688. Its foundations are about 1.5 m in the ground. In the past, it was covered with frescos. Punko's House is near the Historical museum. Now restored it bears the charm of the Revival architecture.

Accommodation. Punkova Kashta Hotel (the second floor of the Revival Punko's House is arranged as a folk-style hotel). The private lodgings are of 1- and 2-star category. Accommodation is made through the Tourist Council (see below).

Tourist information. Tourist Council (2, Vitosha Street; tel. 09554 2168). Tri Chuki Tourist Association.

Transport. There is a regular bus connection with Montana and bus transport to some of the smaller settlements in the region.

Surrounding areas. The Monastery of Chiprovtsi St. Yoan Rilski (6 km to the northeast near the village of Zhelezna) was raised according to the legend about 10th century along with the first steps of Christianity and the work of the students of Kiril and Methodius in our lands. It is a century-old centre of Bulgarian education and it has been burnt and devastated 6 times during the Turkish rule. It was the last refuge of the revolted Bulgarians in the dramatic 1688. The monastery complex includes St. Yoan Rilski Church; built in 1829 (this is the oldest entire building). It is remarkable with the tracery woodcarving of its iconostasis. Hristo Enchev, an icon-painter from Koprivshtitsa, painted the icons. There is also a small chapel built after the Liberation. The inscription above the wall paintings shows that the chapel is devoted to the Russian Tsar-Liberator. The tower-charnel house was built after the Liberation (Ist and IInd floor) and the belfry - at the beginning of 20th century. The charnel house is situated in the ground floor where are collected the mortal remains of people who died in the national-liberation struggles, including the martyrs in the uprising of Chiprovtsi. The remains of the Gushovski Monastery - built in 17th century and soon after that burnt in the memorable 1688. It was the predecessor of the modern Chiprovtsi Monastery. One can get lodging in the Chiprovtsi Monastery at minimal fee. Annually on 6th September nationwide celebrations are organized here. There is a regular bus transport from Chiprovtsi. There are 34 beds in one 2-beds room and in two shared rooms in the Kopren Chalet (975 m above sea level, 20 km away). There is no regular transport. Chiprovtsi is a point of departure for hiking tours in Chiprovska Maountain - to Mt. Midzhur (the highest peak in the Western Stara Planina, 2168 m), to Mt. Martinova Chuka (2026 m), to Mt. Golema Chuka, Mt. Obov, Mt. Trite Chuki, Mt. Kopren etc., but there is no a tourist marking. However, one can hire a guide. St. Yoan Predtecha (The Precursor) Lopoushanski Monastery is about 20 km to the northeast. The people's poet Ivan Vazov had often visited it. The icons in it were done by the icon-painters from Samokov Stanislav and Nikola Dospevski. There is a regular bus transport from Montana. There are remains of an ancient Roman fortress in the area called Kaleto, situated to the southeast of Chiprovtsi. Chiprovski Waterfall, the rock formation Kuklite and many others that tourist should see.

Belogradchik (top)
Intro:
The town of Belogradchik (6685 inhabitants; 520 m above sea level) is situated between both mountain massifs Venetsa and Vedernik (small sub-parts of Western Stara Planina), among the fantastic world of Belogradchik rocks.

Full text:
It is 182 km northwest from Sofia, 68 km to the northwest to Montana, 52 km southwest from Vidin and 12 km southwest from the Oreshets railway station. It is a town amidst a fantastic natural environment.

History. This is an old settlement, originated as early as 1st century when the Romans built a fortress among the rocks. After that, the fortress and the settlement were ruined many times and built again by Byzantines, Bulgarians, and Turks. A register from 1454 testifies about the Bulgarian town here. In 1837, during the reign of Sultan Mahmud II, the fortress was finished in its present-day outlook and with the non-paid work of the Bulgarian population. In the period of Ottoman Rule Belogradchik was a small agrarian-craftsman town. A peasant uprising began here in 1850, but it was cruelly crushed and the last defenders of the fortress slaughtered. The name of the town comes from "beliya gradezh" (the white building) of the fortress - a natural combination of human and nature work. After the Liberation (1878) Belogradchik gradually becomes a tourist centre above all, this attracts thousands of visitors from the country and abroad.

Landmarks. The Town Museum of History is arranged in the Revival house of the Panovs' (1810), which in itself is an architectural monument. It is in the centre of the town (tel. 0936 3469). The Astronomical Observatory has one of the most powerful telescopes in Bulgaria. St. Georgi the Victorious Church was built in 1868.

Accommodation. Belogradchishki Skali Hotel. Rabisha Tourist Complex (in the park above the stadium, 99 beds in 2 suites and in 2-bed and 4-bed rooms).

Tourist information. At the hotel, at the Tourist Complex and at the Belogradchishki skali Tourist Association (1, Vassil Levski Street, tel: 0936 3285, 4933).

Transport. There is regular bus transport to Sofia, Montana, Vidin and other smaller settlements in the region. The bus station - tel.: 0936 3427. There is a bus connection with the Oreshets railway station (12 km to the northeast) of the Mezdra - Vidin railway line that connects Belogradchik to the national railway system.

Surrounding areas. Belogradchik Rocks, formed from red sandstone and conglomerate - one of the natural wonders of Bulgaria! A fairytale stone world surrounds Belogradchik from west, south and southeast. If you come from Sofia by car you will see at first the Falkov-Borovets group of rocks with Momma Skala (Maiden's Rock), Pchelin Kamuk, Torlaka, Borovishki Kamuk etc. Lipenitsa group is to the east of the town among which biggest interest evoke the Dinosaur and the Latin Kale (a strategic fortress surrounded by a fortified wall). It is worth seeing the Lepenishka Cave in which charred wheat and vessels dating 2000 years ago were found, and the Izvozki oak - more than 1200 years old. Among the Zbegovska group of rocks to the west of the town a great impression make the Twins, the rocks in the area called Magaza, Small and Big Zbeg, which were used as fortresses, the lonely obelisk Borich and the Belogradchik stone bridge. The central group rises immediately above the town. One can see about 100 m high lonely rocks named Adam and Eve, the delicate Madonna, Konika (The Rider), Uchenichkata (The Female Student), Mechkata (The Bear), the Dervish (Muslim clergyman), the impressive Borov Kamak, Monasite (The Monks), the fantastic kale with ancient fortress walls, above which the most magic rock wonders rise. The French traveler Germon Blanky wrote the following statement about the Belogradchishki Skali in 1841: "Neither the famous narrow of Aulihul in Provance, neither the igpcarbo Gorge in Spain, neither the Alps, neither the Pyrenees, nor the most eminent mountains in Switzerland have anything, which can be compared with what I saw in Bulgaria in the town of Belogradchik". The famous Felix Kanits added: "It's hardly probable that a more romantic fortress than the Belogradchik one has ever been built". The most characteristic peculiarity of the Belogradchik Fortress is the perfect inclusion of the unapproachable rocks in the whole fortress system. Three construction periods can be seen in the buildings - Roman and Byzantine (1st-6th century), Byzantine and Bulgarian (8th-14th centuries) and Turkish (1805-1837). The constructions of the last period prevail in its present-day outlook. The fortress is situated at 10200 sq. m and has five gates, four of which are main. Magourata or the Rabishkata Peshtera (Rabisha Cave) is found near the village of Rabisha, 16 km west of the town of Dimovo, 50 km southwest from Vidin and 34 km northwest of Belogradchik. It was formed about 3-4 million years ago in the Magoura Hill, 463 m high. Inside one can see unique halls and formations as Triumphalnata Zala (The hall of tryumphs), Harmana (The wheat thrashing site), the Hall of the Stalactone, Glinenite Piramidi (The mud pyramids), Povaleniyat Bor (The fallen pine-tree), Vkamenenata Reka (The Stoned River), The Fiords, etc. The exit of the cave is through Vratach on the bank of the Rabisha Lake. The wall drawings made with bat excrements are the only ones in the caves at the Balkan Peninsula. These masterpieces of late prehistoric art dated back from the beginning of the Bronze Age. The cave was used by Manush Voivoda as a shelter. Magourata Cave is electrified, the length of its galleries are 2500 m. A minimal entry fee is paid. There is a hotel, a restaurant, pavilions and other buildings round it. There is a regular bus transport from Belogradchik and the town of Dimovo.

Vidin (top)
Intro:
Town of Vidin (57 614 inhabitants; 20-25 m above sea level) is situated on the bank of the Danube River, on its big curve in the most northwestern corner of Bulgaria.

Full text:
It is 199 km the northwest from Sofia, 102 km northwest from Montana, 52 km north from Belogradchik, 56 km northwest from Lom and 30 km southeast from the border town of Bregovo. It is one of the oldest Bulgarian towns. It is a regional administrative centre.

History. The past of this town dates 23 centuries ago. As early as 3rd century BC the Celts built a settlement here with the name Dounonia (a high and fortified place). The Romans put into final shape the fortress with the purpose to guard the border road along the Danube and named it Bononia. Bulgarians named the town Bdin, and Byzantines - Vidini. In the meantime, it was ruined and built again many times. In 1003, Gavril Radomir - the son of the Bulgarian Tsar Samouil- stood the 8-months siege of the Byzantine Emperor Vassilii II. The town reached the greatest flourishing at the end of 14th century, when it became a capital of the Bdin Kingdom of Ivan Sratsimir (1360). It has been a port on the river and an important trade centre of goods not only for domestic needs, but also for transit trade with Vlashko (Romania), Madzharsko, Dubrovnik, etc. A gospel from 1360 says that it was written in the great and crowded town of Bdin. The rise of the town ceased in 1396 when the Turks invade it. Since then Bulgaria started counting the 482 dark years of Ottoman rule, the 127195 endless days of persecution, terror, human misery, assimilation and overt genocide. In those centuries, Vidin had been a great fortress and an important administrative centre. In 17th century, it was even called “the main town of Bulgaria". In 1794-1807, the town became a centre of the absolute Turkish military leader Osman Pazvantooglu, who declared himself an independent ruler of a considerable part of Bulgarian northwestern territories. During his rule construction on a large scale developed in the town - new streets were made; big administrative buildings rose, mosques and medreses (Islamic religious schools) were built, etc. Some of them are preserved even until now. Vidin gradually turned into an oriental town, especially after the settlement of some Turks after the defeat of the Turkish army near Vienna and the liberation of Serbia. Expression of desperate fight for national liberation was the famous Vidin Uprising of 1850 headed by Boiadzhi Stanko Voivoda. Gradually with development of shipping along the Danube and with the strengthening of the trade ties with Central Europe the standard of living of its inhabitants rose. Through Vidin Port Austrian Shipping Co. bought the production of the whole Western Bulgaria, incl. Macedonia. That went on until 1866 when neighbouring Lom was connected through a road with Sofia and replaced Vidin. After the Liberation (1877), the town changed its ethnical population in favour of the Bulgarians. During the Serbian-Bulgarian War after the Union of Eastern Roumelia with the Bulgarian Principality (1885), Vidin was successfully defended by Captain Atanas Uzunov. The town is a birthplace of the eminent Bulgarian social activist Naicho Tsanov and of world famous post-impressionist artist Jul Pasken (lulius Pinkas, 1885-1930), a brilliant representative of the Paris School of Art.

Landmarks. Baba Vida Fortress-Museum (tel. 094 22884) - it is named after an old legend - it is the biggest historical sight of Vidin and is the best-preserved medieval Bulgarian fortress in the country. It has been built in different historical periods from 3rd century until the end of 19th century. Most active were the construction works under the reign of Ivan Srazimir. The main body of the fortress of that time is preserved even today - the main turrets and bastions, as well as the inner surrounding wall that connects them. A museum exhibition is arranged in the fortress. There is a theatrical scene and dramatic performances with historical plots are played among the unique scenery. The Vidin fortified system, known also as the Turkish Kale, was built in 17th-18th century. Today in a comparatively good outlook are preserved the fortified wall facing the Danube, the northern sector of the fortress facing the town with its 4 gates - Stambolkapia, Pazarkapia, Nechirekapia and Florentinkapia. The system has the form of a semi-circle seesaw line of 1800 m diameter, touching the Danube River. Seen from the land the fortification consists of a moat and a ground rampart, whose corners are formed by 8 stone 5-angle bastions. With the construction of the Kale and including the Baba Vida Fortress as a main citadel in the common defensive system, in the second half of 18th century Vidin became a first-class key military point along the Danube. The Town Historical Museum is one of the richest and best-arranged museums in the country. It is housed in two buildings - in the former Turkish Konak (police office) from 18th century are arranged the Archaeology, Revival Period and National Liberation Movement sections, and the Ethnographic section is placed in the Krustatata Kazarma (barracks building like a crest) - an original architectural monument from the end 18th century. There is also the Mausoleum of the first Bulgarian Ekzarh Antim I. The library of Osman Pazvantooglu (from about 1800, a monumental construction with original oriental architecture and woodcarving). The St. Pantaleimon Church from 1634 is the most precious monument of Bulgarian architecture and art in the town from the age of Turkish rule. The St. Petka Church from 1633. The St. Dimitur Cathedral. The building of the military club, in which the Town Art Gallery is housed, the Teketo (Islamic monastery) Saldahin Baba, Hadzhi Angel's House, the Synagogue and many other interesting cultural and historic monuments. There is a Theatre of Drama in Vidin, too.

Accommodation. Military Club Hotel (15, Baba Vida Street). Rovno Hotel. Bononia Hotel. Tourist House (3, Iskra Street; 300 m from the railway station and 200 m from the port). There are 90 beds in 6 suites and in 2-bed, 3-bed and 4-bed rooms. The Danube Camping (7 km to the northeast of the town and 3 km from the village of Zlaten Rog) with fourteen 2-bed and two 6-bed pile bungalows along the banks of the Danube River. There is a regular bus transport from Vidin. Reservations can be done at Bononia Tourist Association (see below). Boats for sports and water tourism are offered against payment. There are a lot of interesting restaurants and entertainment sites in Vidin, but the most original one is in the former warehouse of the traders from Dubrovnic in the centre of the town.

Tourist information. At the hotels, at the Tourist House and at Bononia Tourist Association (3, Edelvais Street, tel.: 094 23828, 23206).

Transport. Two kinds of transport connect the town to the rest of the world - road and railway. There is regular bus transport to Sofia, Montana, Lom, Vratsa, Belogradchik and many other smaller settlements in the region. Telephone of the bus station - 094 23179. The railway station (tel.: 094 23184) is the final one on the railway line Mezdra -Vratsa - Vidin (Lom) and through the railway station Mezdra it is connected with the railway system of the country. There is also a new river station (since 1992 there is regular passengers transport from Bulgaria) and in the northern part of the town operates a ferry port (tel.: 094 24979), through which an extremely important ferry connection with Kalafat (Romania) is established. It serves a considerable part of the tourists’ stream to and from Bulgaria. There is a town bus transport in Vidin as well.

Surrounding areas. The Danube, a large European river (a border between Bulgaria and Romania) runs past the town, which is situated on its right bank. It offers wonderful opportunities for rest, sports, fishing, water tourism and many other activities. There is a big water tourist base in the northern suburbs of the town. Excursions along the river can be done with small entertainment ships, hired at the river station. The Danube is an exceptional natural wealth, which shall be used by the future generations of the ancient town. Ratsiaria is the name of the ancient Roman town near the village of Archar, 27 km to the southeast of Vidin near the Danube River. Its remains are 2 km to the west of the village. During the reign of Emperor Aurelian the town became a capital of the province Dakia Ripenzis and took the name Ulpia Ratsiaria. It was a rich and crowded town. The masterpieces of its goldsmiths made it famous in the whole empire. In 447, the Huns devastated the town, but it rose again to be ruined in 586, this time forever. There is a regular bus transport from Vidin, as well as from Lom. The Bozhouritsa Park is situated between the rivers Milchina and Vidbol, 18 km to the southwest of the town. There is a dam lake with opportunities for water sports, fishing, sun bathing and other activities. There is a chalet in the park with the same name, which has 24 beds in 2-bed, 3-bed and 5-bed rooms and 10 beds in 2-bed bungalows. For reservations: telephone 266 through the post office in the village of Sinagovtsi or through Bononia Tourist Association.

Kozlodui (top)
Intro:
The town of Kozlodoui (14 286 inhabitants; 40 meters above the sea level) is situated by the river Danube, opposite the second biggest island with the same name.

Full text:
It is 196 km north of Sofia, 42 east of Lom, 29 km west of Oryahovo, 15 km northwest of Mizia and 80 km north of Vratsa. It is a sacred historical town to all Bulgarians and the country's heart of energy production.

History. At first the settlement was spread over 3 km west of the river Ogosta in the area of Chetate (in Romanian - fortress). There are two versions of the origin of its name: the first comes from the Turkish Kozludere (a low gully), and the second - from the Latin meaning of Kozlodoui - "a corner of the ice blocks" - as sometimes in winter ice blocks pile up at this part of the river. It is not known for sure when the settlement has moved to its present place. Most probably, it happened at the time of the huge flood of Danube and Ogosta in 1840. Near the town, east of the area Magoura Petra, the remains of the Roman fortification Reganium can be seen and between Kozlodoui and Hairedin are preserved parts of the Hairedin defence trench (7th-8th century). In documents from 17th century, the settlement is mentioned under the name of Kotosluk. Kaikchii (boatmen) from the village drew boats and vessels with ropes upstream. The traveller Domenico Sestini (1780) recorded the well-developed silkworm breeding and leather processing with the herb sumac. In terms of history, Kozlodoui is mostly connected to the name of the immortal poet and revolutionary Hristo Botev. On the 17th (29th old calendar style) May 1876, 200 Bulgarian men disembarked the Austro-Hungarian steamer Radetski at the shore of Kozlodoui led by their voivoda Hristo Botev. They embarked on the steamer at different Romanian ports as civil travellers. Then they got off the ship (forcing the captain to stop it at the isolated area of the Bulgarian river bank) as a well-organized revolutionary detachment of volunteers, dressed in their rebel uniforms, going to help the Bulgaria which was already burning. Stepping onto their native land the rebels fell on knees and kissed it. From here started their heroic epic whose summit was later in the week on the ridge of the Vratsa Balkan. Passing through the whole of Northern Bulgaria in ceaseless fighting, under the pursuit of the Turks, the detachment entered into a decisive battle against the dozen times outnumbered enemy around Mt. Okolchitsa. There on 2nd June (old calendar style) 1876 the Voivoda was shot, the detachment was defeated and scattered into small groups around the Balkan. 130 men died, 68 were captured and sent on penal servitude and only eight escaped. The prophetic words of Botev came true: "He, who perishes in a battle for freedom, does not die!" After the liberation of Kozlodoui in 1877, many settlers came into the town from other parts of the country and the Bulgarians became dominant within the ethnic profile of the town. In 1974, the first nuclear power station in Bulgaria and on the Balkan Peninsula was built here (it is only one so far).

Landmarks. 5 km northwest of the centre of the town, by the Danube River, is the well-arranged Botev Park. It was created in the place where in May 1876. Hristo Botev and his detachment disembarked onto the native land. There is a stone obelisk, erected in 1936 with the inscription "He does not die". The old stone cross put there after the Liberation is preserved. The initial letters H.B. are inscribed with evergreen cypresses on the opposite Krushovski Bair (Hill). This is the beginning of a 120-kilometre Botev alley following the path of Botev's detachment to Mt. Okolchitsa in the Vratsa Balkan. It is marked with 68 stone signs. Every year on 27th May on the shore of Kozlodoui thousands of people walk the trail (5-6 days) and reach Mt. Okolchitsa to take part in the national celebrations on 2nd June. Near the port, also in the same region, there is the Radetski Restaurant housing a museum in its west wing. Here is the Kozlodouiski Brian Chalet consisting of 2 buildings offering 40 beds in rooms with 2, 3, 5 and more beds. There is a bus line connecting the town and Botev Park. To the west of the port is the area of Kiler Bair, which is the beginning of the historic Kozlodoui Val (dyke), dated back to time of Khan Asparouh's state. It was built in the end of 7th century and is 32 km long. The dyke ends southwest of the Hairedin village. The highest preserved part of it is 2.60 m. A marked path along the riverbank (in the Botev Park) leads there.

Surrounding areas. The Danube River with opportunities for recreation, sports, tourism, and fishing. Kozlodoui Island - located just opposite the town and separated from it by a tributary about 200 m wide. The island is 7.5 km long and between 0.5 and 1.6 km wide. Its surface is 6.1 sq. km and is the second biggest Danube Island after Belene. It raises 3-4 m above the river. It is covered with river poplars and is a favourite hatching place of many birds - wild geese, wild ducks and others. It can be reached by boats against a low fee.

Accommodation. Refer to the section about the Botev Park.

Tourist information. At Radetski Tourist Association (13, Sofia Street; tel.: 0973 3505), at Radetski Hotel and at the chalet.

Transport. At present there is only bus transport connecting Kozlodoui with the rest of the country. There are regular bus lines to Lom, Vratsa, Oryahovo, Miziya and other smaller settlements in the region. There is a port, but so far, there is no regular passenger transport along Danube from Bulgaria. The closest railway station is the town of Miziya on the narrow-gauge railway road on the line Cherven Bryag - Oryahovo.

Oriahovo (top)
Intro:
The town of Oryahovo (7006 inhabitants, from 30 to 226 meters above sea level) is situated on the hills by the river Danube, not far away from the Ogosta and Skat estuaries.

Full text:
It is 190 km north-east of Sofia, 29 km and 71 km east of Kozlodoui and Lom, respectively, 74 km north of Vratsa, 14 km north-east of Miziya and 95 km west of Nikopol. It is one of the most picturesque Danube towns.

History. At the highest point on the Bulgarian shore of the Danube (226 m) existed as a settlement as far back as the Bronze Age. The Thracians have also left significant traces here. The ruins tell us about the town of Valeria and the Variana Fortress from the Roman time when the old Roman road to Constantinople passed through these lands. In the Middle Ages, in 9th-10th century, a Bulgarian town with a fortress emerged, which was a border post to stop the advance of the Avars, Franks and Magyars. For first time, the name of the town was mentioned in 1226 when the Magyar army passed through the Bulgarian settlement Orechov. It was many times destroyed to the grounds and rebuilt. In 1388, the settlement was conquered by the Turks, and in 1396 it suffered because of the battles between the Turks and the crusaders of the Hungarian Knyaz Sigizmund of Luxembourg during the advance of the Christian army in the direction of Nikopol. In 1444, the Polish-Hungarian Knyaz Vladisslav Yagelo (Varnenchik) succeeded in liberating it for a short time. Later, when the first Turnovo Uprising took place (1598) the Wallachian voivoda Michai Vityazul with his army fought here. In the Middle Ages the town was also called Vrhov, Orezov, Oreev, and in a Hungarian document it is reported as Oreshik. From the beginning of 18th century until 1888, its name was Rahovo, then Orehovo and finally today's Oryahovo. With the development of shipping along the Danube River in the end of 18th and 19th century, Oryahovo became rich. Despite the large number of Turks in the town, it kept alive the Bulgarian spirit. The Bulgarian population took an active part in the struggle for church and national independence. In 1857 a class school was opened, later a girls' school and a community centre. The local revolutionary committee founded in 1872 served the secret channel between Oryahovo and Becket for transporting weapons and revolutionary activists. Vassil Levski visited the town twice. In the winter of 1876, Oryahovo gave shelter to the apostles Panaiot Volov and Georgi Benkovski on their way to Panagyurishte revolutionary district. Stoian Zaimov, Ivanitsa Danchev, Nikola Obretenov, Nikola Slavkov had stayed in the town, as well. The people from Oryahovo took part in the struggle of Bulgarian volunteers during the Russian-Turkish War (1877-1878). The town was liberated on 20 November 1877 after three days of heavy fighting.

Landmarks. The Town Museum of History in the centre (Levski Street). The park of Bulgarian-Romanian Friendship is located in the eastern part of the town, above the Danube River. It was founded in 1959-1960 and there is the famous Statue of Liberty made by the sculptor Arnoldo Tsoki in 1882 in memoriam of the Romanian soldiers who died for the liberation of Bulgaria from Ottoman rule. The Loven Dom Park is the highest point in the centre of Oryahovo, from where there is an open view to the Danube shore and the opposite Romanian settlement Becket. Diko Iliev House-Museum (9th November Street; in the eastern part of the town), displays the environment in which one of the greatest musicians, conductors and composers, lived (1895-1985). He composed lots of popular Bulgarian hora ("horo" - folk dance) and marches for a brass orchestra. Emblematic are the Dounavsko Horo, Severnyashko Horo, Pravo Horo, etc. In the St. Georgi Church, dating back to 1837 church plate from 17th century and old print church books brought from Russia are preserved. It is situated in the centre near the bus station.

Accommodation. Asparouh Hotel (9, Asparouh Street) with 4 double rooms. Dounav Hotel (6, Alleya na Mira Street). Seikov Hotel (34, Ivan Vazov Street). Sladki Mechti Hotel-Tavern. Kamuka Hotel.

Tourist information. At the hotels and at the Tourist Association.

Transport. Bus and railway transport. There are regular bus lines to Vratsa, Pleven, Kozlodoui, Knezha, Byala Slatina and other smaller settlements in the region. The bus station (tel.: 09171 2307, 3147) is located in the centre of the town, next to St. Georgi Church. Oryahovo is the last station of the railroad line Cherven Bryag-Oryahovo, through which it is connected with the railway system of the country. The railway station (3, Dragomanska Street) is in the northern end of the town, on the shore of the Danube. Through the port (near the railway station tel.: 09171 3168) the town is connected with other Bulgarian ports on the Danube River.

Surrounding areas. The remains of Kamuka Fortress are around 1.5 km west of Oryahovo (the local people call it Kaleto). The fortress, built in 12th century is a part of the defence system along the north border of the Bulgarian State. It had an irregular form and small size. It was forever demolished in 16th century. The 9-metre corner guard turret that was a 2-storied one is comparatively well preserved. The building is typical Old Bulgarian style and is a very stable -crushed stones, white mortar and timber beam levelling the brickwork. The name Kamuka comes from its solidity ("kamuk" -stone). An asphalt road leads here. It would take 30 minutes walk from the centre of the town. 5 km east of the town (along the road to Nikopol) there is the Esperanto Island covered with thick foliage. On the shore opposite, it is the resort zone of the town - a place for rest with a beach, park and a restaurant. The area is called Esperanto because here in 1937 the Esperanto World Congress took place. There is a regular bus transport from the town. 22 km southeast is the village of Ostrov (on the bank of the Danube). South of the village starts the Ostrovski Val (dyke) from the period of the Asparouch State. It presents a deep terraced defence system spreading to the west. Its length is 64 km and it ends between the villages Gabare and Tlachene. The Danube River in the area of Oryahovo offers wonderful opportunities for rest, sun bathing, sports, water tourism, fishing and many other activities. The river here is especially beautiful because of the high and steep Bulgarian shore.

Montana (top)
Intro:
The town of Montana (49 368 inhabitants; 160 meters above the sea level) is situated on the river Ogosta immediately next to the dam with the same name.

Full text:
It is 113 km north of Sofia, 24 km northeast of Berkovitsa, 102 km south-east of Vidin, 41 km northwest of Vratsa and 49 km south of Lom. It is the biggest transport crossroad of Northwestern Bulgaria. It is a regional administrative centre.

History. It is a successor of the Roman fortress settlement Castra ad Montanenzium (fortress in the mountain) or known also as Montana. After archeological excavations, it was proved that the long history of the settlement began on the Kalebair ridge, on the left bank of Ogosta River. The strategic position of a crossroad of important roads and the carst spring (now captured) determined the position of the Roman town. In 3rd century, it was the most significant town in the province of Dakia under the name of Ripenziz. It was destroyed by the Barbarians. In the Middle Ages it was small insignificant settlement. During Turkish rule, it was mentioned for first time under the name of Koutlovitsa (a name of Slavic origin) in a document of 1575. The Liberation (1878) found it with the name of Golyama Koutlovitsa (Ogosta River separated it from Malka Kutlovitsa) and with less than 1000 inhabitants. Until 1891 when it was officially declared a town, it bore this name. Then the town was given the name of Ferdinand, after the name of the Prince (later on Tsar). At that time, it was a craft centre and a major cattle market. Tradesmen from all over the country as well as from abroad - from Turkey, Romania, Serbia participated in the annual fair. The building of the railway line Boichinovtsi-Berkovitsa (1916) which then Passed through Ferdinand contributed much to the rapid flourishing of the town. After World War I, many refugees from Tsaribrod and Bossilevgrad areas settled here. In 1945, the town was renamed to Mihailovgrad, and in 1993 again, after about 20 centuries, it took the name of Montana.

Landmarks: The Town Museum (tel.: 096 22489). There is a Theatre of Drama as well.

Accommodation. Zhitomir Hotel Complex (3-star, 1, Zheravitsa Square). Montana Tourist Hostel (in the park zone, near Slaveikov Square. It offers 34 beds in rooms with 3, 4, 5 and more beds). The bus and railway stations are 1 km away.

Tourist information - at the Montana Tourist Association - 41, 3rd Mart Street; tel.: 096 25251, 20214 as well as at the Tourist Hostel.

Transport. Bus and railway transport are the two types of transport connecting the town with the rest of the country. The bus transport is the most important having in mind the town's position and the many roads meeting or starting from here. There are regular buses to Sofia, Lom, Vidin, Belogradchik, Chiprovtsi, Berkovitsa, Vratsa, Pleven, as well as regular connections with almost all smaller settlements in the region. The bus station (tel.: 096 23454) and the railway station (tel.: 096 23846) are near to each other. Montana is a transitional railway station on the line Boichinovtsi-Berkovitsa through which it connects with the national railway system. Regular bus transport functions in the town.

Surrounding areas. Immediately south of the town there is the historic Kale Bair with archaeological excavations of the Roman fortress Castra ad Montanezium (Montana). Montana Dam (immediately south of the town) has been turned into a wonderful place for rest, sports, water tourism and fishing. Many villas, rest homes, catering establishments are built here and there is a regular bus transport.

Vratsa (top)
Intro:
The town of Vratsa (69 423 inhabitants; 380 m above sea level) is situated along the two banks of Leva River, in the northern foots of the majestic Vrachanski Balkan.

Full text:
It is 116 km north of Sofia, 41 km south-east of Montana, 80 km and 74 km south of Kozlodoui and Oryahovo, respectively, 57 km and 17 km north-west of Botevgrad and Mezdra, respectively. Vratsa is the largest town in Northwestern Bulgaria. Its nature, history and culture form a unique combination. It is a regional administrative centre.

History. South of the town is the fantastic gorge of Leva River, coming out of the Vrachanska Mountain, which is known since a lot of time ago as Vratsata. In the 6th century, there was a fortress here according to the Byzantine chronicler Prokopii. Later the medieval Bulgarian settlement Vratitsa emerged in this area. In the beginning of the Ottoman invasion, Radan Voivoda successfully defend the area for quite a long time, taking advantage of the natural fortifications and the strong walls of the existing fortress. During the Turkish rule, Vratsa was turned into a garrison settlement and was many times ruined and recovered At first, the Wallachian ruler- Mihai Vityaz- ruined the town is 1596. Later on (in the beginning of 19th century), during the rule of Osman Pazvantooglu, the town served as a battlefield for the troops of the Vidin feudal and the Sultan. At the end of the 18th and particularly during the 19th century, Vratsa grew into a big artisanship, trade and administrative centre. Its products - aba manufacturing (a coarse homespun woollen cloth and upper men's garment made of it), leather products and goldsmith - reached Lyon, Vienna, Bucharest and Tsarigrad. At mid-19th century, the town already had 2500 houses. All these influenced the spirit of the town. Cathedrals, schools and beautiful houses were built at that time. Sofronii Vrachanski worked and lived in the town. Other natives of Vratsa are the prominent Bulgarians Ivan Zambin, the first Bulgarian diplomat in Russia, Dimitur Hadzhitoshev, famous political leader killed by the Turks in 1827, etc. The town was liberated from the Turkish Rule on 9th November 1877. With the decline of the crafts after the Liberation Vratsa lost its significance. After the construction of Sofia - Mezdra - Varna railway line, the towns of Mezdra and Roman took off some of the town's trade and market functions. Later on, when the railway line Mezdra - Vratsa - Lom was completed (1913) and a continuation of the railway from Broussartsi to Vidin was finished (1923), Vratsa partially regained its position.

Landmarks: The Town Museum of History (at the central Hristo Botev Square, tel.: 092 20373) is famous for its extremely valuable golden Thracian treasuries, its original samples of the well-known Vratsa goldsmith school and numerous exhibits and a lot of information about the life and last days of the poet and revolutionary Hristo Botev. There is an impressive monument of the poet in the central town square named after him. Immediately behind it, is the restored residential and defence turret of the Kurtpashovs'. 150 meters northwest is located the other turret, constructed at the same time. They have to serve the same purpose, namely the turret of the Mezhchiis'. The Revival-Ethnographic Complex (General Leonov Street; tel.: 092 20209) includes the Hadzhitoshevs' House (the most valuable and interesting), the house of Grigoriya Naidenov- member of the local revolutionary committee and a volunteer, the house of Ivan Zambin, The Ascension Church dating back to 18th century, which gave shelter to Levski, R R. Slaveikov and other revolutionaries and enlighteners. In addition, here is the oldest school in the town - The Ascension School (1822). There is a bust-monument of Vassil Levski in front of the complex. The Nikola Voivodov Complex (also in the centre of the town) includes the native house of Voivodov and the house-museum of the typical Vratsa urban traditions and style from the very beginning of the 20th century. In addition, here is the house of Gen. Kiril Botev, (Ivanka Boteva Street), where the brother of Hristo Botev together with their mother lived from 1900 to 1903. The native house of Prof. Andrei Nikolov (Andrei Nikolov Street; below the Tourist House) - the patriarch of the Bulgarian sculpture, houses a permanent exhibition of his masterpieces. The beautiful Hristo Botev Tourist House, situated on the Kaleto Hill was built in the period 1926-1931 with donations from the tourists of Vratsa. Steep stone stairs lead to the house and there is a round-routing asphalt road. In the proximity with the Tourist House is the Monument of The Herald of Liberty. At this place, that one can hear each Sunday the sounds of a battle horn reproducing the signal the Russian soldier, Petlak the Cossack, Who had thus announced the liberation of the town on 9th November 1877. At about 100 meters behind the monument there is a high white-stone obelisk bearing the names of the volunteers from the region of Vratsa who took part in the war. The southern part of the town, where the Leva River leaves the Vratsata Gorge, houses the old artisanship area - the Kemera Quarter. All the old shops and stores are currently under restoration. Some of them are already refurbished and may be visited. The Town Art Gallery has a rich collection of the works of famous artists and sculptors, among which one can spot the names of Andrei Nikolov, St. Ivanov, Tseno Todorov, Ivan Funev, Pencho Georgiev, etc.

Accommodation: Hemus Hotel (1, Hristo Botev Sq.). Tourist Hotel, also known as the Tourist House (1, Leva River Street; in the southern part of the town, on the way to the Vratsata Gorge), offering 150 beds in 3 suites and in single and double rooms. DNA Hotel (Mito Rozov Street). Alpine House in the Vratsata Gorge, 1 km south of the Tourist House.

Tourist information is available at the hotels and mostly at the Tourist House. Transport. Vratsa connects to the villages and towns within the region and throughout the country by bus and railway transport. There are regular bus lines to Sofia, Montana, Kozlodoui, Oryahovo, Mezdra (at short intervals), as well as to the smaller villages, scattered around the town. The bus station is located on the way between the railway station and the centre of the town. Vratsa is an important railway station along the railway route Mezdra - Boichinovtsi - Broussartsi - Vidin (Lom). The town connects to the national railway network through the railway station of Mezdra. The railway station (tel.: 092 24415) is located in the northeastern part of the town. There is regular bus transport within the town.

Surrounding areas. Hristo Botev National Park in the area of Okolchitsa (located about 20 kilometers southeast of the town, in the very heart of Vrachanski Balkan). In the beginning of June 1876 this place witnessed the last drama that put an end to the heroic epic of the detachment of Hristo Botev. The detachments's voivoda (leader), as well as the majority of his men, were killed and the rest of them were either caught or scattered in the Balkan. The heart of one of the greatest and most ingenious Bulgarians, who left to the generations the example of his heroic life, his unsurpassed political journalism and some 20 poems, which are a majestic peak in Bulgarian poetry, ceased beating. Moreover, he was just 28 years old... In 1937-1938 a 35-meter monument with a volunteer's crest was erected at Mt. Okolchitsa (it can be seen from a long distance far away in the plain and the mountain) to honour the heroism of Botev and his detachment forever. In the valley of Yolkovitsa, on a natural crag the place of death of the poet and revolutionary is marked. At a distance of 300 meters away from this natural monument is located the Okolchitsa Chalet (a complex of 5 panel bungalows with a restaurant, 84 beds in rooms of 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 beds, one can make a reservation in the Tourist House in Vratsa). Each year on 2nd June the area hosts national celebrations in honour of Botev and all those who fought and gave their lives for Bulgarian freedom. All participants in the national tourist march along the Botev's trail from the Kozlodoui bank on The Danube River arrive on the day before the celebrations and a large campus town is erected. Besides the Botev's trail, this is the final destination of many other marked hiking tracks. During the summer, there is a regular bus transport from Vratsa, and for the rest of the year - regular bus transport is provided to the village of Chelopek, and there are 8 kilometers more to the area. In about 3-4 hours, one can reach the place along a marked hiking track starting from the town and passing close to the interesting waterfall of Skaklya. The Ledenika Cave is also situated in the Vrachanski Balkan, south-west of the town (16 km asphalt road and approximately 2.30 hours on foot along a marked tourist track). This is one of the most interesting Bulgarian caves, which is electrified. There are several halls with wonderful formations, the most impressive being the Concert hall (60 m long, 46 m wide and 22.7 m high) which has a fantastic acoustics. It has hosted many concerts; the entry fee is just a symbolic one. Next to the cave, there is a tourist settlement. Ledenika Chalet (850 m above sea level, 86 beds in 2 suites and rooms of 2, 4, 5, and 6 beds) is nearby, too. In the direction to the settlement, there is also an open-chair lift, its initial station being between the town of Vratsa and the village of Zgorigrad, which is located immediately to the south end of Vratsata Gorge. There is regular bus transport to the lift. Vratsata - the fantastic gorge of the Leva River, immediately to the south of the town. Its western rocky massif, full of miraculous cliffs, some of them reaching 350 meters height is extremely impressive. The whole region is karst (as well as the entire Vrachanska Mountain) and is a paradise for the rock climbers. There are dozens of different categories of climbing routes. The area hosts a large and nice Alpine House and there are many nice meadows scattered along the river, suitable for camping. Vratsata attracts thousands of admirers of nature both from Bulgaria and abroad. From the centre of the town, the place can be reached within half an hour on foot. Another possibility to go there is to use the bus transport to the village of Zgorigrad, located on the other side of the gorge. The Botev Alley, 120 km long, from Kozlodoui to Okolchitsa, reproduces exactly the route of Botev's detachment with all the historic sights along the trail. The closest of these historic landmarks are the Botev meadow on the Veslets Hill, where the detachment had to overnight, and Milin Kamuk, where the detachment fought a severe all day long battle on 30th May and gave 15 victims, among which the colour-bearer -Nikola Simov (Kourouto). There are monuments erected on both places. One can reach these spots on foot or using the regular bus transport to the village of Kostelevo (for Botev meadow) and to the villages of Mramoren and Banitsa (for Milin Kamuk). Vratsa is an important and frequently used departure point for hiking tracks round the beautiful and glorious Vrachanski Balkan, which is part of Western Stara Planina Mountain (refer to the Stara Planina Mountain related chapter herein).

Mezdra (top)
Intro:
The town of Mezdra (13 502 inhabitants; 230 m above sea level) is spread out amphitheatrically along the left bank of the Iskar River where it exits the Balkan Iskar Gorge.

Full text:
It is located 100 km northeast of Sofia, 58 km and 17 km southeast of Montana and Vratsa, respectively, 40 km north-west of Botevgrad. This is the biggest railway cross-section in Northwestern Bulgaria and one of the most important for the whole country.

History. Mezdra is a successor of ancient culture. Remains from the Stone-Copper Age and the Thracian period were found there. During Roman domination, there was a big town with a castle on the rocks up above the river Iskar (remains of it can be seen south of the railway station, in the Kaleto area). It protected the roads to Sofia, Vratsa and Montana. The town declined with the collapse of the Roman Empire. During the Bulgarian Middle Ages, the settlement recovered, but only to be burnt to ashes in 1393, when the Ottoman hordes devastated the area. A document dating back to the 15th century marked the place as "Mezra Torbaritsa, meaning an empty bag". The life in the settlement revived during the 18th century, yet it remained small and insignificant. Immediately after the Liberation (1878), there were only about twenty houses in Mezdra totalling 86 inhabitants. When the railway line from Sofia to Varna was constructed in 1897, the village started its rapid development, while with the construction of the railway Mezdra – Vratsa- Lom (Vidin) during the period 1913-1923, it turned into an important distribution point for this part of the country. The village was proclaimed a town in 1950.

Landmarks. The Kaleto Fortress - south of the railway station, next to the new reinforced concrete bridge. A flat terrace high on the rocks houses the remains of a fortress with a well-preserved 5-6 meter wall. Archaeologists found out that the foundations of the fortress are of Roman origin, while the wall on the foundation dates back to the Old Bulgarian period. These are the best-preserved remains in the area. The fortress is within 15 minutes walk from the centre of Mezdra. The Art Gallery in the town houses a rich collection of masterpieces of art, among which one can see some original sculptures of Prof. Ivan Funev.

Accommodation. Rodina Hotel (26, Hristo Botev Street).

Tourist intormation is available at the hotel.

Transport. The town has well-developed bus and especially railway connections. There are bus lines to Vratsa (most frequent and regular), Botevgrad, Montana, Vurshets and many smaller villages within the area. The telephone number of the bus station is 0910 2501. Being a very big railway station, dozens of trains pass each day through Mezdra to and from Sofia, Varna, Rousse, Gorna Oryahovitsa, Vratsa, Vidin, Lom, etc. The railway station is big and modern (tel.: 0910 2551).

Surrounding areas. The Iskar Gorge with its entire natural, historic and cultural landmarks (refer to the Iskar Gorge related chapter herein). Hristo Botev National Park is another beautiful place suitable for recreation in the area of Mt. Okolchitsa, approximately 20 km south-west of Mezdra in the Vrachanski Balkan. There is no direct transport link from the town to park (refer to the Vratsa related chapter herein). The Prophet Iliya Stroupesh Monastery is a cultural monument of national significance. It dates back to the 14th century, when there was a small church at the same place, the mural paintings of which are well preserved and it has survived in the monastery yard. In the period of 1851-1857, the presently existing three-storied monastery building was erected. The monastery provided shelter to Vassil Levski, Nikola Obretenov, Mito Ankov and many others. In the old times, the monastery was a gathering place for a big cattle auction marketplace on the religious holiday of Saint Iliya that is why the monastery is also known under the name of Turzhishki (Auction place Monastery). One can reach it from Strupets railway station, where all passenger trains have a stop and there is 1 km further walk. There is a road to the monastery as well.

Botevgrad (top)
Intro:
The town of Botevgrad (23 516 inhabitants; 350 m above sea level) is situated in the valley of the same name. It lies in north foothills of the eastern parts of the Western Stara Pianina along the two banks of Stara Reka River.

Full text:
It is 62 km northeast of Sofia, 57 km and 40 km south-east of Vratsa and Mezdra, respectively 25 km north-west of Etropole, and 39 km south-west of Yablanitsa.

History. Botevgrad is a successor of the medieval Bulgarian town of Zelin, which was located 3 km away from today's town. During the Turkish rule, the village was known by the name of Samoundzhievo, famous with its sweet smelling loaves (samouns) of bread. In 1826 in a private house in this village, the first school was opened and 20 years later, a school building was constructed. Later on, a church and a clock tower were erected. In 1866, after the road from Rouschuk (Rousse) to Sofia was moved from the Etropole Gorge to Arabakonak Gorge, the Rouschuk ruler Midhat Pasha issued an order, proclaiming the small village a town. It was given the name of Orhanie after the name of Sultan Orhan. The town served the purpose of guarding and facilitating the travellers passing along the new road. The town was built up following a civil engineering plan, characterised by chessboard-like crossing streets and houses with spacious yards. The town rapidly grew up and the Hungarian traveller, Felix Kanits who visited it in 1871, wrote that it was the centre of a region, incorporating 25 villages, while its square was it architectural centre and glory. The same year Vassil Levski founded a revolutionary committee, while in the next year the town became a district centre of the Domestic Revolutionary Organisation. During the Russian-Turkish War of Liberation (1877-1878), severe battles were held close to it and the town was badly destroyed. It was liberated on 29th November 1877. At that time, it had only 2297 inhabitants. Its present name (named after the poet and revolutionary Hristo Botev) was suggested L the prominent Bulgarian scientist - Prof. Assen Zlatarov. It is the native town of the poet Stamen Panchev and of our well-known linguist, expert in Slavonic languages and ethnographer, Prof. St. Romanski.

Landmarks. The Town Museum of History. Well-preserved are the house, hosting the Old School, the Ascension Church dating back to 1864, the Community Cultural Centre from 1883, the Clock Tower - a symbol of the town, built up at the central square by master Vouno Markov from the village of Vrachesh in 1866. The town has a number of monuments - to Hristo Botev, to the Russian soldiers, killed in the Russian-Turkish War of Liberation, to the Unknown Soldier, to Granny Koina (heroic mother), to the poet Stamen Panchev.

Accommodation: Botevgrad Hotel (79, 3rd March Blvd.). Sinyo Nebe Hotel.

Tourist information is available at the hotels, at the Council on Tourism (2140 Botevgrad, tel.: 0723 6128), and at Venets Tourist Association (tel.: 0723 3301).

Transport. Only bus transport is available in the town. It is used to link it to the villages and towns in the region and countrywide. Southeast of the town, the Hemus motorway passes from Sofia to Varna, which facilitates and speeds up large part of its bus communications. There are regular bus lines to Sofia (every hour), Etropole, Yablanitsa, Mezdra, Loukovit, etc. The bus station can be reached at tel.: 0723 3346.

Surrounding areas. Zelin Resort - 4 km southeast of the town, scattered amidst nice deciduous forests. The monastery "Birth of the Son of God the Holy Virgin" is situated in its vicinity. The resort is a starting point of the route to the Roudinata Chalet (2-3 hours hike along a marked track) within the Bilo Massif pf the Western Stara Pianina Mountain. There is regular bus transport from the town to the resort. 23 km north of Botevgrad and 3 km away from the village of Bozhenitsa is situated the Bozhenishki Urvich - this is a nationally significant monument of culture. Remains of an early Byzantine fortress and ruins of a rock church and dwelling, where the famous Bozheniski Inscription of Sevast Ognyan was found are well preserved in this area. The village of Skravena is 6 km north-west of the town and the most interesting monument there is the church-monument, which until recently kept the bones of the 10 Botev's rebels, killed at Rashov Dol (now the bones are kept in a charnel-house in the centre of the village, opposite the town-hall), and the house of the rebel Miko Stoyanov. The village is a starting point to the K & N Mukanski Chalet up at the Lakavitsa Hill (6 km -1.30 hours walk along a marked truck road). There is regular bus transport. The village of Vrachesh lies at the northern foots of Mt. Mourgash, 3 km south-west of the town. It has ancient history. The settlement has existed there since the 13th- 14th century, known as Cheshkovitsa. Today's name of the village dates back to 1430. There are some remains of an ancient and medieval fortress. The house of T. Kamitlyarski - giving shelter to the headquarters of General Gurko - is also preserved, 4 km south-west of the village is situated the St. St. Forty Martyrs Monastery and to the south, on the Bebresh River is situated the Bebresh Dam - the new artificial lake and the area is turned into a recreational zone. There is a regular bus transport from the town to the village. 11 km east of Botevgrad is the small town of Pravets, birthplace of Todor Zhivkov - head of state for quite a long time. Close to the town, there is a large artificial lake, turned into a wonderful place for recreation, sports and entertainment. There is the Pravets Hotel as well as the famous attraction restaurant Shatrata (The Marquee). The original marquee-cover was a present by the ex-shah of Iran Reza Pahlavi.

Etropole (top)
Intro:
The town of Etropole (12 386 inhabitants; 580 m above sea level) is situated at the northern foothills of Etropolska Mountain (the most eastern part of Western Stara Planina), along the two banks of the Malki Iskar River.

Full text:
It is 87 km north-east of Sofia, 25 km south-east of Botevgrad, 28 km south of Yablanitsa, 43 km south-west of Teteven and 27 km north-west of Zlatitsa.

History. There was a Thracian and later on a Roman settlement in the area of the nowadays town, the main occupation of its inhabitants being ore mining. In the beginning of 9th century, the settlement was within the territory of the Bulgarian State. Thanks to the ore mining it turned into a flourishing settlement in 16th and 17th century (iron, silver and gold were mined). The crafts related thereto such as blacksmith, goldsmith, manufacture of knives, weapons, agricultural tools, etc., were also well developed. Some ore-miners came to this place from the Saxon area, Serbia and Bosna (the family names of the Alemans, Avramovs and Bohorovs date back to that period). Coins were minted in Etropole during 17th century. The village was destroyed by a devastating earthquake in 1749, but the bright highlander quickly restored it. Then the year of 1791 came, when the town was ruined 6 times by the kurdzhalii (Turkish brigands). It was once again recovered and took its deserved place in the countrywide cultural and national uplift during the Revival. A manuscript dating back to 1820 named it "the glorious town of Etropolia". Today's name of the town probably has a Thracian origin - "etr" meaning "water", i.e. a water field ("pole" - field). Together with the old church in 1710, a town tower (turned into a clock tower in 1821) was erected, while in 1871 a community cultural centre was built. There the famous Etropole's literary school was established and the proximity of the Etropole Monastery, only 5 km away from the town, contributed to its sustained development. In 1870, Levski founded a secret revolutionary committee, headed by Todor Peev, one of the brightest leaders of the Revival. The natives of Etropole took part in Rakovski's Legiya (legion), in the detachments of Hadzhi Dimitur and Stefan Karadzha, of Panayot Hitov, Hristo Makedonski, Hristo Botev. Etropole was liberated on 24th November 1877 by the troops of Gen. Gourko. After the Liberation, the town declined. It gradually developed as a tourist centre, taking advantage of the favourable natural resources facilitating this development.

Landmarks. The Town Museum of History (107, Rouski Blvd., tel.: 0720 2124, working hours: 8.30 a.m. - 12.00 p.m. and 1.30 p.m. -5.00 p.m.). St. Archangel Mihail Church (in the centre of the town, located at Malki Pazar Square) was first mentioned in 1600, but the present building dates back to 1837, famous for its iconostasis of fine walnut woodcarving. Interesting as well is the Jewish Tower dating back to 14th century and the 20 meters high Defence Turret (Rouski Blvd.). St. Georgi church (10, Hristo Botev Street) was erected in the middle of 17th century on the foundations fan old medieval church, completely ruined during the attacks of the kurdzhalii. It was completely built of river stones and pebbles. Twenty-five Revival houses attract the visitors' attention. Beautifully scattered along the river of Malki Iskar, they are distinguished for their exuberant and rich wood-carved ceilings, doors, cupboards, hearth places, columns, etc. The walls are whitewashed and colourfully wood-framed. The most typical houses are the Pavelponchov's, the Hadzhigrigorov's, the Vulchev's, and the Arnaoudov's houses. Memorial monument to the soldiers and volunteers killed during the wars, as well as many other monuments. Etropole is famous with its unique annually held festivities of the men, living in the houses of their parents-in-law.

Accommodation: Etropol Hotel (Central Square). Etropole Hotel (at the street above the bus station, offering 120 beds, restaurant, bar, discotheque). Staroplaninets Tourist House (in the Lozeto area, 15 minutes away from the bus station) offers 50 beds in rooms of 2, 4, 5 and 9 beds. The Bash Samokov Tourist Hostel (7 km to the right along the road to Zlatitsa) has 40 beds in rooms of 2, 3, 4 and more beds.

Tourist information is available at the hotels, the Tourist House and at Staroplaninski Tourist Association (located in the building of the public forestry, PO.Box 53, tel.: 0720 3506).

Transport. Bus transport is the only available. There are regular bus lines to Sofia, Botevgrad, Pravets, Yablanitsa, Loukovit, etc. The bus station (tel.: 0720 2300) is situated at the southeastern end of the town.

Surrounding areas. St. Trinity Etropole Monastery (Varovitets) is 5 km east of the town on the road to the village of Ribaritsa and the summer resort of Yamna. It was built back in 1158. During the Turkish rule, it was the most significant scholar centre in the lands lying north of the Balkan. At the end of 16th and during 17th century, the Etropole Literary School was established in Etropole and the nearby monastery. Its major representatives are the monk Danail Etropolski, the priest Rafail, Daskal Koyo (Kolyo the Teacher), Gramatik Boicho, Deacon Yoan, Vasilii Sofianin. The unique "Fourfold Gospel" was created here far back in the 1585 and is still well preserved nowadays. Other remarkable manuscripts are the "Fourfold Gospel" from 15th century, the "Apostle" (16th century), "Oktoih and Tipik" (16th-17th century), the "Prologue of Danail" (1620). Varovitets monks drafted the manuscript on the life of Yoan Rilski, telling the story of the solemn transfer of the holy bones of the saint from Turnovo to the Rila Monastery in 1469. The treasury of the monastery holds two ancient silver crests with inscriptions, on one of which the year 1492 is marked. In addition, the silver ark is very interesting. The monastery gave shelter to our national apostle Vassil Levski. One can reach the monastery taking the bus in the direction of Yamna summer resort. The Thracian settlement (5th-4th century BC) - its ruins were found on the isolated hill of Bogotvor, close to the town. It has about a dozen of sepulchral mounds. Chernigrad is the place of the remains from a famous Thracian fortress (this name of the area was given later). The ruins are situated east of the town on the hill between the villages of Lopyan, Broussen, Cherni Vit and Yamna. One can reach the sight by taking the bus to Yamna village and after that continuing on foot. Ruins of a medieval fortress are found on the St. Atanas Hill, very close to the town. The summer resort and the village of Yamna (approximately 15 km northeast of the town) are situated among the northern hills of the Zlatishko-Tetevenski Balkan. It serves as on of the departure points to the Svishti PIaz Chalet (approximately 5 hours walk). There is a regular bus transport to the village. Etropole is a departure point of many hiking routes in the Etropolski Balkan and Zlatishko-Tetevenska Mountain (refer to the Stara Planina related chapter herein).

Yablanitza (top)
Intro:
The town of Yablanitsa (3312 inhabitants; 420 m above sea level) is picturesquely scattered in between the average size massifs of Dragoitsa and Lissets, offshoots of Stara Planina Mountain, along the banks of Kalenovik River.

Full text:
It is respectively 101 km and 39 km north-east of Sofia and Botevgrad, 28 km north of Etropole, 24 km south of Loukovit, 23 km north-west of Teteven and 65 km south-west of Lovech. The town is famous for its Yablanitsa halva.

History. This area was populated even during the Old Stone, Stone-Copper and Bronze Ages. There are numerous Thracian mounds scattered around the town, part of them being thoroughly explored. The name of the town - Yablanitsa has centuries old history. It was first mentioned in 15th century as Ablanitsa, but the root of the word has old Bulgarian origin ("ablan" meaning apple tree). During the Turkish rule, the village was scattered and divided into quarters, and following the construction of the road from Rouschuk (Rousse) to Sofia, these quarters grouped around it. Its inhabitants were known as the so-called "voinutsi" (partially tax exempted against certain duties to the central authorities), who kept their freedom-loving spirit alive. They took part in the detachments of Philip Totyu, Hadzhi Dimitur, and Stefan Karadzha. In 1873, the Apostle Levski and Dimitur Obshti established a revolutionary committee there. During the Russian-Turkish War of Liberation (1877-1878), its inhabitants actively supported the troops of the Russian Gen. Gurko. The beginning of 18th century gave strong impetus to the development of various crafts, out of which the pottery and halva producing are still very popular for the region. The first church school was opened in 1870. In 1879 the first independent school building was built. Yablanitsa was proclaimed a town in 1969.

Landmarks. The central street attracts the attention of the visitors with its old houses dating back to the end of 19th and the beginning of 20th century, with its nice chestnut trees. A rich museum collection is exhibited in Nauka Community Cultural Centre, a Revival style building (working hours: 8.00 a.m. - 5.00 p.m.).

Accommodation: Balkanskal Departmental Resort House.

Tourist information is available at the Community Cultural Centre and at the town hall (in the centre of the town, 5750 Yablanitsa).

Transport. Located along the Hemus motorway (running from Sofia to Varna and Rousse), the town takes advantage of all bus lines, passing through it. Besides a transit stop on some major bus lines, the town has regular bus lines to Teteven, Loukovit, Lovech and other smaller villages. The bus station is at the central square, where also passes the major road connecting the town with the motorway. The closest railway station is that of Zlatna Panega on the railway line Cherven Bryag -Zlatna Panega (9 km to the north). Bus transport to the railway station is available).

Surrounding areas. The Glozhene Monastery St. Georgi the Victor (approximately 10 km south-west of Yablanitsa). There is no such other monastery in Bulgaria, "nestled" on the top of a rocky edge, which looks like a Medieval Castle. It is situated in the Massif of Lisets, immediately to the south, high above the village of Glozhene. It was erected in 13th century by the Kiev Prince Glozh, after his escape from South Russia. The prince enjoyed the hospitality of the Assen Brothers and as a gesture of gratitude he built a monastery above the place where he lived, the present village of Glozhene, naming the monastery "St. George the Victorious Kievski". Out of the numerous manuscripts, drafted there only two were preserved -"The Tale" dedicated to the foundation of the monastery and the "Apostle" dating back to 1689. Vassil Levski was heartily welcomed in this monastery as well - his hiding place is kept for the generations nowadays. The devastating earthquake in 1913 seriously damaged the building (destroyed the old church with precious woodcarvings). Extremely valuable is the ancient icon of St. Georgi the Victor, brought by Prince Glozh from the Kiev-Pechorsk Monastery. It was silver laid in 1826 by the Gabrovo native Ivan Popovich. The monastery can be reached by car if passing through the village of Malak Izvor (about 10 km away), by bus to the same village and then another hour walk or by bus to the village of Glozhene (12 km) and then having an hour and a half steep hiking. The Sueva Dupka Cave (14 km north of Yablanitsa and 3 km south of the village of Brestnitsa) is electrified and has numerous very interesting formations in several naturally shaped halls. The entrance fee is just a symbolic one. There is no regular transport, though there is a good asphalt road up to the cave. One can use the regular bus lines to the village of Brestnitsa. Bezdunniyat Pchelin Precipice Cave (the Bottomless Bee-garden) (5 km north-east of the town) -105 meters deep and having a hole opening of 25-40 meters. 9 km to the north of Yablanitsa is situated the village of Zlatna Panega, close to which is the famous karst spring Glava Panega, the second large in Bulgaria, after the Devnya karst springs. There are also two small lakes, one above the other, out of which runs the river Panega. The flow is 2000 I/sec and the temperature is constant - 10°-12°C, due to which the lakes never freeze. There are proofs that the waters come through an underground passage from the river Vit. In the village of Batultsi (13 km north-west of the town), there is a House-Museum of Vassil Levski, working hours: 8.00 a.m. - 5.00 p.m.

Cherven bryag (top)
Intro:
The town of Cherven Bryag (18 642 inhabitants; 110 m above sea level) is situated at the inflow of river Zlatna Panega in river Iskar.

Full text:
It is 137 km north-east of Sofia, 53 km southwest of Pleven, 12 km north-west of Loukovit, 56 km east of Vratsa, and 55 km south of Oryahovo. It is an important railway cross-section.

History. It first appeared as a railway station settlement in 1899 on the newly built Sofia-Varna railway line. It was proclaimed a town in 1929.

Landmarks. St. Sofronii Vrachanski Cathedral is located in the central part of the town (tel.: 0659 5860).

Accommodation: Cherven Bryag Hotel (4, Turgovska Street; in the centre of the town, opposite of the railway station).

Tourist information is available at the hotel and Leskovets Tourist Association (14, Turgovska Street, in the centre of the town).

Transport. It is a large railway cross-section on the line Sofia - Gorna Oryahovitsa - Varna (Rousse). Cherven Bryag is a starting point of a narrow-gauge railway line from Cherven Bryag to Byala Slatina and Oryahovo, as well as of a normal railway line to Loukovit and Zlatna Panega. The railway station is in the southwestern end of the town, opposite the central area. The town has regular bus lines to Pleven, Vratsa, Loukovit, Byala Slatina, as well as many smaller villages within the region. The bus station (tel. 0659 2117) is located at Hristo Botev Square, very close to the railway station (tel.: 0659 2007, 2730).

Surrounding areas. 6 km south-west of the town is the village of Resselets. Only one kilometer away from the village is the unique natural phenomenon Propadaloto. It is an area of approximately 250 meters long and 30-40 meters wide, which has fallen through with some 30 meters. Steep cliffs surround the place and the descent to the bottom is along a romantic narrow path meandering between the cliffs. This is one of the rare places in Bulgaria where one can come across a scorpion. In its vicinity is the cosy Reselets Chalet with 70 beds (in rooms of 2, 3, 4, 5 and more beds). The extension number for the chalet is 430, and it can be reached by calling the switchboard operator of the village of Reselets. There is a possibility to make a reservation at the Tourist Association in Cherven Bryag. There is a regular bus line between the town and the village, and yet another transport possibility is provided by the railway route Sofia - Gorna Oryahovitsa - Varna - Rousse, but only passenger's trains stop at the railway station of Reselets village. The picturesque chalet is 3 km away from the railway stop. There is an asphalt road leading up to the chalet. The region provides plenty of interesting hiking tracks along impressive river canyons. The most pleasant time for visiting the area of the Reselets Chalet is in spring, when the lilac is in full blossom. The river Iskar also provides wonderful opportunities for water tourism, fishing, and sun bathing on the shore, having fun and recreation in the open. South of Cherven Bryag the river still runs in a canyon, and, though not so impressive as the Iskar Gorge, it is an attractive sight for tourists.

Loukovit (top)
Intro:
The town of Loukovit (approximately 10 000 inhabitants; 135 m above sea level) is situated on the two banks at the mouth of the Valley of Zlatna Panega River.

Full text:
It is 125 km northeast of Sofia, 24 km north of Yablanitsa, 12 km south-east of Cherven Bryag and 49 km southwest of Pleven. It is a centre of a large and interesting karst region.

History. There are traces of Thracian, Roman, Byzantine and Old Bulgarian periods. Many rings, fibulas, earrings, ceramic articles and objects and the famous Loukovit silver treasure dating back to the 4th century BC (exhibited in the museum collection of the Community Cultural Centre) were found in the numerous Thracian mounds scattered in the area. A treasure of Roman coins was also found. Byzantine coins dating back to the 12th century as well as coins from the reign of Tsar Ivan Alexander (1330-1371) were found at the Gradishte Hill. The settlement was first mentioned in a document dating back to 1479 under the name of Gorni Loukovit. At the end of 17th century the Turkish troops, defeated near Vienna and Belgrade ruined it in their retreat and forced many of the inhabitants to convert to Islam. The nearby Karlukovski Monastery, where Sofronii Vrachanski found shelter and worked for the benefit of his people, promoted Bulgarian spirit. The national defenders Angel Voivoda and Vulchan Voivoda were active in the region. The Apostle Vassil Levski founded a revolutionary committee in Gorni Loukovit. The Revival upsurge found its reflection in the construction of the first school in 1849. After 18th century, Loukovit was the largest village in the Pre-Balkan region and was famous with its 14 water mills on the river Panega. The Orthodox Bulgarians mainly bred cattle, while the Bulgarian Mohammedan grew vegetables. After the Liberation in 1878, the village was proclaimed a town under the name of Loukovit. The crafts declined as elsewhere in Bulgaria after the markets in the Ottoman Empire were lost. The town made some progress in its development after the railway line Cherven Bryag - Zlatna Panega was constructed.

Landmarks: There is a Historical museum collection, housed in the Suznanie Popular Library house (3rd March Square, tel.: 0697 2144), established in 1895. St. Georgi Church is situated in the centre of Loukovit, on the left bank of the river.

Accommodation. Putno Upravlenie Hotel (3rd March Square).

Tourist information is available at the hotel, at Zlatna Panega Tourist Association and at the town hall (74, Vuzrazhdane Street; tel.: 0697 2559, 4058).

Transport. Bus and railway transport is available. Loukovit is located on the major road Sofia - Pleven - Rousse and all the buses servicing this direction have a transit stop there. In addition, there are regular bus lines to Cherven Bryag, Roman, Lovech, Teteven and other smaller villages within the region. The bus station is located in the central part of the town, on the right bank of the river (2, Zlatna Panega, tel.: 0697 2503, 2527). The railway station is at the northeastern end of the town (tel.: 0697 2264, 4194) servicing the railway line Cherven Bryag - Zlatna Panega, through which the town of Loukovit is connected to the national railway network.

Surrounding areas. The most important archaeological excavations are situated on the Gradishteto Hill. The karst gorge of Zlatna Panega River is south of Loukovit. The Iskara Resort covers a large area and is about 10 km south-west of the town. The karst earth depths host numerous precipices and caves, some 150 of them already explored. Most famous among them are Prohodna Cave, Temnata Doupka Cave (the dark hole), Kucheshkata Dupka Cave (the dog's hole), etc. Here is also the village of Karloukovo (12 km away from the town, regular bus transport to the village is available), where the The Assumption Karloukovo Monastery is situated (see the historical information herein). Nearby are the rock churches St. Marina and St. Grigorii. Within this region, is the Karloukovo gorge of Iskar River, some 30 km long, beginning from the village of Roman and going down almost to Cherven Bryag. The gorge has very interesting rock formations, the most spectacular of them being The Dolls, situated east of the station of Resselets. On the way between the railway station and the village of Karloukovo (2.5 km away from each of the locations) is situated Peter Tranteev National Speleologists' House offering 60 beds in rooms of 2 and 3 beds. Nearby is the Provurtenik Chalet (1.5 km away from the station of Karloukovo, 3.5 km from the village of Karloukovo and 3 km away from the Speleologists' House). It avails of 20 beds in rooms of 2, 4 and 6 beds. The chalet bears the name of the neighbouring rocky sculpture, resembling a guard turret. (Reservation can be made through the Tourist Association in Loukovit.) This incredible karst paradise can be reached either by bus from the town of Loukovit or by a passenger's train in the direction Sofia - Gorna Oryahovitsa - Varna (Rousse) to Karloukovo station.

Lom (top)
Intro:
The town of Lom (27 897 inhabitants; 50 meters above sea level) is situated on the right bank (the Bulgarian one) of the Danube River, at its estuary with the Lom River.

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It is 162 km north of Sofia, 56 km southeast of Vidin, 49 km north of Montana and 42 km west of Kozlodoui. It is the second most important port on the Danube after Rousse.

History. It was founded by the Thracians under the name of Artanes. After them, the Romans called the fortress and the town Almus, from where the name of today's town and of the Lom River comes. There are no reports proving that there existed a big settlement in the Middle Ages. It was not until Turkish rule when it enlarged but for a long time it was under the shadow of the dominant towns of Vidin, Nikopol and Silistra. It is assumed that the Turkish village was founded in 1695 by Kara Mustafa and Murad Bei who were defeated at Vienna in 1683 and who came here sailing rafts along the Danube River. The name Lom Palanka was mentioned for a first time in 1704. The settlement then called "palanka" was something between a village and a town in size and importance. In 1798, Lom was suffered by the kurdzhalii (Turkish brigands). With the development of shipping along the Danube after 1830, the importance of the town grew. The road to Sofia contributed to its progress and turned it into a main export port to Vienna (Austria). By 1869, there were 120 shops, 148 trade offices, 175 food shops, 34 coffee bars, 6 hotels, 2 mills. The town was centered on the old Kale (fortress), which was entered through three kapii (gates) - Vidinska, Belogradchishka, Sofiiska. The tradesmen from Lom offered goods at the biggest fairs in the region and beyond. In 1880, there were 7500 inhabitants in the town. Lom is proud of its traditions from the period of the national Revival. In 1856 the first community centre in Bulgaria was founded there, the first women's society in this country was founded here (1858) and one of the first theatre performances took place in the town. Krustyu Pishurka, an educator worked here.

Landmarks. The Town Museum of History is housed in the interesting building of the old town hall. The foundations of the antique fortress Almus are preserved. The oldest community centre in this country - Postoianstvo. The building of the former School of Pedagogy. The Borunska Church. The monument to Tseko Voivoda (1807 -1881) - a participant in the battles for liberation from Serbia and pronounced by its government to be a voivoda (revolutionary leader).

Accommodation. The Dounav Hotel.

Tourist information - at the hotel and at the Asparuchov Hulm Tourist Association (5, Nikola Chukov Street, 3600 Lom, tel.: 0971 24194, 24586).

Transport. Two types of transport connect it to the rest of the world - bus and railway transport. There are bus lines to Vidin, Kozlodoui, Montana as well as to other smaller settlements in the region. The bus station telephone is 0971 22093. The town is a last stop on the railway line Broussartsi- Lom, through which it is connected with the national railway system. The railway station telephone is 0971 22485. There is a river port, too, but so far there is no regular transport provided from Bulgaria.

Surrounding areas. The remains of the Asparoukhov Rov (The dyke of Asparoukh) (4 km southeast). The Danube River, along the banks there are holiday homes, establishments, places for recreation and sport. The big river offers wonderful opportunities for motor sports, water tourism and many other activities. 28 km westward there are remains of the Roman Ratsiaria (refer to Vidin related chapter herein).

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