WJ Tested: Bulgaria – Veliko Tarnovo and Arbanassi

WJ Tested: Bulgaria – Veliko Tarnovo and Arbanassi

Optional Shore Excursion on Uniworld River Princess Eastern Europe Explorer Danube River Cruise

Day 5:
Uniworld River Princess remained in Rousse, Bulgaria for the day which provided passengers with two options – visit the town of Rousse on our own, or take the optional excursion to Veliko Tarnovo and Arbanassi. We chose the optional full-day excursion that departed at 8:30 a.m. (Euro 69).

Katya - Local Guide in Bulgaria

Katya – Local Guide in Bulgaria

Our guide for the day was Katya from Rousse and during the 15-minute drive through the town she provided commentary pertaining to the sights we passed along the way.

Belenski Most - Byala Bridge near Veliko Tarnovo

Belenski Most – Byala Bridge near Veliko Tarnovo

Interesting Facts:

  • Rose oil that is produced in the area is exported to France, Germany and Japan
  • Rose brandy and rose honey are very popular with the locals and make great gifts
  • The abundant sunflower fields provide cooking oil and fodder for the animals
  • The average wage in Bulgaria is E300/month
  • There are still many communist-style apartment buildings from the 80’s – most look like they could fall down at any moment
  • Donkeys pulling carts are still a mode of transport for locals
  • Shepherds still tend to their sheep, goats or cows – sitting in the baking sun while their animals graze

    Rose Oil Products in Arbanassi

    Rose Oil Products in Arbanassi

By 10:20 a.m. we arrived in the hillside town of Veliko Tarnovo and had a 30-minute comfort stop at a lovely air-conditioned, 4-star hotel where, while enjoying spectacular views of the gorge and fortress, we were provided with tea, coffee, bottled water, and a variety of local cookies and sweets.

Tsarevets Fortress

Tsarevets Fortress

Following the comfort stop we had a short drive to a viewpoint for a photo stop where we could take pictures of the fortress and vistas back toward the town.

The Church of the Archangels Michael and Gabriel

The Church of the Archangels Michael and Gabriel

Then after a 10-minute drive we arrived at Arbanassi where we first went to The Church of the Archangels Michael and Gabriel to listen to a 4-person choir sing.

The Church of the Archangels Michael and Gabriel Choir

The Church of the Archangels Michael and Gabriel Choir

Although we were not permitted to take photos inside the church – so not to damage the frescoes – the images on the walls were incredible and well worth seeing.

The Church of the Archangels Michael and Gabriel Fresco

The Church of the Archangels Michael and Gabriel Fresco

Did You Know?… Arbanassi:

  • Is an ancient village with preserved, magnificent architectural monuments of the Age of the Bulgarian Revival
  • Is located on a high plateau 4 km from the city of Veliko Tarnovo
  • Rose to prominence as a trading center during the 17th century
  • Must sees are the Konstantsaliev House, The Birth of Christ Church, and The Church of the Archangels Michael and Gabriel

Katya next guided us through the village to The Nativity Church (from the 16th century), which was also home to amazing frescoes.

Local Crafts in Arbanassi

Local Crafts in Arbanassi

After strolling along the narrow streets we had time to visit a souvenir shop where we tasted the sunflower nougat, rose jellies and rose brandy. This shop provided the opportunity to purchase souvenirs of rose oil and various other products containing this precious commodity.

Crocheted Souvenirs in Arbanassi, Bulgaria

Crocheted Souvenirs in Arbanassi, Bulgaria

Across the street from the souvenir shop we made a 20-minute visit to Konstantsalieva House in the Regional Museum of History – which also had a souvenir shop featuring many locally-crafted souvenirs.

Konstantsaliev House Museum in Arbanassi, Bulgaria

Konstantsaliev House Museum in Arbanassi, Bulgaria

By 1:30 p.m. we were enjoying lunch at the nearby restaurant (where many locals were also dining). The food was very good – shopska salad, vegetable and rice soup, Bulgarian chicken and pepper stew, sponge cake with rose syrup, wine or beer, and coffee or tea.

Shopska Salad

Shopska Salad

Bulgarian Chicken and Pepper Stew

Bulgarian Chicken and Pepper Stew

During lunch we were entertained by local musicians and dancers, which made for a very festive atmosphere.

Local Dancers in Arbanassi

Local Dancers in Arbanassi

Once lunch was completed we returned to the bus for the 20-minute drive back to Veliko Tarnovo, where we had 45 minutes of free time to wander the old pedestrian street and shop for more souvenirs.

Tourist Town of Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria

Tourist Town of Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria

Did You Know?… Veliko Tarnovo:

  • Is a town in North Bulgaria in the valley of the river Yantra with a population of 72,000
  • Is one of the oldest towns in Bulgaria dating back 5,000 years
  • The Byzantine dominion ended in 1185 when the town was declared a capital of the restored Bulgarian State
  • Has made a huge historical impact on culture and intellect of the country
  • Is home of the majestic ruins of the medieval fortress/town of Tsarevets
  • Is famous for its multiple orthodox temples
  • Was the temporary capital of the country after the Liberation of Bulgaria from the Ottomans in 1878
  • Has some of the highest real estate prices in Bulgaria
  • Local crocheted handicrafts make for popular souvenirs

    Local Souvenirs in Bulgaria

    Local Souvenirs in Bulgaria

At 4:20 p.m. our bus departed Veliko Tarnovo for the return drive to Rousse and River Princess. On the way back our bus hit a deer (it ran out of the bushes and was hit by a car on the other side of the road, throwing it in front of our bus), and although it could have been a nasty accident the very skillful driver did a terrific job of ensuring the safety of his passengers. Our guide, Katya (riding in the front) was also wonderful throughout the situation and made sure everyone was OK – kudos to her professionalism.

Statue in Bulgaria

Statue in Bulgaria

We arrived back to River Princess at 5:10 p.m. and were greeted by 1st Captain Stefan Ivanov and Hotel Manager Silvia Sobotova. Again, iced-tea and cold towels were provided by the crew as we entered the ship – very refreshing after a long and busy day spent visiting interesting sights.

When we returned to our stateroom we found letters inviting us to join the Captain’s table for the Welcome Cocktail and Gala Dinner – time to get spiffed-up!

Bulgarian Beer

Bulgarian Beer

If You Go:

Continue Reading WAVEJourney’s Uniworld Eastern Europe Explorer River Cruise Review:

Cruise Overview | Bucharest | Peles Castle | Bran Castle | Bucharest City Tour | Uniworld River Princess | Giurgiu: Embarkation | Rousse to Varna & the Black Sea | Veliko Tarnovo and Arbanassi | Captain’s Welcome Gala | Vidin, Belogradchik & Baba Vida Fortress | Iron Gates | Donji Milanovac | Viminacium Archaeological Site | Sava River | Belgrade City Tour | Deck Dining | Vukovar & Osijek | Cruising the Danube to Budapest | Budapest City Tour | Budapest Parliament Building Guided Tour | Gabcikovo Hydroelectric Dam and Lock | Bratislava City Tour | Captain’s Farewell Dinner | Vienna City Tour |

Notes: WAVEJourney travelled from Bucharest to Vienna as guests of Uniworld River Cruise Collection from July 25 to August 8, 2012.

 

One Response to WJ Tested: Bulgaria – Veliko Tarnovo and Arbanassi

  1. This is definitely now on my list of places to visit in Bulgaria. Great story.

    Melody Samuels 12/29/2012 at 7:21 pm

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