Monday, 21 August 2017

Scenic Waterfalls Surround Bulgaria’s Medieval Capital

The medieval capital of Veliko Turnovo in central Bulgaria is best known for its Tsarevets Fortress and its melancholic architecture from the late eighteenth century.
But – while trying to escape the summer heat, contributor Bruce Macphail found some of the town’s hidden charms: its nearby waterfalls. He highlights two of them – one near the ancient Kapinovski Monastery and another by the little village of Hotnitsa, both of which make a pleasant opportunity to cool off from sightseeing.

This article is part of a series of travelogues by Bruce Macphail as his makes his way from Istanbul to Durrës, Albania, along Via Egnatia, the Roman road that cut through the Balkans.

Text and photographs by Bruce Macphail

Kapinovo Monastery and Waterfall

One of the waterfalls in Veliko Tarnovo’s vicinity is located next to the Kapinovo Monastery. There, the Veselina River flows down different pools of varying depths and sizes, from a bathtub-sized to a much larger water basin.

One of the favoured activities at the waterfall is jumping in the larger pool from the top of a small cliff. The most common jump is about three meters, but there are jumps up to eights meters for the hardened thrill-seekers.

A restaurant, located just above the waterfall, offers typical Bulgarian dishes, like kofte and shopska salad, at reasonable prices.

Also worth seeing while in the area is the Kapinovo Monastery itself. Some 100 metres down the road from the waterfall area, its current nineteenth-century structure was built on top of the site of an earlier monastery dating back to the thirteenth century at the time of the Second Bulgarian Kingdom, when it was an important religious centre. The next few hundred years of Ottoman rule saw the deterioration of the monastery and it was only in the nineteenth century that it was rebuilt.

Now, the monastery complex boasts a beautiful inside courtyard and an Orthodox church covered with frescoes. Its one remaining monk offers rudimentary guest rooms.

How to get there: The easiest access to the Kapinovo Monastery and waterfall is by car, as there is no public transport. It is about 18 km and a 20 minute car ride from Veliko Tarnovo. The area around this waterfall has the most associated services, one of which the small restaurant. This attracts more people, especially on the weekends, but it is still a little known and the place rarely gets crowded. The car journey to the waterfall is nice in itself, following small road through a heavily wooded area.

Where to stay:
The Kapinovo Monastery, which is open daily from 7 to 19, offers cheap, though plain lodging. Alternatively, you can stay in one of the numerous and often good value for money hotels of Veliko Turnovo.

The Hotnitsa Village and Waterfall

The 30-metre waterfall near the village of Hotnista has a very different atmosphere, as there are no associated activities and, therefore, fewer visitors. It is also just one large basin at the bottom of a big cliff so there are no small pools to dwell in. For the more daring, the potential for some high jumps into the water is there too, though it looks less safe then at the Kapinovo waterfall.

The sight is nonetheless very beautiful, with tress hanging above the whole area. Following the old stone tunnels through which water flowed for an erstwhile mill, now destroyed, brings one to a stone platform overlooking the waterfall’s top. There is a comfortable shaded area for picnic, as well as a scenic walking path, which winds for about 1.5 kilometres through little picturesque bridges, vegetation and water until it reaches the Kaya Bunar spring.

The Hotnista village itself, a favourite among British ex-pats many of which have invested in property there, should not be missed. Often described as an archaeological phenomenon, it boasts remains of about 70 different settlements inhabited during various historical periods, from the Early Neolithic Era through Antiquity and the Late Middle Ages. At the site, archaeologists discovered jewellery, dating back to 4250 BC, thought to be among the world’s oldest gold.

How to get there: The village is about 15 kilometres and 20 minutes south of Veliko Tarnovo. There is a parking lot only about 50 metres away from the waterfall.

Where to stay: It is possible to camp in the area, but the guest houses in the village of Hotnista are also an option for those travellers who prefer to have a solid roof over their head.

Practical Information: Veliko Tarnovo is located at about 225 kilometres to the west of Sofia. The trip takes about 3 hours by car. The town’s tourist office sells a road map of the region, indicates the waterfalls’ location.

It is possible to camp out or stay in the immediate vicinity of the waterfalls, through staying in Veliko Tarnovo and taking day trips to them may prove to be easier, as they are easily and quickly accessible.

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