Tryavna – a piece of Bulgaria from 200 years ago, Bulgaria

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Coffee on sand and baklava on three-legged stools

Do you know what Bulgarian towns looked like in the 19th century? Have you walked among houses more than 200-year old? And have you had a cup of coffee on sand while sitting on a small three-legged stool? If you still haven’t but you want to change that, Tryavna is the place where you need to go.

Tryavna is a small town in the central Balkan Mountains, still bearing the spirit of the Bulgarian Revival. In the middle of the mountains, it offers fresh air, interesting local museums, nice restaurants and lots of other opportunities for a perfect romantic weekend. With its old houses, small streets, workshops and cozy cafes it is a popular weekend retreat for Bulgarians and also a recommended destination for every foreign tourist who wants to feel the authentic Bulgarian spirit.

Town of Tryavna

Tryavna is a small town in the central Balkan Mountains, still bearing the spirit of the Bulgarian Revival. In the middle of the mountains, it offers fresh air, interesting local museums, nice restaurants and lots of other opportunities for a perfect romantic weekend. With its old houses, small streets, workshops and cozy cafes it is a popular weekend retreat for Bulgarians and also a recommended destination for every foreign tourist who wants to feel the authentic Bulgarian spirit.

Tryavna, Bulgaria

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Трявна 42.866230, 25.489612

The autumn is my favourite season for taking photos, and not only because of its beautiful colours. It offers great opportunities to take beautiful photos without interrupting your regime. In the autumn the so-called Blue Hour and Golden Hour, when the photographers are most active, are happening in a more comfortable time. The Golden Hour is the time just after sunrise and just before sunset. The Blue Hour is a few minutes before sunrise and just after sunset. In the summer they fall very early in the morning or too late in the evening when I am too lazy for photography. But in the autumn the timing is perfect.

Tryavna, Bulgaria

We arrived in Tryavna in the early afternoon with the idea to have lunch in one of the many restaurants in the town. Most of them offer traditional Bulgarian dishes on reasonable prices and so they are really crowded on Saturday noon. You might need some luck to find a free table and proper service but it is not impossible. There is always the risk that you might need to wait quite long for your food to be served. Otherwise, the food is good at most places.

Tryavna, Bulgaria

Tryavna, Bulgaria

The traditional architecture of the Bulgarian National Revival

We had a quick lunch and headed to explore the local attractions. Tryavna is most popular because it has preserved the traditional architecture of the Bulgarian National Revival from the 19th century, featuring 140 cultural monuments, museums and expositions. Tryavna is also proud with its great samples of the woodcarving and icon painting. Most of the beautiful houses are today turned into hotels, museums, galleries and workshops. On the main street you can enjoy a nice coffee on sand or visit some of the many workshops and watch local craftsmen making belts, shoes or woodcarving.

Tryavna, Bulgaria

Among the most important landmarks in Tryavna are the Clock Tower, the Old school, the old stone bridge, known also as Kivgireniya bridge, the St. Archangel Michael church. Other interesting places are the Daskalov’s house, the Slaveykov’s house, the Museum of icon and the Museum of African and Asian art and many others.

Tryavna features a lot of objects with historical importance for Bulgarians despite being a small town with a population of less than 10 000. One of the most unpleasant things when visiting the museums is that taking photos inside is usually not allowed if you do not pay for that. I was allowed to take as much photos as I want in the Louvre so I am not happy if someone asks me to pay for this in a local museum. Moreover, everyone was taking selfies from their smartphones without being disturbed but my camera apparently looked very scary.

The Clock Tower of Tryavna

This is the central landmark where every tourist starts his walk from. It is a part of the only preserved Revival architecture ensemble in the country – “Kapitan Dyado Nikola” Square. The Clock tower was built in 1814 and is 21 m high, standing proudly above the surrounding buildings. The square itself is the only completely preserved architecture complex from the period of the Bulgarian Revival. It was named after Kapitan Dyado Nikola – a Bulgarian revolutionary that was killed near Tryavna in 1856. The complex consists of the Clock Tower, the St. Archangel Michael church and the Old School.

Tryavna, Bulgaria

Tryavna, Bulgaria

Tryavna, Bulgaria

Tryavna, Bulgaria

Tip: On the square is located one of the most popular cafes in Tryavna, offering traditional Turkish coffee on sand. You can sit on the small three-legged stools, enjoy your coffee and order some traditional sweets like baklava or lokum (Turkish delight).

Tryavna

Coffee on sand in Tryavna, Bulgaria

The Old School

(1836-1839 г)

The old schoold in Tryavna was built between 1836-1839. It was one of the first secular schools in Bulgaria. It was founded as a school with a monitorial educational system in the autumn of 1839. In year 1849 the people of Tryavna invited Petko Slaveykov to be a teacher in Tryavna, and he founded a class school in this building. He introduced the studying of music, fine arts, and physical education classes. In the autumn of year 1850, at the Tryavna school the first annual examinations were held. The changes made by Slaveykov are so many and so significant that even today the Old school is also known as the Slaveykov school.

Tryavna, Bulgaria

Tryavna, Bulgaria

Tryavna, Bulgaria

The old school in Tryavna, Bulgaria

Today the building is a museum and houses both artifacts from the old school and other exhibitions. You can see a restoration of a 19th century classroom featuring sand pools. 200 years back the students were first taught to write on sand before writing on paper. Today you can sit on their restored desks, try to read from the blackboard or just take a photo with the attractive décor.

The old school in Tryavna, Bulgaria

A large part of the former school today hosts and art gallery with works donated by the artists Dimitar Kazakov – Neron and his brother Nikola Kazakov. There is also a room with exhibition of old clocks and a documentary exhibition, tracing the history of the educational work in Tryavna.

Opening hours:

Every day: 9 – 18 h (according to their website) – however, it appeared that in the autumn and winter the museum is open up to 16:45

Tryavna, Bulgaria

The Orthodox church Saint Archangel Michael

On the opposite side of the square, just against the school, is located the old Orthodox church “St. Archangel Michael”. According to the legends, it was built in the 12th century by the brother kings Asenevtsi. However, this fact is not entirely proven. It is known that a church existed at this place in the 18th century and was burned down in 1798 by looters. The building that is preserved until nowadays was built in 1819.

From year 1851 until year 1866 the church emitted its own money among the parishioners, made by the churchwarden Pencho Genyov. They were square and known as cruciform banches because of the the crucifiction drawn on them. At the beginning of year 1853, a high wooden belfry to the church was erected. In year 1862, the big wooden clapper was replaced by a small bell.

The old church in Tryavna, Bulgaria

The old stone bridge (Kivgireniya bridge)

Another important landmark of Tryavna is the old stone bridge, located just behind the clock tower. It was constructed in 1844-1845 an is connecting the central square with the market quarter. Its shape is Roman-style in order to avoid being demolished by floodwaters that were regularly destroying the wooden bridge which existed on that place before.

Kivgireniya bridge in Tryavna, Bulgaria

Tryavna, Bulgaria

Tryavna, Bulgaria

After crossing the bridge, we found ourselves in the old market district with its many shops, workshops, cafes, hotels and restaurants.

Tryavna, Bulgaria

Daskalova House

The Daskalova house is one of the many museums located in the old bazaar. It is a wonderful monument of the Revival’s architecture. The house used to be the home of a local trader – Hadji Hristo Daskalov. It is nowadays a museum of woodcarving, displaying amazing works made by local craftsmen. It also features magnificent woodcarving on the ceilings of two of the rooms.

I was very disappointed when at the entrance they asked me to pay for taking photos with my camera. At the same time, everyone was making a selfie with his smartphone which apparently did not count for a photo.

Tryavna, Bulgaria

The Golden and the Blue hours

After the museums shut their doors just before 5 pm, we continued our walk and even made some shopping. My wife bought a leather belt from a local man claiming to be a retired army pilot. He sounded convincing, actually. Then my Golden hour came and then the Blue hour and I took my time to make some very romantic photos that I really enjoy.

Tryavna, Bulgaria

Tryavna, Bulgaria

Tryavna, Bulgaria

Tryavna, Bulgaria

Tryavna, Bulgaria

Where to stay

Tryavna offers a lot of good budget hotels and guesthouses. You can find a double room in a nice family hotel for 20 EUR a night. If you are not very picky, you could find even a 5 EUR a person room. This time we were hurrying to go home but I would strongly recommend spending at least a weekend in the calm and romantic Tryavna.



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Tip: If you have time you can visit the Sokolski Monastery, 28km (40min. driving) from Tryavna, a beautiful Bulgarian Orthodox Monastery. (Google Maps) 

Tip: If you want to taste Bulgarian food and love it read the post:  Your guide to Bulgarian food and how to avoid bad experiences

 


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