LOVECH

by Bozhidara Georgieva; photography by Anthony Georgieff

Following the tracks of history, along the banks of the Osam River

lovech.jpg

Lovech is one of those places in Bulgaria that under their tranquil surface hide impressive landscapes, long history and interesting sights that stay for long in the heart. Each step here leads you to stories previously unknown, some new and some centuries and millennia old.

Located on the banks of the Osam River, Lovech is the modern manifestation of dozens of generations who, throughout the millennia, have inhabited this place. The city's beginnings are hidden in the dusk of prehistory, but the perseverance with which people continued living here didn't stop in the Antiquity. Then on the place of modern Lovech appeared Melta, a settlement of the ancient Thracians and later a Roman city.

In the Middle Ages, the natural protection of the river and the hills proved irresistible, and a strong fortress was built on them. In 1187, during the revolt of the Asenevtsi Brothers in Tarnovo for restoration of Bulgarian independence from Byzantine rule, it was the Lovech Fortress that stopped the advance of a Byzantine army rushing through the Stara Planina mountains in their aim to crush the revolt. In the 14th century in that very same fortress was born the future Bulgarian King Ivan Aleksandar (1331-1371).

While mainly artefacts have survived from the city's prehistoric and ancient past (you can see them in the Regional History Museum), and while the mediaeval fortress is a picturesque ruin, Revival Period Lovech is still alive. In the 17th-19th centuries the city was a busy manufacturing and merchant centre, flourishing to such an extent that it deserved the moniker Altan Lovech, or Golden Lovech. Today, the houses, lanes and churches built in this period still form the heart of the contemporary city: the picturesque traditional Varosha neighbourhood. Cuddled between the river and the overhanging hills, it is an authentic, charming experience where the olden times feel as if still present.

Kakrina Inn

The Kakrina Inn

The Revival Period was also the time when Lovech was a leading centre of art, architecture, and struggle for national independence. In 1872-1874 the talented architect Kolyu Ficheto built over the Osam the famed Covered Bridge, the only structure of its kind on the Balkans. It is hardly a coincidence that revolutionary Vasil Levski chose Lovech for the centre of the network of clandestine revolutionary cells he was creating in the Bulgarian lands. He frequently visited Lovech in 1869-1872, while he was criss-crossing the country.

The accumulation of stories and sights in Lovech creates an exciting mosaic of old and modern, impressive architecture and charming nature. The city is also an excellent starting point for exploration of the region and places of interest such as the Devetaki Plateau and the Kakrina Inn, where Levski was arrested in 1872, and the Staro Stefanovo architecture reserve.

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