A bit of history in the heart of Dobrudzha

The Old Dobrich museum compound brings back memories of Turkish sand coffee and freshly baked pretzels

Photo: Adelina Lozanova A typical Dobrudzha house is nicely restored in the centre of Dobrich.

At the heart of the present-day town of Dobrich, where the Odun Carsi market once stood, lies the Old Dobrich ethnographic museum. The architectural and ethnographic compound is an open-air museum created in the 1980s so that people can immerse themselves in the atmosphere of the past and get close to traditional crafts from the National Revival period (late 18th-19th century) from the northeastern Bulgaria's region of Dobrudzha.

Various masters, who inherited their craft from their fathers and grandfathers - tailors, knitters, woodcarvers, goldsmiths, potters, blacksmiths, coopers, etc. - do their jobs in the restored workshops strung along the city's market street, just a window away from the visitors' gaze.

The old clock tower built in the 18th century rises in the middle of the compound and its chimes resound over the entire town. The boza workshop offers boza (a traditional beverage made of fermented wheat) made using an old recipe, while the bakery gives off the smell of freshly baked gevrek (round pretzels), and the coffee shop invites people to sample fragrant Turkish coffee heated on a hot bed of sand.

The modern town emerged in the 16th century as a trade and crafts hub. It was founded by the travelling merchant Hacioglu, hence the name of the town until 1882 - Hacioglu Pazarcik. According to the famous 17th century Ottoman traveller and historian Evliya Celebi, the town numbered 2,000 houses grouped in 7 neighbourhoods. It had 3 inns, 200 shops and a large covered bazaar located along the main road.

Towards the end of the 18th century the settlement improved its infrastructure and began to look like a town. The first Bulgarian church, named after St. George, was built in the town in 1843, and the next year it opened a religious primary school. The church was burnt down during the Crimean War (1853-1856), but was later rebuilt. It is famous for its extremely beautiful facade and interior decoration, as well as its late 19th-century icons. By the end of the century the church got a belfry.

The local fair, dating back to 1851, used to gather merchants from all over the eastern parts of Bulgaria and from neighbouring countries. Following the liberation from Ottoman rule in 1878, the town was named Dobrich after the 14th-century Bulgarian leader Dobrotitsa, artefacts of whose rule have been unearthed from the medieval necropolis in the town's centre.

Dobrich's fate was particularly tumultuous in the first half of the 20th century. It was briefly occupied by Romanian troops in 1916, and under the 1919 Treaty of Neuilly was handed over to Romania together with the entire region of South Dobrudzha, in whose possession it remained until 1940, when it was returned to Bulgaria with the help of the Treaty of Craiova. From 1949 to 1991 the town was called Tolbukhin, but then was given back its former name Dobrich. Even today, the town is popularly referred to as “the capital of Bulgaria's granary”, which is a popular appellation for the entire region of Dobrudzha.

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