A street of old crafts

Samovodska Charshiya in Veliko Tarnovo keeps the spirit of Bulgaria's National Revival

Samovodska Charshiya in the historical centre of Veliko Tarnovo is always crowded. Tourists come here in any season of the year.

The ethnographic complex Samovodska Charshiya is one of the most remarkable tourist attractions in Bulgaria's old capital city of Veliko Tarnovo. It came into being in the second half of the 19th century, when the city began expanding. Every market day early in the morning farmers from the nearby village of Samovodene would come to the Charshiya (from a Turkish word for “market”) and would lay out vegetables and fruit right on the ground in the hope to sell their produce. That was how the name Samovodska Charshiya emerged.

In the course of the years the area developed into a crafts centre which for a long time preserved its character and purpose, even after Bulgaria's Liberation from the Ottoman rule, in 1878 Much to the delight of tourists, many craftsmen shops lining the Charshiya are functioning to this day, including those of potters, weapons masters, woodcarvers, makers of kadayif (Turkish syrup-drenched pastries), icon-painters' studios, a weaving mill, a sweets shop and many others.

The ethnographic complex boasts many restored houses of the National Revival period as well as houses built immediately after the Liberation. The famous House with the Monkey is situated at its high end, near the monument of Velchova Zavera. The three-storied house built in 1849 by Master Kolyo Ficheto is one of his architectural masterpieces. Like many other buildings in Veliko Tarnovo, it is built on a very narrow plot of land. The rooms facing the lower street are on a higher level and provide access to the residential sections. The house's exterior is plastered with convex bricks which is a very rare technique, believed to be the personal contribution of Kolyo Ficheto to the Bulgarian architecture of the National Revival period.

One of the most interesting architectural monuments of that period, the inn of Hadji Nikoli, was again built by Kolyo Ficheto. It was constructed in 1858 and is squeezed between two streets of different levels, so on one side it has three floors, with only one on its other side. The house has a patio and its main part is based on a steep platform. Kolyu Ficheto has interspersed the facade with open galleries and cruciform vaults accentuated by stone columns capped with capitals and linked together by a rhythmic sequence of arches. The self-taught architect used stone consoles decorating the ground floor masonry. After long restoration works the inn opened doors in 2010, this time as a cultural centre.

To this day, the Charshiya keeps the romantic spirit and traditions of the Bulgarian National Revival. Its authentic atmosphere is a magnet for tourists who admire its high stone fences, old houses with terraces lavishly decorated with flowers, and its small stores. Here you will also find many antique shops and several small art galleries.

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