A village of 'blue bloods'

Svezhen is a remarkable architectural reserve in the midst of Sredna Gora

The village of Svezhen is huddled in the folds of Sredna Gora in a scenic valley not far from the geographical centre of Bulgaria.

In the folds of Sarnena Sredna Gora mountain, not far from the geographical centre of Bulgaria and only 60 kilometres to the north of Plovdiv, there is a small village dating back to the National Revival period, which has a tell-tale name - Svezhen (derived from “svezh” - Bulgarian for “fresh”). The village has this name because even in the scorching heat of summer the air here remains fresh and pleasant for breathing. Until 1934, the settlement was called Adzhar (from a Turkish word meaning “robust”).

A local legend says that the village was founded at the end of the 14th century by boyars (noblemen) who fled from the capital of Tarnovo after it fell under Ottoman rule. They chose this place because it was hard to reach, and Turks could not get to this mountainous region easily. For centuries thereafter, the locals preserved their 'blue blood' descending from Tarnovo's nobility. The village spreads along the two banks of the Svezhen River and forms two separate neighbourhoods.

The architectural complex, comprising many cultural monuments, includes about a hundred houses which miraculously survived when Ottomans burnt down the village in the summer of 1877 after the beginning of the Russo-Turkish war.

Although some of the old splendour is gone, the houses still boast remarkable open verandas decorated with lush trellis work, beautiful yards, wood-carved ceilings and unique for this region chimneys and fireplaces. The splendid examples of this architectural and historical wealth are the houses of local nobility - the Serafimovs, the Chokshevs, the Dzhevizovs, the Mushevs, the house of Chorbaji Valko and others. Svezhen is also proud of the fact that it is among the few Bulgarian villages with a clock tower, which was built in the 19th century.

In the 16th-17th centuries, there was a functioning school in Adzhar for copying, illustrating and binding of religious manuscript books, which kept the traditions of the Tarnovo literary school after Bulgaria fell under Ottoman rule. In 1850, a monastery school was opened in Svezhen, and the first community centre in a Bulgarian village was founded here in 1868. The Bulgarian history book Istoriya Slavyanobolgarskaya by Paisii Hilerndarski was copied at the old church of St George along with prayer books and gospels. The new church of St Peter and St Paul was built in 1864.

During the 19th century, Svezhen was one of the most important manufacturing centres of homespun clothing in Bulgaria as almost all of the villagers were involved in this craft. The local merchants selling homespun clothes travelled as far as Tsarigrad (Constantinople) and Anatolia. The fact that the grave of Hadzhi Dimitar, one of the most prominent Bulgarian revolutionaries, who worked for the liberation of Bulgaria from the Ottoman rule and was killed in 1868, is located on Kadrafil - a peak right above the village - testifies to the rich history of Svezhen.

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