Bulgaria's Manchester

Gabrovo is internationally known also as a centre of humour and satire

A statue of the city's founder Racho Kovatcha (Racho the Blacksmith) is put up on a small island in the middle of the Yantra River.

The city of Gabrovo is situated at the foot of the Stara Planina Mountain, in the valley of the Yantra River. The geographical centre of Bulgaria is located at a nearby site by the name of Uzana. The city is notable for its beautiful nature, National Revival spirit and unique architecture.

The name Gabrovo is derived from “gabar” (hornbeam tree) and the legend says that it was founded by a blacksmith named Racho, a skilful itinerant blacksmith who made his home under a hornbeam tree. Gabrovo emerged in the Middle Ages as a strategic settlement close to the passages of the Stara Planina Mountain.

The Gradishte fortress, which existed till the early 7th century, is located two kilometres to the east of the city. The gold and silver coins from the time of Emperors Constantine I (306-337) and Justin II (565-578), which have been found in the region, allow the archaeologists to date the fortress to the late Antiquity and early Middle Ages (4th-6th centuries). Also unearthed were a fortified wall - about 4km long, 42 densely concentrated residential buildings, barracks for the garrison which guarded the fortress, and three watch towers.

During the excavations, archaeologists also studied a multi-layered necropolis in the centre of Gabrovo dated to the 13th-14th century, and the remnants of a church dedicated to St. Petka. It is considered that the place of worship was built after the holy relics of St. Petka of Bulgaria remained for a while in the settlement on their way from Epivates, Greece, to Veliko Tarnovo, in 1298. This also confirms the existence of a settlement on the today's territory of the city during the Second Bulgarian Kingdom.

During the Ottoman rule, Gabrovo was a big artisan and trade centre. In the 19th century, 26 crafts were practiced here - blacksmithing, cutlery production, weaving, pottery, braid-making, furriery, silk cocoon production, etc. The first textile factory in the newly liberated Principality of Bulgaria, equipped with modern German machinery, was built in Gabrovo. The town turned into a Bulgarian Manchester, as industry and education were developed in it in parallel and at a rapid pace. The city was home of many prominent culture figures and successful industrialists.

Gabrovo is internationally famous as 'the city of laughter'. It boasts a one of a kind museum - the House of Humour and Satire, a Louvres of Laughter, of sorts. It houses a permanent exhibition of artistic and ethnographic woks, and collections of ritual and carnival masks and accessories. Besides a large part of the Bulgarian humour and satire legacy, the House stores many funny caricatures, as well as photos and pictures illustrating the culture of more than 170 countries around the globe.

Bulgaria's first high school - Aprilov High School, founded in 1835 - was also built in Gabrovo. It laid the foundation for the civil educational establishments which gradually replaced the monastery schools during the National Revival period. Today, the high school building houses a museum of education and its expositions illustrate all stages of education development in Bulgaria from the 19th century to the present day. Other city sights in Gabrovo are the Clock Tower, the church of the Assumption of Our Lady, Dechkov's House, etc.

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