Gabrovo is the international capital of humor and satire, as well as home to the first Bulgarian secular school. It has developed into an attractive tourist destination thanks to its clean mountain air as well as a number of historical and ethnographical sights. Gabrovo is an ordinary city with a population exceeding 67.000 people at the 2007 census, ranking it at 16th place among the Bulgarian cities. The City With Many Names
Situated at the Northern foot of the central Balkan Mountains, Gabrovo is 220 km Northeast from Sofia at an altitude of 392 m. It is the longest town in Bulgaria and stretches over 25 km along both banks of the Yantra river, being even longer than the capital of Bulgaria. To be the longest city of “cats with shortest tails” might sound strange, but for Gabrovo it is nothing unusual.
Gabrowians are proud of their town and love to tell its story, contrary to the fact that they decided to place their founder's monument in the river. The old legend says that Racho, a young traveling blacksmith, decided to settle at that area some 250 years ago. The nearest mountain pass was very busy with caravans moving in both directions and horses needing to be shoed. Many tailors, cutlers, cooks, furriers and other craftsmen settled near Racho's house. A huge hornbeam, which in Bulgarian is called “gabar”, towered close to the blacksmith’s furnace and this is where the name of the city originates. History
Medieval Gabrovo was a very small village consisting of no more than 100 houses, occupied by craftsmen, traders and their families, but the situation changed significantly after Veliko Tarnovo became capital of the Second Bulgarian Empire during the 12th century. The city started growing and developing rapidly, but unfortunately the progress did not last long. The Ottoman invasion on the Balkans became a fact in the 14th century. People were leaving the capital and settling in Gabrovo, developing its economy with rich tradesmen investing money for educational and infrastructure initiatives. It soon became a small town known for its cultural and spiritual atmosphere.
The first Bulgarian secular school was founded in 1835 and some 25 years after this Gabrovo was officially announced a town by the Ottoman authority. After the liberation of Bulgaria in 1878 citizens continued their work on the economic progress of the town and factories were constructed, industry was developing. Gabrovo is also the birthplace of many prominent people that took part in the historical development of Bulgaria: the founders of the first secular Bulgarian school, the first prime minister, the first neurologist, the first midwife and first female doctor, the first mathematician, first physicist and the first philosopher, the first female aeronaut, and many others were born here. In the Aprilovska Gimnazia the current Bulgarian national anthem was developed for the first time. Gabrovo was the first Bulgarian city with a meteorology station in 1887. Nowadays the city is a calm place with slightly above-average unemployment but with positive and hospitable citizens.Places to visit
Gabrovo is a city with many traditions and a huge role in the cultural history of Bulgaria. Places of interest are numerous and one of the most emblematic places is the Aprilovska Gimnazia, the first secular school in Bulgaria, which is now a high school and a museum of Bulgarian education. Take a few minutes to visit the monument of Racho Kovacha, the founder of the city. They say that Gabrowians placed it in the river in order to save a residential area and also not to spent money for flowers on the monument.
For lovers of churches, monasteries and natural landmarks, the region offers plenty of opportunities for sightseeing. The Sokolski Monastery is 15 km away from the city center, in the mountain at one of the suburb villages. Founded in 1833, it consists of a church, residential and administrative buildings. The Uspenie Bogorodichno church is located in the city center and is one of the landmarks of Gabrovo. Built in 1865, the majestic stone building with a tower is one of the most beautiful local monuments. The Dryanovo Monastery is located 14 km from Gabrovo and was built thrice – at the start of the 13th century, 14th century and the end of the 17th century respectively, due to being destroyed by the Ottomans. The Cave of Bacho Kiro is located 300-meters away. The 4-storey labyrinth of galleries and corridors has a total length of 3,600 meters, 700 meters of which are maintained as a tourist attraction.Things to do
Although it is a comparatively small city, Gabrovo offers many options for keeping its visitors busy. Places of interest include two emblematic sights, regularly visited by both locals and Gabrovo guests. “The world lasts because it laughs” is the slogan of the House of Humor and Satire, where 10 exhibition rooms with a total area of 8000sqm pay homage to jokes, merry-making and carnivals.
The architectural ethnographic museum Etara is an open-air museum, which presents Bulgarian customs, culture and craftsmanship, as well as illustrating the architecture and economy of the Gabrovo region during the Bulgarian National Revival. The drama theatre “Racho Stoyanov” has a repertoire of classic and new Bulgarian performances and of course comedies hold a leading position. The Puppet Theatre is recognized as the most prestigious cultural institute for children in central North Bulgaria.
Gabrovo province has plenty of options for having a nice day trip around. The 600-year-old architectural and historical reserve Bozhentsi is just 15 km away and is an excellent place for individual and family tourism. The village is located in a picturesque valley and all its authentic houses date back to the Renaissance period. The local winter resort of Uzana, being the geographical center of Bulgaria, is some 22 km away and is a very suitable place for winter and summer holidays. Visitors can do skiing, horse-riding and mountain-climbing there. For admirers of historical tourism the Shipka Monument 24 km away from Gabrovo city center is a must-see attraction. The 31,5 meters high “Monument of Freedom” has only one requirement – climbing 894 steps up the hill.
Kids are usually impressed by the Zoo in Gabrovo, founded in 1973. It is located just 3 km away from the city center. Another entertaining option is the Gabrovo carnival which is held every alternate year in May. It consists of a street mask procession which is very popular among the locals and a pleasantly surprising event for visitors to the city.Where to eat and entertain
The biggest restaurant in the city center is Glineni Garnetta, located a short distance from the main pedestrian and shopping street. The Pizzeria Tempo is a good option for all fans of Italian food, as is the La Scalla.
For the lovers of night life the city offers a good range of entertainment options including Allegro, which is a very popular pop folk club and places such as Club Faces where house and retro music is played. Where to stay
Gabrovo might not be a big city, but it has a reputation for hospitality and offers a sufficient number of opportunities for staying the night. Accommodation options suit almost all needs.
Visitors to the city can stay in the centrally located 3-star Gabrovo hotel and Balkan hotel, as well as at the 2-star Nezabravka hotel just 5 km away from the city center. The area of the Architectural Ethnographic Museum Etara, 8 km from the center of Gabrovo, also offers accommodation at the 3-star Hitar Petar hotel and the 2-star Srannopriemnitsa and Corona hotel.
Visitors usually do not opt to spend the night distant from Gabrovo at some of the picturesque villages in the region. The geographical center of Bulgaria, Uzana, offers various options for its visitors, like the 3-star hotel Prima S and Hlebna, as well as the 1-star Geografski Center. For visitors to the Shipka Monument, there is the 2-star family hotel Perenika. Conclusion
Do you know the reason for calling Gabrovo the “city of the cats without tails”? They say that the local people cut the tails off their cats in order to keep the rooms warm when their pets were going in and out. Although there are many jokes about Gabrowians being miserly, Gabrovo offers a unique combination of cultural heritage and local hospitality. This small city also offers plenty of entertainment options for both the day and night, for people of all ages.