In 1872, in Lovech, a Bulgarian town in the northern part of the country, the bridge over the river was swept away by the rising waters in spring. Then the people turned to a famous Bulgarian architect called Kolyu Ficheto (Bulgarian: Колю Фичето). He stepped in and was hired to build the bridge anew. His skills and knowledge helped him to create an art-piece, still famous throughout the country. This bridge is called “The Covered Bridge” and is known as the first Bulgarian shopping mall.
Before I tell you more about this, innovative for that time, project, let me introduce you to the man behind it. Kolyu Ficheto, or Nikola Fichev, as his real name is, was a self-taught craftsman, born in 1800. He started studying the architect-trade when he was 13. He acquired the knowledge and experience during his travels to Albania, Romania and Greece, and his ambition and love for knowledge turned him into one of the most respected figures on the Bulgarian cultural stage for the last few centuries.
The project was finished after two years and officially opened in 1876. The idea of the brilliant-for-his-time craftsman was to make a roof over the bridge so that it is closed, or in other words, covered, and allows people to cross it undisturbed by the weather. The construction plans included the space for shops and cafes, also positioned on the bridge, under its roof. The bridge is 84 m long and has 64 shops and cafes. It used to be a part of an important road, connecting nearby towns and villages, and in this way, it played a role in the development of economy and commerce. On it, you can still recognize the motives of Bulgarian folklore figures and symbols.
This “mall” has been renovated a few times during the years. Once, it was rebuilt almost from scratch, after most of it was burned in a fire. Now, it is a symbol of the town and also a part of the Bulgarian cultural heritage. It is a link between the two worlds and eras - the traditional and modern parts. The former is full of picturesque views, buildings and small streets, which show the visitors what the town looked like 150 years ago. The latter is a middle-sized Bulgarian municipality, with a population around 40,000. Today, the bridge looks almost like it did when it was first built. It still accommodates cafes and shops, which are currently functioning as such. Here, one can also find the tourist info-center of Lovech.
This the 19th-century Bulgarian shopping mall is one of many things in the country, left as a heritage from another era and is therefore worth seeing and experiencing. The Covered Bridge is the only one of this kind on the Balkan peninsula and is there to remind the people that brilliance, innovation and fame are the results of immense efforts, hard work, as well as a constant expansion of one's knowledge and experience.
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