© iStock / Angelo D`Amico
© iStock / Angelo D`Amico

The millennia-old fairytale hill of Tsarevets in Veliko Tarnovo

2 minutes to read

Bulgaria`s long history includes so many stories about glorious battles, wise princesses and brave kings, that it might as well have been a country in a fairytale world. And perhaps the most interesting part of Bulgaria`s millennia-old history was in the years between 1185 CE and 1396 CE when the capital city was Veliko Tarnovo and the place where the kings lived was on the Tsarevets Hill.

History of the place

The place has existed for at least 5000 years, and there are archaeological artefacts which show that people lived here, even 3000 BCE. Then, in 700-500 BCE, the area was part of the Roman Empire. After Khan Asparuh founded the Bulgarian state south of the Danube River in 681 CE, Tsarevets and the surroundings became part of this new country, but the capital was in Pliska instead.

Tsarevets Hill near Veliko Tarnovo
Tsarevets Hill near Veliko Tarnovo
Tsar Asen Square, 5000 Tsarevets, Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria

The interesting part of Tsarevets` history starts in 1185 CE when the Bulgarians freed themselves from Roman dominance. The town of Veliko Tarnovo became the new capital. It symbolised a new beginning for the nation. “Veliko” means “great” in Bulgarian, which was how people used to call the town back then – the Great town of Tarnovo. This wasn`t just because it was a place where the local aristocracy lived or because it was a cultural and political centre. Veliko Tarnovo was also the biggest town in the Eastern part of Europe.

 Although it is unclear what the name of the place was before it turned into a royal palace, the name "Tsarevets" has persisted in time. History is reticent about the origin of the word "Tsarevets", but its meaning is “the kingly one”. Atop the hill, naturally, a royal palace was built, spreading on the nearby hills as well. There was a Christian church, as well as many towers, which secured the fortress around the palace. One of the towers is named after the Latin emperor Baldwin I of Flanders, who was captured in a battle by the Bulgarian king Kaloyan and locked up. Although the former died a year after he was captured, he enjoyed all the benefits of life in Tsarevets, as if he was a royal guest of the king, not just a prisoner.

© commons.wikimedia /Kandi
© commons.wikimedia /Kandi

What to expect here

Just so that you can imagine the grandiosity of the place, I want to mention the fortress` size. Its outer wall had an overall length of 1.1 km. It was 3.4 m thick and over 10 m tall. In its northern end is the Yantra River, where there is a cliff, called “The Death Cliff”. As suggested by the name, it was the Bulgarian royals` favourite place for throwing traitors and people who had committed crimes against the state into the river.

© Flickr / Dennis Jarvis
© Flickr / Dennis Jarvis

No matter if you are a fan of fairytales or if you just want to visit those beautiful hills and enjoy a walk with a fascinating view of the surroundings, the hill of Tsarevets in Veliko Tarnovo is a place for you. Being millennia-old, its numerous legends and myths, as well as the historical facts, would amaze every visitor.


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The author

Maria Belcheva

Maria Belcheva

My name is Maria, and I am a Bulgarian living in Vienna, Austria. I want to take you on a journey around all the amazing places and things worth visiting and experiencing in my homeland - Bulgaria.

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