Seen from a distance, Koprivshtitsa (Копривщица) looks almost too lovely to be real, its half-timbered houses lying in a valley amid wooded hills. It would be an oasis of rural calm if not for the tourists drawn by the superb architecture and Bulgarians paying homage to a landmark in their nation’s history.
A street running off to the west of the main square leads to the Oslekov House. Its summer guest room is particularly impressive, with a vast wooden ceiling carved with geometric motifs. Cross the Freedom Bridge opposite the information centre to reach Karavelov House, the childhood home of Lyuben Karavelov, a fervent advocate of Bulgaria’s liberation who spent much of his adult life in exile where he edited revolutionary publications. Near the Surlya Bridge is the birthplace of the poet Dimcho Debelyanov, who is buried in the grounds of the hilltop Church of the Holy Virgin. A gate at the rear of the churchyard leads to the birthplace of Todor Kableshkov, leader of the local rebels. Kableshkov’s house now displays weapons used in the Rising and features a wonderful circular vestibule. Continuing south, cross the Bridge of the First Shot, which spans the Byala Reka stream, head up ul. Nikola Belodezhdov, and you’ll come to the Lyutov House, once home to a wealthy yogurt merchant and today housing some of Koprivshtitsa’s most sumptuous interiors. On the opposite side of the River Topolnitsa, steps lead up to the birthplace of another major figure in the Rising, Georgi Benkovski. A tailor by profession, he made the famous silk banner embroidered with the Bulgarian lion and “Liberty or Death!”.