With its dramatic medieval fortifications and huddles of antique houses teetering over the lovely River Yantra, Veliko Tarnovo (Велико Търново) holds a uniquely important place in the minds of Bulgarians. When the National Assembly met here to draft Bulgaria’s first constitution in 1879, it did so in the former capital of the Second Kingdom (1185–1396), whose civilization was snuffed out by the Turks. It was here, too, that the Communists chose to proclaim the People’s Republic in 1944.

Modern Veliko Tarnovo centres on ploshtad Mayka Balgariya: from here bul. Nezavisimost (which becomes ul. Stefan Stambolov after a few hundred metres) heads northeast into a network of narrow streets that curve above the River Yantra and mark out the old town and its photogenic houses. From ul. Stambolov, the narrow cobbled ul. Rakovski slopes up into the Varosh Quarter, a pretty ensemble of nineteenth-century buildings once home to bustling artisans’ workshops and now occupied by clothing and souvenir shops.

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