I’ve always enjoyed visiting the small cities of Bulgaria. They are so much different from each other, having such a warm atmosphere where everyone knows each other. At first one thinks there shouldn’t be much to be done in those, nothing like the ‘cool busy life in the capital’ but – after you land there you figure out how much more relaxed life is in those cities. And how many things there are to be seen and enjoyed.
I’ve recently visited the small city of Etropole – it’s some 80 kms from the capital. So close to the craziness of Sofia and yet so different. A green city, full of flowers, full of smiling people and – many things to see and do.
Highly recommend you a weekend stroll in this area, take your kids too.
What’s to be seen in and around Etropole?
The Museum of History
You can start from the history museum of Etropole, to figure out how the locals made a living before and how they do it now. Estropole used to be a city of crafts, very rich one, but after it was decided in the 19th century that the road connecting the Northern to the Southern part of occupied Bulgaria would go through Botevgrad, its prosperity started declining.
This is a truly beautiful museum (the former seat of the city governor in the times of the Turkish occupation) with a good exhibition.
In this museum we learnt about the Festival of the sons-in-law taking place annually on June 28th (must-visit for me :). All sons-in-law living in Etropole with their parents-in-law walk the main streets of the city. They carry posters expressing their love and gratitude for their mothers-in-law. I was giggling for half an hour after seeing a few photos from the fest, can’t imagine how amusing that will be live 🙂
The Clock Tower
The Clock Tower of Etropole is just next to the history museum. Built in 1710, this is one of the oldest clock towers in Bulgaria. It was initially used for monitoring the area (suppose by the Turks) but later on was converted to a clock tower and mounted the bell from destroyed church of St Atanas monastery. Very beautiful, especially with the mountain in the background.
The Clock Tower along with the history museum are one of the 100 National Tourist Sights of Bulgaria.
The central street
I’ve rarely such a big concentration of flowers on a central street in Bulgaria. Very beautiful, clean and so pleasant to walk. Get a coffee in one of the central street cafes sitting in shade of huge trees.
Etropole monastery is actually closer to the nearby village of Ribaritsa than to Etropole. You will need a car for those 5-6 kilometers to the monastery. Or, go to Ribaritsa and take the 2.5 km eco path to the monastery. We did check the beginning of the eco path and it was very pleasant and well-maintained.
In the monastery, inside a room signed Museum you can see the hiding place of Vassil Levski – a national hero in the history of Bulgaria. If you walk a bit behind the monastery you will also see the waterfall Varovitets – this is one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Bulgaria.
The monastery area is very pleasant and great for walking around with kids, there are a few kids activities in the yard too. The monastery also hosts a lot of religious celebrations at weekends so – good chance to see those live.
What else to do while here?
I’d advise, when you reach the Museum of History, to take a look at the map of the area just in front of the museum. It has all sights and hiking routes in the region.
The top 3 I liked were:
- Visit Ribaritsa – a small village 4 kms from Etropole with lots of hiking opportunities, here you can also find lots of family hotels/guest houses to spend the night
- Start from the nearby Yamna village and visit Chertigrad – a Thracian fortress (~2 hours walk)
- Start from Etropole bus station and climb the nearby peak of St Atanas. There’s a Thracian village found here but it’s in process of being excavated. Some of the finds from the village you can see exhibited in the Museum of History. 2 hours walk again.
And – on Saturday mornings there’s also the city market – very lively and colorful, the whole city seemed to have gathered there! So, for a weekend escape, I’d set off for Etropole on a Saturday morning, spend the night in Ribaritsa and dedicate the Sunday to hiking the area. A perfectly spent weekend in a beautiful piece of Bulgaria 🙂