Either side of the River Osam stands the town of Lovech. An interesting town and like so many other Bulgarian settlements has a lot of historical stories to tell.
The town ofLovech is situated 170kms East of Sofia, 86 kms West of Veliko Tarnovo and 35 kms North of the monastery town of Troyan and is one of the oldest towns in Bulgaria
Because of its location, between the Stara Planina mountains in the South and the flatter lands of the Danube Plain to the North and being on a river. Lovech and the surrounding area was an ideal place for settlers. There are many cave systems in the area, such as the Devetashka caves, and old bones dating back thousands of years have been found within them.
During the 4th or 3rd century BC the Thracians settled in the area and made Lovech their capital and called it Melta
Centuries later the Romans were expanding their empire and they built a fortress on top of Hisarya hill overlooking the town, this became an important strategic military station called Presidium.
It commands great views over the surrounding countryside and so has great advantage over an attacking army trying to climb its steep hill and then try to breach its solid stone walls.
The fortress continued to be of strategic importance to the Bulgars throughout the conflicts with the Byzantine empire and it is here at Hisarya fortress that the peace treaty was eventually signed with the Byzantines in 1187 which marked the beginning of the 2nd Bulgarian empire.
The Hisarya Fortress was declared a monument of architecture and construction in 1967.
GUIDED TOURs TO LOVECH FROM YOUR SOFIA HOTEL
This guided tour includes the Vasil Levski museum and a trip to the beautiful Krushuna waterfalls
Town of Lovech under the Ottoman Rule
The town of Lovech continued to be of military importance through the medieval period and by the 11th century the town became known as Lovuts. Which means ‘the town of hunters’ many years later that name was changed to its present name of Lovech.
During the 14th century the Ottoman Empire invaded Bulgaria and by 1446 Hisarya fortress, being the last stronghold to hold out against the invading Turkish army, was eventually captured.
The town and the people of Lovech were actually given some privileges, such as the Turks not being allowed to settle in the town or that young Bulgarian (and now Christian) sons of the towns people were not to be taken as slaves and be forced into the Ottoman army.
For the next 500 years Bulgaria was ruled by the Turks and although the town of Lovech flourished and became one of the richest towns in Bulgaria, it was still a town ‘under the yoke’ of the Ottoman Empire and during this time many Bulgarian organisations revolted and fought to regain their beloved country. But the uprisings were always defeated and the retribution for such acts were harshly administered. It is said that nearly one million Bulgarians were put to death during the occupation.
Vasil Levski Museum
Lovech became the centre for the revolutionary organisations for the liberation of the Bulgarian people. One such Bulgarian, named Vasil Levski, and dubbed the ‘Apostle of freedom’, was possibly inspired by the French revolution. Vasil had a great vision for human rights, a fighter for democracy and freedom for ethnic and religious equality.
Levski organised and succeeded in coordinating secret committees around the many towns and cities in Bulgaria and established a strong network of revolutionaries including the acquisition of weapons.
The thought of a great and revolution began to spread across the country.
Unfortunately during 1872 Vasil Levski was betrayed and caught by Turkish soldiers in a small village near to Lovech called Kakrina. He was taken to Sofia for trial, and was hanged on February 6, 1873 aged only 36 years.
Vasil was buried in a secret place only known to the Ottoman authorities as they knew he would be a martyr to the Bulgarian people and his grave a shrine and inspiration to others. His grave still remains a hidden mystery to this day.
Vasil Levski is the most revered hero in the history of Bulgaria and his statue can be found in many cities including Lovech. There is hardly a town or village in Bulgaria that doesn’t bear a street named after him.
The Vasil Levski museum in Lovech is listed in the top 100 sites to visit in Bulgaria. The museum is spread over two floors and includes the largest collection of Vasil’s personal effects anywhere, including his dagger and sabre and many other artefacts relating to the revolutionaries.
Read more information on Vasil Levski
The Covered Bridge
The town of Lovech most famous landmark and official symbol,is the covered bridge. It spans the River Osam and was built between 1872 and 1874 by the master builder, Nikola Fichev. (also known as, Kolyu Ficheto.,)
He is said to have built it without surveying equipment, cement or nails, a true testament to his skills indeed! .
This bridge is the only one of its kind in Bulgaria and despite being burned down in 1925 it was repaired during 1931 and houses about 62 shops, including cafes, local craft, gift shops and a tourist information office.
Battle of Lovech
During the Russo Turkish war of 1877-1878 the fortress was garrisoned by the Ottoman army, the Russian army attacked with 100,000 men and after two days of battle seized the stronghold. This was a great victory and turning point in the war in favour of the Russian armies as they went on to oust the Turkish army at the nearby city of Pleven after cutting off the major supply routes to the city which in turn led to the end of the war and the Ottoman rule.
The Turkish army beheaded 4500 Bulgarians in one night in revenge for the defeat at Lovech.
Old Turkish Baths ‘Deli Hammam’ Lovech
The first virtual museum of water in Europe was opened during June 2015 and is a really interesting place to see and visit.
Originally built in the 16th – 17th century it was left to ruins after the Russo –Turkish war but has now been restored to its former glory with European funding, along with modern audio visual displays, to show visitors how the underground heating system and the old public bath would have worked.
It is believed that this is the last Turkish Hammam to be used as a public bath in Bulgaria.
The Turkish bath can be found in the old quarter of Varosha district of Lovech only a few of hundred metres from the covered bridge on the south side of the River Osam and can be distinguished by its rounded roof top.
Read more information about the Deli Hammam and the hypercaust system
Varosha Revival Reserve District
The old quarter of the town is known as the Varosha district and this has over 160 restored old houses from the national revival period in Bulgaria which were built during the 19th century, this period of architecture is said to have ended with the liberation of Bulgaria in 1878.
Walking up the cobbled streets towards the Hisarya fortress you will pass the Vasil Levski museum and opposite is situated Drasova House and Rashova House, these are ethnographic museums and exhibit and depict the home life of families in Lovech in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.
Other things to do in and around Lovech
Stratesh park is also known as Lilac park due to the many Lilacs that grow everywhere and every May the town of Lovech holds its annual Lilac music day.
Lovech Zoo is the 2nd largest zoo in Bulgaria (the largest is in Sofia) by size and by variety of animals. it can be found in the eastern part of the Strattesh park. There are about 420 species of animals and birds and the most attractive among them are the polar bear, Siberian tiger, lion, Amur leopard, kangaroo, dromedary, brown bear.
If you believe animals should NOT be kept in cages then this Lovech attraction is definately NOT for you.
Pleven Panorama The Pleven Panorama depicts the events of the Russian-Turkish War of 1877–78, specifically the five-month Siege of Plevna (Pleven) which made the city internationally famous and which contributed to the Liberation of Bulgaria after five centuries of Ottoman rule and is another great place to visit and a must see if you are particularly interested in famous battles.