Today my home land celebrates the Liberation Day. So, I thought there is no better day to start a series of publications, dedicated to Why and what to visit in Bulgaria.
And because my favourite city is the one I was born in, I am happy to present you Ruse - also known as The Small Vienna.
Ruse is located in North-East Bulgaria, on the Danube shore. The river always had an important role in city's life and development. During the 1-st century B.C. a Roman military camp and fortress had been established here. It was called Sexaginta Pristis - the City of Sixty Boats. While Bulgaria made part of the Ottoman Empire (14th-19th centuries) the city is known as Ruschuk and had been one of the most important ones in the entire Empire. After the liberation in 1878 Ruse was the biggest city in Bulgaria Principality and had a fast-growing economy. It is the city of many "first" things that had happened in Bulgaria - the first railway station was built here, a contemporary publishing house was established, a newspaper was issued. The city was also a headquarter of multiple consulates.
Thanks to the Danube river Ruse already had a connection with the rest of Europe. Its beautiful buildings in the city centre are designed by Italian, Austrian, German and Bulgarian architects, and gave the city's fame of “The Small Vienna”.
One of the city's symbols is the Regional Historical Museum. It is the first building in Neoclassical style in Ruse, as well as the first administration establishment, built after the liberation - in 1882 by the Austrian architect Friedrich Grünanger. Located at Alexander Battenberg Square, the Museum stores more than 130 000 important culture monuments.
Another main site is the building of Tax Administration and Theatre. It is an elegant, Neoclassical style building, constructed in the period of 1898-1902 by the Austrian architect Peter Paul Brang. On the roof there are seven figures, representing the: Art, Science, Agriculture, Crafts, Commerce, Defence and the Free Spirit.
Right in front of the building of Tax Administration and Theatre, in the nice park with fountains at the Freedom Square, is the Monument of Liberty. It was designed by the Italian sculptor Arnoldo Zocchi and fulfilled by the Bulgarian craftsman Georgy Kiselinchev. The statue on top represents a female figure, holding a sword in her left hand, while with her right hand pointing the direction from where the national liberators arrived. One of the two bronze lions at the base is tearing the yoke chains with his mouth, while the other defends the Shield of Freedom.
On the other side of Freedom Square is the gorgeous building of the State Opera. It was unveiled in November 27th 1949 with the premiere of Traviata by Guiseppe Verdi.
Another interesting landmark is the Urban City Style Museum, also known as "Kaliopa House". It was built in 1864 and is a former Prussian consulate. The legend says that the house was a gift to the beautiful Kaliopa (Maria Kalish, the wife of Prussian consul Morris Kalish) by Midhad Pasha (Governor of the Danubian Vilayet) who was in love with her. The frescoes at the second floor date from 1896 and are made by the Austrian painter Charles Schausberg. The museum represents Ruse as a gate to Europe and shows how the european city culture arrived to Bulgaria in the end of 19th and beginning of 20th century. The visitor can witness sample interior layouts of a living-room, a music hall and a bedroom with furniture from Vienna, as well as collections of urban clothing, jewelry and other accessories. The first royal piano imported from Vienna can also be seen here.
The museum house of Zahari Stoyanov is close to the Kaliopa House. Two expositions are presented there – one, dedicated to the revolutionary and writer Zahari Stoyanov (1850 – 1889), and a second one that traces the history of Obretenov family and their activity for the national movement for liberation from the Ottomans.
The mortal remains of Zahari Stoyanov, as well as those of many other renowned Bulgarians, are reserved in the Pantheon of the Leaders of Bulgarian National Revival in Ruse. Tribute is paid to more than 450 leaders of the Bulgarian National Revival in the ossuary temple.
While in the area of the Pantheon, don't miss the Revival park behind it. It is a great place for a fresh, nice walk, specially in summer time.
Another great park close by is the Youth Park - the biggest park in the city. It starts just behind the monument of a Soviet soldier (built in 1947). Passing the monument, in front of you will appear a big vase, which depends on the season, could be all brown (soil) or all covered by flowers. At the vase turn left and on your left side will be the rock garden. Continuing straight you will reach stairs going down to the riverside. They will actually lead you what was once the very first railway station in Bulgaria. Nowadays, it is the National Museum of Transport and deserves a visit. Among the most interesting exponents of the museum are the coaches of tzar Ferdinand (1887–1918) and tzar Boris III (1918–1943), as well as the saloon coach of Sultan Abdul Aziz (1830–1876). There are three halls in the museum, displaying the history of railway and shipping transport in Bulgaria. After leaving the museum find the rosarium - a garden almost in the centre of the park. Sit at a bench and enjoy the cocktail of scents and colours, prepared by all the roses around you.
Another great place for riverside walks is the city quay. This is actually the perfect spot to enjoy the sunset over the Danube river.
Around 15km from Ruse is the unique rock monastery of Basarbovo "Saint Dimitar Basarbovski" - the only one still in function in Bulgaria. Personally to me, it is a special place I visit often to recharge and reconnect with myself. It is located in the valley of Rusenski Lom river which is also a nice hiking area.
I really hope you will enjoy this gorgeous city as much as I do every time I visit it. Modern but relatively calm, Ruse's streets comprise history. Dive in for a few days and tell me how it was :-)
What else to do around Ruse:
Wine tasting at Raynoff & Sons (their Rosé is my favourite!)
Visit the remains of Ivanovo rock churches - a UNESCO world heritage
Visit Lipnik Park - around 10km from Ruse it is a great refuge for the hot summer days
Where to eat in Ruse:
Happy Bar & Grill are all over the country and will never disappoint
Leventa - a former fort, now it is a very nice restaurant and winery
For the cake lovers I highly recommend Shocolino cake shop (close to the university)