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Kotel Tours

Visit Kotel as part of our Bulgarian UNESCO Sites Programme
Visit Kotel as part of our Museum Towns and Bulgarian Traditions (Northern Itinerary) Programme

Rural Tourism: Kotel

Kotel - Pictures Of Bulgaria
The town of Kotel (population: 7433, 527 m above sea level) is situated in a picturesque small valley (kotlovina - that is where its name derives from) in the Kotel Balkan (Eastern Stara Planina Mountain. It is 328 km east of Sofia, 49 km north-east of Sliven, 38 km and 62 km south of Omourtag and Targovishte, respectively. An old town from the Revival Period.

History: At the beginning of the Ottoman Rule Kotel was inhabited by Bulgarians from the adjacent towns and villages in search of rescue. A Turkish register of 1486 contains the earliest information about the town. During the first centuries of the foreign domination it was inhabited by the so-called derventdgii (special Bulgarian guards of the mountain passes and roads) and dzhelepi (traders of cattle, sheep in particular). The already mentioned obligations of Kotel towards the central authority compensated for a relative independence - municipal self government, independently elected local governor, exemption of some taxation, prohibition of Turkish settling there. All these, as well as the economic growth in 18th - 19th centuries, the commercial contracts, the passionate Orthodox belief of the inhabitants of Kotel (many used to travel to Jerusalem and Sveta Gora) contributed to the transformation of the town into a lively centre of Bulgarian culture and education, of the struggle for church independence and national freedom. Kotel is the native place of Captain Georgi Mamarchev (officer in the Russian Army), Georgi Sava Rakovski (one of the main ideologists of the movement for national liberation), the Revival men of letters Neophyte Bozvelli, Dr. Peter Beron (the composer of the famous Riben Boukvar textbook), Sofronii Vrachanski (the most outstanding representative of the literary school of Kotel who copied Istoria Slavyano-bol-gar-ska (Slavonic and Bulgarian History) brought by Paisiy Hilendarski himself in 1764), Stefan Izvorski, Ivan Kishelski, Vassil Beron, the socially active men Gavril Krustevich, Aleko Bogoridi, Stefan Bogoridi, etc.

In 1812 the first Bulgarian elite secular school was opened here. The town is a native place of a number of voivodi (leaders of revolutionaries - haidouts), haidouts, revolutionaries, volunteers, members of in Hadzhi Dimiturs, Panayot Volovs, Hristo Botevs detachments. Vassil Levski set up a revolutionary committee in Kotel. The town suffered hard times during the kurdzhalii (Turkish brigands) raids. Indzhe attempted to attack and rob the town but its inhabitants erected a three-metre high wall and drove back the brigands. Nevertheless, in 1848 and 1863 Kotel was put on fire. During the Russian- Turkish War of Liberation battles were held in the immediate vicinity of the town. The town itself accommodated the volunteer detachments, the volunteers headquarters with general Stoletov, as well as the Hussar regiment from Narvsk with A. Poushkin at the head, who was son of A. S. Poushkin, the genius Russian poet. After the liberation in 1894 Kotel suffered the most devastating fire in its history when the bigger part of the town was ruined down. Only the quarter called Galata survived and today it renders an approximate idea of what the old town looked like.

The craft of carpet weaving is very typical for the town and the region, which makes Kotel the oldest centre of artistic fabrics in the country and abroad, having a unique weaving school. The town has preserved precious relics of the past - sarcophagus with Georgi Sava Rakovskis skeleton in it, Dr. Peter Berons heart, manuscripts of Levski and Sofronii Vrachanski. Its rich history, Revival architecture and marvellous vicinity make this picturesque Balkan town a desired place for national and international tourism.

Landmarks: The town of Kotel has been declared an architecture and historical reserve. There have been preserved about 110 houses from the Revival Period in the quarter of Galata that survived the fire in 1894, as well as in those at Durlyanka street. They are Kamchiya-style houses - one- or two-storied , made of stone and wood, with brilliant wood carvings, huge eves, curved roofs and fantastic yards.

The Galatan School (17, Izvorska Str., tel.: 0453 2316, working hours: 8.00 a.m. - 12.00 a.m. and 1.30 p.m. - 6.00 p.m.) - an architectural monument from 1869. There is a museum exposition of brilliant fabrics - symbol of the ancient craft of carpet weaving - so typical of Kotel. The Kyopeevs House - Ethnographic museum (4, Altunlu Stoyan Str,, working hours: 8.00 a.m. - 12.00 a.m. and 1.30 p.m. - 6.00 p.m.). The visitor finds himself in the romantic atmosphere of the old Kotel home, feeling its whole beauty, utility and cosiness. The Pantheon of Kotels Renaissance men and women (Vuzrazhdane Sq., working hours: 8.00 a.m. - 12.00 a.m. and 1.00 p.m. - 5.00 p.m.). It is an imposing building made of stone, iron, copper and wood, giving the impression of contact with the glory of the past epoch. Georgi Sava Rakovskis sarcophagus lies here.

The Museum of Nature and Science (situated in the park called Izvorite (the Springs), tel.: 0453 2355, working hours: 8.00 a.m. - 12.00 a.m. and 1.30 p.m. - 6.00 p.m.). It preserves approximately 30 000 exhibits which show the natural variety of the area. The museum exposition has been arranged by in accordance with ecological principles and occupies 1 000 square metres. It is the only one of its kind in south-eastern Europe. Vassil Georgiev, a local teacher at the time, established it.

The Izvorite Park (the Springs), situated in the northern part of the town, is unique with the three springs (output flow of 2 000 litres per second). The Sveta Troitsa (St. Trinity) Church and St. St. Apostles Peter and Pavel Church preserve beautiful wood-carvings representing the Tryavna School of Art.

There is Philip Koutev High School of Music in Kotel, it is the first high school for folk singing and instrumental music in Europe (the other school of this type is located in the village of Shiroka Luka in the Rhodope Mountains).
Accommodation: The Mel Invest Hotel (59, Izvorska Str.) offers 50 beds. There is a restaurant and a discotheque. The Minyor House for Prophylactics offers 30 beds and a restaurant. The Vetrila Hotel (1, Vetrila Str.) offers 10 beds and a bar. There are numerous catering establishments that offer local cuisine in the town. One such restaurant is Diavena Restaurant, also Elenite Restaurant, Starata Vodenitsa (Old Water-mill) Tavern situated in the Izvorite Park, etc.

Tourist Information: in Kotel Tourist Association (housed in the town-hall, tel.: 0453 2030, working hours: 8.00 a.m. - 5.00 p.m., Monday through Friday) and at the hotels.

Transport: There are regular bus lines to Shumen, Veliki Preslav, Turgovishte, Omurtag, Sliven, Yambol and other smaller villages and towns in the district. The bus station is situated in the southern part of the town near the river (Louda Kamchia Str., tel.: 0453 2612, 2052, 2460).

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