Many people ask themselves this question. Koprivshtitsa has a romantic appeal for the local people, while for foreign visitors it’s just another place in Bulgaria which has preserved its cultural and historic heritage. Koprivshtitsa is more popular in summer, but we chose to visit this museum town in winter, seeking the perspective of a crystal-clear air, white mountain slopes and snow-capped peaks above the red roofs of old houses.
Koprivshtitsa is only 120 km east of Sofia, or 2 hours’ drive away and an ideal winter weekend escape.
Snow started falling in the morning, so by the time we reached Koprivshtitsa the town was all white. It was a real winter fairy tale: snowflakes as big as magical ballerinas, icicles from the roofs of the colourful old houses, quiet and stress-free atmosphere.
Our accommodation pick turned out to be the ideal place for a weekend escape – warm and cozy, small and impeccably clean guest house, run by a local family. Our hosts’ directions helped us to find the best place for home-made cuisine. Hot soups, traditional slow food specialties and fresh home-made bread - that was all we could wish for.
Anyway, we came to Koprivshtitsa for the cultural perspective and started our walking tour.
Koprivshtitsa was declared a museum town back in 1952. This status helped the local municipality to proceed with all conservation and restauration work the cultural sites needed. At its heyday Koprivshtitsa numbered 12,000, as many as Sofia on the eve of the Liberation (1878). Now the population of the town in only 2,135.
We started our walking tour along the snow-white cobbled streets in a sunny, chilly afternoon, in search of a century-old cultural heritage.
“Freedom or Death” – this was the motto of Koprivshtitsa revolutionary enthusiasm. The heroes of the time (1876) knew how high was the price of Freedom. Georgi Benkovski, Todor Kableshkov, Lyuben Karavelov – they all became part of the tragic history of their times. All personal and family stories reveal the philosophy of a revolution and the human price paid for revolutionary changes.
Every single house here is part and parcel of Bulgaria’s history and each one tells a different story. Oslekov’s and Lyutov’s houses tell a story of wealth, ambition, hard work, adventurous spirit, skill and success. These local people were respected craftsmen and merchants. One of them, Hadji Nencho Palaveev(1859-1936), had shares of the Suez Canal and had been a great donor of the town of Koprivshtitsa, remembered and respected until the present day. Another merchant, Petko Doganov, a donor of the Rila monastery, was so rich that when he visited the monastery, one hundred servants and bodyguards accompanied him.
Lyutov’s house compares only with Oslekov’s house. Both houses are interesting for their outer appearance, rich interior decoration, woodcarvings and murals. They are a fine example of the unmistakable taste of the master-builders.
Debelyanov’s house tells the story of the best Bulgarian lyrical poet Dimcho Debelyanov (1887-1916), a story of talent, inspiration and crushed dreams, who lost his life in the First World War.
The most important historical period for Koprivshtitsa was in 1876, when the April Uprising against the Ottoman rule was drenched in blood. The tragic events in Bulgaria resounded in all of Europe. It is a miracle that Koprivshtitsa itself was spared destruction and survives in its original appearance.
Koprivshtitsa is a very special place and appeals to so many different people with the dark green slim fir trees, bracing air, spacious meadows, peaceful cobble-paved streets, legendary history, beautiful wood and stone houses and the biggest authentic Bulgarian folklore festival, preserving the folklore tradition of the rich national folklore heritage. Folklore Festival in Koprivshtitsa is part of the intangible cultural heritage of Bulgaria, selected on the UNESCO Register of Good Safeguarding Practices in 2016. The next festival will be held in 2020. We will definitely come over again, in summer.