Karlovo is situated in the northern part of Karlovo valley, the Rose Garden of Bulgaria, picturesquely surrounded by the Balkan Range and the low mountain spurs of Sredna Gora Mountain. Being a quickly developing town, Karlovo combines the modernity of the present with the traditions, cultural and historical heritage of the past. It is a municipal center with a population of approximately 30,000 people and beautiful administrative and trade center isolated as a pedestrian zone. Here are the town Hall, the Community Center, the Art Gallery, a large hospital and a medical center, a nice hotel, many shops, bank offices and many nice and cozy cafes, restaurants, fast-food restaurants.
From the square, a nice and quiet alley leads to a beautiful park with a children’s playground and a stylish tavern. In the park, one can also see the beautiful waterfall Suchurum (Spraying water) on the Stara River.
Karlovo is located 56 km away from the administrative center – the city of Plovdiv, and 147 km away from the capital Sofia. The city of Bourgas and the Black sea coast are 260 km away.
The history of Karlovo goes far back in time. The oldest traces of life found here date back to the Neolithic Age or 6th millennium B.C. Archeological researches show that on this land lived also Thracian tribes. Later, during the Roman domination, the region marked fast development. During the Turkish invasion, the Turkish general Karli Lala Bei conquered Karlovo valley. Most probably, the name of the town comes from the family name of Karli Bei: Karliova (Karli’s land).
In the years of the Turkish oppression, Karlovo became quickly developing town. However, its economic and cultural growth reached its peak during the period of the National Revival. During this period crafts flourished, while the rose growing and the production of rose oil turned into a major factor in the economic development of Karlovo.
In the 1860’s and 1870’s the first tobacco factory and a modern textile mill were established in the town. The economic growth naturally led to a development in the sphere of education and culture. In the mid of the 19th century, two large churches were built and the citizens of Karlovo participated in the movement for independence of the Bulgarian Church.
The first school in Karlovo was established in 1810. Its students were a number of outstanding revival figures and future revolutionaries. In 1861 the citizens of Karlovo founded the Community Center, which became a nest of education and revolutionary ideas. The process of spiritual revival in Karlovo resulted in many unforgettable names – Raino Popovitch (a teacher and translator), Dr. Ivan Bogorov (publicist, translator and publisher of the first Bulgarian newspaper) and the notable teacher, publicist and public figure Botjo Petkov – father of the great poet and revolutionary Hriso Botev.
However, in the memory of the people Karlovo is mostly related with the name of Vasil Levski, who formed the Internal Revolutionary Organization and organized the network of committees for the liberation of Bulgaria from Turkish oppression. He was the leading figure in the Bulgarian Liberation Movement and the one who kept up the national consciousness and the national self-esteem through the years of the yoke.
After the Liberation, with the lost of the vast markets of the Otoman Empire Karlovo underwent a period of economic decline. Later the economic difficulties were partly overcome and a period of material and spiritual advancement followed.
Places to visit
The national museum “Vasil Levski” and the museum of history are among the most often visited places where the guests of the town can be acquainted with the history of Karlovo.
The museum of history is in the building of the former five-grade school for boys – one of the most representative architectural monuments from the time of the Bulgarian Revival. During its 100 years existence the museum of history has kept monuments of culture from ancient times to the present day, including the wide diversity of crafts that flourished here; very attractive are the mummers’ costumes connected with the traditional festival in Karlovo.
The national museum “Vasil Levski” is situated in the western part of Karlovo on the road to Sopot. The house where the great Apostle of Freedom was born still preserves the spirit of the ancient times. Hidden behind its high white wall, huddled among shrubs and vines, with cobbled paved yard, flower gardens and stone fountains, it accurately preserves the atmosphere of the old days. The house was restored in its original form and was opened as a museum in year 1937. It became one of the most attractive and often visited memorial places in Bulgaria.
Especially attractive and interesting for tourists is the old town with its 115 houses and monuments of culture. Spacious and functional, the houses are of high architectural value and still preserve the charm of the old days. In the center of the old town, at the square between the two churches, stands the impressive monument of Vasil Levski, built in 1907. Both churches reflect the grown national self-esteem of Karlovo’s citizens during the Revival. After the Liberation, imposing bell towers were built next to the churches.
Karlovo is a center of celebration of many local, regional and national holidays. A great tourist attraction is the Rose festival as well as the Mummers (Kukeri) day celebration. The Mummers days are traditionally celebrated on the first week before Lent. At that time Mummers from the whole region gather in Karlovo to present their colorful costumes, masques and ritual dances.
The Day of the Rose has been celebrated in Karlovo for nearly a century already. The festival takes place on the day of the Holy Spirit, when roses are in their full blossom. The tradition has been enriched through the years and nowadays it is celebrated with concerts, many cultural events. The whole town is decorated with rose wreaths and the wonderful fragrance of the world famous Bulgarian rose fills the air. The ritual “rose picking” is demonstrated in the rose fields outside the town. Boys and girls dressed in colorfully embroidered national costumes gather and dance under the sounds of Bulgarian folk music. From the rose garden the celebration moves to the central square of Karlovo where through a competition the Queen of Roses is chosen. Then follows the folklore part of the celebration in which the most famous folklore singers and dancing groups from the region take part. The exciting ceremony ends with a ring dance. Splendid fireworks accompany the final concert in the evening.
For the mountain lovers, of particular interest is the Central Balkan National Park – one of the three national parks in Bulgaria. Covering an area of 73250ha it preserves self-regulated ecosystems and their endemic species diversity, phenomenal landscapes and natural sights of world importance for science and culture (like the waterfalls Raiskoto Praskalo, Suchurum, Karlovskoto Praskalo). The territory of the park includes 9 reserves, representing the unique natural heritage of the Balkans. Central Balkan National Park is part of the European network of protected territories PAN Parks.
Nature offers many opportunities for conquerors of peaks that can climb Mount Botev (2376m) the highest peak in Stara Planina, and for alpinists, who can climb the Paradise Rocks, as well as for delta and paragliding.
In the region of Karlovo there is a network of well kept chalets and marked mountain routes. They are all electrified and offer excellent opportunities for mountain tourism. There is also a local office of the Mountain Control and Rescue Service to help in emergencies.
This is a brief overview of the history, the lovely nature and the modern development of Karlovo and the region. In order to get a real feeling of the area, come, see, and experience the excitement of being in this great part of Bulgaria.
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