This Second Empire brought about a golden age of Bulgaria, flourishing with trade, prosperity and (for the most part) peace. First, as was typical across Europe in the Middle Ages, a fortified wall was built around the town -- 3600 feet long, over 11 feet thick in certain parts and roughly 33 feet high. Within these walls -- a new, larger, bigger fortress was erected. With imposing stonewalls, massive gates (the only way to enter was through one of these three gates), homes, offices and churches. In fact, according to archeological finds, there were roughly 400 residential and administrative dwellings, 22 churches and 4 monasteries on the hill. These included the Throne Room, the Palace Church and the Royal Chambers. A city within a stone city. There was also an execution rock where traitors were pushed into the Yontra River. Baldwin I, the first emperor of the Latin Empire of Constantinople, was killed at the fortress as well by being pushed off what is now known as Baldwin Tower. (Bulgarian legend has it that Baldwin was trying to seduce the tsar’s wife). The Middle Ages had an extreme justice system!
The economy was thriving -- the earliest Bulgarian coinage dates to this period. Excavations have uncovered gold jewelry and gold-embroidered clothing. But after a run of tsars, the political structure could not hold and when Byzantine forces returned, they were able to scorch the fortress back to the ground in 1393.
Modern restorations began in the 1930s and were completed in 1981, marking the 1300th anniversary of the Bulgarian State. Tourists can now explore this important part of Bulgarian history – exploring the much of the fortress as it once was -- and catching some stunning, panoramic views of the city as well.
Visit the city of Veliko Tarnovo and other significant historical sites on one of our Gems of Southeast Europe sailings.