Koprivshtitsa, Bulgaria: A Museum in the Open Area
Location: Western Bulgaria, Sofia District, Koprivshtitsa Municipality, Sredna Gora Mountain, 110 kilometers east of Sofia, 90 kilometers northwest of Plovdiv
Population: ~ 2,500 inhabitants
Elevation: 1060 meters
Koprivshtitsa is a small town located in the Topolnitsa river valley in the Sredna Gora Mountains. The city has preserved the Bulgarian spirit alive through the centuries and has a very rich historical background. The settlement was founded in the 14th century. Many of the beautifully decorated old houses were preserved in their authentic form in a typical Revival architecture with high stone walls and wide wooden gates. Some of the houses were turned into museums. A town of revolutionaries – Koprivshtitsa was the birthplace of many famous Bulgarians that led the fight against the Ottoman rule in the 19th century – George Benkovski, Dimcho Debelyanov, Todor Kableshkov, Lyuben Karavelov and many others.
On 20 April 1876 the April Uprising for Bulgarian independence broke out in the town. On this date on the Kalachev bridge George Tihanek fired the first shot, which marked the beginning of the uprising. A Turkish zaptieh called Kara Hussein was killed. Todor Kableshkov – a Bulgarian revolutionary and one of the leaders of the uprising, signed with blood the famous “Blood Letter”, sent to Panagyurishte to announce the beginning of the rebellion. Kalachev bridge became one of the most important symbols of Koprivshtitsa.
Neofit Rilski used to be a teacher in the “Saints Cyril and Methodius” school, (the second school for both girls and boys in Bulgaria, 1837), an interesting sight to see. The first class school in Bulgaria is also situated here, founded by Nayden Gerov (1846). The ossuary holding the remains of the residents killed participating in the April Uprising can be seen in town square, as well as the craft bazaar, “Hadzhi Nencho Palaveev” community center and two churches. Monument to George Benkovski – another leader of the uprising, was erected above the town, close to his house. He is represented as a horseman, standing on 5 granite stones – a symbol of the five centuries of Ottoman rule. The inscription on them reads: “Get up slaves, I don’t want yoke.”
The city has many stone water fountains. They were built in different stages of the history of Koprivshtitsa. Some of them are preserved until today.
Kerekov water fountain is the oldest preserved fountain. In 1751 it was built into the stone wall of Shulev house and later restored – in 1935 and 2005. A hexagonal star was carved into the water fountain. On top of it there is an overflowing pitcher and wine a vessel. The water fountain is not functioning.
The Moravenov water fountain was restored in 1843 by the craftsman Usta Gavril from Plovdiv. It was built into the wall of “Saint Nicholas” church. The fountain was decorated with pagan and Christian symbols. The white dove with spread wings on the upper part of the water fountain symbolizes the Holy Spirit, and the fish – Jesus Christ.
The anniversary of the beginning of the April Uprising is commemorated every year on 1st and 2nd May. The festive atmosphere in the city recreates the historical events during that time.
The anthem of the city is the song “Hubava si, moya goro” – emblematic Bulgarian song written by the Bulgarian poet and revolutionary Lyuben Karavelov.
City holiday: 2 May
Koprivshtitsa is part of the “100 National Tourist Sites of Bulgaria”.