Care and Neglect

27.07.2012 § 2 Comments

On Veliko Tarnovo‘s main pedestrian shopping street, among the artisans and souvenir shops, stand two buildings which are not too different, really. They’re both heritage buildings, over 100 years old, both owned by private entities, and they exhibit the perfect duality of the conditions of private enterprise in Bulgaria. Yin and yang, order and chaos, careful preservation and haphazard decay.

Towards the end of July 2012, the first building’s roof collapsed upon itself in broad daylight, sending roof tiles and shards of glass onto the street below, miraculously missing a group of meandering tourists. It was a building that had been owned by two Bulgarian citizens and a foreigner for years, and they had been sent multiple letters from the municipality indicating the level of decay and imploring them to do something about it. Their pleas were ignored, and finally the inevitable happened – the heritage building crumbled, leaving an ugly, dangerous ruin on the face of Bulgaria’s medieval capital.

Workers clearing out the collapsed roof of the neglected heritage building.

Literally next to it, as a blessing to any juxtapositions made by the amateur blogger, stands the Inn of Hadji Nikoli. Built by legendary Revival architect Nikola Fichev in 1858, the inn was more of a warehouse, a distribution centre for the famed merchant’s wares. The only one left in Veliko Tarnovo out of more than 70 in its heydey, it too was locked and decrepit for decades, until it was purchased by a private American investor  in 2005. Undergoing a full restoration, the Inn of Hadji Nikoli opened its doors again to visitors in 2010, immediately winning the coveted “Building of the year” award. Reinforced and reengineered, the building is now a multi-functional space containing a wine bar, a restaurant, and two floors of gallery space that is constantly occupied by fantastic exhibits on loan from other museums, including rare archaeological finds and works by contemporary Bulgarian artists. Despite its relatively small size, it is considered one of the best museums in the country, with exhibits on the third floor rotating every month.

The Inn of Hadji Nikoli

Last year, the second floor housed gold and silver treasures from the seaside port of Varna and rare icons from the area. This year, until October, it houses the first and most authentic copy of the Panagyurishte treasure, on loan from the Archaeological museum in Plovdiv. Information about the Inn’s current exhibits can be found on their official site. Entrance to the museum’s gallery space is a reasonable 5 Leva.

A phiale from the Panaguirishte treasure

It just goes to show how easily a crumbling ruin could be saved and turned into a profitable enterprise – all it takes is an investment, an idea and a bit of caring.

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