Samovodska Sweetness

28.07.2012 § 2 Comments

Veliko Tarnovo’s pedestrian shopping street, where authentic Revival-era artisans jostle with tourist trap souvenir shops, is called Самоводската чаршия (“Samovodskata charshia”). The word чаршия, borrowed from Turkish, means “shopping square/street” (if you’ve ever been to Istanbul, you may have heard of its enormous indoor market Kapalı çarşı), and Samovodska comes from the fact that this road used to lead, and be largely populated by produce sellers from, the nearby village of Samovodene.

As you walk up and down this lovely, narrow, timeless avenue, try to spot the authentic Revival-era masters who have made it their home. Nowhere is this quest more pleasant or delicious than inside the shop of Neli Boncheva.

Sporting the promising sign “ШЕКЕРДЖИЙНИЦА” (шекер, again from Turkish, means “sugar”, making the name “The Sugar Shop”), this nostalgia café is stuck in the 1920’s in a wonderful way.

Since 2003, Gabrovo native Neli teamed up with her brother, a master candymaker named Dobrin Trifonov, and opened a traditional sweets workshop that makes fresh, traditional sweets for their two “sugar shops” – one in the heart of Veliko Tarnovo and one in Architectural Reserve Etura some 8 km south of Gabrovo. Neli lives in Veliko Tarnovo with her husband, and manages the Veliko Tarnovo branch of the business.

Dressed the part, she greets visitors with a smile, pointing them to the wall of various sweets – hard candies, mirangues, candy sticks, roosters, suns and flowers, as well as traditional walnut paste blocks and бяло сладко (“white jam”), a treat so sweet it is served one teaspoon at a time, submerged in a glass of water and licked off the spoon in tiny, delicious swipes.

In addition, the shop offers authentic Turkish coffee, brewed in a pot buried in sand to heat it evenly, and served thick, its finely ground coffee settling to the bottom.

Neli and Dobrin have also rescued some one hundred authentic 1930’s reusable pop bottles and serve homemade carbonated drinks in them. Don’t even ask to keep or buy one, they are priceless. The shop has a synergistic link to the neighbouring kadaif shop, and they provide the glaze for the finely spun phyllo dough pastries next door.

The Samovodska Charshia is also home to potters, woodcarvers, tinsmiths, beadmakers, icon painters and antique shops. Be sure to spend a bit of time getting to know the artisans, and do your best not to fall prey to the overstocked, garish souvenir shops around them.

The “Shekerdjiinica” café is located at 13 Georgi Mamarchev street. The Samovodska charshia can be found on any map of the city as Rakovski street, as well as on the map below (The café is pointer B):

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