Bozhentsi: The End of The Road

29.07.2012 § 1 Comment

The tiny, barely marked turnoff takes us off the main road to Shipka pass and the drive winds past a few tiny villages, narrowing as it goes, twisting and turning to take us to the village of Bozhentsi. It’s where the road ends. To us, it marks the final point of our short pleasure drive and a chance to stretch our legs in search for dinner on a scorching Saturday afternoon. To the few survivors who fled Veliko Tarnovo after the Ottoman conquest, it meant the beginning of a new life in the safety of the nearby hills.

Veliko Tarnovo fell to the Ottomans after a three-month siege in the summer of 1393. Libraries and monasteries were burnt, the royal palaces were destroyed, and the boyars (nobles) and clergy were put to the sword or forcibly relocated to Anatolia. Few escaped with their lives, and they did so by catching winding goat paths into the hills around the capital. Many small villages were founded this way: by fleeing boyars who became shepherds, concealing their identity and former status.

Legend has it that one of them, Bozhana, a beautiful young noblewoman, found a secluded spot in the hills for her and her relatives. Over time, the village became known as the land of Bozhana’s people, Bozhentsite. During the following centuries, the boyars’ descendants became expert artisans and merchants, and the village flourished on the trade of beeswax, leather, wool and honey.

The fifty or so houses in the village have constituted a protected architectural reserve since 1964, which has kept the village of stone-tiled roofs and two-storey houses as quiet and quaint as it was in centuries past, although it hasn’t discouraged two spa centre luxury hotels from opening on its outskirts.

Bozhentsi is a wonderfully out of the way spot, perfect for an afternoon away from the swelter of the city, and a short and pleasant drive from Veliko Tarnovo (45 km) or Gabrovo (15 km). It offers a tour of several village museums, locally made souvenirs, baked goods and buffalo yoghurt, as well as a well-stocked herbal pharmacy of locally-picked herbs, homemade honey, Turkish coffee and delicious local cuisine in several механи (traditional restaurants).

The village’s official site has more information.

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