Seen from a distance, KOPRIVSHTITSA looks
almost too lovely to be real, its half-timbered houses lying in a valley amid
wooded hills. It would be an oasis of rural calm if not for the tourists drawn
by the superb architecture and Bulgarians paying homage to a landmark in their
nations history. From the Place of the Scimitar Charge to the Street of the Counter
Attack, theres hardly a part of Koprivshtitsa that isnt named for an episode
or participant in the April Rising of 1876. As neighbouring towns were
burned by the Bashibazouks the irregular troops recruited by the Turks to put
the rebels in their place refugees flooded into Koprivshtitsa, spreading panic.
The rebels eventually took to the hills while local traders bribed the Bashibazouks
to spare the village and so Koprivshtitsa survived unscathed to be admired by
subsequent generations as a symbol of heroism.
From the main square, a street running off to the west leads down to the Oslekov
House (WedSun 9amnoon & 1.305.30pm), the finest building in Koprivshtitsa,
with pillars of cedar wood imported from Lebanon supporting the facade. Its Red
Room is particularly impressive, with a vast wooden ceiling carved with geometric
motifs. One of the medallions painted on the wall shows the original, symmetrical
plan of the house, never realized as Oslekovs neighbours refused to sell him
the necessary land. Further along, the street joins ul Debelyanov, which straddles
a hill between two bridges and boasts some more lovely buildings. Near the Surlya
Bridge is the birthplace of the poet Dimcho Debelyanov (no. 6), who is
buried in the yard of the hilltop Church of the Holy Virgin. Built in
1817 and partly sunk into the ground to comply with Ottoman restrictions, the
church contains icons by nineteenth-century artist Zahari Zograf.
A gate at the rear of the churchyard leads to the birthplace of Todor Kableshkov
(same times), leader of the local rebels. Kableshkovs house now displays the
insurgents silk banner embroidered with the Bulgarian Lion and Liberty or Death!,
and one of the twenty cherry-tree cannons secretly manufactured by the
rebels. Although one bore the engraved slogan End of the Turkish Empire, 1876,
the cannons soon became a liability, as they tended to blow up.
On the opposite side of the river at the southern end of the village, steps
lead up to the birthplace of another major figure in the uprising, George
Benkovski (same times as Oslekov House). A tailor by profession, he made
the insurgents banner and uniforms and commanded a rebel band on Mount Eledzhik,
which fought its way north until it was wiped out near Teteven.
For eating and drinking, the best places to sample traditional food are the
Dyado Liben Inn, in a fine nineteenth-century mansion opposite the main square;
and Lomeva Kashta, a folk-style restaurant just north of the square.