Sunday, 20 October 2013

Bulgaria's former shoe capital. Welcome to Gabrovo.

A haute couture shoe-selling garage in one of the yards of central Gabrovo.

In central Bulgaria - almost at the very centre of it - there is a long, ugly, and, in a way, quirky town of Gabrovo, also known as the country's Capital of Humour. Why? - because nationwide (and even in some areas outside Bulgaria) there have been a lot of jokes about the Gabrovians' stinginess, calculation and overly practicality. The Gabrovians have even got a Museum of Humour & Satire, located in a heavy and grey rectangular building, to prove their reputation.

During the socialist era Gabrovo was also known for its impressive sized shoe factory that provided footwear for all country. Nowadays the factory is in coma, if we use satire; or, if we want to be realistic, simply deserted.

The town stretches along the Yantra river, one that also flows through the neighbouring Etara crafts' village. The town itself feels a bit like a river, narrow and of nearly 30 kilometres' length. You can walk across easily but for a trip along it is advisable to get a bike or some other form of transport. Even to walk from the old part of the town to the aforementioned Museum of Humour might take you a while.

Although the town's history dates back to the medieval times, most of its current architecture seems to be from the same era as the retired shoe factory. One does not need to travel to Gabrovo solely for architecture; you can see pretty much the same styles at the 'sleeping districts' of Sofia.

On a Saturday night Gabrovo witnesses a few groups of young people, some of them drinking and partying right on the street. Then there are a couple of well hidden bars.

If you are in the area, I recommend spending more time (and sleeping) at the Etara village; and perhaps going for a nice hike to the neighbouring Shara Planina. The latter has got two celebrated peaks with monuments on them: the Shipka Pass with the monument for Bulgarian Freedom, and the UFO-like mysterious abandoned socialism monument.   

As well as that, in order to keep your guts healthy and fit, you can try a bar of Gabrovian chocolate (they sell it in Etara too, along with home made boza, airan, and several other culinary delights).

The hip-hop reunion.

Text and photos (c) Agne Drumelyte, 2013.

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