Mountains. Beautiful old houses. Cats. Tasty food. Bozhentsi, you are my ultimate favourite Bulgarian destination so far!
There are no words good enough to describe how I feel about this place. Bozhentsi is a really small and beautiful architectural reserve that has preserved the spirit of an old Bulgarian village hidden in the Balkan mountains. According to the legend, its name comes from the name of the woman who founded it – Bozhana. She was a noblewoman who was able to escape when the Ottoman empire conquered Veliko Tarnovo, the old capital of Bulgaria, and settled down in this area.
Bozhentsi is indeed very close to other sightseeing places in Bulgaria, e.g. Veliko Tarnovo (the old capital), Tryavna (a beautiful Bulgarian town), Dryanovo monastery and Bacho Kiro as well as the ethno village Ethar. There are buses from Gabrovo (16 km away) to Bozhentsi and also taxi drivers in Gabrovo will be happy to drop you off here for about 20 lv. However, I recommend two other options. You should either travel by car so that you explore the other amazing, breath-taking, cool, interesting (honestly, no words to describe the region) spots OR you come here … by foot! There are beautiful (long, though, around 4-5 hours) ecotrails from Tryavna as well as from Dryanovo monastery. Both Tryavna and Dryanovo monastery can be reached by train. As you can guess, this option is only suitable for people who are really into nature and may even check the option for a guided tour (just in case you don’t get lost in the mountains!).
So back to Bozhentsi. Most of the houses in Bozhentsi are hotels, restaurants or house-museums and all of them have preserved the spirit and style of the Bulgarian Revival. Also, most of them usually have a really big balcony on second floor where you can enjoy your morning coffee and the view over Bozhentsi. As if you have entered a time machine and you are able to witness how Bulgarians used to live centuries ago. To enhance this feeling even more, visit Bozhentsi on a weekday when there are less tourists. This way you will have the chance to explore all narrow paved streets of Bozhentsi and immerse yourself in its romantic atmosphere.
The village is small and there is one “main square” that pretty much connects all streets in Bozhentsi, so you can’t get lost. At the main square you will see a couple of traditional Bulgarian restaurants (called “mehana”) as well as shops selling homemade sweets and jams, pottery, jewelry, paintings and souvenirs. Just a minute walk away from the main square is the main meeting point for the museums where there is a guided tour every one hour (make sure you check the schedule in advance). The ticket is 5 lv and it includes a tour guide as well as entry to all main museums in Bozhentsi. One of the most impressive and beautiful museums (also included in the ticket) is the house-museum of Doncho Popov – a rich salesman who used to live here.
Last but not least, make sure to walk around Bozhentsi at sunset or sunrise. The sunlight falls on the old houses in a very romantic and beautiful way so you might want to stop and stare (and even forget to take photos). You will also see plenty of cats – and I am a cat person, so this was a huge bonus.