The Golden Lovech
Situated at the passage of between the hilly plain of the Danube and the fore front of the mountains of the Central Balkan, on two sides of river Osam impresses with interesting combination of natural and historical sights. The location of the town between the hills Stratesh, Hisaria and Bash Bunar reminds of its ancient history and the various landscapes with broad-leaved forests in north and fruit orchards with vines in the south is amongst the characteristic features of its vicinity.
The oldest settlement at the hills of Lovech dates back to the last centuries of the first millеnium BC. Its remains were discovered in the area of the present district Varosha. After conquering of the region between Danubius (Danube) and Hemus (the Balkan Range) by the Romans these lands are part of province Mizia. At the place of the later Lovech a stabilized road station was built known during the following centuries as Melta, probably under the name of a local Thracian tribe. During the time of Emperor Justinian the Great (527-565) Melta was additionally stabilized and reorganized as a part of the fortified system against the invading Barbarians in the Balkans.
The medieval fortress of Lovech is situated on the hill of Hisaria located in a meander of river Osam in the south-east of the present town. From the western and southern side almost upright slopes of Hisaria sweep down towards the river and the access to the fortress during the Middle Ages was possible only through the eastern side and at present from neighbourhood Gorni Krai at the temple „Saint Nedelya”. The width of the walls of the fortress is from 1.8 to 3 m., and that presumes that its height during this epoch reached eight meters. The combination between natural environment and a solid fortress of the turned Lovech in an impregnable stronghold. In the year of 1188, after an unsuccessful siege of the fortress on the hill of Hisaria, the Byzantium emperor Isaac ІІ Angel (1185-1195) concluded a peace treaty with the Bulgarians and officially acknowledged their rule between Danube and the Balkan. The following centuries are a period of economical bloom of the medieval town and Lovech is a centre of despotism. Before coming to the Bulgarian throne Ivan Alexander (1331-1371) is a despot of Lovech and his son and one of the last rulers during ХІV century – Ivan Sratzimir (1356-1396) was born in the town.
The geographical location of the town and its importance as a main economical and transport centre in the region are probably amongst the reasons for its prosperity during the Ottoman period too. The residents of Lovech enjoyed a special status according to which taking of their children for janissaries was forbidden, as well as the settlement of Turkish in the town. From ХVІ to the beginning of the ХІХ century, in the Ottoman documents the town on both shores of river Osam was known as Altan Lovech (Golden Lovech), because of the wealth of its residents. The traders from Lovech kept active contacts both with the Eastern Mediterranean countries and Central Europe and in the year of 1768 г. Through funds of one of them – Hadji Vasilii the chapel „St. Joan Предтеча” of the Zograf monastery in Aton was decorated.
At the end of the same century during rioting in the Ottoman Empire Altan Lovech was burned down but the imposing houses from ХІХ century have been preserved up to the present in the architectural reserve Varosha, evidencing its successful restoration afterwards. The reserve gives a wonderful opportunity to the studious visitor of Lovech to be absorbed in the atmosphere of the Bulgarian national revival and to have a look at the specific houses of Lovech from this period – Vladaya horseman as well as the churches църквите „Saint Nedelya” and „Saint Virgin Mary”.
In contrast to the residential architecture in the East Balkans regarding the houses of Lovech the ground floors are not occupied by workshops and shops and they had economic function. The craft and trade part of the town during ХІХ century was concentrated in the main street and on the covered bridge.
The covered bridge above Osam, which was repaired and reconstructed many times after the spring high water of the river, is a time-honoured symbol of Lovech. In 1872 the old bridge was totally carried away by the risen water and the town board assigned the building to the most famous Bulgarian architect – Master Kolyo Ficheto. His bridge was with length of 84 m. and 64 shops ornated with stone sculptures. Since it was seriously burned during a fire in the year 1925 in the present bridge the floor and the trusses of the creation of the Master of the Bulgarian national revival are preserved as well as the exterior resemblance with the original monument. Nowadays its length is 106 m. and the shops are 14.
On the third hill in the north-eastern part of the town the park “Stratesh” is to be found which along with the alley Bash Bunar is famous for its lilacs, willows and oaks. Besides rose garden, rock garden, zoo garden and a small lake, Stratesh gives a magnificent view towards Golden Lovech situated between the hills on both sides of the river.