Arbanasi - Tiny Bulgarian Town near Veliko Tarnovo

  • 01 of 08

    Church of the Nativity of Christ in Arbanasi, Bulgaria

    Church of the Nativity of Christ in Arbanasi, Bulgaria
    Linda Garrison

    Arbanasi is a small village in north central Bulgaria popular with tourists because of its well-preserved historical buildings and close proximity to Veliko Tarnovo, the historical capital of the Second Bulgarian Empire. Danube River cruises in eastern Europe, such as the Eastern European Odyssey with Viking River Cruises, often include lunch, musical entertainment, traditional dancers, and a short walking tour of Arbanasi while the ship is sailing on the Danube between Rousse and Svistov.

    The short drive from Veliko Tarnovo to Arbanasi is uphill, and the views along the way are quite nice.

    The village was founded by Christians in the 15th century, and became the property of Roustem pasha, the Grand Vizir to the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, in the mid-16th century. Many of the old buildings still have an Ottoman decor and design. The name of the village has the same root as Albania, and many of the earliest residents may have come from that region Europe. 

    Although Arbanasi has less than 500 residents today, the population was more than double that in the 17th and 18th centuries. Many of the Arbanasi citizens were artisans such as gold and coppersmiths and silk producers. The town must have been very prosperous since five churches were built during Arbanasi's heyday. 

    The Nativity Church (also called the Church of the Nativity of Christ) is probably the most-visited historical site in Arbanasi. As seen in the photo above, it has a simple exterior, but the frescoes inside are quite elaborate.

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  • 02 of 08

    Church of the Nativity of Christ in Arbanasi, Bulgaria

    Exterior Fresco on the Church of the Nativity of Christ in Arbanasi, Bulgaria
    Linda Garrison

    The exterior of the Nativity Church in Arbanasi, Bulgaria is simple and somewhat worn. This church was built in the 15th to the 17th century and has beautiful frescoes inside.

    The Nativity Church was built in three sections--a men's section, women's section, and a gallery. The oldest section dates back to 1597. 

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  • 03 of 08

    Old House in Arbanasi, Bulgaria

    Old House in Arbanasi, Bulgaria
    Linda Garrison

    The interior of this old merchant's house in Arbanasi definitely reflected Ottoman times, with lots of pillows on the floors.

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  • 04 of 08

    Arbanasi Musical Group in Arbanasi, Bulgaria

    Arbanasi Musical Group in Arbanasi, Bulgaria
    Linda Garrison

    It's always fun to listen to local entertainment groups when traveling. This local musical group entertained us on a lovely day in Arbanasi.

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  • 05 of 08

    Bulgarian Entertainment Group in Arbanasi

    Bulgarian Entertainment Group in Arbanasi
    Linda Garrison

    These local women enjoyed showing off some of the local costumes of their Arbanasi ancestors. 

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  • 06 of 08

    Traditional Bulgarian Dancers in Arbanasi, Bulgaria

    Traditional Bulgarian Dancers in Arbanasi, Bulgaria
    Arbanasi, Bulgaria (c) Linda Garrison

    These Bulgarian dancers in Arbanasi, Bulgaria entertained the Viking river cruise ship passengers who were on a Danube River cruise shore excursion.

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  • 07 of 08

    Bulgarian Entertainment Group in Arbanasi

    Bulgarian Entertainment Group in Arbanasi
    Linda Garrison

    Don't you just love the fresh faces of these young Bulgarian dancers? Their traditional costumes were very colorful and trimmed with embroidery.

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  • 08 of 08

    Arbanasi, Bulgaria Poster

    Arbanasi, Bulgaria Poster
    Arbanasi, Bulgaria (c) Linda Garrison

    I'm just guessing, but I think the secrets to long life (according to this Arbanasi poster) are singing, dancing, and drinking milk (or eating yogurt?).