Veliko Tarnovo View of Tsarevets from Garga Bair
by Stefan Stefanov

It would be unrealistic, and unnecessary for us to offer a complete guide to Veliko Tarnovo. The city is a rich enough environment to take up a whole website all on its own, and indeed it has several! Below is a personal perspective on the riches and advantages of the region we've chosen to make our new home.

Despite being a relatively small country, Bulgaria boasts a large variety of habitats; for city lovers or those with jobs that require easy access to international transport Sofia may well be the obvious choice. If being near the beach is an important factor there is the whole of the Black Sea coast to choose from, whilst winter sports fans have three different mountain ranges to explore. We were searching for somewhere we could live, affordable housing, a rural but not isolated location and the possibility of developing a business that would support us.

Almost as soon as we arrived in the city of Veliko Tarnovo we knew we had found the area we were seeking.

Veliko Tarnovo is the former capital of Bulgaria; its setting, wound around the gorge of the River Yantra is nothing short of spectacular, the houses appear to defy gravity as they perch on the cliffside and it is almost impossible to wander around the city without being distracted by yet another breathtaking view. With a population of only 75,000 or so Tarnovo is small enough to explore easily and quickly become familiar with. It is steeped in tradition, here more than anywhere else we've found you can feel the glory of the old Bulgaria; at the same time, the presence of the university and medical college gives the city a youthful feel and ensures a high population of English speakers (useful when you first arrive).

Perhaps because of the youth of the city, or possibly in response to the immigration of numbers of western Europeans, the resources available in the Tarnovo region are ahead of many parts of Bulgaria. Veliko Tarnovo now boasts three supermarkets, a large DIY superstore and what claims to be the biggest shopping mall in the Balkans. This is not to say that the small shops have disappeared, old Bulgaria is still very much in evidence in the region, but it's always nice to have choices.

Moving from the city to the surrounding regions, there are multitudes of small towns and villages, many have wonderful views of distant mountains whilst retaining the advantage of easy access to the city. Bulgarian villages range from the lively to the almost abandoned; some have year round residents, whilst others are only inhabited in the summer. Once you have found a house you've fallen in love with, it pays to understand the nature of the village it is located and indeed there is an argument for finding the village you want first and then locating the house of your dreams. It seems that these days most villages boast at least one British resident. Some people arriving in Bulgaria will seek out a village that already has an English speaking population; certainly there are some advantages to this: it can give an instant community and support network, on the other hand, if you are lucky enough to be an early arrival to a particular place you will likely experience the excitement and delight of the locals that someone from Western Europe has chosen their particular village, and your language skills will develop much more quickly if you only have Bulgarians to talk to!