Town as the mountain - ancient and young!
The town of Vratsa is one of the most picturesque cities in Bulgaria, nestling in the foothills of Vrachanska Planina at an altitude of 370 m, with the Leva River calmly crossing the town and with fearful rocks overhanging the roofs. Few Bulgarian cities have a history passing through thousands of years and several historical ages! Vratsa is one of them.
The town is only 116km from the Bulgarian capital Sofia. The area has very diverse and attractive natural features, which together with the recreation opportunities gives the special charm of the Eastern part of the Northwest Bulgaria. On the territory of the State Forestry territory Vratsa are located several protected natural attractions and historical monuments.
Vratsa is an ancient city founded by the ancient Thracians. Vratsa was called Valve ("door of a fortress") by the Romans due to the narrow passage where the main gate of the city fortress was located. Nowadays this passage is the symbol of Vratsa and is present on the city's coat of arms.
After the fall of Rome, Vratsa became part of the Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantium).
In the end of the 6th century, Vratsa was populated by the South Slavic tribes who came from Pannonia and Dacia from the north, but reimained under Byzantine rule.
In the 7th century, the Bulgars and the Slavs founded the Bulgarian state and the Slavic Vratsa became part of it. The town grew into an important strategic city because of its proximity to the south state border. The name of the city was changed from Valve to the Slavic Vratitsa, which has the same meaning and is the source of the modern name. Vratsa became famous for its goldsmith's and silversmith's production and trade, high-quality earthenware and military significance.
In the 8th century, the Bulgarian army captured Sofia, which led to the decreasing of Vratsa's importance because of the better strategic position of Sofia, its more developed economy and larger size. But Vratsa was again key for the resistance against the Byzantine, Serbian and Magyar invaders during the Middle Ages.
During the Osman domination the town was established as a big craftsman's center. The wares, work of the jewelers and silk producers from Vratsa, are famous all over the Osman Empire.
The Renaissance is a historical period connected with the Bulgarian national isolation within the boundaries of the Osman Empire and fight for a mundane education, an independent church and political liberation. The inhabitants of the town and the surroundings took an active part in the preparation of the April rebellion in 1876. Its bloody end was marked by the heroic march of the big Bulgarian poet and revolutionary Hristo Botev's detachment, who died in the Vratsa Balkan's mountain.
After the liberation of the Bulgarian lands from Osman domination in 1878, the town of Vratsa itself as an important manufacturing centre in which the traditional craft was transformed into a fashionable industry. In 1896 in the town was opened an experimental sericulture station - the oldest scientific research institution in our country, in the field of the agriculture. The quality of the produced silk in Vratsa found public and international recognition.
Already during the Bulgarian Renaissance, the town of Vratsa and the surroundings were glorified as a wine production center.
There are many archeological sites in the region of Vratsa. In the period 1965-1966 archaeologists discovered three tombs with a rich stock belonging to a rich ruler family governed the lands of the whole North West Bulgaria. One of the most valuable finds was the treasure of Rogozhen, consisting of 165 silver vessels.
One of the most important findings was made near the village of Ohoden in October 2006 - a skeleton of a woman estimated to be at the age of about 9 000 years (the oldest skeleton in Europe), nicknamed Todorka by the finders. According to the scientists this is a truly sensational discovery because it shows with certainty that the birthplace of European agriculture is exactly here.
The most resourceful and large, from any point of view, place for rock climbing in Bulgaria is the area called Vratzata near the town of Vratsa. Vratzata is situated in the western part of Stara Planina mountain range and is part of the Vrachanski Balkan National Park which includes the biggest part of Vrachanska Planina in order to preserve its unique speleological phenomena.
Ledenika is a cave of national importance (included in the 100 National Tourist Sites list) 16km away from the town of Vratsa, its entrance being at 830m above sea level. It features an abundance of galleries and impressive Karst formations, dating back a thousand years. The cave is about 300m long. There are ten halls in it. The biggest one is the Concert Hall. The way to it is through the Passage of Sinners. Only those whose heart is pure can pass through it. Once the cave was full of water but now only a small lake has remained - the Lake of Wishes. The legend says that if you dip your hand in the ice-cold water of the lake and make a wish, it will come true.
The town of Vratsa is the biggest administrative center in North West Bulgaria. During the different historical ages it was developed and established as an important social, market and cultural center.
Today not only in the administrative center but also on the territory of the whole District Vratsa, there are state, social and departmental cultural institutes. The District has given us not a small contribution to the cultural heritage of the country, which is kept in museums, museum collections and galleries.
Regional Historical Museum and Art Gallery
It follows the tradition which beginning was set right after the ordaining of St. Sofronii for Bishop of Vratsa. As an official institution it exists since 1953. It has an area of 6 800 sq.m. In the central building are the archaeological and historical exhibitions (including the Lapidarium and Treasure of Rogozen hall), the halls of the Art gallery, pottery restoration studio and storehouses. In the Ethnographic Renaissance complexes St. Sofronii from Vratsa and Nikola Voyvodov are the ethnographic exhibitions, museum houses Dimitraki Hadjitoshev and Nikola Voyvodov and the icons exhibition. The main and the subsidiary fund of the Regional historical museum, including the Art gallery, exceeds 100 000 units.
Ethnographic Renaissance complex at the Regional Museum of History and Art Gallery
As a center of a rich ancient culture in the North West part of Bulgaria, Vratsa Region represents a particular interest as an ethnographic region. It covers a part of the area along the river Danube, the plain, the hilly and mountain regions, and whence comes the rich variety of the traditional material and spiritual culture of its population.
In the Ethnographic Renaissance complex St. Sofronii from Vratsa particular themes are represented, which are specific for the region and the general ethnographic characterization of the district.
The State Philharmonic Orchestra
The symphony orchestra or the State Philharmonic Orchestra - Vratsa consists of 60 musicians. It is the successor of the opera orchestra of Vratsa, founded 1909. In 1973 it acquires a state status. Apart from the symphony concerts (about 65 a season) 2 or 3 operas are performed.
Hristo Botev Regional Library
The Hristo Botev library is founded on December 24 in 1954 as Regional Methodical Library.
Starting its activity with a book-stock of 6788 units, today it is the richest library in Northwest Bulgaria with more than 300 000 librarian units: books, periodicals, CDs, DVDs, audiotapes, gramophone records, drawings and notes.
Municipal folklore dance group
The representative folklore dance group of the Municipality of Vratsa was founded in 1967. Its main art instructor was Tsvetan Todorov. The number of the dancers is 60 people (35 women and 25 men) of different age. The folklore dance group was laureate of the IVth, Vth, VIth National Festivals of Amateur Art.
Vratsa connects to the villages and town within the region and throughout the country by bus and railway transport. There are regular bus lines to Sofia, Pleven, Vidin, Montana, Kozloduy, Oryahovo, Mezdra (at short intervals), as well as to the smaller villages, scattered around the town. Vratsa is an important railway station along the railway route Mezdra - Boychinovtsi - Broussartsi - Vidin (Lom). The town connects to the national railway network through the railway station of Mezdra. There is regular bus transport within the town.