House-museum Hrosto Botev
It is located in the town center but is not the actual birthplace of the Bulgarian poet and revolutionary. His original home was destroyed when the town was burned down in 1877.
Later it was restored after the recollections of Botev’s brother Kiril Botev. The museum opened in the summer of 1944. The collection of ethnographic items and decorations reproduces faithfully the environment of Hristo Botev’s youth. An exhibition room was added in 1973 displaying some of the poet’s personal belongings. Worth special notice are the marble bust of Botev and the statue of his mother Ivanka Boteva. The museum is a national monument of culture and is on the list of the 100 Tourist Sites in Bulgaria.
Kalofer is a town in South Bulgaria situated in the Plovdiv province and the Karlovo municipality. It lies on the Tunja River, between Stara Planina and Sredna Gora mountains, 500-599 m above sea level. Towering over the town is Botev Peak, the highest point of Stara Planina Mountains. Kalofer is 17 km from Karlovo, 22km from Sopot, 56 km from Plovdiv, 222 km from Burgas, 300km from Varna and 164 km from the capital Sofia.
Kalofer is a starting point for a number of routes in the area: to Rai (Paradise) Lodge; Peak Botev, the Raisko Praskalo (Paradise Fountain), the Central Balkan National Park and the Djendema preserve.
A number of traditional Bulgarian crafts are still practiced in Kalofer, e.g. wood-carving, weaving, fulling. The local inhabitants take pride in the weaver’s workshops where the fine Kalofer lace and rugs are made. They also produce the world-famous attar of roses.
Tourism is an important element of the local economy. In early summer visitors can take art in rose-picking, to see a rose distillery, taste rose preserve or rose syrup, even rose brandy.
In the remote past a thick forest covered the site of present-day Kalofer. There are several legends about the establishment of the settlement. According to the most popular story, Bulgarian bands roamed the place during the reign of Sultan Murad (1574-1595). One such band consisting of 40 men and led by Kalifer Voivode would not let a single Turk pass through the forests lying east, as far as the rivers Tunja and Koprinka in the Kazanluk area, and west as far as the Karlovo River and the Stryama River and even Koprivshtitsa. After years of wandering, the voivode finally decided to make peace with the Sultan. The Sultan learned about that and sent a Cadi (judge) to make an agreement with Kalifer. The voivode laid down several conditions: he wanted to settle in the forest with his band but no Turk carrying weapons or riding a shod horse would be allowed to pass through the area. Furthermore, the village was to be exempted from taxes. The Sultan agreed. The voivode’s men built beech and oak cabins, as is still the style of the older houses in Kalofer. However, they were all unmarried. On Easter Day the men went to Sopot and each grabbed a girl from the horo (a ring dance). This is how Kalofer was founded, according to the most popular legend. The name derives from voivode Kalifer. His name appears in different variants in the many legends about him: Kalefer, Kalemfor, Kalenfir, Karamfil. Another story argues that the local population of Kalofer came from the older settlement of Zvunigrad situated in the vicinity, between Strazjata and the Kalofer monastery, in a valley by the Zvunusha River. After the Ottoman invasion at the end of the 14th and the beginning of the 15th century, Zvunigrad was destroyed. Kalifer Voivode was active in these parts and one day he captured a vizier who was passing with horses loaded with riches. The noble voivode let him go and in return the Sultan sent a firman (decree) allowing the voivode to settle in the area. This is how Kalofer came into being.
The earliest record of Kalofer goes back to the late 18th and early 19th century. The town was burned down twice by the kurjalis, in 1799 and 1804, but was quickly restored. Before their inroads, there were six churches and one monastery of St. Atanas, the Holy Virgin and St. Archangel, as well as two convents governed by Zinovia and Pavlina.
In the first half of the 19th century Kalofer became a booming town, like most towns in the sub-Balkan region. According to travelers’ accounts, there were 1000 braid-knitting cog-wheels, many fulling mills and dyer’s workshops in Kalofer. The local artisans and merchants did business in Tsarigrad, Vienna, Odessa, and Braila. At some point the town was named Altin (Golden) Kalofer. A large school was built in 1845 and in 1871 a girls’ school opened. Educational societies were also established.
Kalofer is the birthplace of many distinguished men of letters and public figures from the National Revival period: Exarch Joseph I, Dimiter Moutev, Elena Mouteva, (the first Bulgarian poetess), Hristo Tupchileshtov, Ivan Shopov (a folklorist and the first Bulgarian bibliographer) and many others. Many citizens of Kalofer participated in the bands of Philip Totyu, Panayot Hitov, Bacho Kiro, Hadji Dimiter and Stefan Karadja.
During the War of Liberation, Kalofer shared the fate of Karlovo and Sopot and was burned down and pillaged. Very little was left of ante-bellum Kalofer.
A noteworthy landmark in the downtown is the restored building of Daskal Botyo’s school.The ground floor houses an exhibition of works dedicated to Kalofer and Hristo Botev; on the second floor is a Museum of Education. The building faces the stone on which young Botev made a fiery speech against the Ottoman authorities on May 24, 1867. After that he was forced to emigrate. Next to the building is a bust of Daskal Botyo Petkov
The old National Revival church of the Holy Virgin is situated close by. When Daskal Botyo came to town, he lived in it for some time. Hristo Botev was born in one of the cells marked by a commemorative plaque. The monastery of the Holy Virgin is very popular among tourists. Of interest is also the convent of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin situated at the foothills of the Stara Planina Mountains. The monastery was opened in 1640 and the convent – in 1700. Today both are open to visitors, although they were repeatedly destroyed by fire by the Ottoman Turks prior to the Liberation. It is interesting to note that some time ago the monks deserted the monastery and currently it is taken care of by nuns.
There is a Sunday school at the convent , now 12 years old, managed by nun Valentina.
The Church of the Holy Trinity is located in the lower part of Kalofer. It is supposed that the oldest convent was situated around it. A wooden sign placed above the entrance door indicates the year of its founding – 1717.The church has a spacious courtyard with decorative and fruit trees. It is part of the convent. Until the Liberation there were several small cells for the nuns in the courtyard; to the north, towards the street, there were barns, stables and other structures with a similar purpose. The convent was burned down in 1799 during a kurdjali attack. Later it was restored. Legend has it that Vassil Levski and other rebels hid in the convent. On July 25 1877 the convent was reduced to ashes and dozens of local people were killed. Only the church survived. In 1964 it was declared a monument of culture.
A monumental staircase starts from the downtown and leads to the memorial complex dominated by the centrally located monument to Hristo Botev.
Another museum is the so called Kalofer House of History, an ethnographic and cultural center housing traditional local rugs, clothes, festive costumes, musical instruments. There is also a replica of a typical drawing room.
The monument to Kalifer Voivode is located in the northwestern section of the town.
Other landmarks are: the stone bridge over Tunja River from the National Revival, some old houses, the convent from 1738, the Church of St. Atanas, the rose distillery, and the beautiful park named Botev Lawn.
The people in Kalofer are keen about preserving the Bulgarian traditions. They observe a number of holidays. The first celebrations after the New Year are on Yordanovden (January 6) and Hristo Botev’s birthday. They start very early in the morning of January 6 with a solemn service in the Church of St. Archangel Michael on the right bank of the Tunja River. Pageants of priests from the three churches end at the site of the ritual. Then a big group of men dressed in traditional costumes jump into the freezing waters of the river and try to retrieve the consecrated cross. A priest throws the cross in the water with a blessing for health and well-being. The retrieved cross is then given to the youngest participant in the contest. All the divers start dancing a horo (a ring dance) in the icy waters singing traditional songs. The dance continues on the bank and more people join in. The holiday goes on with celebrations of Christo Botev’s birthday. A special ceremony is performed in front of the monument to the revolutionary poet that includes placing a Garland of Glory at its base.
Another traditional festival is called Kukeri (Mummers). It takes place on Sirni Zagovezni before Lent. A large group of local men, youngsters and children dressed in original costumes perform Kukeri dances in the downtown area.
St. George’s Day symbolizes the advent of spring and the beginning of the stock-breeding season. In the morning all houses are decorated with beech twigs.
Botev Days (June 2) are dedicated to Hristo Botev. There are concerts, performances culminating in a military ceremony at the memorial complex.
During the last leisure days in July people celebrate St. Kirik gathering on the banks of the Byala Reka River or the Tunja River. About 5 km from the town is a chapel with a recreation area around it named St. Kirik and Yulita. A water consecration ritual is performed on the saints’ day.
Open daily, 8:00 am-5: 00 pm
Open daily, 8:00 am – 6:00 p,
National Museum Christo Botev
Open daily, 8:00 am –noon; 1: 30 pm – 5:30 pm