The very first steps you take in Russe will lead you back in time. This city in north-east Bulgaria is often called ‘Little Vienna’ because of its impressive architecture and location on the banks of the Danube. Yet with its cultural traditions, innovation and free spirit – and ancient history stretching back 5,000 years – the comparisons stop there.
Exploring on foot, you can uncover gems like the Monument of Liberty – a symbol of the city – and remains of a Roman fortress that once formed part of vast fortifications along the river. Russe celebrates its past as a centre of the Bulgarian National Revival movement in a host of guises. Prominent ideologists and activists once lived and now rest here. The Pantheon of National Revival Heroes, with its gold-plated dome, stands as tribute to their sacrifice.
Splendid 19th-century buildings throughout the city centre carry the spirit of Europe’s grand medieval castles. An enchanting edifice, Dohodno Zdanie, stands out. A magnificent neoclassical facade is crowned by seven exquisite figures on the roof, representing art, science, agriculture, craft, trade, defence and freedom of spirit.
Matching its architectural ambition equally is Russe’s appetite for innovation. It was here that Bulgaria’s first railway station was built, its first modern printing house opened and its first newspaper published. It was also where the country’s first film screening took place, in front of a spellbound audience.
Technology is ever present in today’s world too. Visitors can download the LIMES Mobile app, providing a guide to Roman sights from Germany through to Austria and Bulgaria. By pointing your smartphone’s camera at archeological excavations you can see a reconstructed reality – a cohort of Roman soldiers appears amid walls, and Sexaginta Prista (‘city of 60 ships’) comes alive once more.
Timeless landscapes unfurl beyond the city limits. Lovers of wild nature can roam free at Rusenski Lom Nature Park, where amid the lush countryside you will find treasures preserved by the many generations. Rising from the hillside about 30km outside Russe, are the remains of the medieval town of Cherven – one of the biggest military, economic and cultural centres of the Second Bulgarian Kingdom. The Unesco-listed Rock-Hewn Churches of Ivanovo are nearby too.
Back in town, you can see the riches of the Russe Regional Historical Museum, where silver Thracian treasure from the 4th century BC is on display. It’s testament to the skillfulness of the civilizations that have called this region home.
Between the trio of Russe, Ivanovo and Borovo, you can attend many intriguing cultural events, such as Russe Carnival, March Music Days, Autumn Days of Art and Culture, and folklore festivals that show the colourful traditions of a country with so much to share.
Visit Russe for yourself today and not only unlock its past but also find a key to the future.
This article was published on 28th January 2016 so certain details may not be up to date.