A walk in Varshets
In recent years, we rarely see the name of Varshets among the names of contemporary and modern resorts but perhaps just in this lies the charm of today’s mountain town – you just come here to escape the overcrowded cities and to enjoy peace, harmony and serenity. But once you have barely set foot on local soil many surprises are already waiting.
Varshets actually is not dull and impersonal, nor outdated and quaint. This beautiful mountain town possesses something you will not fail to notice – it has preserved the aristocratic spirit of bygone but dynamic times, when in the beginning of the 20th century foreign diplomats and the elite of Sofia were all gathered here!
The oldest preserved document of its existence dates back to the sixth century AD. In Byzantine chronicles it is mentioned under the name of Medeka (“Medicus” means healing in Latin) and it has been the single settlement with such name in the huge Roman Empire. Another interesting finding is the limestone “ARA” with inscription by a Roman citizen cured with the mineral water of “VRESHTETS”, hence the ancient name of Varshets ( in translation – hot, boiling water).
Mineral springs in the area of Varshets have been exiting since ancient times. Evidence for this are coins with the image of the God – healer Asclepius, a column in the form of a nymph and a sanctuary found nearby.
Varshets is the first balneal resort in Bulgaria developed by King Ferdinand, who was fascinated by the natural beauty of the place when he first arrived here in 1896. He was followed by the Sofia elite who built their villas on both sides of the unique Sycamore Street. In the 30s of the 20th century the special architecture of the town in Art Deco style was formed and buildings like the town Mineral Baths and the famous Bath Casino – the first casino in the Balkans – were constructed.
You can start your walk from the symbol of Varshets – the marvelous Sycamore Street. The numerous trees on both sides are over 100 years old and their huge crowns shape an incredible 500 m long green tunnel.
The next place you must visit in Varshets is the town park of 800 acres, which is the second largest in the country after the Boris Garden in Sofia. It was also created at the beginning of the last century (1911-1912). The park is famous for the unusual variety of plants and trees that are grown here, some of them not typical or Bulgaria like Redwood, Liriodendron, Cedar, Douglas fir, Fir konkolor, Silver spruce, Larch, Ginkgo biloba, Mountain ash, Magnolia, Persimmon and others.
Its atmosphere recreates part of the ancient history of Varshets – The Roman steps and the Pavilion of the goddess of health Hygeia recall the distant past, when the healing power of mineral water was also very well known.
The multiple alleys of the beautiful park with a length of about 7 km lead to the famous Ivanchona meadow – a favorite place for picnics, games, dances and celebrations of the residents and visitors of Varshets. There is a magnificent view from there both down to the town and up to the mountain and Todorini Kukli peak.
The park is located 5 minutes’ walk from the city center.
To reach it, you have to go through the Sunny garden (so named because it is in the form of the sun), pass near the mineral baths (“Old Bath” built in 1910 and “New Bath” built in late European Baroque style in 1930)
and the famous in the 30s Bansko Casino. It was fully lit by electric lights at that time, three roulettes were rotating for its rich guests (some coming from Austria and Germany on the Danube River) and dances never stopped in its Vienna hall.
Then you have to cross the Bridge of Sighs over Botunya River.
Christian churches in the municipality of Varshets have high historical, cultural and artistic value.
Church “St. George” – Varshets, was built in 1902 (parallel to the cathedral Alexander Nevsky in Sofia).
At present time, the church has been restored and renovated. Regular ministrations take place according to Orthodox Church calendar.
12 km. from Varshets is Klisura monastery “St. Cyril and Methodius”. It is located at the foot of the Balkan peak Todorini Kukli (1785 m.). The Iconostasis in the church is a monument of Bulgarian culture. In the Middle Ages along with Chiprovtzi and Lopushanski monasteries it has been one of the cradles for the development of Bulgarian culture and literature, for the affirmation of Bulgarian nationality and Christian religion.
There are many reasons to visit Varshets – the natural beauty of the mountain, the romantic spirit of the town, the healthy climate and fresh air. But certainly most people come here just for one thing – the curative mineral waters. Through the centuries Varshets has established itself as a spa and climatic year-round paradise. The resort successfully treats cardiovascular, endocrine and functional disorders of the central nervous system, diseases of the gastrointestinal tract, as well as the conditions of recovery after heart attack. But even if you do not suffer from any disease, it is always good to relax in the hot mineral water pool and shake off the stress.
“I would be back there every year in September, when the summer is still not gone and the fall is not in a hurry. Then all late flowers blossom, people carry the grapes in baskets, shake down the walnuts and the water in the bathroom looks double, crystal clear and plentiful.”