“Everything that was to happen later in life had already happened in Rousse”
Elias Canetti, Nobel Prize Winner.
Elias Cannetti came from a wealthy merchant family and is one of Rousse's most famous citizens. He lived here in the 19th Century before his father, a merchant, moved to England and later to Vienna. In his book Tongues Set Free he recalled his idyllic childhood in the town - “a town where every language could he heard” reflecting the highly cosmopolitan nature of 19th century Rousse.
Rouse is a modern city of 120,000 people and is one of the most important cultural and economical centres in Bulgaria. It is located in the north of the country on the River Danube, which forms the border with Romania. It is the location of the only bridge across the Danube between Bulgaria and Romania (though second is being planned some 200km upstream). The town is 320km ( 4 hours drive) from Sofia but only 60km (one hour) from the centre of Bucharest. Thus the facilities of a major European capital, such as airports, major shopping centres (inc Marks and Spencer's) etc. are close at hand albeit in neighbouring Romania. The accessibility of the town is a key advantage for home buyers. Now that both Bulgaria and Romania have joined the EU the border crossing here is now simple and quick for EU citizens and Rousse is 60km away from an international airport.
It is the most European of cities in Bulgaria, both in terms of its architecture and outward looking stance. Though the city suffered from economic shocks after the changes in the 1990's, the city is getting back on its feet through new investment and interest by both domestic and foreign investors. In recent years the historic centre was been given a complete face lift by the EU's Beautiful Bulgaria Project.
The visitor to Rousse cannot fail to be charmed by the aristocratic old architecture and the spacious squares and streets. The town has been dubbed as “Little Vienna”, a reflection of the architecture and Viennese style which was adopted by the city after the Liberation from the Ottoman's in 1878. Its streets are lined with a beautiful selection of buildings form both baroque, art nouveau redolent with a fin de siecle. The central square is lined with cafes around a landscaped park and entirely traffic free.
From ancient times Rousse's advantageous location on the Danube and its natural harbour have made it attractive to settlers. The city is recorded in Romans times under the name of Sexaginta Prista ('The Port of Sixty Ships') and was both a trading town and Roman Garrison, forming one of a number of fortications along the Danube on the edge of the Roman Empire's northern boundary.
During the Ottoman period the city was an important fort and was surrounded by a massive wall. The Russian’s succeeded in capturing the town in 1810 only to have to withdraw to defend the motherland when Napoleon marched on Moscow. After the Liberation the city wall was dismantled but now forms part of the inner ring road and is sign posted at part of the city's urban trails and history walks. Before the liberation the city boasted several diplomatic missions and foreign Consuls as well as a varied and cosmopolitan community from all over Europe. After the liberation, the diplomats moved to the new capital at Sofia and the city became a booming trade town with Europe using the Danube.
During communism, Rousse's aristocratic past seemed to relegate it to something of a backwater. With its wonderful central squares, cafe culture, Danube river walks and laid back atmosphere, Rousse is still a bit of forgotten gem. It has seen many changes in the last ten years and now boasts an excellent selection of restaurants, bars and hotels. More recently the town has seen a growing ex-pat community either living in the town or more often in the outlying villages.
There are many places of interest in town such as museums and historical sites but the best way to see the town is send some times wandering its streets and cafes.
One of the joys of Rousse is that you are never far from the countryside on roads absent of traffic jams. The rural areas around the town are more reminiscent of southern England, with rolling hills, scatter deciduous forest, and wheat fields dotted with tranquil villages. However, field of sunflowers and vineyards add a more exotic touch than one would find in Sussex. Traditional farming, and small holdings, using with horse and cart co-exist alongside modern farms and brand new Massey Ferguson tractors.
20 km south of Rousse, is the unique and picturesque Nature Reserve Park “Roussenski Lom.” Its name comes from the river Roussenski Lom (River), which runs forms a tributary of the Danube. The Park consists of mile upon mile of amazing wooded valleys and limestone cliffs. It is here that monks moved i the 12th century to escape modern life and the atmosphere remains so even today. The park contains a collection of rock monasteries including the UNESCO designated rock Monastery of Ivanavo listed as World Heritage Site due its preserved rock paintings. The Rock Churches includes the rock monastery “St. Archangel Michael” where the visitors can see well preserved frescoes of the Bulgarian medieval art in the 15th Century and church “St. Mother and God”. The villages in the nature park are very popular with the tourists and property buyers, offering picturesque nature, the rock landscape and the breath-taking views and the plenty of opportunities for hiking, riding and biking experiences.
Some of the nicest villages are in or around the Roussenski Lom Nature Park, though almost all the villages in the region share similar attractions for property buyers seeking rural tranquility. The Medieval Town of Cherven is particularly stunning whether to live in, or visit. It was the key town of Northeast Bulgaria in the 14th century. Its recently restored remains reveal the ruins of the fortification walls of the inner town, of the boyar’s palace, the Bishop's church and some of the houses in the main street. There were 11 churches in the town, and many monasteries in the rocks around it. Other villages worth checking are Nisovo, Krasen, Bojichen and Ivanavo.
The entrance of one of the most remarkable caves in Europe - Orlova Chuka is set near Rousse. The cave is 50 km long and reaches Romania beneath the Danube. Near the cave there are many villages: Chilnov, Ostrica, Shirokovo and Pepelina where the visitor can see picturesque meanders and canyon-like valleys. Another favourite place just outside town is the Lipnik Forest Park in the village of Nikolova. Here is a famous pleasure park, splendid lake and forest walks. It is popular place for the townsfolk to visit at weekends and the nearby village of Nikolova has become quite popular with property hunters.
Average residential property prices in the town are currently around 895 euro sq m – slightly more than Turnovo because of local demand. However the village properties are cheaper since less foreigners have bought around here than in the Stara Planina Mountains. House prices vary according to the villages – ones in the Roussenski Lom Park tending to command the highest prices. Older houses can be found from as little as 6,000 euro for those in need of complete restoration up to 100,000 euro or more for fully renovated houses and villas.