"Ticks All The Boxes For Me!" Top 5 Page for this destination Ruse by johngayton

Ruse Travel Guide: 59 reviews and 170 photos

Choosing An Iconic Picture ;)

Having just spent my first full day in Ruse I must say I'm impressed with this city.

The Central Railway Station, with its idiosyncratic mix of Neo-Classical and Socialist-Brutal architecture, provided a characterising overture whose themes resonate throughout the rest of the city. The taxi drivers, official and otherwise, were touting amongst the throng of arriving travellers in the magnificently-chandaliered, high-ceilinged, station hall. Beggars and hawkers were trying their luck with both arrivals and departees but everyone was under the watchful gaze of the burly, jack-booted, policemen patrolling the concourse with their holstered pistols conspicuously displayed.

Exiting the station I noticed the landmark of the TV tower behind me, its red and white striped mast offering a fixed point of reference for the whole city. In front of the concourse is a nice simple street map with the main places-to-visit graphically highlighted.

I now knew exactly where I was in relation to my hotel - under the underpass and follow the main road, keeping the TV tower behind me. A final taxi tout attemped to get my business - I pointed out, "I walk ten minutes and that's my hotel - you drive me I pay you one lev?". He didn't seem to think that was a very good counter-proposition.

I still managed to get slightly lost en route, having taken what I thought might be a short-cut - HA! Nothing new there then! My slight digression cost me maybe five minutes but I did note the local beer shop closest.

Check-in swift and friendly. Nice hotel. Quick splash and straight out again to catch what remained of a gloriously sunny evening.

My hotel's location is just off the main Boulevard Borisova which becomes a pedestrian avenue leading to the main square as soon as I cross the road. This is dominated by The Monument to Freedom loftily addressing the Palace of Justice (the courthouse may be Neo-Classical or Neo-Baroque or even Socialist-Brutal, I suppose it depends on what you are there for).

The square certainly is a "Grand Place" which is a match, in its own right, to that of any other in Europe. To the right the dual-carriageway-wide pedestrian avenue continues with the Soviet-inspired Pantheon just visible poking its gilt-topped dome above the street crowds.

Instead I went left, down a narrower, but no less grand, avenue with modern concrete and turn-of-the-century Revival architecture replacing the Baroques and Classicals. Here I came across the statue of the gun-in-hand Angel Kunchev, the Tryavna-born anti-Ottoman revolutionary. Kunchev was the former deputy to the Bulgarian Revolutioary Committee's leader Vasil Levski, and, rather than be captured during his attempt to escape to Romania, committed suicide here in Ruse.

The sun was now setting but the feet were in wandering mode and I reckoned the river couldn't be far away and yep, a short walk further and there it was - The Danube. At this time in the evening the Danube was no longer blue, instead rose-tinted as the sun briefly paused before dropping swiftly below the Romanian horizon - one minute a full balloon, next a mere pink glow underlighting the cloudening sky.

With the sun now set and the sky darkening it was time to head back to the hotel and then and try to sort out what impressed me most.

And here's what I came up with:

A snowman with a wine cork for a nose and a fag in his mouth - MAAAN! This is my sorta city ;)

A Little History

Ruse's development as a settlement is due to its position on the south bank of the River Danube where the river was deep enough for it to become a natural port. Archaeological finds date it back to the 4th millenium BC and during the Roman Empire's occupation there was a substantial port and garrison in the area - the Romans named the town Sexaginsta Prista (the port of Sixty Ships).

Following the fall of the Roman Empire the town descended into relative obscurity only regaining prominence during Bulgaria's period of Ottoman domination when it once again became used as a major trade centre.

In 1866 the emerging city became the Danube terminus of Bulgaria's first railway line, linking it to the Black Sea port of Varna. During this latter period of Ottoman rule the city enjoyed a relative autonomy, almost being treated as a free-port, but that didn't prevent it from being a hot bed of the Bulgarian Revolutionary Movement and the subsequent Liberation was greeted with the same enthusiasm here as in the rest of the Country. An anecdotal account has it that a crafty local merchant, forseeing the Turkish defeat, had stocked up on traditional headwear. Then when the news was announced the workers and servants threw their fezes into the river by means of celebration...the merchant made a killing!

Following the National Liberation and renewed ties with Western Europe the city entered its golden age which the architecture of the time illustrates. As well as the Revival period buildings there was also a strong influence of Neo-Classical, Neo-Baroque and other European styles which are magnificently evident around the modern city.

For the first-time visitor, arriving by train, the introduction to the city by its hugely-proportioned Neo-Classical Central Railway Station cannot fail to impress - especially if you've just got off the train from Sofia.

Touristy Bits (Sort Of)

From the railway station the city's main square is about a kilometre walk straight down the broad Borosova Boulevard which for its first half is shared with the local traffic (through traffic skirts around on the Blvd Tsar Osvoboditel). Then Borosova becomes fully pedestrianised, but no less wide, and as it heads towards the Svoboda Square and its eponymous Monument to Freedom.

This square is, in my opinion, the equal to any in Europe in its own unique manner. It doesn't have the ornate grandeur of say Brussels' Grand' Place, nor quite the dimensions of Krakow's Rynek Glowny (although it can't be far off). This is a working city's square, not a tourist's one.

The Neo-Baroque/Classical Palace of Justice faces the Concrete-Brutalist Municipality on the North/South axis, whilst on the East/West direction Bulgaria's best-located Happy Bar and Grill shares its space with the City Theatre in the appealingly-named Art-Deco/Nouveau "Profit Yielding Building", both looking across at the modernist gleaming glass-fronted Danube Plaza Hotel.

At the corners all the other useful stuff such as cafes, small shops, banks etc are housed in a variety of Revival-style smaller buildings and everything sort of gels together to create an attractive blend of styles and functions.

Not only that but there's even signposts which are perfectly legible (in both Cyrillic and Latin characters) with arrows that point you in the correct directions and even tell you what street you are on - unheard of for Bulgaria!

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Things Are Signposted!
  • Cons:Well, I Suppose I Could Complain About The Snow!
  • In a nutshell:A Tourist City Awaiting Tourists
  • Last visit to Ruse: Feb 2010
  • Intro Updated Mar 5, 2010
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johngayton

“The slow lane often gets you there faster”

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