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Elena, the town they once called the “Bulgarian Bethlehem”

Photo: Elena Municipality

Elena, a Revival-time town located in the central Balkan Range, attracts visitors with its ecotourism and cultural tourism opportunities, but it also holds a gastronomical allure. The centuries-long history of the town can be read in its architecture, churches and museums, and in its cobblestone streets, once lit up by oil lamps.

It is believed that the town was founded before the fall of Bulgaria under Ottoman rule. During the National Revival period, it became one of the major educational, commercial and craft centres, as its inhabitants participated in all important historical events. At that time, the town of Elena was often called the "Bulgarian Bethlehem" because of its three churches - something unthinkable for the Ottoman era. 

One of the legends connected with the founding of the town tells the tragic story of two young people in love. The young girl Elena from the village of Kupinovo and  the young lad Samuil from Tvurditsa were wed on the spot where, later, the town sprang up, but bandits attacked the wedding party. A robber tried but failed to seduce the bride and she was killed at Konak bridge. Her beloved was stricken down in Samuilets locality, years later named after him. Grief-stricken, the girl’s parents went to live in the place where their daughter lost her life, founding a town now bearing her name – Elena.

Read more about Elena, the town nestled in the folds of the Balkan mountain here.

Edited by Diana Tsankova

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