Karlovo is one of those places where size does not equal importance. Tucked between the Stara Planina and the Sredna Gora mountain ranges looks fairly unimpressive now, but in the 19th and early 20th centuries it produced a disproportionate number of men and women who influenced this nation's history.
In the most glorious years of its past, when it was the capital of mediaeval Bulgaria, from 1185-1393, Veliko Tarnovo was a centre of military power and political intrigue, of busy commerce and even busier administrators. It was also the seat of the patriarch, the head of the Bulgarian Church. Surrounded by his staff and underlings, he presided over a vast network of churches, monasteries and scriptoria.
For a small town, Troyan has a serious claim to fame. Located deep into some of the most inaccessible parts of the Stara Planina, the town produces and lends its name to the famed Troyanska Slivova, or Troyan plum Rakiya. It is also the place of origin of the ubiquitous pottery found all over Bulgaria's traditional restaurants. The so-called Troyan pots, with their distinctive multicoloured patterns, are amongst the best souvenirs visitors to Bulgaria can lay their hands on.