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Features of Traditional Bulgarian Houses: Jamal

The traditional Bulgarian house is divided into several parts – residential and commercial. Back in the day, the residential part of every home regardless of the property status of its owner had a room with a common fireplace, where the lady of the house cooked and warmed water.


Traditional Bulgarian House

Traditional Bulgarian House

In the past winters were long and cold and people living in the mountainous areas used to heat their homes and themselves directly from fireplaces and hearths.


The fire from the hearth heated not only the living room but also an adjacent room. Usually, this was a bedroom where little ones and other family members slept, especially if the house belonged to wealthy Bulgarians.


This room was heated by a masonry stove called jamal or soba.





The jamal was fired by a special pallet stove. Often the jamal and the common fireplace were built close to each other, since they both used a common chimney.


common fireplace

common fireplace

In old houses in Bulgaria, usually the common fireplace and the jamal were connected, so the cooking heat could warm two rooms at the same time, thus saving the family some firewood.



Before the Liberation, primarily Turkish type of jamals were built in Bulgarian homes, which were made of ordinary bricks. The bricks resembled camels in shape and colour and this is how the name of the heating came about (the word for camel originates from the Arabic jamala, a verb meaning to carry).


These Turkish type of jamals had low and wide bottom and narrow and high top. This type of masonry of indoor stoves appeared in Bulgaria during the 18th century.


Over the 19th and the 20th centuries more complex and externally decorated jamals appeared in the traditional Bulgarian homes. They carry western influence and these types of jamals were usually called European or German, depending on where the appearance was inspired from.


Unlike the Turkish jamals, European jamals were built with small and narrow bricks. Most of them have their own oven and they were often decorated, which is what distinguishes them.


Both Turkish and European jamals have the same principle of heating. Once the fire is started, it heats the bricks. Then once the bricks are warm enough, the fire is left to smoulder until live coals remain. Then warmed bricks start to accumulate the heat and thus warming the rooms in the old Balkan houses.


Until the mid-twentieth century, most Bulgarian homes had more than one jamal. Usually a Turkish jamal on the first floor and a European type on the second. Unfortunately a large number of them were destroyed during the mid 70s of the last century.


Looking for a traditional property with such authentic features? Browse our character Bulgarian properties now!


Preobrazhenie Monastery, Veliko Tarnovo

The monastery bells, gift from Russian soldiers

The monastery bells, gift from Russian soldiers

Preobrazhenie (Holy Transfiguration of God) Monastery is located 7 km from Veliko Tarnovo and is the largest monastery in the area. It is established during the rule of the Bulgarian Tsar Ivan Alexander (1331 – 1371).

In medieval times, the monastery was located about 400 – 500 m south of its current location, as evidenced by archaeological research.

During the Ottoman rule the monastery was burned down a few times and eventually abandoned  and destroyed.

In 1825 after receiving permission from Sultan Mahmud Han II, a patriotic monk, father Zoticus of Rila Monastery, started to rebuild the monastery at its current location.

The construction of the main church “Transfiguration of Christ” started in 1834 by master-builder Dimitar Sofiyaliyata and was finished by the famous builder Kolyu Ficheto. The internal and external walls of the church were decorated  with frescoes between 1849 – 1851 by the great Bulgarian painter Zahari Zograph. Among the most impressive frescoes are The Last Judgement and The Wheel of Life.

In 1861 Kolyu Ficheto built the  seven-bell belfry with the clock. Two years later he built the small Annunciation church on top of the underground St. Andrew chapel.

During the Russo-Turkish Liberation War (1877 – 78) the monastery was converted into a military hospital. After the Bulgarian Liberation in 1878, the Russian  soldiers showed their gratitude by donating the bells, chadeliers and liturgical books for the church.

Currently the monastery is a functioning friary. Together with the invaluable frescoes, it possesses pricelss old books and icons. The monastery holiday is celebrated on August 6.


Long Night of Museums, Veliko Tarnovo 2013

Long Night Of Museums Veliko Tarnovo Poster

Long Night Of Museums Veliko Tarnovo Poster

VELIKO TARNOVO celebrates the Long Night of Museums tomorrow at the Sarafkina House, the local ethnographic museum and one of the finest examples of Bulgarian houses from the Revival Period.

An Ethnographic Night at The Museum marks Veliko Tarnovo’s participation in the European initiative “Long Night of Museums” on 18 May.

The event, celebrating the International Museum Day is organized by the Regional Museum of History in Veliko Tarnovo is dedicated to Ethnography and will take place at Sarafkina House on Gurko Street.

The event starts at 7 pm with a presentation of the pan-European initiative “Long Night of Museums” and opening of mini- exhibition and bazaar “Made with Love” of various needlework pieces, made by Sedyanka (working-bee) club.

A workshop “Try it yourself” will give all visitors the opportunity to learn how to do spinning, embroidery, knitting, shuttle lace, etc.

A small open stage will be provided for those who prefer to sing, play or narrate stories.

The audience will be shown a multimedia presentation called “Faces, hands and messages”, dedicated to traditional village and modern town crafts.

The museum’s permanent exhibition can be viewed over a glass of wine, while listening to traditional folk and urban tales and stories. From the windows, the yard and balconies of the house the visitors can enjoy the unique views of night time Veliko Tarnovo.

The Long Night of Museums will offer to the theatre addicts two performances at the lapidarium of the Archaeological museum: “Fireball”, based on Ivan Radoev’s play, presented by Starostolnitsa chamber theatre at 20,30 h. and –„Passions of the Word” a spectacle of the ALT – Students’ Experimental Theatre of the Faculty of Pedagogy of Veliko Tarnovo University at 22,00 h.


Veliko Tarnovo Chess Tournaments Week


Over 200 junior chess players are participating in this year Veliko Tarnovo Chess Tournament Week.

Four tournaments are being held between four age groups – up to 8 years old, between 8 and 12, and  12 – 14 (mixed boys and girls).

There are going to be seven rounds with 30 minutes per player according to the rules of Speed Chess.

Organizers of the “Tarnovska Tsaritsa” (Queen of Tarnovo) Junior Cup are members of the local Chess Club Etar.

The European Champions Tsvetan Stoyanov and Gabriela Antova are also attending the event, as well as the Hungarian and World Vice Champion, the Hungarian, Ana Marjanovic.

Tarnovska Tsaritsa opens today at Hotel Etar with an official conference and is only the beginning of the chess tournaments in Veliko Tarnovo.

The International Tournament for Men & Women “Old Capital” launches tomorrow. All Bulgarian and foreign players are eligible to participate the first open international tournament.The tournament is acknowledged for international ratings and titles. The playing time is 90 minutes per player + 30 seconds per move. Race will continue for six days and will end with a closing ceremony and awards.


Easter in Veliko Tarnovo

IMGP5810This year Orthodox Easter in Bulgaria falls on May, 5. This is one of the most important celebrations of the year and the most significant feast in the Orthodox Church calendar.

This year it falls much later than the Catholic Easter. The Bulgarian name for Easter is ‘Velikden,’ which means ‘Great Day’ and the Bulgarians certainly put a lot of effort into making it a large family celebration.

Citizens and guests of Veliko Tarnovo will celebrate the coming Orthodox Easter holiday on the historic Tsarevets Castle. The midnight mass will be held in the restored Patriarch Church (at the very top of the hill) at 11:30 pm on May 4.

The service will end with the ringing of all Tsarevets bells and fireworks.

The Difference in Dates

Bulgaria is an Orthodox country and the Church here uses the Julian calendar, and not the Gregorian calendar, recognized worldwide as the official civil calendar.

Easter Holidays in Bulgaria

Easter is celebrated over four days starting on Good Friday (called Razpeti Petak in Bulgarian or Crucified Friday) until Easter Monday, which is a bank holiday.

Bulgarian Celebrations

Bulgarian homes are often decorated with coloured eggs, one of which must always be bright red to represent the blood shed by Jesus Christ on the cross.

Preparations for Easter start the week before with the boiling and painting of hen’s eggs and baking of the traditional Easter bread ‘kozunak’.

Bulgarians swap eggs and kozunak with friends and family on Easter Sunday. Some egg tapping is also observed and it is believed that whoever wins will be lucky and healthy all year round.

Most people invite close family members over for lunch. Traditionally, Bulgarians would have delicious dishes like roast lamb, drob sarma (traditional dish made with chopped lamb or calf’s liver and rice, topped with a savoury egg custard known as kalifka) and wine kebab.

And most of all, everyone you meet greets you with a Happy Easter, Chestit Velikden!