A walk through several buildings related to the cultural and educational activities of a number of prominent figures in the city under the hills


On a rainy afternoon, guides from the Bulgarian Modernist Architecture Foundation and Free Plovdiv Tour took dozens of people of all ages for a walk and revealed interesting stories and facts about the lives of the enlighteners who spent their lives in Plovdiv.

The tour started in front of Dragan Manchov's house, which currently houses the town hall of the Central District of the Plovdiv Municipality. The building is the work of the architect Josef Schnitter, on two spacious residential floors, and the composition clearly states the high property status of the owner and the aesthetic understanding of the designer.

In this building, Ivan Vazov (who lived across on Betoven Street) edited the Nauka magazine, and it is probably here that the odes from the Epic of the Forgotten were conceived. A number of the most respected guests of the city, public figures, writers and diplomats were also welcomed.

Dragan Manchov himself was born in the town of Batak. He was a participant in the Stara Zagora uprising, for which he was arrested. After his release, he went to Romania, where he inherited Hristo Botev's printing house. In 1879, he opened his own printing house in Plovdiv, which mainly published educational literature. He took on the ambitious task of publishing the First Bulgarian Encyclopedia, for which he gambled and lost his huge house and ended his life in poverty. For a short time in 1901, he was also the mayor of the city of Plovdiv.

The second stop was quite nearby, namely today's Maychina Grizha (Mother's Care) kindergarten, which in the past was also the home of a prominent enlightener - Yoakim Gruev. Built in 1910, the prominent figure’s house is one of the few that has preserved the characteristics of Schnitter's style intact today.

He was born in Koprivshtitsa, where he was taught for many years, and then he was a teacher in the Plovdiv grade Bulgarian school. He actively participated in the church struggle and authored a large number of textbooks on various subjects. Some of them had several editions and were widely distributed in schools. He was the third principal of the current Humanitarian High School and is one of the people who actively advocated for the solemn celebration of Cyril and Methodius Day as a holiday for Bulgarian students.

The next name is probably associated by many of us with the Plovdiv Fair, but being from a noble family, Obreiko Obreikov donated a significant part of his finances to various school and educational causes. He was the main donor for the construction of the building of the current vocational high school for interior architecture and woodworking.

In the period 1933-1940, he was the first chairman of the Plovdiv Fair. He assisted in its acceptance as a member of the Union of International Fairs and its transformation into an annual international fair. He played an important role in the modernization of the canning and chemical industry in Plovdiv and in the country, and in this sense he was undoubtedly part of the implementation of innovations in the city and the country.

His house is currently being renovated, and we know that it was most likely built by a Greek architect.

In one of the subsequent stops, we learned more about Obreiko Obreikov's father - Stefan. He founded a special fund for the establishment of the Commercial High School in Plovdiv, strongly emphasizing the need to study accounting in the years after the Liberation, so that it would serve as a basis for business prosperity. He himself taught there. A larger fund was allocated and specifically directed to the development of sciences at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences.

The house was built for his wife Elisaveta Obreikova in 1933 and combines elements of art deco and modernism. Typical of the style are the details on the stairwell, the curves, and from the art deco style – its crowning with a dome on the top floor. Its architect was Hristo Peev.

We continue to Gavaz Khan, where the printing house of the famous Hristo G. Danov was located. The history of the Bulgarian publisher is an example of the contribution of revivalists to the otherwise clichéd expression "public education and culture". From 1896 to 1899 he was mayor of the city under the hills. For this activity, he refused to receive a mayor's salary and remains in history as the person thanks to whom Plovdiv got its first town plan, drawn up by Josef Schnitter.

The Khan was demolished in the years around the First World War, and the current building was built in the years around 1920, most likely with commercial functions, as evidenced by the clearly separated ground floor shop premises. Unfortunately, today it is quite unmaintained and in an unenviable condition.

Then the tour took us to the so-called Koprivshtitsa quarter, which was set apart in the years after the Liberation. It was formed after the Muslim population moved out and the opportunity to buy land arose there.

This was also one of the reasons for the construction of another place in the tour - the St. St. Cyril and Methodius Church. It was designed by the architect Josef Schnitter and is a temple-monument of the Liberation. The building was officially named St. St. Cyril and Methodius and St. Alexander Nevsky. Some of the icons in the temple were painted by the revolutionary and artist Georgi Danchov. It was built with the funds of prominent Plovdiv residents from the area, one of the biggest donors being Ivan Lichev, whose house is right across from the church and is known as the last stop before the death of Aleko Konstantinov - the Lucky One.

The tour of the houses of the enlighteners in Plovdiv ended in front of the building of the St. St. Cyril and Methodius Humanitarian High School, which we irrevocably associate with the educational activity in the city under the hills. All those mentioned in the tour were part of its history in one form or another - as principals, teachers, students or donors. From the Chaakov family, which was mentioned earlier in the tour, who provided the first building for the school in 1850, to the prominent Bulgarians who went from there to science, history, culture and public life: Levski, Ivan Vazov, Pencho Slaveikov, Lyuben Karavelov and a number of others.

The school is the first in the world to bear the name St. St. Cyril and Methodius and in 1851, it gave the entire Slavic community the most Bulgarian holiday.

The building in which it is currently housed was built by the architect Pietro Montani and Knyaz Alexander of Battenberg was present for its inauguration.

The guides, Adelina and Teodor, were excellently prepared with a lot of cultural and historical information, and the hour and a half passed in a flash, while we all listened enthusiastically to facts and stories about a bygone era, which we should always be proud of.