The Stambolov Bridge was the first freestanding cast iron bridge in Bulgaria. It spans a bend of the Yantra River in Veliko Tarnovo.
Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria
GPS: 43.081785, 25.637227
The first freestanding cast iron bridge in Bulgaria spans a bend of the Yantra River in Veliko Tarnovo. The Stambolov Bridge is yet another emblematic place in Veliko Tarnovo, connecting the town centre with the Boris Denev State Art Gallery, the Monument to the Assen Dynasty, the University of Veliko Tarnovo, and the rest of Sveta Gora Hill.
The Bridge was built in 1892 under the initiative and patronage of the famous Bulgarian politician and statesman Stefan Stambolov, who wished to leave something memorable in his hometown. For the bridge design, he enlisted the services of Italian architect Giovanni Musutti with all of the iron bits forged in Austria.
Steel structures for bridges were a novelty in the late 1800s, as the materials had to be imported from abroad and put together at the construction site. But they did it, and the Stambolov Bridge was a marvel of its time. The technology of this bridge introduced several building techniques to the then newly-liberated Bulgarian state, and the entire Balkan Peninsula.
The bridge crosses the canyon at 37 meters above the river, and this provided a special challenge to the construction crew. Each of the colossal arches needed an army of workers to raise each piece into place via an intricate pulley system, while one or more brave workers dangling precariously by a single hemp rope to secure each large iron rivet into place.
According to legend, after the bridge was completed, master-builders and workers had to sit under the bridge while the first fully-loaded ox and horse carts crossed. This is consistent with Bulgarian tradition, that the architects and construction workers ensured, with their own lives, that they had done their job properly.
On 24 May 1932, the bridge played a central role in a daring stunt. Bulgarian ace pilot, Petko Popganchev (LINK), flew his plane under the bridge while onlookers cheered and applauded. Some say that it was done in an – unsuccessful – attempt to impress a local Lady.
In the 70s and 80s of the 21st century, motor vehicles still used this bridge to access the University, but today, the bridge is only for pedestrian use.
Now the Stambolov Bridge is a favorite hangout for young people and a romantic spot for couples. It reveals enchanting picturesque views of the traditional Bulgarian houses of the Old Town, and is visited by a steady stream of local and international tourists.
Bungee jumps are organized here annually around the Veliko Tarnovo Day. I think the iron workers that dangled by hemp rope to build this bridge would think this bungie jumping thing was… cute.
SizzleMap films created in Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria are produced in collaboration with
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