“ Address: Veliko Tarnovo 33 / Gurko / Bulgaria „
You can find Hotel Gurko on 33 Gurko Street in Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria. It's a tavern and a hotel joined together and situated on one of the prettiest streets in Veliko. The street is ancient and a treat to walk down with it's old houses overhanging and bulging with bright red geraniums, trailing foliage, potted plants and lots of handcrafted watering cans, wheelbarrows, troughs. You can't miss the folk art - it is everywhere on this street.
How did I find this hotel?
We came across the Gurko when we were staying in a pension just a little further up the street. On the first night in Veliko we decided to go out to eat and this tavern, brightly lit with candles invited us in. We had a first class meal with a jug of Bulgarian wine and decided we really liked the decor and atmosphere and would probably visit again for a meal. As our pension was basic and we were staying for a few days I decided that it would be more comfortable if we could stay at the Gurko.
The following morning as we were walking down the street we bumped into a lady busy with her cleaning duties outside the Gurko Hotel. She was one bundle of energy and never stopped sweeping and watering plants all the time we were talking to her. The lady in question was the owner of the hotel. We asked if she had any vacancies and she said she could fit us in if we came back at 3pm when the rooms would be ready. My husband wanted to see the room on offer and asked the price. I could see she wanted to get on with her work but we insisted on seeing the room just to make sure it was in good order. The room she showed us was on the second floor and to reach this we had to walk up some steep stairs. The room had just been vacated so the laundry was in a pile on the floor and the beds were unmade. For 35 Euros it looked great. A deal was made, off we went sightseeing and said we would be back around 5pm. The pension was much cheaper at 17 Euros but basically it was just a room with a bed, chair and that was about it. Nothing wrong with the place at all but I just fancied a bit of luxury on this trip.
On entering I certainly got a whiff of cleanliness in the form of floral disinfectant. The maid/cleaning lady had certainly done an excellent job. The room was large with two beds made from heavy oak with carved headboards. The bedding consisted of two huge pillows filled with duck feathers. These were very soft and comfortable. The top cover was white and had been hand embroidered. Apart from this there was a sheet and a medium weight blanket. I thought at first that we might be cold but we were fine and both of us enjoyed the comfort of the beds while we were snuggled up watching footie on Cable TV every night of our stay. Furniture in the room was made from the same wood as the beds; simple yet elegant. Wall lights hung on the wall above our beds and opposite was a desk with a mirror above. It was here were the coffee machine, tray and cups were situated. I really liked the double windows in the room which overlooked the River Yantra. The curtains were orange and folky in design and tied back to give the room a more rustic look. The view from the window was one of the best I came across in Bulgaria.
Yes, there was an en-suite. Average in size with a bath and a shower. The tiling was quite attractive in two shades of brown with a fancy flowered border around the mirror hung over the washbasin. We had a mixture of towels - two bath towels in a beige colour and two smaller white towels which were big enough for me to wrap around my hair to form a turban. These were hung on a rail next to the washbasin and close to the hair dryer. The bathroom was fine really. I would have liked a window to look through but it wasn't too important.
We did have a phone in our room and a mini bar but didn't use either.
The hotel downstairs is split into two restaurants and a reception area. The first restaurant you come to having walked down the stairs is the evening restaurant. It was delightful to eat an evening meal in as the room was so atmospheric with a log fire, chairs and tables made from polished wood, with carved animals around the edge and wagon wheels supporting the tables. A varety of seating arrangements: some quirky, made from barrels and others coming out of the stone walls decorated in Bulgarian tapestries. Both nights of our stay we sat in the same table nearest to the door. This is because I like to see the new arrivals.
Service was a bit slow due to the fact that there were only 2 people serving and attending to the bar next door as well. The evening menu consisted mainly of Bulgarian dishes like Tarator, Kavarma and meatballs (Kiufte). We ate the same dish both nights which was Drob Sarma: a popular Bulgarian dish made from chicken livers. We had a Shopska salad to go with it and a big bowl of fresh yoghurt followed by a jug of local wine. I was surprised at the quality of the wine - I was expecting it to be rough but it wasn't - it was fruity and smooth. The only thing I was a bit annoyed about was the smoking aspect. The No Smoking ban doesn't exist in Bulgaria. Not just in this restaurant but in others we visited. They have separate sections but still have ash trays on tables in the non-smokers section. I have never smoked and I find the smell quite offputting. Let's hope the next time I visit things will have changed but I doubt it very much. Apart from this moan I loved the restaurant.
The room on the other side of the building doubles up as a bar and breakfast room. It isn't as ornately decorated but it still has a good atmosphere. You choose your table and as soon as you sit down one of the staff will bring a menu and take your order. Service in the mornings was very quick and efficient. I think they wanted to get on with the cleaning. We had a choice of fruit juices, tea and coffee, cereal (cornflakes and muesli), ham and eggs (poached, fried or boiled) and a selection of fresh rolls. Feta cheese was also on offer. I choose a plate of this the first morning but the portions were enormous and as much as I love Feta cheese this was too much. The following morning I went with the ham and eggs. Bear in mind that this is cooked ham and not bacon. Slices are paper thin too.
I enjoyed staying in the Gurko Hotel and would go back again. For 35 Euros a night, I think it's a bargain. The hotel is traditional, clean and has a great restaurant. Shame about the smoking but it's part of Bulgarian culture and I think they find it hard to change. The location is terrific, overlooking the River Yantra, walking distance of the centre of Veliko and right slap bang in the vicinity of Samovodska Street - a haven for traditional crafts. Highly Recommended.