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The southern gate of the fortress wall, which has enclosed the town in XVIII century
The southern gate of the fortress wall, which has enclosed the town in XVIII century

The town was founded at the time of the Roman emperor Vespasian over the period of 69 - 79 AD as a fortress called Sexaginta Prista (The harbour of the sixty ships). The fortress lasted for almost six centuries and then perished under the storms of the Barberian invasions.

In the Middle Ages the Rousse region was among the most developed areas of the Bulgarian state. At the time of the Otoman Yoke Rousse was an important fortress and the maingate to the north of the Turkish empire. It was called Rouschouk.

In the nineteenth century, Rousse was the first town in Bulgaria to aquire a pronounced European look which came an illustration of its economic prosperity at the turn of the century. The first newspaper printed in Bulgaria came out in Rousse in 1865.

After the Liberation in 1878, Rousse continued being one of the largest towns in Bulgaria. It became the craddle of the Bulgarian shipbuilding when the first iron ship was built in 1881. The first private bank Girdap with authorized capital of 5 million golden francs and the insurance company "Bulgaria" were established in 1881. The first Chamber of commerce and industry in Bulgaria was established in Rousse in 1895. In 1897 just two years after the show of the Lumiere brothers in Paris, the residents of Rousse were the first to see the motion pictures.

The central streets intersect to form small bright and cozy squares whose atmosphere is typical and unique. Svoboda (Freedom) is the main square. The Court of justice, the Theatre, The Opera house, Danube hotel and the municipal garden are there. One of the gems of Rousse is the Theatre, which used to be a money-earning building of the school trusteeship and the figure of the winged god of trade on the roof reminds of that. The building architect was Paul Branck and it took his famous Viennese team four years to build it, from 1898 to 1902. Nowadays the Theatre is under reconstruction.

The main square is dominated by the majestic Monument of Freedom made of granite and bronze and designed by S. Zlatev and S. Kiriazov. The sculptor of the statue of freedom and the reliefs of the 8-metre pyramid over the pedestal was the world-famous architect Arnoldo Zocchi.

Some 23 kilometers southwest of Rousse there is an unic archeological reserve - the remarkable Ivanovo rock monasteries. Located at a height of 6 to 8 metres, the cells have been inhabited by monks until the 17th century. Chronicles and the preserved church murals show that the community of hermits also created a blossoming literary center during the 13th - 14th century. The rock monasteries have been evaluated as an important stage in the development of European culture and recorded on the UNESCO List of World Cultural Heritage.

The Ivanovo churches contain some of the best frescoes of Bulgarian religious art.

7 kilometers southwest of Ivanovo is the Fortress of Cherven, dated from the Middle Ages. It was one of the most important military, economical, cultural and religious centres of the Second Bulgarian Kingdom. The ruins are restored and can be visited.

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