„This was a street in which you could find everything. Particularly on Wendesdays and Fridays which, were market days, it was more like a fair. There could be so many people there that if one tries to throw an egg down there would be nowhere for it to fall,“ old shopkeepers retell, remembering those days.In the second half of the 19th century, when Turnovo began to grow to the west of Bajdarlick Square, the Samovodska Charshiya developed as an economic centre. Women from the nearby village of Samovodene used to come in on those market days, put down small rugs before them, pile their vegetables on them and begin to sell them. This is where its name came from, the Samovodene Market, Along the pavements from the bakery to Hadji Nikoli’s Inn village women from Belakovets sold milk, butter and cheese. On market days it was one of the most animated places in the town. It consisted of two streets bordered by shops, craftsmen’s workshops, and inns. One of them began at a small square known as Oun (flour) Pazar (today Samovodska Charshia Square), and continued along the street which led to the Dryanovo Inn (at the place of the „Modern Theatre“ Cinema, recently demolished). There were many other inns hereabouts, those of Hadji David and Hadji Veliko, Atanas Yonoolou’s and Hadji Nikoli’s, a grocer’s shop, a sandal maker, blacksmith and other craftsmen’s shops and workshops.
After the Liberation from Ottoman domination this part of the town kept its traditions as a craftsmen’s market of the National Revival period. Its architectural aspect is formed by stone walls with large double gates, old Turnovo houses with glazed verandas and balconies overlooking the market and the street, surrounded by lovely wrought iron parapets. There were three bakeries here for simiti, a kind of bun, special round flat loaves of bread called pitti, bread rings, etc. The bakers made kadaif, a Turkish pastry, halva, a sweet made from sesame, and sold popcorn, boza, a local drink made from fermented millet seed, and homemade pickles. There are more shops and workshops, huddled close together along the street leading from the Samovodska Charshiya to the Dryanovo inn, where slipper-maker, a knitter, a tailor who made trousers, a grocer, a blacksmith, the kafedjiya who sold Turkish coffee, and a barber were to be found. The shops which formed the facade of Hadji Nikoli’s inn housed a cotton ginner, a grocer, a jeweler, a kafedjiya and a shekerdjiya, a confectionary. Alongside the craftsmen’s workshops were the small shops, “big enough to hold a little of your stock“ in which flour, bran, and cereals were sold,and wine shops. Up until the ’30s of the 20th century opposite Hadji Nikoli’s Inn, wooden red sheds housed tanners, sandal-makers from Assenova Mahala,who sold their whips, saddles, sandals, shoes and anything made of leather.
The old traditions connected with this part of the Revival period town, and the wish to revive the national crafts as part of the Bulgarian artistic heritage led to the idea of restoring the craftsmen’s market place. Today it is a living museum in Veliko Turnovo. It was started in mid 80’s of the last century as part of a programme aimed at developing Veliko Turnovo as a historical and tourist town. The centre consists of restored houses of the National Revival and the Post-Liberation periods, from the second half to the end of the 19th century. Among them is the house in which the Bulgarian writer Emilian Stanev was born. Hadji Nikoli’s Inn, one of the most interesting monuments of our National Revival period, built in 1858 by Master Builder Kolyu Ficheto, was included in the centre. It housed the National Revival Museum (however the building was closed in the beginning of the 90’s after being privatised).There are variety of craftsmen’s workshops at work in the Samovodska Charshiya today: a potter, an armourer, a coppersmith, a carver, a confectioner, a weaver, an icon painter’s studio, a photographer, a cafe, a workshop where kadaif is made, and a bakery. In this way the centre recreates the atmosphere of the first decades of the 20th century. Souvenirs, made according to the old technologies, are sold here. They recreate articles exhibited in the museum and dating back to Antiquity, the Middle Ages and the National Revival period. The traditions of the folk art crafts have thus been revived and continued in Veliko Turnovo, one of the oldest Bulgarian towns.