If you ask Vratsa locals about their favourite place for Sunday walks, most will point to the Vestitel (Herald) Compound, a.k.a. simply the Lodge. The short ascent to it rewards one with a stunning vista of the whole town, which makes it a perfect destination for aspiring photographers.
The compound is located at the foot of the Vratsa Mountain and is accessible either through the 463 steepish stone steps or through a few meandering alleys that start from the central Khristo Botev Square. The compound's name comes from an emblematic monument called, "The Herald of Freedom", standing on the spot where on 9 November, 1877, Petlak, a Russian soldier, bugled up the town's liberation. The place became a locals' favourite after thousands of volunteers of the local Tourist society built here a Tourist House in 1926.
It is a curious fact that the compound was designed by Peter Dogramadzhiev, the first local who graduated architecture in Vienna. His design is an artistic reflection on the old map of Europe. The right-hand tower is English-style, the roof's mid-section represented Austria, and the left tower resembles a minaret.
It has had different functions throughout the years: a place for entertainment, a venue for Tourist Society meetings, a hikers' lodge, etc. In 2005, the hut was almost obliterated by a fire that flared up in one of the rooms used as a tavern. On 9 November, 2006 (the 129th anniversary of the Vratsa's liberation from Ottoman rule), the building was reopened after a large-scale reconstruction enabled by local donations.
Today, the Herald Compound is a relaxing place to stroll or enjoy some refreshments while taking in the sweeping panorama, and even work out in the small fitness area at the foot of the pine forest, preferred by senior hikers. The colourful playground is an amenity for children; a specially designed alley makes it accessible to mothers pushing baby carriages or strollers.
The lodge's ground floor functions as a tavern, also named Vestitel (Herald) and offering Bulgarian cuisine and live music at weekends. The tavern is a favourite place for weddings and proms. It is no coincidence that one of the scenes of 1970s cult film, "The Boy's Walking Away" was shot here. While waiting for your dish, you can also take in the quaint photo exhibition dedicated to the history of the local tourist movement.
Walking further from the compound, you will hit another local favourite, the Chayka restaurant. A new alley starting at the foot of the Herald statue will take you there within 15-20 minutes' walk. It is the starting point of several other trails leading to Zgorigrad and the Borov Kamak waterfall. open only Fridays and saturdays, the Vestitel tavern offers traditional bulgarian cuisine and live music. You can find more on its Facebook page: