In the middle of March, 2007 we managed to go on a short about a week long trip to Bulgaria. We had to drive more than five and a half thousand kilometres in eight days (more than six hundred kilometres per day in an average). Idea about trip was born when I was returning from a business trip; I met young lady on a plane sitting next to me. She told a lot of interesting things about Bulgaria and we went to check how it is there in the west of Balkan peninsula.
Arrival to Bulgaria
Late in the afternoon, we arrived to Bulgaria by ferry connecting Romanian town Calafat and Vidin in Bulgaria (location of Vidin and Calafat on map). Size of Danube river is very impressive there – another coast of the river looks quite far away. And here it is – journey back to the last century: apart from customs and border control, there were number of another official authorities collecting currency for various mandatory border crossing “services” – phyto-sanitary control, veterinary control.
As it was not enough with those, although we had all necessary insurance policy documents, a range of different insurance offices were asking to pay for something more. Many of East-European countries had similar policies in the beginning of nineties, however all that was gone after countries joined European Union. Unfortunately, this was our first, not the best one, impression about this country.
Our first destination in Bulgaria was 50 kilometres away from Vidin – Belogradchik. Near this town there is located one of the natural wonders of Bulgaria – Belogradchishki Skali (Belogradchik Rocks). Those are fairy-tale like hills consisting of sandstone and conglomerate. We have seen similar rock formations in Northern part of Italy (Piramidi de Segonzano), however these near Belogradchik are more impressive (more about Piramidi de Segonzano you can find out reading our travel notes about Italian Dolomite Alps). Belogradchik Rocks also are similar to the Devil’s Town (Djavolja varos) in Serbia.
One more interesting fact – rocks are connected with Belogradchik Fortress making perfect inclusion of rocks into the fortress system made by men. First construction period of fortress system was about 2 thousand years ago, second one during 8th to 14th century, but last in 19th century. The fortress has five gates and it is possible to go inside it. Like about many other natural sites, there is nothing much to tell about this – it just hast to be seen by your own eyes.
After visiting Belogradchik Rocks, we went to Melnik for local wine tasting, passing capital of Bulgaria Sofia. Melnik was the most Southern point of our trip and we continued our trip towards the Black Sea. Not far away from Melnik, we found another interesting site – Bachkovo Monastery, one of the oldest monasteries on the Balkan Peninsula.
The monastery is located in the Rhodope Mountains, not far from the town of Assenovgrad. Since 1984, Bachkovo Monastery is on the tentative list of UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Sites. Not having any particular plans for visit, we accidentally met an interesting old man who was walking around car park to find somebody who would accept his offer to be a guide. He looked quite poor but educated and we accepted his offer after a short bargain.
Fortunately, the man really had strong knowledge and was telling both about monastery and Bulgarian history. He was able to answer all questions we had. All stories (more than half an hour long) were told outside of monastery. Asking why we do not go inside, we were told that the man is not allowed to go inside the monastery. His explanation about reason of that was very exciting – years ago he was a monk in this monastery. Because of some offence he was later evicted.
As we were completely satisfied about his guidance, we paid agreed amount and entered the monastery alone. It was really interesting inside monastery to visit their premises; especially we liked very old and fascinating wall paintings.