So this journey is a part of “Exploring the hell out of Bulgaria“. We only had one day and one night to explore and we planned to spend the night at Buzludzha and the day at the town of Shipka. We decided to leave on Friday evening and return late on Saturday. As usual, I met Dimo at Mall of Sofia and had some awesome pizza at Pizza lab, after which we hit the road.
Night at Buzludzha
Buzludzha is a historical peak in the Central Balkan Mountains, Bulgaria and is 1432 metres high. In 1868 it was the place of the final battle between Bulgarian rebels, led by Hadji Dimitar and Stefan Karadzha, and the Ottoman Empire.
The House-Monument of the Bulgarian Communist Party was built on the peak by the Bulgarian communist regime. It commemorated the events of 1891, when a group of socialists led by Dimitar Blagoev assembled secretly in the area to form an organised socialist movement that led to the founding of the Bulgarian Social Democratic Party, a forerunner of the Bulgarian Communist Party. The monument that has been abandoned for decades looks like a UFO or star ship and makes it unique or one of a kind shall I say. And what’s a better time to visit a UFO than at night?
We had reserved at a room in a mountain hut nearby. It’s called Хижа Бузлуджа Нова (Hut Buzludza Nova) and it was around 18 leva per night. The hut is really close to the monument but not very well maintained. May be it’s in a better condition during the travel season. We weren’t planning to spend much time in hut anyway so for us it was fine. We reached the hut around 10:30 at night. Dropped our bags in room, changed hiking clothes and shoes, and came down to the kitchen for some Tripe soup with a lot of chili and garlic before we head out again.
After a short drive (700-800 meters) we ended up at this parking where we left our car. It was absolutely dark so we put on our head lamps and began walking towards the monument. It wasn’t visible from there at that time so we guessed the direction. We got really lucky as it was a moonless night with clear skies and no clouds as long as you could see. After walking 400-500 meters we could see the monument and we decided to stop and take some pictures. Went another 300 meters and stopped again to take more photos. Here are two of them:The Monolith from 2001 Space Odyssey. Here are some pictures: hiking alone in dark that I felt in Teide a year ago. Pro tip, if you feel you’re being followed when you’re hiking alone at night, don’t freak out. It’s mostly likely your jacket/backpack/walking stick making noises.
Anyway, by the time I reached the peak, I couldn’t communicate with Dimo because there was no reception and I could only hope that he took a good picture.
As usual, I was up early (not having slept properly). We got up at 8, went down to have breakfast and then decided to go to the monument again so we can try to enter it. We packed our cameras and followed the same route as last night. Only this time we could see the monument in the distance. We parked the car at the same spot and began walking towards monument. On the way, we came across some beautiful flowers on ground. Here are some pictures:
Day at Shipka Monument
We came down to Shipka and since we were super hungry by this time, we stopped and had lunch at a Russian restaurant here. It was really good!
Now that we had our tummies full, we were ready to visit monument of Shipka. The “Shipka” Monument of Liberty is located in the “Shipka” national museum – park on the ridge of the Balkan Mountains. The most decisive battle of Shipka during the Russian-Turkish war of Liberation changed the history of the whole country. The Shipka Memorial is a memorial to those who died for the Liberation of Bulgaria during the Battles of Shipka in the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-78.
From the Russian restaurant you can either take the stairs (I wouldn’t recommend that) or drive a bit further and walk a few more stairs. We first decided to walk around and take pictures.
Evening in Veliko Tarnovo
Initially our plan was to visit the Russian Church of Shipka but the night before Dimo mentioned that we should also visit Veliko Tarnovo – a town 80-90 kilometers from Shipka. If we wanted to make it there on time, we would have to skip visiting the church, which is what we ended up doing.
Often referred to as the “City of the Tsars”, Veliko Tarnovo is located on the Yantra River and is famously known as the historical capital of the Second Bulgarian Empire, attracting many tourists with its unique architecture. The old part of the city is situated on the three hills Tsarevets, Trapezitsa, and Sveta Gora, rising amidst the meanders of the Yantra.
The views started to change as we got close to the town. We drove next to a river and hills, and saw tremendous views. Our plan was to see Tsarevets, a medieval fortress located on a hill with the same name. By the time we got there it was 4 in the afternoon and the fortress closes at 5pm, so we got in right away. Some of the views we saw as we climb up to the fortress:
Later we visited the throne hall and the king’s chamber. We walked around and took some pictures here and thereThe Green Restaurant which was really close to the fortress. It offered a nice view of the river and food was also reasonable.
After walking for an hour, we came back to the place where we parked our car and began the journey. We were back in Sofia around 10 PM at night. The whole trip lasted around 30 hours out of which we only slept 4-5 hours but we managed to explore two must see places in Bulgaria.