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:
After walking another 300 meters we were next to monument and of course we took more pictures from there
We spent some more time in front of monument and then decided to go to the back side. The view from there was something from outer space. It instantly reminded me of The Monolith from 2001 Space Odyssey. Here are some pictures:
From the backside, we could see a very nearby mountain peak that looked gorgeous which some background lights from nearby towns. I wanted to go there so Dimo can take picture of my silhouette on the peak. Started hiking all by myself towards what seemed like nearby peak. It took me 15-20 minutes to get there. I also experienced the same creepy feeling of being followed during 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.
It got quite windy by this time and we were also tired, so we decided to go back to the hut. One the way back around 2:30, the milky way was above horizon with it’s full glory and I couldn’t resist taking pictures of this eternal beauty.
We reached the hut around 3am and were super tired so we decided to go to sleep. The room we were staying in didn’t have good heating system and I couldn’t really sleep becaause of the cold but nonetheless I was really happy with our journey.
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:
After reaching the monument we walked around it and saw the places we were seeing last night with a different perspective. We tried to enter the building but since the main entrance is locked we couldn’t get in. After searching here and there, we found that we can enter through some bunkers but we decided not to, as it required quite some effort. Here are some pictures from around:
After spending some time there, we decided to go down to Shipka and came across another interesting monument.
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.
Inside the monument there are four floors where you can find replica of Bulgarian military flags and other relics. The top of the tower reveals a panorama of the Shipka Peak and the surrounding area. We went into the building and spent quite some time there. I didn’t take pictures out of respect. It made me feel really sad that people have, and are still fighting and killing each other. After spending a good hour or so, we came outside and went down again and began our journey.
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:
On the top of the hill there is a church so we decided to go in. It had a lot of interesting paintings, but unfortunately, there was no one there to tell us anything about them. We spent 10-15 minutes there and left.
Later we visited the throne hall and the king’s chamber. We walked around and took some pictures here and there
It was 5 already and we didn’t want to get locked inside the castle, so we decided to head out and walk around city. I was hungry already so we ate (again 🙂 ). We ended up at The Green Restaurant which was really close to the fortress. It offered a nice view of the river and food was also reasonable.
After finishing our meals we were ready to roam around city center. One thing I noticed from the moment we entered was that this city is quite different from other places in Bulgaria I’ve been to. It reminded me of Dubrovnik because of its streets and hilly landscape. I was tired to take out my cameras so I just walked along and enjoyed the view.
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.