So this journey was also part of “Exploring the hell out of Bulgaria“. But this time, we had only one day and one night to explore. So this time, we had plan to spend the night at Buzludzha and day at town of Shipka. We decided to leave on Friday evening and return Saturday late evening. As usual, I met Dimo at Mall of Sofia and had awesome pizza at Pizza lab and then hit the road.
Night at Buzludzha
Buzludzha is a historical peak in the Central Balkan Mountains, Bulgaria and is 1,432 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 then a 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 monument but not very well maintained. May be it’s better maintained during the peak 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 in kitchen and had Tripe soup with a lot of chili and garlic before we had out again.
After eating, we went outside and after a small drive of 700-800 meters, we ended up at this parking and parked our car. It was complete dark so we put on our head lamps and started 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 can 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 pictures and here are two of them
After walking another 300 meters, we were next to monument and of course we took more pictures from there
After spending some time in front of monument, we decided to go to the back side and the view from there was something from outer space. The view of monument from back side instantly reminded me of The Monolith from 2001 Space Odyssey. Here are some pictures
From the backside, we could see a very nearby peak that looked nice in photos which some background lights from nearby towns. I wanted to go there to peak so Dimo can take picture of my silhouette on peak. I started hiking there myself what seemed like near by peak, 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 get freaked out. It’s mostly likely your jacket/backpack/walking stick making noises.
Any way, by the time I reached the peak, I couldn’t communicate with Dimo because there was no reception and I hoped that he took a good picture and then I decided to return. Here are pictures
It got quite windy by this time and we were also tired so we decided to go back to hut. One the way back around 2:30, the milky way was above horizon with it’s full glory and I couldn’t resist but to take pictures of this eternal beauty.
We reached the around 3 and we were super tired so decided to go to sleep. The room we were staying in didn’t had good heating system and I couldn’t sleep due to cold. But I was really happy with our journey nonetheless.
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 monument again so we can try to go inside. We packed our cameras and went out and followed the same route as last night only this time we could see the monument from far. We parked the car at same spot and started walking towards monument. On the way, we came across beautiful flowers on ground. Here are some pictures
After reaching monument, we walked around it and saw the places we were seeing last night with different perspective. We tried to get inside 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 sometime there, we decided to go down to Shipka and on the way down came across another interesting monument
Day at Shipka Monument
We came down to Shipka and since we were super hungry by this time, we decided to stop and have 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 place where we eat, either you can take stairs (I wouldn’t recommend that) or drive a bit further up 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 Shipka Peak and the surrounding area. We went into building and spent quite sometime there. I didn’t take pictures there out of respect. It made me felt really sad that how people have and still are fighting and killing each other. After spending a good hour or so, we came outside and went down again and started journey.
Evening in Veliko Tarnovo
Initially our plan was to visit the Russian Church of Shipka but last night Dimo mentioned that we should also visit Veliko Tarnovo a village 80-90 kilometers from Shipka. If we wanted to make it there on time, we would have to skip visiting Church, so we did and drove to the village.
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 river and hills and saw tremendous views. Our plan was to Tsarevets, a medieval fortress located on a hill with the same name. By the time we got there it was 4 in afternoon and fortress closes at 5. So we got in straight away and started to explore the place. Some of the pictures we saw as we climb up to the fortress
On the top of hill, there is a church so we decided to go in a view from inside. It had a lot of interesting paintings. Unfortunately, there was no one there to explain things about those paintings. We spent 10-15 minutes there and went outside.
Later we visited 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 wanted to get locked inside the castle so we decided to head out and walk around city. I was hungry already so we decided to eat (again :)). We ended up at The Green Restaurant which was really nearby the fortress. It offered a nice view of the river and food was also reasonable.
After eating the meal, we were ready to roam around city center. One thing that I noticed from the moment we entered that this city is quite different from other places in Bulgaria I’ve been to. I reminded me of Dubrovnik because of its street and hilly landscape. I was tired to take out my cameras to take photos so I just walked along and enjoyed the view and didn’t take pictures.
After walking for an hour, we came back to the place where we parked our car and started the journey back to Sofia and we were back in Sofia around 10 PM at night. The whole journey lasted around 30 hours out of which we only slept 4-5 hours but we managed to explore two must see places in Bulgaria.