Archive for the ‘Balkan Mountains’ Category

Koprivshtitsa – 1030m Above Seal Level

July 20, 2010

Narrow cobbled streets, coulourful houses with unique architecture in Bulgarian Revival Period style, numerous small museums, craft shops, cool mountain fresh air – that’s Koprivshtitsa for me and it’s always worth a visit.

Souvenir Shop in Koprivshtitsa

How to get there: If you are driving from Sofia you have to take Botevgradsko Shosse which eventually becomes E79 and E871. At the intersection where these two split, you need to take Е871 road (also known as the Under-Balkan Road) on your right just after Lukoil gas station. Koprivshisa is only about 110 km from Sofia but for the last 15 kilometres you should be prepared for a winding road so the whole journey takes almost 2 hours. See google map.
You can get to Koprivshtitsa by bus or by train. The buses stop right in the centre of the town. Note that the train station is far from the town’s centre – about 8 kilometres. Although there are shuttles and taxis they are not 100% reliable.

The house of Dimcho Debelyanov - famous Bulgarian poet

What to see: Just take your camera and one of the narrow cobbled streets… All the houses are built in this specific architectural style of the National Revival Period. Thanks to the local construction law all new or renovated buildings are designed in the same style. Whether it’s a private house, the tourist information centre, or a souvenir shop… they all look like they’ve been built in the  1850s.

You’ll run into different museum houses – all of them unique but at the same time very much alike. The taxes for visitors are quite low.

You have to see the Oslekov’s House – a beautiful, original house which will give you a good idea of how a well-off Bulgarian family lived in 1850’s – 1900’s.  The house was built by a rich local merchant Nencho Oslekov. In his tailor shop were made the uniforms of the participants in the Uprising of April 1876.

Oslekov's House

Guest room in Oslekov's House

Room for handiwork

I am not going to get deep into history here. It is much better to get a local tell you the stories of Koprivshtitsa. Ask about how the town got its name, about the 3 times Koprivshtitsa has been burnt down, about the first gun shot of the April Uprising, about Kokon mahala (the Dame neighborhood)… I don’t know another Bulgarian town with so many stories to tell.

The Old Church - the Assumption (Uspenie Bogorodichno)

The New Church - St Nikolai Church

Where to stay: We’ve stayed at two different hotels (Kozlekov Hotel and Todorini Kashti) and they both have the same problem – thin walls. Hotel Kozlekov has one big advantage – a great terrace with a wonderful view of the unique town of Koprivshtitsa.

Where to eat: the best meals are prepared in 20 April Restaurant right on the main square.  I can’t say that the place is too cozy but the food is excellent. They have the best Shkembe Chorba and Lamb Soup! It is not by chance that locals dine there – they know best where they can have good food in town. And if you can get the owner, George, to tell you some Koprivshtitsa history you can’t ask for more from your Koprivshtitsa visit.

20 April Restaurant


Interesting Events: About once every four years the National Folklore Fest takes place in Koprivshtitsa. Performers from all over the world come to Koprivshtitsa to participate. If you are planning to be there you need to reserve a place to sleep way in advance. This year I’ll be there to feature the event. 10th National Folklore Fest – Koprivshtitsa 2010 coming soon…

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Krushuna – a Green Wet Fary Tale

February 15, 2010

Krushuna is a village about 35 km from the town of Lovetch. It is quiet, the nature is unspoiled, the air is clean – just like most other villages in Bulgaria. But it does have something more to it… In the south end of the village a magical place is hidden. Come with me – I’ll show you…

How to get there:

The Journey from Sofia takes about 2 hrs and 20 minutes. Here is a link to map+driving directions.

Once you get to the village it won’t be hard to discover its proud secret – the Krushuna waterfalls or the so-called “Maarta”. In the midst of green vegetation there is this wondrous creation of nature – waters, falling over  soft mossy rocks, overflowing round shaped terraces, which look like they are filled with liquid emeralds.

part of the waterfall

part of the waterfall

Of course this has its scientific explanation. The waters of Maarаta river fall over karst, limestone and travertine rocks. Gradually the waters mould the rocks into these beautiful round rapids. I don’t know how the water got this emerald colour, but I guess it has to do with the chemical composition of the rocks.

emerald waters of Maarta river

The whole waterfall is about 15 metres high. There are bridges and steps, facilitating  the visitors get different views of the sight.

High in the rocks you will see a few ancient caves. One of them leads to something like a church, carved in the very rock. These caves were ones the homes of Christians who professed isihasm – an orthodox school, popular in the 13th century, which founded its values on humbleness, love and wisdom. The isihasts lived in remote, secluded places, where they could contemplate nature and connect with God. They used to heal peoples’ diseases. One of their believes were that mankind could be freed from its ailments and even live forever.

entrance to one of the caves

Other things to see:

From all the caves in the region there is one you absolutely have to see – Devetashka Cave. It is on the way to Devetaki village.  We parked where the road crosses the Osam river. There is a road sign for the cave. From there it is about 1 kilometre to the cave along a small eco trail.

the caves's entrance from a far

I love this cave because it reminds me of a cosmic station. It has the biggest ‘foyer’ of all the caves in Europe – 3o metres high and 35 metres wide. According to different sources it was inhabited during 7 different epochs. It was a sanctuary in ancient times.  It used to be a military base in the past. Later on in the 1950s it was a storage for oil. According to some it was the federal reserve’s food storage and rocket base.

There are 7 huge openings on the ceiling, through which natural light enters the main hall. Past the main hall the cave splits into two corridors. The left one is about 2.5 km long. It is dark with a small river running through, forming miniature lakes and waterfall, passing through the main hall and eventually flowing into Osam river. The right corridor is much smaller. It is dry and warm, ending with a round hall, known as the Altar.

the ceiling

inside

Where to stay:

There are many village houses for rent. Usually the whole house is rented and you can cook your own food in the fully equipped kitchen. The house we stayed at had only one WC and bathroom so I am not going to recommend it. It had really nice yard though and a great outdoor dining area with a fireplace. If you are not worried about the single bathroom fact write to me and I’ll send you the contacts.

outdoor dining area

the house

My advice is do not visit Krushuna during the village holidays May 2nd  – it gets crowded and messy.

Please keep the area clean and be careful not to damage the formations. Unfortunately, we, Bulgarians aren’t particularly good at that.

If you have further questions you can use the contact form or write to me at truebulgaria@gmail.com.

Sredni Kolibi Village – Elenski Balkan

October 22, 2009

This is a journey to the Balkan Mountains (Stara Planina) – to the most beautiful part of it – the region of Elena town.

Geographical area: Sredni Kolibi village in the Central Balkan Range – the region of Elena town. Here are the directions and a map from Sofia to Sredni Kolibi village.  The drive from Sofia takes about 3:30 hrs. There are signs to the hotel so it is not hard to find.

The village of Sredni Kolibi is tiny, very quiet and awfully charming. It is very sad how few people live there now. One thing you should know about this part of  the mountain  is that it is incredibly beautiful! We call it “Elenski balkan” and we are loving it:)

Where to stay

Elenski Riton Hotel: There is a main building and there are 2 smaller separate buildings. We stayed at one of the smaller buildings. Everything is nice, clean and new since the hotel welcomed its first guests only in 2008. The architecture deserves compliments – it has a character, authenticity and it fits perfectly with the surroundings. There are bikes for rent – the region is perfect for biking tours. I almost forgot to mention the outdoor pool – pardon me, I’m not a pool lover.

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Elenski Riton – the 2 smaller separate buildings

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Elenski Riton – main building

The rooms are also very clean; almost everything is made of wood and that gives them a pleasant hm… woody smell. However, they are a bit small and dark for my taste.

The bathroom is large and clean. It was quite cool in there when we visited since they did not have the heating on. We had a boiler in our bathroom and it was quite noisy during the night. We had to turn it off  in the end but we were wandering for quite a while where did that strange squeaking noise come from.

The restaurant is not to my taste – dark, smoky and noisy. We had lunch and breakfast outside and if it were not cold, we would’ve had our dinner outside as well.

Outside the hotel

Outside the hotel

The food: The menu is not impressive as a whole but they had some home-cooked meals which were excellent.

The service: As I have mentioned many times before, Bulgaria is not famous for its good service.  Well, here is one exception to the rule – the staff at this hotel was friendly and helpful. The lady manager is very kind, she knows quite a lot about the area and she will gladly provide you with any info you need.

Pros: great location, very quiet – no roads or noise of any kind; new, clean and tidy hotel, good service.

Cons: the rooms are a bit small and dark for my taste; the restaurant is not a cozy place; the menu is composed mainly of fast-cooked stuff – there are only a few real cooked meals.

Contacts: If you have questions about the area or about  Elenski Riton hotel use the contact form or simply write an e-mail to: truebulgaria@gmail.com

Things to do / see:

Yovkovtsi Dam is the first thing that you should go and see – approximately 10 minutes walk from the hotel. If you enjoy fishing you can spend the rest of your vacation there:)

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A view from Sredni Kolibi village to Yovkovtsi dam

Biking tour – a great idea! We rented bikes from the hotel and we had a really cool (and quite tiring:) biking tour. We got to a deserted village ab. 8 km from the hotel. (Head in the direction of the dam and just follow the main road. You will pass one village before that – try to go upwards all the time (that will be on your left). At some point we left our bikes by a tree and continued by foot.  It was much easier going down with the bikes:)

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Biking tour towards the deserted village

Kapinovski Monastery – most monasteries have unique air  to them, which is impossible to describe. Once you enter their yard, you enter a different world – slow, green, quiet, humble and beautiful. Just stay there a moment – feels good. This monastery is actually a working male monastery.

In the yard of the Monastery

In the yard of the Monastery

The town of Elena – a unique mountain town with a lot of museums, galleries & churches. The whole town is a historical site. Just go up and down the steep streets made of stones and you will feel the atmosphere.

Hristovski waterfall on Miikovska river.

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Hristovski waterfall

Animal life: It was really cool to see  so many animals in their natural environment – storks, foxes, rabbits, deers. It does not sound so exciting written down here, but if you see them there, while you are walking – it really is cool:)