Posts Tagged ‘bulgaria’

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.

A Place in the Rhodope Mountains where no Phones Work

January 20, 2010

No cell phone coverage, no internet, no fax and phone lines – just crystal mountain air and the sound of the forest. That’s the only way to get away from the routine and give your mind some peace.

I know such a place in the Rhodope Mountains. The area is called “Karatepe” and is about 25 km South from Velingrad. See a map with directions Sofia – Karatepe.

Where to stay: a small, secluded complex consisting of 3 wooden bungalows. They are set on a sunny meadow by a pine forest and a small lake, full of trout and carp.

There is hardly any info about the complex in the public space. It belongs to the State Forestry and is mainly visited by hunters. But when the hunters are not around it really is a wonderful Alternative Tourism destination.

the lake and the arbour

Getting there: not an easy job, unless they’ve fixed the road from Velingrad. But that goes with the territory – no easily reachable place can stay that wild and beautiful.

The bungalows: There are 6 private bedrooms, altogether in the complex. One of the bungalows has a fully equipped kitchen and a small dining room with a fireplace. The bungalows don’t offer luxury, but they provide more than the basic comforts.

the bungalows

The food: is your responsibility. The kitchen is equipped with everything you need. Just make sure you do your grocery shopping in advance because there is no store anywhere near the place. In the summer you can eat outside.

eat outside

Pros: great location, beautiful wild nature, peace and quiet, budget destination

Cons: hard to get there, the kitchen and rooms are not very well-maintained

Prices: 30 levs per room per night or 15 levs per bed per night. To use the kitchen the price is 60 levs per day.

Contacts: the website http://www.huntingbg.com was not working at the time I wrote this post. The phone number: +359 35951937.

If you have additional questions use the contact form or simply write me an e-mail to: truebulgaria@gmail.com .


Things to do: talking on your cell phone and browsing the net is not one of them. There is no network coverage – that’s the best part! For emergency situations there are two certain spots on a meadow nearby, marked by wooden signs where you can get coverage of 2 mobile operators. You have to stay exactly at that designated spot to get coverage, its quite funny:)

a spot with network coverage

Having lost connection with civilization you are free to do whatever you want: hunt, fish, walk, pick blueberries and mushrooms, see the villages around or just hang at the arbour in the middle of the lake and watch the fihes.

gypsy camp

In the summer you will see a large authentic gypsy camp on the road from Velingrad to Karatepe Area. The gypsies live there throughout the summer and pick blueberries. They really make a mess around their camp – there is garbage and plastic bags everywhere. Still, it might be interesting for some of you to see the gypsy way of life. When we asked to be let in the camp to look around they were really friendly and chatty.

gypsies

If you have additional questions use the contact form or simply write me an e-mail to: truebulgaria@gmail.com .

A Different New Year Experience – Kukeri

December 15, 2009

I am not crazy about New Year’s celebrations – the noise, the crowd, the smoke, the eating. So I am always happy when I find an alternative to the regular spending of New Year. Last year this happened thanks to the Kukeri in Razlog town.

What: Kukeri is a Bulgarian folk tradition with deep pagan roots. It is the strangest carnival!

When: 1st of January; (in the west part of Bulgaria the Kukeri tradition is celebrated around New Year, the peak now being Jan 1st)

Where: town of Razlog. The tradition is celebrated all over the country, but it is especially strong in Razlog, Pernik, Bansko, Smolyan, Rakovski

Where to stay: Razlog is a town close to Bansko – Bulgaria’s most popular ski resort. The two settlements are in something like competition. You can stay in either one. Now, ski resorts are not in my competence since they can never be alternative destinations (still, I love to ski). I assume it will be cheaper to stay in Razlog since it is a bigger town, while Bansko is more of a resort. Here is a list of hotels in Razlog. Here is a useful blog about Bansko if you prefer to stay there.

Anyways, what matters is the Kukeri experience which is… unique!

Early in the morning on January 1st, I mean very early, around 5:30am, we woke up by the sound of numerous sheep bells. People in scary goat fur costumes and sheep bells around their waist, dancing around the big alder tree in front of our hotel. The strange costumes, the blue morning and the sound of the bells make it all seem like a weird dream (the drinks from the previous night also contributed to this. Kukeri is an old, very old tradition of pagan times, which Bulgarians were somehow able to preserve.

kuker – Razlog, Jan 1st, 2009

You wander what’s with these crazy people so early in the morning on January 1st. I think they do it for the show, for fun and because they are still superstitious.

According to the old Kukeri tradition the bachelors dress up in costumes made of  sheep or goat skin, with the fur on the outside; they tie sheep bells around their waist; they put scary masks on, usually made of wood; the most ancient masks represent goats,  rams or bulls; some of the masks have two faces – an evil one on the front and a good one on the back, symbolizing the connection between good and evil. These scary men usually have a leader, who is a married man. The groups visit every household, wishing  health, rich crop and welfare and receive small gifts in return (flower, beans, eggs).

kuker – dancing bear, Razlog 2009

The whole purpose of these strange tradition – the scary costumes, masks, bells and dancing is to scare evil away and to have a good, healthy and abundant new year. Bulgarians believed, for example, that if you name your child with a scary name this will keep  diseases and evil away and the child will be healthy and happy, even though it carries a scary name.

In Razlog they have preserved the ancient Kukeri tradition to a large extent, but they have also added a modern and a local spice to it. I saw men dressed like women,  babies and bears. The scary people would often go to a random person and wrestle with him/her for a while. The whole thing have grown into a competition between Razlog’s neighborhoods. Eventually, everyone arrives at the town’s central square, where the tradition turns into an officially organized event and now it’s time for us to go…

Finally, this strange Kukeri tradition will take you to a different world for a while – the sound of the sheep bells early in the morning, the hairy monsters jumping around, the crazy masks and costumes, the slow life of the small town – it’s totally worth it for a different New Year!