At the beginning of April we went for a walk in the forest near Kostenets. There was still too much snow, so it was a short walk as we couldn’t find the trail any more and the snow was simple to deep. It was near the Rila mountains and Kilian went for a bike ride the next day.
It was a moderate climb up the mountain and when there was too much snow (again) he turned around. We didn’t know there would be so much snow in Bulgarian mountains and for such a long time. We wonder if this much snow is normal. Because it caused huge damage to the forests. If it is this bad every year, it is amazing there are still any forests left. There was also quite a lot of damage to the roads. Which are bad anyway. There are so many holes and bumps, that we have started calling Bulgarije, BulTgarije. Bult is Dutch for bump… The average road is just as bad or worse as the unpaved roads in Albania.
Anyway, with al that snow we decided to spend some time in the valley and found a nice camp site near Rosen, Pazardhzik, a meadow with a stream alongside. There where beautiful camping spots in the area and due to its central location, we would camp here twice more. Here the weather was nice and we simple enjoyed the sun and the quiet. Kilian went for another bike ride, which was quite muddy.
After this sunny break we drove on to Lukovit. Here we visited the “eyes of god” cave.
Then we went on to Lilyache to see the gods bridge. Another natural bridge like the wonderful bridges which we visited in March.
We also walked through the rock maze, which consists of a series of small caves. Lilyache is pretty much in the middle of nowhere in the middle of flat agricultural country. Suddenly there is a rocky valley where you can find caves and the bridges. If you don’t know it’s there, you’ll drive right past it, on the road above this valley, thinking it is a bit of a boring countryside.
After Lilyache we visited Vratsa. A nice town with a cozy city center. The sun was shining and for the first time in a long time we sat outside a small diner on the terrace. We had a lovely lunch and really enjoyed the sun and watching other people go by.
At the Vratsa tourist information we asked for a hiking map for the nearby mountains. Well there weren’t any maps. We have noticed before that the tourist information in the Balkan and East European country’s is of little use. They hardly speak any English and have little knowledge of the area. The girl did point us in the direction of one hike near Zgorigrad and we took a photo of the regional map on the wall. No other maps were available, so better than nothing. We spend the night in the mountains near the trail and the next day we went for the hike. There was a big yellow sign in Bulgarian but we managed to translate it. It said the hiking trail was closed! Something they should have known at the Tourist information really…We went anyway. The path led uphill along a wild river and up to several steep waterfalls. The path was closed because there was still snow on it and there were trees blocking the trail. We manoeuvred around the trees and made it up to the waterfalls. The trail here was steep and we had to climb along the ravine holding on to branches and rocks. Parts of the trail had wooden ladders in it.
The hiking trails in the Balkan and east European countries differ from the hiking trails in the Alpine countries. The trail is usually not well marked or well kept. The beginning is often difficult to find and the end is sometimes unclear as well. Signs rarely contain any information about the distance or difficulty. If there are any hiking maps available they don’t necessarily match with the reality… Often we have no idea what we are getting in to. Some hikes would be considered dangerous in an Alpine country. And you would either have been informed about this or the trail would have all kinds of safety measurements, like ropes to hold on to or railings. In this case the hike had some pretty “adventurous “ parts in it.
By now we are used to it and just go on for as long as we can. Shortly after the waterfalls we had to turn around. There was a narrow path, covered in deep snow and the edge off the path was crumbling away in the steep ravine. The path looked like it could completely cave in any minute. We felt we had had enough adventure for one day and went back to the van.
The next day we wanted to hike to another waterfall but instead we ended up helping a horse, you can read about that here.
From Vratsa we went to Belogradchik where we had a beautiful hike through the rock formations and the forest and to the Lepenitsa cave.
This trail also had a part in it that demanded some rock climbing instead of hiking. We both used to climb when we were younger and those skills still come in handy. It was a beautiful hike with great weather. We made a short film from the hike with Binkie:
We camped in a hard to reach meadow.
We also visited Vidin. This city is located on the Donau and on the other side of this river Romania starts. Even though we were really close, we couldn’t visit Romania because of you know what. Vidin has a historical centre with a castle, old city walls and several museums. Just like Vratsa it has a small but nice shopping area.
During the first half of April the weather was mostly cold and wet. But in the 2nd half, the weather quickly changed and we finally had more sun, nice temperatures and the trees and plants rapidly turned green. These changes make our stay here much better!
In the last week of April we spend two days in Sofia again. This time not so much for touristic reasons but because we needed some things that you can only get in a big city like certain car parts. Apart from the shopping we did enjoy the variety of foreign foods available. We went out to dinner in an Indian restaurant (my favourite) and the next evening we had Chinese take away! Both were delicious. Contrary to the Netherlands you can only get these foods in big cities.
At the 29th of April we visited the town of Koprivistsa which has a lot of authentic Bulgarian buildings. While walking through this town we saw a flyer about the folk festival which would be held on the first of May, which is a national holiday in Bulgaria. So we stayed in the area and visited the folk festival. You’ll be able go read about that next month.