[From “Behind Ya”] Bulgaria Trip 2005

Ok, decided to revive this… This is how far I had gotten the first time I tried to do my trip report. Hopefully, putting it up again will motivate me to finish it (I’ve got the pictures and the notes, I just need to get off my lazy fat ass and wrap it up!)

Two years ago, I took a trip to Bulgaria. I had a camera with me. This will be the place I’ll post the pictures.
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Pleven, Bulgaria.

The city I was born in. A concrete paradise… Actually, one of the cities that is recovering pretty quickly from the turbulent times in the last decade+ … Still remaining one of the ulgier ones, unfortunately.

View from the hotel room:

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Now, one of these amazing things that can happen to you in BG is the following. You’re wandering about aimlessly. You decide to check out a little old church. You look into the main room, it’s actually kind of boring, just another church room thing, an altar, the thingies for the candles, a few icons (it’s an orthodox christians church). But you happen to notice some stairs leading up. You’re bored, no signs that say you can’t walk up, so you do. It’s dark up there. Hell, whatever.

But you’re curious now, and on the way out, you ask the dude that’s hanging out at the entrance what’s up there. Blankly, he tells you that for 1 lev ($0.60), he’ll turn the lights on. Why the hell not. The pitiful old place can use the donation anyway.

So, you walk back upstairs. And you suddenly find yourself in a very pretty little room, with beautiful wall and ceiling paintings… And you read, on a little plaque, that these are paintings preserved from the 12th century! And they are right there, right in front of you, and you can touch them if you want!

I guess I’ll leave out any commentaries I’ve got about Bulgarians and their attitude towards their history and cultural heritage… Here is one of the better pictures I took in the place (disregard the cheesy modern icon hung on the wall):

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One of the trips I took was to a little village in an ethnographic reservation. It’s pretty much a village where houses from the Bulgarian Revival (end of 19th century / beginning of the 20th century) are preserved. The village is called Bojentsi, and it’s simply a beautiful place.

On the way to the village, I passed through another ethnographic museum in the open, Etara in Gabrovo. Another very nice place to visit, in the less populated hours of the day/week. I actually did go back to Etara, and I had a chance to visit right after closing hours (I’m not sure if I was supposed to be able to enter, but hell, the gate was still open, and nobody was there to get on my case for it! =)… And that was one of these experiences where words aren’t enough. It wouldn’t do it justice to say it was as if I were transported back in time. The sun hit just right from over the mountain, the air was fresh, there was a lingering scent of burning wood in the air, and nobody but me… I get goosebumps just thinking about it!

Pictures from the first trip:

Trying to get a shot with as few people as possible… The only place where there was no crowd was on the road behind the houses, by a small river running through the village:

The bridge over the river:

The meadow next to the houses (you can see the inn I stayed at next time I visited):

This is from Bojentsi. Typical houses from the early 1900’s…

This is the house where I ended up eating lunch. They also give the room to guests, but I never got a chance to sleep over in the village. Next time, I will.

The view from the house (during lunch):

A typical path between the houses:

My dream house. ‘nuf said:

A house restored and touched up to a semi-modern look. I believe they rent the house out or something… I’m not sure I like the look that much (see picture above for my idea of perfection), but I took the picture for my mom, who was trying to figure a way to modernize this type of architecture…

Pretty sky:

Actually probably one of my favorite pictures… Just a ruined wall in the middle of nowhere…

After looking around Bojentsi, I took a hike to the nearest larger town (with the idea to catch a train to the nearest big city, from which I was to take the bus back to the capitol… that didn’t quite work to plan, but the hike was amazing).

I actually had a really interesting meeting and conversation with a couple of the old folk who still live in the village. There were an elderly couple watching over a couple of grazing sheep. It was very nice, and, unfortunately, very sad, talking to them. I left them with the feel of a generation, no, a mentality of an entire nation, dying out. There is a certain beauty in simplicity, an inherent warmth and personabilty in people who have grown up and lived their lives so close to nature.

But enough of that, and back to the photos.

A meadow in the forest:

The path through the forest:

And more greenery:

And more… You can guess what floats my boat, no?

Pretty wild rose bush, with the Balkan ranges in the background:

And the final destination (the town of Tryavna, another very nice place to visit). I ended up missing the train by a few minutes, so I had to take a taxi… That was NOT a fun ride.

The clock tower:

A town square (please ignore the cars):

The main street in the old part of town, painted by a nice sunset:

And the last treat of the night… Veliko Tarnovo (the Tsarevets fortress) at night. Veliko Tarnovo is the historic capitol of the Second Bulgarian Kingdom (there are actually some people who strongly believe it should be capitol once again =). Also a very nice place to visit. I returned for a day exploration of Tsarevets later and took some better pictures.

A poor quality, standard angle, photograph of the fortress at dusk (I was running out of batteries ~ a story which would once again bring me to a discussion of modern Bulgarian mentality, but I won’t go there ~ so the only way I could take a picture was to run the camera without any auto functions… and it was a cheap ass camera anyway):

I returned to my hometown a week or so later, and this time was able to squeeze in some sight-seeing between running errands.

The community (and later fortress) Storgozia is the original establishment in this location. It is located in the Kailuka park just outside of Pleven (another nice place to visit).

The inner fortress:

The entrance:

Greenery (the path which leads from the fortress to where my family used to own a piece of land). Kailuka park is in the canyon below:

And more greenery:

And more…

Can’t ever get tired of it, really:

Have I bored you to death yet?

And now? =)

The outer wall entrance:

A close-up of the sign explaining the history of the fortress (used for target practice… more temptetion for social commentary I will resist):

My next outing was pretty randomly chosen. I went to the bus station, saw the first bus taking off for some place that sounded interesting… and ended up in Troyan.

First stop was the Troyanski Monastery.

The main church:

Some wall paintings in a part of the church that I know has a name but can’t think of it right now:

Another shot of the inner yard (whatamacallit =) of the monastery. I really could do my research and actually make these captions informative too:

And then, I decided to do some hiking through the mountain.

I didn’t have any sleeping arrangements, so I decided to walk to a chalet and stay the night there, then maybe walk to a town on the other side of the mountain and catch a bus back to HQ from there. Needless to say, no plan survives enemy contact. I was at most an hour into true wilderness when the Balkan weather showed its teeth: one minutes I’ve got blue skies, next minute I’m stuck in the middle of nowhere in pouring rain.

Maybe about thirty minutes before, I had passed a shelter (a log hut with a bed and a blanket and a key on the inside =); I waited for a while, hoping that the rain will let up. That didn’t happen, and even though I had good boots and all, I didn’t know the trails well, didn’t want to chance it, and decided to go back to the shelter and wait out the rain.

The rain finally started subduing in a couple of hours, and I snapped a picture from the shelter (ignore power lines, please):

Well, not for a moment am I sorry I was stupid enough to take this trip — the beauty of the mountain after the rain was beyond words (I didn’t remember to take pictures, sorry). I had lost too much time to try to get to the chalet before dark, so I decided to go back to Troyan. But not willing to just backtrack my steps, I took another trail, which led by another monastery.

I met some very interesting people up there — the lady who took care of the monastery (the Zelenikovski Monastery, which was not functioning as a monastery at this point) and a British lady with a broken leg who was boarding at the monastery. I ended up renting a bed in the monastery and spent the night there. No electricity makes for great conversations, I tell you!

After a glorious thunderstorm during the night, badly flea-bitten yet rather happy, I was back on my way to civilization.

The day after, the weather gloating:

A house on the way (note the dog; I walked on this road for maybe an hour and not a single vehicle drove by):

(to be continued)

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