Bulgaria 2017 part II - Roadtrip week 2


Advertisement
Bulgaria's flag
Europe » Bulgaria » Shumen Province
August 2nd 2017
Published: October 3rd 2017
Edit Blog Post

Razgrad clock towerRazgrad clock towerRazgrad clock tower

Surprisingly, considering that Bulgarians didn't see that city as a place worth visiting, Razgrad was pretty nice and worth spending some time in. Here is the town's clock tower

From strangely shaped rocks, via 1,000 year old historical sites to a surprise find of a geyser





We are now, just like the title indicates, going to tell you what we did and where we went during our second week in Bulgaria. Before we start writing we would like to point out that just like in the previous blog entry the photos don't come in chronological order. So there is little point in trying to retrace our route.



Razgrad - When we told people we met that Razgrad was on our itinerary for this trip they couldn't believe us. They all said that no Bulgarian doing a road trip in their own country would bother to visit Razgrad. We had a special reason, we had booked a half marathon there. It was a small race, only about 250 competitors in all and of those only about 80 did the half marathon.

It was a good and fun race and it was well organised. It was tough because there were lots of hills and some trail running on top of that. But we loved it.

Surprisingly, considering that Bulgarians didn't see that city
Ibrahim Pasha MosqueIbrahim Pasha MosqueIbrahim Pasha Mosque

The 16th century Ibrahim Pasha Mosque in Razgrad
as a place worth visiting, Razgrad was pretty nice and worth spending some time in. Things worth seeing included among other things the mid 19th century clock tower and the 16th century Ibrahim Pasha Mosque.



Beli Plast - A small village which would be just as anonymous as hundreds of other similar villages if it wasn't for the unusual Stone Mushrooms. They are, not surprisingly, rocks which look like mushrooms. These rock formations are natural and have probably been created when lake or seawater eroded sedimentary rock.



Thracian Tomb of Kazanlak - "The Thracians were a group of Indo-European tribes inhabiting a large area in Eastern and Southeastern Europe". That description we took from Wikipedia. We actually didn't know about the Thracians before we went on this trip. Now we know only a tiny bit more than we did before. We know that there are plenty of historical sites in Bulgaria connected with the Thracians and we know that the name Thracians sounds funny. Or are we the only ones who think "Thracians" almost sounds like "Trashians"?

Thracian Tomb of Kazanlak is a UNESCO world heritage site. You can't visit the
Stone lion adorning a bridgeStone lion adorning a bridgeStone lion adorning a bridge

One of the bridges in Razgrad is adorned with this lion
actual tomb, it is much too fragile. However, next to the tomb they have built a copy of it which you may enter and roam around in as much as you like as long as you pay the entry fee.



Devil's Bridge - Pretty much in the middle of nowhere there is beautiful stone bridge known as Devil's Bridge. The road which led to this place was so small and insignificant that our GPS navigator didn't know about it. When we were about 3 km from the bridge the road deteriorated so badly that we had to park the car and walk the rest. But it was worth it because when we reached the Devil's Bridge we not only found a very picturesque bridge. We also found a green secluded valley, a small clean river, green trees, blue sky and peace and serenity. It was a big mistake to leave the swim suites in the car though. We actually thought about skinny dipping but were afraid that we might scare people if we did.



Melnik - supposedly the smallest town in Bulgaria. It is famous for being a centre for wine production
Coffee machineCoffee machineCoffee machine

In every town, and even in many villages, they have coffee machines like this. The coffee from them was surprisingly good
and for only permitting houses to be built in the local traditional style giving the town a special character.



The Marvellous Bridges - a natural phenomenon where a river has created tunnels or caves through the rocks.



Sapareva Banja - this town was not really on our agenda. We ended up here because we needed a place to stay. The town has a claim of fame though, a geyser. Supposedly this geyser is the only one in Bulgaria and it can be seen in a park in the central town. The geyser was created when they drilled a deep borehole and hit a superheated water reservoir deep down in the ground.



The Stone Forest - The Stone Forest consists of a large number of stone pillars of various sizes standing in a desert like landscape. This is a natural phenomenon where erosion over maybe more than a hundred thousand years has carved the limestone into these shapes.



Pliska Historical City - Just like Sapareva Banja this was a place we stopped at only because we needed accommodation. Our guidebook didn't have a word about
The Stone MushroomsThe Stone MushroomsThe Stone Mushrooms

The Stone Mushrooms is a natural rock phenomenon near the village Beli Plast
Pliska so we didn't expect to find anything there apart from the hotel we had booked. To our great surprise we learned that Pliska, now a very small and very discreet village, once was the capitol of Bulgaria. This was back in the 7th to 9th century CE so most of the glory of the past has been lost. Archaeologists and historians have in a combined effort dug up and visualised the remains of palaces, churches and other important buildings from more than 1,000 years ago. Although parts of the restorations look more like reconstructions-from-scratch it was still an interesting place to visit.



Pliska Village - Pliska Historical City is located a few kilometres outside Pliska Village. It was obvious to us that Pliska Village has seen better days. If you wish to learn more about why see the text further down on Bulgaria's demography. It was a nice place to go on a stroll in the evening but there really isn't much to see there. But we still would like to upload two photos from Pliska on this blog. The first is a simple mural depicting a woman carrying harvest. We found that on a
The Stone MushroomsThe Stone MushroomsThe Stone Mushrooms

The area where the Stone Mushrooms are was smaller than we expected. But it was still worth going there
wall in the village and it is one of those things that is so fun to find in a place where you least expect it. The second is a photo of a much fainted hammer and sickle. It is the only hammer and sickle symbol we found outside communist monuments and museums.



Madara Rider - The Madara Rider is a large rock relief depicting a man on a horse and a dog running next to the horseman. This work of rock art is well over 1,000 years old and is a UNESCO world heritage site. In the vicinity of the Madara Rider there are several other historical remains. There is the ruin of a fortress, there is the foundation of a church and at least two other buildings that once held great importance.





Before we quit we would like to write a bit about Bulgaria's demography. We know that it sounds really boring but by reading a little about that subject you will understand a bit about Bulgaria today. If it feels too damn dull and you can't make yourself read that feel free to quit now and look at the
Thracian Tomb of KazanlakThracian Tomb of KazanlakThracian Tomb of Kazanlak

Thracian Tomb of Kazanlak is a UNESCO world heritage site. You can't visit the actual tomb, which is pictured here, because it is too narrow and much too fragile.
rest of the pictures instead because the rest of the text will be about the population of Bulgaria only.



We started to get interested in the demography of Bulgaria after we had travelled there for about a week. We had by then visited a few towns and cities and had noticed that the population of every settlement seemed to have decreased rapidly in recent years. Every town showed signs of having a decreasing population but we couldn't find any city where the population was increasing. When we asked Wikipedia we understood why. In 1989 there were 9 million people living in Bulgaria. In 2015 that number had dropped to less than 7.2 million. That's down 20% in 25 years and that is a lot!

All of a sudden what we saw made a lot of sense. We now understood the reason behind us seeing many abandoned houses and why people everywhere seemed to have a rough time making ends meet.

We are not going to dive too deep into the subject "life in Bulgaria over the last three decades", partly because we don't know much about it and partly because it is not likely to
Thracian Tomb of KazanlakThracian Tomb of KazanlakThracian Tomb of Kazanlak

However, next to the tomb they have built a copy of it which you may enter and roam around in as much as you like as long as you pay the entry fee. Here is a photo from inside the copy of the tomb
draw new fans to our blog. But we quickly drew some conclusions from the numbers given above:

• It has been a rough transition for the Bulgarians to go from Communism to a free market and an open society

• The unemployment rate is likely high. Why else would one out of five leave the country?

• With such a large percentage of the population migrating in such a short time the economy has probably entered a vicious spiral

• An educated guess is also that the most capable Bulgarians, those who are best equipped to create new prosperous industries, are those who have emigrated.



Having said this we would like to point out that we did not notice any crime at all. Of course there are criminals in Bulgaria just like everywhere. But the crime rate probably isn't higher than in any country in western Europe. We noticed that people were having a rough time but they hadn't given up. The economical difficulties they have in Bulgaria is not a problem if you are a visitor, only if you plan to go there to look for a job and settle down. ´
Devil's BridgeDevil's BridgeDevil's Bridge

Pretty much in the middle of nowhere there is beautiful stone bridge called Devil's Bridge. Wait a second... There is someone standing on the bridge... Let's have a closer look...




So where have they migrated to you might wonder. Mainly to other EU countries. We actually three times during our trip met Bulgarians who reside in Sweden but spent their holiday in Bulgaria visiting friends and family.



This is all for now. We will write about the third week of of our road trip in Bulgaria in the next blog entry.


Additional photos below
Photos: 26, Displayed: 26


Advertisement

Ake on top of the Devil's BridgeAke on top of the Devil's Bridge
Ake on top of the Devil's Bridge

Ake on top of the Devil's Bridge doing the sign of the horns
Near Devil's BridgeNear Devil's Bridge
Near Devil's Bridge

When we reached the Devil's Bridge we not only found a very picturesque bridge. We also found a green secluded valley, a small clean river, green trees, blue sky and peace and serenity.
Enjoying the natureEnjoying the nature
Enjoying the nature

Emma is enjoying the nature around Devil's Bridge
Along the roadAlong the road
Along the road

When we found this beautiful abandoned bridge we just had to stop and take a photo of it
MelnikMelnik
Melnik

Melnik is famous for only permitting houses to be built in the local traditional style giving the town a special character.
Wine cellar in MelnikWine cellar in Melnik
Wine cellar in Melnik

Melnik is famous for being a centre for wine production
The Marvellous Bridges The Marvellous Bridges
The Marvellous Bridges

The Marvellous Bridges is a natural phenomenon where a river has created tunnels or caves through the rocks.
Geyser in Sapareva BanyaGeyser in Sapareva Banya
Geyser in Sapareva Banya

Supposedly this geyser is the only one in Bulgaria and it can be seen in Sapareva Banya. The geyser was created when they drilled a deep borehole and hit a superheated water reservoir deep down in the ground.
The Stone ForestThe Stone Forest
The Stone Forest

The Stone Forest consists of a large number of stone pillars of various sizes standing in a desert like landscape. This is a natural phenomenon where erosion has carved the limestone into these shapes.
Pliska VillagePliska Village
Pliska Village

A simple mural depicting a woman carrying harvest. We found this on a wall in the village and it is one of those things that we find so fun to find in a place where you least expect it.
Pliska VillagePliska Village
Pliska Village

The only hammer and sickle symbol we found outside communist monuments and museums.
Pliska Historical CityPliska Historical City
Pliska Historical City

Pliska was once the capitol of Bulgaria. This was back in the 7th to 9th century CE so most of the glory of the past has been lost. Archaeologists and historians have in a combined effort dug up and visualised the remains of palaces, churches and other important buildings
Pliska Historical CityPliska Historical City
Pliska Historical City

Although parts of the restorations look more like reconstructions-from-scratch it was still an interesting place to visit.
Madara RiderMadara Rider
Madara Rider

The Madara Rider is a large rock relief depicting a man on a horse and a dog running next to the horseman
Near Madara RiderNear Madara Rider
Near Madara Rider

In the vicinity of the Madara Rider there are several other historical remains. Such as these ruins
All Terrain Armored TransportAll Terrain Armored Transport
All Terrain Armored Transport

Something a bit funny for you who made it all the way to the end. If you have seen Star Wars you will recognise this as an AT-AT, an All Terrain Armored Transport. We think this is a sign for either a company of a town


4th October 2017
Devil's Bridge

Love it!!
4th October 2017

Wonderful, informative album! I hope ppl who seer this album are encouraged to visit there!
5th October 2017

We hope so too
We also hope this will encourage people to visit Bulgaria. We had high hopes before we went on this trip and we had a better time and enjoyed ourselves more than we ever hoped we would. /Ake
4th October 2017

Bulgaria !!
The rise and fall of prosperous cities in the Ancient world makes fascinating reading. I presume the Thracians were from Thrace which enjoyed a golden age. Are there ruins of Thrace itself on show? Economic decline following the fall of communism was often discussed with our Bulgarian companions on our recent Tajikistan/Kyrgyzstan roadtrip. The Soviets insisted all children attended school to a certain level and we were told everyone was provided with housing and were employed. The Soviet bloc countries that gained independence around 1991 have certainly suffered economically while finding their own way. Interesting to see how Bulgaria develops.
5th October 2017

Thracian ruins
There are several sites with ruins from the Thracians around Bulgaria. We didn't visit any of them so I can't really say if they are worth going to. The reason we didn't see any ruin site is that we are two people and one likes ruins much more than the other. /Ake
4th October 2017

Fun Run
Razgrad Half Marathon...a great addition to your Marathon C.V. Brilliant!
6th October 2017
Ibrahim Pasha Mosque

Nice looking Mosque
We hope to make it to Bulgaria in the next couple of years. Looks great.
6th October 2017
Ibrahim Pasha Mosque

We hope you get the chance
To use a cliché, Bulgaria is a hidden gem. If you like those kind of places you will enjoy Bulgaria /Ake
29th October 2017

Makes we want to revisit Bulgaria!
You are really adept at finding new and amazing places on this road trip, it was really fascinating to read about your second week there. A good way to remember the Thracians is to remember that the famous gladiator Spartacus was a Thracian. ;-) I think that now that people are free to move from Bulgaria after the fall of Communism a lot of those that are able to escape from the mismanagement do so. Hopefully many of them will return and bring with them newly acquired wealth and skills to help build Bulgaria into a better country. Thank you for another great blog, I look forward to reading about the rest of your time in Bulgaria. :-)
29th October 2017

Thanks
Thanks for telling us that Spartacus was Thracian. Had no idea about that. /Ake

Tot: 2.958s; Tpl: 0.067s; cc: 49; qc: 211; dbt: 0.1355s; 2; m:saturn w:www (104.131.125.221); sld: 1; ; mem: 2mb