Bulgaria's scenery is simply knockout!
Article by Roderic Dunnett, www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk, 9th April 2005
|Roderic Dunnett puts on his hiking boots for a tramp through the hills of north-west Bulgaria|
To anyone within striking distance of Strangford Lough or the hills of Down or Derry, hill-walking seems the most natural thing in the world.
For me, the best kind of holiday involves walks with wonderful views, so I was delighted to discover the almost unknown hills of north-west Bulgaria.
This beautiful area of Europe is the focus of a very personal travel company, Mountains and Monasteries, run by two ex-teachers, Ted and Emi Norrish, who know the panoramic Stara Planina mountain range like the back of their hands.
|Bulgaria's scenery is simply knockout. Alexander the Great loved it (Thrace, as it then was) because it reminded him of his native Macedonia. So did Christo Botev, the young 19th Century hero who helped drive the Turks out of Bulgaria, and paid for it ? aged just 28 - with his life.|
The pleasure of M&M's tours, which include visiting the capital, Sofia, and staying at the fabulous hill town of Belogradchik ('White Fortress') with its panoramic views, is that you have a choice of 'more strenuous' or 'relaxing' options.
Those who like plenty of walking can choose the 'Classic' tour, which offers a hike across Mount Kom to Petrohan plateau, with fantastic views thrown in. Those who prefer the gentler option can still enjoy these views - with transport laid on.
Stara Planina Range
|Then there's the 'Botev' walk. This hardy stroll is designed to retrace the journey made by young Botev and his team of rebels, mostly in their 20s, from the Danube (you begin by sleeping on the Radetsky, the very boat he and his comrades crossed in) over attractive undulating country, taking a leisurely four days, to the Vratsa Massif, 60 miles away. |
Here, the Stara Planina range looms above the town, inviting after some days' rest an assault by those still who still have the energy.
Remember, this is walking, not climbing: it's suitable for anyone, from 18 to 80. The pace is a good saunter. And the company from teachers, nurses and professional people to hardy housewives with an enjoyment of the great outdoors, is what makes it.
|There are plenty of visits to local sights. The Cherepishki monastery is neatly tucked away in the superb Iskar Gorge, hundreds of feet down, where the Sofia-Vratsa railway runs up the valley bottom. In the characterful village of Ciprovtsi, you can barter for woven goods and enjoy local produce at the nearby taverna. |
Then there's the preserved house of the great 19th century novelist, politician and mountain-tramper Ivan Vasov - Bulgaria's Wainwright - who left detailed notes on all Bulgaria's peaks, rare plants and all.
If you prefer to take things easy, you can enjoy this land of legend at a much more leisurely pace, too. There's the relaxing option. You can stay in Botevo, a country village not far from the Danube, in a pleasant village kushta (villa) or rural retreat, and enjoy many of these magnificent features as day-out car or minibus trips.
Danube River near Vidin
|You still don't miss the best bits. Panoramic Belogradchik, picturesque Ciprovtsi, splendid natural caves ('Bogya Most') and hilltop Okolchitsa (where young Botev 'bought' it in 1878), as well as the characterful shopping street and bars of Vratsa, and its magnificent museum. |
Some of the finest 4thC B.C. Thracian 'treasure' - gold and silver artefacts were found near here. To this day, Bulgaria remains a country of immense beauty.
Buy property in the North-Western part of Bulgaria