My friends we decided to include Belogradchik into our September Excursion program.
How to get to Belogradchik Rocks - time, distance, state of the road
From Sofia to Belogradchik rocks you can reach about 2 hours, depending on which of the three routes you choose to take. The variants are an E79 international road in the direction of Vratsa- Vidin, you can choose the Iskar Gorge and then through Mezdra, Montana and Belogradchik or through the Petrohan pass. As far as I can see, the last option is not very good due to the poor state of the road. We chose E79, judging that this, though the longest way, would be in the best condition. Kilometers are about 190. Well, at the very beginning of the Hemus motorway, the columns in the three lanes of our traffic lane were formed due to ongoing road repairs that led to the narrowing of the whole highway in two two-way lanes. It was not a bit unpleasant, as the sun was already hot, and everyone wanted to get away as far away as possible for the September holiday season. But that has also passed. We stopped when we saw the turnouts for Botevgrad, Vratsa and Vidin. The road is well maintained. We took Botevgrad, which left to our right. Passing through Mezdra to the right of the road we saw a sign for the fortress in Mezdra . It looked pretty exquisite and we set it up for a return visit. The next stop was Vratsa and Ledenika Cave , but for this part of our excursion I have detailed in the article about them.
We went past Montana. What captured our interest here was once again a fortress. The monumental fortress was another place marked for a visit, gathering in two days for Sofia. She proudly clapped over the surrounding terrain. Continuing to the north, on our left, we saw a huge dam that supports the Ogosta dam's full bed. We stopped off the road to refresh the beauty of this pool. There were a few benches, a small fountain, and a lot of people who took pictures of the dam against the background of the dam.
We went on and in fairy tales we walked about 50 km. to a plate indicating to the right Belogradchik and Belogradchik rocks, and to the left village Rujintsi. After a right turn and a series of turns for 20 km we arrived in Belogradchik. Even before we got to the town on the right and left of the road began to reveal the high reddish rocks typical of this area.
Belogradchik - Eternal and young
Belogradchik is a town in the north-western part of Bulgaria, Vidin district, 182 km. northwest of Sofia, 68km. from Montana and 52 km from Vidin.
Belogradchik is the second largest city in the region after Vidin. As if perched on two mountain ranges Vedernik and Venetsa, the town is surrounded by the Belogradchik rocks. It was created in ancient times, during Roman times. Despite its modest size of 411 sq. Km, the city has long been a popular tourist destination. The population is between 6-7 thousand people. A few words about the place we were staying. The hotel we chose is located in the city center near the municipality. After we settled, we decided to go to Belogradchik fortress, which was revealed from our rooms in the hotel. The hour was about 7.00 pm and probably the fortress was hardly working, but it was early for dinner that we decided to walk.
A small evening walk to the Belogradchik rocks and the fortress
We walked along the path, indicating the direction and about a kilometer on the small winding streets, saturated with the scent of freshly blossomed lilacs, and we found ourselves in the parking lot in front of the fortress.
In front of the entrance there are several small Alpine-style houses, a post office, a small pub, and a souvenir shop. Do not forget the company store of the Magurata winery .
Continuing on the way up the fortress walls, we saw signboards for several biking routes. A little further up there is the Latin kale, which was actually a fortification. We climbed the winding metal steps at the top of the rock, still showing massive stone walls dating back to the 1st century AD, according to historians. The view was incredible ... and especially at sunset.
The highly towering Belogradchik rocks, the greenery that surrounded us and the plains to the north of the fortress. Against Kaleto is the Astronomical Observatory, which is actually the first school observatory in Bulgaria, built in 1961. It is based on the idea of Physics teacher Hristo Kostov and amateur astronomers from the city. Later, it became a monitoring base at the Institute of Astronomy at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences.
We had nothing left but to wait in the morning to open the door of the fortress and to plunge into another age far away from us. Going down the road, we saw the Historical Museum of the city, which was also logically closed, but it was immediately included in the list of visits for the next day.
Where to eat?
After the recommendation of the local people, where we consulted about a nice place to have dinner, we chose the tavern "Markeshnitsa". We had an option to have dinner at the hotel because it has a great restaurant, but at least for the first night we decided to feel the pulse of the local restaurants. Markeshnitsa-located just opposite the hotel entrance. A welcoming courtyard in style, lots of flowers, and wonderful little places for small and large companies. We chose a small gazebo for us. Extremely educated and skilled waiter served us all night. The food was delicious and at an affordable price, which certainly climbed it in our dining list. We tried the traditional brandy, Magura wine, local specialties. Rating 10 on the Sixth System. The restaurant was located just across the entrance to the hotel, so we quickly returned. We needed a serious break for tomorrow's adventure.
The morning came extremely fast, but I felt rested and charged for new tourist feats. Getting out of bed and looking out the window what I saw, I can’t describe it. Belogradchik rocks filled my horizons.
The rocks ... these beautiful, red arches...
The natural landmark Belogradchik rocks occupies 30 km long. And a width of 5 km. The chain of rocks starts from the peak Vedernik and ends with the village of Belotintsi with the remarkable rock group of 100 sheep. But the most majestic rocks are concentrated around the city, namely: Horseman, Madonna, Monks, Schoolgirl, Momina Rock, Adam and Eve and many others. The other large rock group is located 4 km from the city. It is located in the area of Lepenitsa Cave.
About 230 million years ago, at the very end of the Palaeozoic era, sandy-marble rocks were deposited in this area. At a later stage, they were flooded by a sea whose bottom was deposited on gravel, sand, clay. Over the years, these materials have been spliced with a sand-clay structure, and conglomerates and sandstones have been obtained. Iron oxides and hydroxides give the reddish color of the rocks. As a result of the tectonics, the complex has turned and appeared on land, and the Belogradchik region has fallen into the center of a large crack. The natural forces, with the years, molded the mythical sculptures of people, animals, birds from the shapeless stone. In the sandy limestone rocks, many caves were formed. The rocks form a natural fortress whose potential has been spotted and used since ancient times.
We also learned a legend about the Madona rock massif. Even today people tell that there was a monastery in the past between the rocks. In it was the beautiful nun Valentina. Beauty was striking. The rumors of beauty spread quickly and reached the poor shepherd Anton. Impressed by it, he played the kaval every night under the windows of the monastery. The two fell in love, and soon Valentina gave birth to a child. She was immediately expelled from the monastery, and the Lord made her anger at the monastery where she served. Everything in it was turned into a stone. The Madonna with the child is still stunned among the rest of the monks, and the young shepherd Anton is still waiting for her beloved ... It is enough with the legends, I hope your pictures are transferred there, on the spot...
We quickly settled down and went to breakfast. It was a buffet and there was a great variety of foods. As everybody says about something. We drank coffee and tea, tried the Belogradchik mackets and set off on the planned plan. Again, we decided to take the fortress on foot because the distance was not more than a kilometer away.
The Historical Museum of the City
On the way we visited the Historical Museum, which is housed in the Pashov's House - a model of the typical Western Bulgarian Revival architecture. It was built in the distant 1801. Has preserved its original appearance to this day. The museum exhibits over 6,000 exhibits. The exposition is devoted to the Ottoman period and the Renaissance and examines the development of a number of crafts such as goldsmithing, abbey, woodcarving and others. Most of the exhibits highlight the Belogradchik rebellion of 1850, one of the most mass rebellion on the Bulgarian lands against the defector.
We examined folk costumes and household items, women's jewelery. Outside the courtyard of the museum there are exposed ancient tombstones, which immediately attracted the interest of part of the group, but we are archeologists by education and vocation. And from that you can’t escape, even though we work different and distant things from archeology.
A few hundred meters down the steep alley and arrived at the entrance of the fortress. We bought tickets for Belogradchik Rocks. Ticket price was BGN 3 for adults, for students and pensioners BGN 1.
The Fortress and Belogradchik Rocks...
Here we are at the entrance of the fortress. Here they are - the proudly standing Belogradchik rocks. We crossed the first gate and before us an incredible view-rock massifs resembling strange shapes, fortress walls, panoramic playgrounds. The weather was slightly windy, as you will see on many of the pictures. But that did not stop us spending an hour past the fortress wall.
Definitely this is one of the best preserved fortresses in Bulgaria. The beginning was dated in the 1 st century. It has a security function against the strategic roads that cross the area. In late antiquity it was part of the defense system of the Roman, and consequently of the Byzantine Empire. The fortress is completed by the Bulgarians. One of the last conquered fortresses in the 14th century by the Turks who, after the capture, housed a garrison with the important task of guarding the western areas of the state, as well as suppressing the uprisings of the Bulgarian population.
In the years between 1805-1837 the Belogradchik fortress was expanded and adapted for firearms by French and Italian engineers. The memorial plaques are kept in connection with the construction, which are in Bulgarian and Turkish language - the only case in the fortress construction of the Turks. We went through three gates that separate the fortress into three separate yards with a total area of over 10000 sq. M. There are two main gates - Vidin Kapia and Nis Kapia. Fortress walls at a height of 10 meters have been built on rifles. Three bastions are built for the cannons. During wartime in the fortress and the surrounding hills the number of defenders reaches up to 3000 people. An impressive number, right?
When we crossed and through the last gate we actually reached the highest point of the fortress - the first slab in front of us revealed an incredibly casual picture. From the south you can see the hilly ridge of the Stara Planina, from the northwest the view is on the Carpathian slopes. And in the lowest parts everywhere are the Belogradchik Rocks. A sight to see and experience. I often say it, but it is. This feeling, there at the top, under the already worn-out Bulgarian flag, while the wind pierces you, definitely needs to be experienced...
We've made hundreds of photos, some of which I'll share with you.
In 1850, the biggest uprising in Northwestern Bulgaria broke out against the Ottoman yoke, Vidin or more known as the Belogradchik uprising. Near the fort we saw a small monument dedicated to all the voivods and rebels who participated in the uprising, whether they were living for the freedom of Bulgaria.