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The little Lakatnik house and raspberry wine

As I wrote in this article on the Lakatnik cliffs, I had my mind firmly set on climbing to the Eagle’s nest – Орлово гнездо – a tiny house built on a cliff 300 metres above the Iskar river close by to the village of Lakatnik. I wanted to do it this summer, however, the season was coming to an end and I was slowly beginning to doubt the success of the mission, when finally a weekend with good weather was announced, all other plans were set aside and Sasho and I decided to finally do it.

The weather was sunny and warm and the meanders on the road offered wonderful views of the small mountain villages the road passes through.

To get to the tiny house in the cliffs, which was our ultimate goal, it’s best to drive past the village of Bov and to stop at the small restaurant right at the road – it is currently being renovated and I don’t know whether it will keep its name, but it used to be called “The cave” – Пещерата. We left the car right next to the restaurant and walking 30 meters towards where we came from, we saw the beginning of the path on our right side. Next to it is a pretty mountain creek that quenched my dog’s thirst on the way down.

We were carrying a lot as we didn’t know what the routes were like exactly, so we had two full sets of equipment and were not looking forward to the 20-minute walk upwards to the beginning of the routes.

On the way upward we saw a sign directing to the Темната дупка – Dark hole – cave and we decided to go and take a sneak peek. It was worth it! It is supposed to be 8km long, but we only looked at the entrance with its interesting looking human-made columns.

The way over there is short and very picturesque, as the path increases its altitude quickly and offers a dazzling view over the river canyon.

After the mandatory several pictures we took off for the climbing routes. The walk upwards wasn’t as difficult as I expected in spite of the heavy rucksacks; after about 15 minutes we were at the foot of the cliff with the small hut.

I was surprised at how many people were already there. On the other hand, Lakatnik is an A list location for climbing, so the several climbing teams and a couple of guided courses were actually to be expected.

We climbed slowly and a little bit extremely, as one of the routes I ascended merged with another, already climbed route, so I had no bolts available to clip the rope onto. As the route was quite easy, I improvised and used one of the metal ropes to which the little house is attached to clip a quickdraw and kind of free soloed the last several meters.

Two friends came by and joined us but they were too lazy to climb. They only wanted to brag a little – one with his killer dog and the other one with his drone.

Long story short, we were finally able to take a close look at the remarkable little hut built over the river canyon and all in all it was a fine, albeit a bit short autumn day.

Now let me tell you about the Sunday that followed 🙂 Bearing in mind that the weather was so good and that it was going to change soon, we made plans for a hike to the Trastenaya hut on the next day. Again we drove in the same direction, but turned to the village of Bov  before we reached Lakatnik. From there it’s about two hours of hiking to get to the Trastenaya hut which produces wonderful bio certified raspberry wine on which we had set our hearts.

When we stopped at the center of Bov, Sasho mentioned there was supposed to be a waterfall nearby, so we took a small detour to see it.

The woman we asked about it pointed us quickly, but towards where we saw the waterfall from above, so we had to walk a little bit further to see it in all its glory from the front.

While walking toward the full view of the waterfall, we saw also some beautiful rock formations which were titled The Fireplace – Камината – in Google maps.

Then we were on our way to the hut. On the way Sasho told us an interesting story about the villages in this area – as they are quite high up in the mountain, they often lack churches and the locals took up a tradition to set stone crosses in meadows, where they would gather on religious holidays. Every cross is connected to a certain saint day in the orthodox calendar. Then families are “assigned” a cross and a saint and so they gather their fellow villagers on the saint’s day for a celebration at the cross.

The path upward was easy and the views were so beautiful due to the autumn colours of the mountain. We met several huntsmen on our way and heard several shots – apparently the season was already open for wild boar.

We walked for about 2 hours and in spite of being somewhat uncertain of the exact direction, Sasho’s gut turned out to be a good enough GPS and we finally made it to Trastenaya.

We were so excited to get the bio raspberry wine, but we were unfortunately too late, a large group before us bought out the raspberry wine, so we had to make good with the merlot/raspberry mix, which was also okay. By that time it had already become rather chilly, so we didn’t stay too long. It was also full of people due to the hut’s accessibility by car. And many people are always a turn off to me 🙂

I can only recommend a trip in the proximity of Lakatnik, due to the beautiful nature and the many outdoor activities one can engage with. A group of climbers had done the smarter thing and had booked nights at the hut from Friday on, they spent the Saturday climbing and hiked on Sunday, also a great option if you want to spare yourself the trip back and forth to Sofia.

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Koshov and the canyon of the river Lom

This is a four-day trip in Northeast Bulgaria we did last weekend, but since we saw so much, I will divide it into two separate posts and link them within each other. This part of the trip could be done within a weekend, if you leave Sofia early enough. I do recommend driving to the place, but taking the train is also a viable option.

Here’s the tale of the beautiful village of Koshov in Northern Bulgaria, very close to Ruse, the largest Bulgarian town along the Danube, and fifth largest in the country.

The drive is, according to google, around 4 hours, but it took us longer, as our newly acquired 3 month old border collie puppy felt very sick along the way and we had to stop often for his sake.

It took us about 5 hours to get there, so imagine our joy, when we finally got to the place we had booked and found the most warm and friendly hosts one can imagine – Valya and Nikolay Milkovi. They welcomed us into their house, Milkovata kushta – Милковата къща, meaning Milkov’s house, we were the first guests for the long weekend and so we got the extended tour. They built the house from scratch, but had their mind firmly set on getting the traditional Bulgarian atmosphere, so in spite of it being only 3 years old, the house looks exactly like one from the Bulgarian National Revival period. Check it out:

It is very convenient to stay in the house, as it is a walking distance from the cool stuff – the ecopath and the climbing routes. You wouldn’t have to worry about food either, as Valya, an amazing cook, prepares delicious dishes for breakfast, lunch and dinner at a couple of hours’ notice as she cooks everything fresh. Nikolay is very friendly and will engage in a conversation and provide the musical background.

They are super willing to help and try to fulfill their guests’ every wish, the recent proof of that is them promising to set up a bed in the cave behind the house for a guest who plans on spending a night inside this very cave 😀 The yard has a small garden, some decorative hens, a little pond, a football and a volleyball field, a playground for kids. They can also pick you up from the train station in Ruse, if you choose to come by train or bus. One can definitely tell that these people don’t just do it for the money, they really want you to enjoy yourself while there 🙂

Anyhow, let me tell you about the ecopath we walked. It starts at the end of Koshov and meanders along the Lom river essentially passing through the entire river canyon.

There are huge cliffs on both sides of the path for most of it, we even spotted one cave that was accessible, so we jumped on the chance to see the canyon from above. Not sure if one would be able to pass through the dense vegetation once it sprouts leaves in the spring, though:

The inside of the cave was incredible, as it was actually connected to two other caves; there were also leavings of some sort of animal inside, and a few swallow nests.

I am no ornithologist, but I think the canyon is home to a myriad of interesting bird species. Buck raised a pheasant at one point, a magnificent looking bird, but it flew away too quickly for us to take a photo. We also saw several eagles circling the skies and many other smaller birds. Such a rich fauna!

After about an hour of walking, you will reach a small shelter with a fireplace. This is the site of the rock monastery Gramovets – Грамовец, which is not very well-preserved, but well accessible thanks to the wooden rails built-in the cliff.

The view from the top is great. There are also several artifacts ‘on display’ in the monastery, but honestly, I think the place is better off without them!

After Gramovets, the next interesting sight, quite close to the shelter, is the area Smesite – Смесите, the place where the two rivers Beli Lom and Cherni Lom merge to make Rusenski Lom – Русенски Лом. We didn’t get there unfortunately, as we were told that the path was unkempt after Gramovets and it would be very difficult to continue on it. Should you be so brave, however, you’d reach the Ivanovo rock-hewn churches after about an hour and a half.

After having enjoyed this wonderful walk along the river canyon, next on the list was some rock climbing. Since the routes were equipped only last year, I was unable to find any info on difficulty and so it was a bit of a jump in the deep water 🙂

The rock is sandstone, I think, so it was unstable at some places. It was a cold shower, as on my very first route, the second rock I grabbed, fell from the rock face, and I along with it 🙂 From then on, I carefully inspected every hold.

Nikolay told me that there were some longer routes equipped on the cliff right behind his house, but Tsetsi and I didn’t find them. I guess we’ll have to try them next time. In spite of the routes we climbed being very short, they were really difficult, so a sufficient challenge for most climbers. A huge coincidence was that a former climbing trainer of mine arrived at the site with his girlfriend, that was an unexpected meeting 🙂 They had been climbing at some other sites in the area.

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There is my trainer, at the bottom right corner

All in all, a wonderful destination, a great place where beautiful nature, rich fauna, delicious food, and climbing opportunities are combined. Highly recommended 🙂