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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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A short summer walk – Tran gorge ecopath

The gorge of the river Erma – река Ерма, also know as the Tran gorge – Трънско ждрело – Transko zhdrelo, is situated in the eastern part of the Rui mountain, not far from Sofia. Despite it being only 2.8km long, it is well-known in Bulgaria, as it is extremely picturesque and ever since an ecopath was built throughout it, it is also easily accessible and well-visited in the warmer months of the year.

I am suggesting a short trip, which I did within one day, but which could be easily extended to a weekend if you combine it with a visit to the town of Pernik.

Duration: one day, two days optional

Car accessibility: recommended

Distance: ca 160km round-trip from Sofia

Day one: Tran gorge

I suggest leaving from Sofia in the morning, because even though Tran is not far from Sofia, the road can be a bit tricky with its curves right before the gorge. The other reason is, that the ecopath is really beautiful and I believe you’re going to want to spend as much time there as possible.

We arrived at the town of Tran around noon and we naturally decided to grab a quick lunch at the Erma hotel right downtown. Tran is a tiny municipality, so I’m sure you won’t miss it. Should you decide to extend the trip, this could be a good place to stay.

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Tran center

The restaurant had very good food and was not too expensive. Tsetsi decided to grab a pleskavica – a very typical Serbian meat dish. As Tran is quite close to the Serbian border, the meat, they assured us, is imported from Serbia. It was very good and despite the fact that they took forever to prepare it, it was delicious and worth the wait.

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The interior didn’t look like much, but the food was good

Finally we finished our lunch and made for the Tran gorge. There is some more driving to do, but there were signs, so we didn’t get lost. The road passes next to the Erma hut, from which the stamp for the 100 National Touristic Places can be obtained. Shortly after the hut, you will arrive to a huge open field, where you can leave your car and head for the ecopath.

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The parking field

The path is beautiful, but a bit difficult at some places, where you need to hold on to the wooden rails. The views, however, are astounding.

There are a few wooden bridges over the river, which don’t look too stable, but fear not, they hold well 🙂

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One of the little bridges over the river

We also passed a small passage dug through the solid rock. That was an exciting venture, as I don’t think I’ve ever had the opportunity to walk through such a tunnel, I have only ever driven 🙂

The ecopath meanders along the river, sometimes crossing it. It can be rather steep at times and it finished at a small terrace overseeing the mountains and forests beneath us. That last bit was quite challenging, the climb was steep and there were a couple of places where I was on all fours 😀

A very good thing was, that we didn’t have to take the same way back. There is an opportunity to walk a small road which used to be asphalt once upon a time, all left of it now is dusty gravel. Anyway, it is not a long walk to the parking and you go through a small village on the way.

This is was a very nice way to spend a summer day. Keep in mind that this is not a suitable hike for wet or snowy days due to the ‘slopy’ nature of the path.

Day two: Pernik and the Krakra fortress

If you like, spend the night and use the next day to walk around the miners’ town of Pernik. Another thing to visit in the area is the Krakra fortress. I myself still haven’t been there, so I am refraining from a longer description here. From what I have heard, it is a great place to visit 🙂

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A two-day itinerary: Krushuna waterfalls, Devetaki cave, Lovech

Duration: 2 days

Approximate distance (Sofia is starting point): 460km round-trip

Accessibility: car recommended

Day one: Krushuna waterfalls and the cave of Devetaki

The Krushuna waterfalls – Крушунски водопади, have become quite the celebrity among Bulgarian sights in recent years. They truly are a fantastic place to visit, have a sort of a jungle-y feeling surrounding them and are very easily accessible. The hike around them is not long or difficult, albeit not wheel-chair accessible as far as I know.

To reach the waterfalls, you’ll have to enter Krushuna into your GPS systems. Once you get to the unspectacular village, just follow the line of tourists.

The walk around the waterfalls lasts about an hour at a slow pace. Imagine a small hill, along the sides of which the carst waterfalls have formed. The place has a magical atmosphere surrounding it, its emerald waters creating a white noise putting you at peace.. That is, of course, provided there’s not the usual hordes of tourists walking around or the occasional crowd of local gypsy children bathing (!!!) in the waterfalls. All part of the charm of the place, I guess 🙂

After having seen the waterfalls and their amazing micro ecosystem, I suggest heading to the Devetaki cave – Деветашка пещера, which is not far. Now, I was last there in 2013 and the place was difficult to find due to poor road signing. I hope this has now changed. If it hasn’t , trust your GPS with the task 🙂

The Devetaki cave is one of the largest in Bulgaria and is shrouded in mystery due to its secretive past. During communist times it used to be a classified military object, according to my Dad they stocked all kinds of warheads in there. In the 90-es oil and/or gas used to be stored there, the faint scent of petrol can still be sensed.

But the cave was put to use a long long time prior to the Communist regime in Bulgaria, this source claims it was firstly inhabited 70 000 years BC!

The cave was some years ago one of the sets for filming Hollywood ‘blockbuster’ starring Stallone, Schwarzenegger and so on “The Expandables 2”. The loud and bright movie set woke up the hibernating protected bat population and many of the bats perished due to lack of food in the cold winter months. Not sure the movie was worth that..

After having seen the cave, I suggest heading back to the town of Lovech, where you can get some well deserved rest and a nice meal.

Day two: Lovech

Lovech is a town in North-central Bulgaria, famous for a bridge built by one of Bulgaria’s top-notch architectural talent – Kolyu Ficheto during the National Revival times in the beginning of the 19th century. The town is not quite what it used to be during its glorious days in the communist era, but it still is nice to take a walk around its streets and enjoy the atmosphere.

The Osam river dividing the town creates an unforgettable flair. Also, make sure to walk around the Varosha architectural and historical reserve – an ethnographical reserve with old houses, an amazing place.

You can easily spend a whole day in Lovech, but if you like to incorporate another town and maybe even a night in your short trip, I suggest adding this trip to you itinerary, which includes seeing the superb town of Pleven and another stunning cave – Prohodna, which is a matching competition for the Devetaki cave.

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God’s eyes in the Prohodna cave