The bat cave
A good day, but not much to type.
We spent most of the morning walking around the town of Belogradchik. It is not a bad town. More a quiet mountain village. This was not for fun though. We need to find a new place to stay. Our hotel from last night, although good, was not the best. The bed was bloody awful, the neighbours stayed up all night playing traditional music whilst learning the bagpipes. We got fleas, lice and mosquito bites from the shower that had months old stagnant water and had to watch where we walked so we didn’t fall through the cracks in the floor.
Nah, the place was fine, it was just booked out. We would have liked to stay, as this is a nice town in a nice area, and a nice hotel. We want to spend a few days here. So, we went to check out Tourist Info. Luckily we had seen tourist info yesterday. It was closed, but we knew where to find it. On the way to the main square, we checked in on a few guest houses, they were all booked solid as well. It turns out that there is a chess competition coming up, and everything is booked until Wednesday. Arriving at tourist Info, the windows were open, but no one was home. The door was locked tight, and a complete lack of staff. Looking at a handy map of town that also lists guest houses, we started walking.
For the next few hours we walked all over town checking places to stay. They were all full. This was not looking good at all. Everything was full, or there was no answer at all. It is slightly frustrating when you are looking for a place to stay and noone answers the doorbell. The last two places were up the hill, and if they were full, we would have to rethink what we are doing. The first one was full, but the second had one room free. Just for tonight, but it would be enough. Not as good as the hotel, as the mattress needed replacing ten years ago, but still, it is a place to stay.
Now for the serious part of the day. Going to visit the fortress. Luckily this is basically in town, and although all the signs say it is 1km away, it couldn’t be that far. Going back via tourist information, it was obvious that there was still no one there. Just more typical Bulgaria. Open, but not. Going on past this small disappointment, we walked through town and up the hill. Of course the fortress is here, where else would it be? The last steps up out of town give an impressive view of a wall with the rocks behind it. Making our way up to the entrance we got our tickets and headed in. The entrance is a very nice gate house, and this leads into a large courtyard. The natural position of the plateau gave an ideal military position. Apparently people in the past thought the same way. This place has been used by everyone from the Thracians to the Ottomans. It was used all the way up to the 19th century.
This courtyard takes up most of the space,with a room carved into the rocks around the entrance. Walking along the walls, you get a feel for time as well as a good view out over town. Then the second gate appears. This is set directly underneath the large rocks at the end of the plateau, and is a second line of defence. On the other side of these is a smaller courtyard, and steps up the rocks themselves. This is the third level and the most defendable position. Here there is a lot of use of the natural rocks, with small paths carved into the stone by ages of people walking over them. Occasionally this was not enough, and stone steps were carved in. There were ideal places for look out points and ambushes for any invading troops that made it this far, but not many signs of any buildings. Overall,apart from the gatehouses, there were only three or four other buildings that we could make out.
Scuttling over a few of the rocks rewarded us with fantastic views of the hills and plains, then we did the last climb right to the peak. Here the centuries old original staircase was much better than the new metal ones that have been put in. Walking around the top of the rocks gave us a 360 degree view. Just stunning, and well worth it. We don’t think that many Belgians have visited this place though. The fence around the top was sporadic, and most places you could just walk off the edge if you were not careful.
With the fortress done, we set off on a walk through the rock formations.
There was a very nice marked path, and even information on it at tourist info! OK, so Tourist info was not open, but we could still look at the map outside.
Setting off, we took a quick look at a fortification at the top of another peak. This was not so interesting, just a few stone walls and the rest was carved out of the stone peak itself. Then down the hill…
Winding around the base of the rock formations, we kept seeing signs on how far it was. Each time it was 1km. After two hours of walking, we were still 1km away from the end. Eventually we hit a road. Apparently this is a long distance bike track from Serbia to Bulgaria, and it was still 1km away. Going up through the valley, we were 1km away, and when we finally reached the last hilltop, we were still only 1km away! The track was pretty good and well marked for most of the way, but this being Bulgaria, there had to be something interesting. At one point the track separated. Here it was hard to find the markers, and after we did find them again, they split into three different directions. Where we came from, then left and right. Taking the right branch may have been the wrong direction, although we don’t think it mattered that much. The other point was that we could not get up onto the rocks themselves. There were tracks splitting off occasionally, but not wanting to get lost out here, we stuck to the main path. This was a bit disappointing, as you could not see much of the rocks due to the trees, or the low position, but it was still a very nice walk.
Towards the end, we came across the museum of science and history. Apparently this has an ancient carving of a horseman and spear, similar to the Madaba Horseman. Taken from a different fortress nearby after archaeological excavations. It was closed. It was not even that late in the afternoon. Or on a Monday, Saturday or Sunday! They also had signs up for a very nice cave. Apparently this cave is quite unique for a few different reasons. Not in the least the two types of bats that inhabit it. Although apparently they have never been identified,they call them horse-shoe nosed bats. This seems to me that they do know the type? I admit, I just don’t get this country. Especially as we saw about 5 signs about this cave, but could not find the cave itself! We followed every little path and animal track, with no sign of any cave. Again, typical Bulgaria!
Still, we ended up at the same lookout restaurant as yesterday, so treated ourselves to another very nice meal. Now we knew we were only about 1km from town!