Hiking Across the Mountains of Bulgaria
Before arriving in Bulgaria, we never could have imagined that a country so close to ours was full of so many amazing mountains. Though the poorest country in the European Union, Bulgaria is nevertheless a superb playground for outdoor lovers. There is a real mountain culture in the country. Marked trails, huts, and shelters are there to make the adventure even more accessible.
Pirin National Park
From the Greek border to Sofia, we followed roughly the E4 path. Our crossing of Bulgaria started in the Pirin National Park. It is not a huge mountain group, not very extensive, characterized by its many scree and the strong presence of water: rivers and lakes in shambles! In mid-October, we were surprised by days with almost summer temperatures, during which we regretted already having our midseason equipment, and freezing nights when we dreamed of our winter equipment. Perhaps the most striking point on our crossing of the Pirin was the Koncheto ridge. We were alone on what looked like the roof of the world.
Rila National Park
We descend into the valley, say goodbye to Maya, who had come to spend a week with us, and pick up Tom, who joins us for the next one, before climbing to the next mountain group: Rila. These mountains are considered sacred in Bulgaria, charged with a particular energy. We mainly discovered them in the fog, which undoubtedly gave them a special atmosphere but did not make our progress very pleasant. Finally, clouds rose when we arrived overhanging the Seven Lakes of Rila. Isn’t that a little magic?
Before reaching Sofia, we still had to pass on the other side of Vitosha; this 7,510-foot mountain literally begins at the gates of the capital. Here again, the cold, the wind, and the fog awaited us up there but also an open and welcoming hut.
Belogradchik, Bulgaria’s Wonder
From Sofia, we headed to Serbia, where we spent two weeks, before returning to Bulgaria by one of the most incredible sites discovered during our whole crossing of Europe: Belogradchik. How is this place not more famous outside Bulgaria or listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site?! The sandstone, limestone, and conglomerate stones vary from ocher to yellow and some reach up to 655 feet (200 meters) in height! They also contain a fortress originally built during the Roman period and then modified several times during its history.
Kom Emine, the Oldest Hiking Trail of Bulgaria
From there and for a few weeks, we hiked on a very old long-distance trail: the Kom Emine. The Bulgarian section of the E3 borrows the Kom Emine trails. From Mount Kom to Cape Emine, the path winds along the Balkan mountain range, the one that gave its name to the entire Balkan Peninsula.
The Balkan Mountain Range
Again, global warming played tricks on us: not a bit of snow in December, temperatures rising to 77°F (25°C) during the day, leaving us to crumble under the weight of our winter equipment and forcing us to hike in our underwear during the afternoon.
Finally, just to accompany our New Year’s Eve on the heights of the Bulgarian mountains, the snow arrived! And we will stay with it for the next two weeks. Finally we can use our snowshoes and crampons! Once again, we were superbly alone on these ridges. The Balkan mountains are known to be dangerous in winter, especially because of their changeable weather. The mountain range cuts Bulgaria in half between north and south and therefore constitutes a natural barrier to north winds. With great reinforcement of research and common sense, we made sure that our adventure on the Kom Emine in winter was done safely. We even reached the highest point of the mountain range: the Botev 7,795 feet.
Aleksandar joined us from Slovenia for our last week in the mountains. We were already a little lower, and a mystical fog replaced the freezing wind. A few kilometers across fields (not the best section of our crossing of Bulgaria) and here we are near the Turkish border.
Talk to you soon!
Marie & Nil
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