Blog, Stories & Itineraries


Adventures in the Northern Lands of Rusenski Lom

By the Damage

Rusenski Lom Nature Park is located 20 km South of the city of Rousse and is named after the Rusenski Lom River – the last of the right tributaries of the Danube. In 1970, it is declared a protected zone and its total area accounts for 3,408 hectares, the National Tourist Portal diligently informs us. Subsequently, Rusenski Lom proved to be much more than this.

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Jagged cliffs, covered with greenery and daphne surround the river at the entrance of the Park and create the feeling of an approaching adventure you are about to plunge into that will take you back in time and will reveal the secrets of this place. The awareness of mystery is further extended once find ourselves in front of the Ivanovo Rock Churches. It is not by coincidence that the rock monastery complex is proclaimed World Heritage by UNESCO. Carved high in the rocks are the rooms that nature and man’s diligent hands decades ago carved in the name of faith. The preserved wall paintings are colorful and vibrant. Created by prominent artists they demonstrate the importance of this Medieval spiritual center.

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Crossing Rusenski Lom and following the winding path along the cliff, we realize that the Rock Churches are just one of the many wonders in this area. Lush vegetation, ceaseless bird songs, and more and more hidden by time and not well-known rock churches are about to be revealed. We try not to miss any of them: The Baptistery, God’s Gorge, St. Theodore. The views disclosed before our eyes are awe-inspiring: the curvy body of the river lazily winds below, decorated with flowers and green grass on both banks. Bees are happily buzzing and the scented odor of greenery and spring overwhelms us. The soul dissolves and quietly you start to sing childhood songs which wind carries away and through the gorge.

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The expedition courageously continues forward. This time the voyage leading us here has a cause: to help the busy young people from the local Rousse Bike Association to clean up the cycling trail along the river from the fallen trees. We all struggle with the overgrown vegetation, form teams for quick response, cut the branches and collect them afterwards in teams. Our day is a mixture of hard work, joy and laughter that makes the work easy-going.

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The day passes so imperceptibly that it’s now time for a well-deserved rest. Our group heads to the nearby village of Koshov where our hospitable hosts greet us with a delicious dinner – coziness is all around. When the first stars appear on the sky, the hill opposite us reveals a magnificent sight – herds of sheep return from pasture and they process towards the cave over the sheep house and disappear in it to spend the night there safe. Only their bells can be heard from the distance behind the huge mouth of the cave that seemed to have swallowed them.

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The next day is again dedicated to cleaning up paths, but before we get down to it, we go to see the bird-watching hiding place on a hill in Koshov. Vultures are nowhere to be seen, but the scenery is impressive. The sky is low and gray, but the air is fresh and the day promises to be one of beauty and spring. We start cleaning the path that goes around the Medieval Town of Cherven. Shortly after we face our first challenge: a half-destroyed wooden bridge we must get through to reach the passage leading to a rock church – actually, to the only church on the territory of the Medieval town.

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The bridge-passing is successful unlike the cleanup. The terrain is steep and deep into vegetation. This doesn’t stop our team, which some likened to Japanese excavators or carpenter ants. Once we pick up momentum we soldier on and make the clearing in the Rusenski Lom jungle. And then it turns out that that this is not the way leading up to the church. We look at each other – all sweaty and tired. Someone giggles and a second later our mighty laughter echoes in the air around. We continue forward, clearing a new path in no time at all and we suggest that someone cuts a ribbon like our current government reps love to do to mark the grand opening of a new highway that would last for a season – if we are lucky. This time, however, we are on the right spot, the rock church, which has definitely deserved all efforts we put into getting to it. We see a large oval niche in the rock, additional man-made grooves in the stone that time ago held wooden gates, preserved murals and carved trapezoid niches, once tombs for the monks, carved in floor. It is clear that no one has set foot here for years.

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Time for some history lessons. We walk through the Medieval Town of Cherven, the remains of churches, towers and its past splendour, which we can only hear about now. Another look around at the impressive nature and it’s time for us to leave. We do not want to leave this strange land – Rusenski Lom Nature Park. There is so much to discover: Orlova Chuka cave, the village of Nisovo, the alleged Templar cemetery, more rock churches, more paths to clean, more and more as if the thought echoes in our minds on the way back to Sofia.. Anyway, we’ll see you soon – and that’s a promise!


Tell-Tale Day

by Rimohit Vokej

Rain. Mud. Village. Bus stop. I’m waiting.

An old, life-shaken man in quilted jacket. Galoshes over knitted slippers on the feet and red wine in a plastic bottle of Coke. Wears a martenitsa and is approaching me. Nothing moves around as if the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse have just passed…

– Good afternoon, I salute him smiling.
– All is fucked up, was the answer. Sips from the bottle.
– Why so?, I ask.
– The village is dead, he says and sips yet again. Then coughs and spits.
– Well, I can hardly believe it. Last night I was at your monuments here and it was full of young people…
– Yes, but the ones you saw are only here for the holidays… You have all gone abroad, speak languages, know how to work with computArs.
– I was abroad, but returned…
– One swallow doesn’t make a summer, my boy… Do you want to try my wine?
How can I turn down such an offer? Good wine, home-made with a feeling.
– Your wine is good.
– I knew you were going to say this – everyone says so. But to me the wine is sour, I’ve no one to share it with now… Here’s your bus. All the best, lad!

And he walked away slowly, the way he had appeared. We didn’t even say our names.

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A WORD ON ROUSSE, THIS SITE & OTHER

Many things have been written about Rousse, its Medieval history and the crucial role its people played during the Resistance against the Ottoman Empire in the second half of the 19th century. Still a lot more can be found about its becoming a drive for the Bulgarian sweeping development at the beginning of the 20th century and up to the Second World War, when it primed on Western culture and architecture and became known ever since as The Small Vienna. Yet, out of the verbosity around, nothing is quite hinting at the unique atmosphere of this incredible city and its recent history, the musical and cultural events that take place there, nor about its people of today.

fountainWhich is one of the reasons I wanted to create this virtual place of mine here. The people of Rousse have always added a special and as if slightly tangible value to the overwhelming cityline. Wilful, their strong opinion often bordering with stubborness, they embody what we Bulgarians would usually refer to as pride. As part of the Northern population of a nation, whose millennia-long history and geoplitical location on a peninsula crossroad between three continents coined a motley DNA, the people of Rousse always kept their chin up. Sometimes it has seemed utterly useless to do so, other times it is outright stupid. However, this readiness to stand for anything, whatever unbelievably petty and unreasonable it may be, has always made me feel I am at home.

I know a lot of people from Rousse: my parents and relatives, childhood and high school friends; neighbours, friends of my friends, and family friends. Some of them, including me, left years ago to settle in other corners of the country or of the world. Others studied and lived abroad or in Sofia, and then returned. And I do respect every single one of them. The ones who live in Rousse and the ones who don’t. The former, because I believe in their talents and in their capability of finding well-paid jobs anywhere they might try and, yet, they decide to stay and raise their children there. The latter, because they made their choice and because at least in the beginning it was not easy to leave it all behind. And this, believe me, is something that I know.

If you ask the people, many will tell you that Rousse is devoid of dynamics, that there is nothing to do there and that economically it lacks behind almost any of the medium-sized Bulgarian cities. True, on the night of this year’s municipal elections, Rousse was not even mentioned in the exit polls, nor in the live comments of the journalists on the National Television – not until the results were 99.98% official on the other day. What keeps me going in this paragraph is that the chalga concert from a couple of days ago, which was intended to be an all-time event at the brand-newish sports hall, turned out to be an all-time fail. Instead of exceeding the 10,000 people capacity, only 300 people turned up. The reason, alas, is not that the people of Rousse do not listen to chalga, but because “the tickets (with a maximum price of EUR 13) were very expensive”. Let us not forget that in July 5,000 people attended Lili Ivanova’s concert when the maximum price of the tickets was a whole EUR 7 more than the chalga one. What did I tell you about the obstinacy of the people of Rousse? Yes, they listen to chalga, but they don’t care much about authorities and chalga stardust. If they don’t want to spend their money on something, they won’t, even if Obama was going to play the guitar that night. I’m gladly rubbing my hands at the victory of this battle, thоugh Lili Ivanova is far from a favourite singer – with all my respect to my colleagues, they are really very smart and funny lads and I truly like them: I detest chalga and the simplification of the mind it brings about to parents and children alike.

It’s time for me to set off for the next pages. This is my first post, maybe not the best one. I have a lot to do about this website until it becomes useful to anyone who might want to visit the city and/or read the insights of an insider. I want to make it bilingual and add some additional content tot he other pages, currently under construction. What I want is to show you a city you could fall in love with. Whether you will, or not, is entirely up to you. But never feel certain you really tried, until you’ve seen it my way.

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