It have been magnificent four days at Trigrad. I spent a short, but truly great vacation in the Rodopi mountains. This might be a longer than the usual and for sure I’ll most probably omit some of the great moments because it were four days jam-packed with things that are worthed of telling about.
The merry company, comprising of me, Mio and Milen started off on Wednesday and first we went to the Beglika lake. A very beautiful lake at somewhat 1100 m. above the sea level. Very peaceful place. For the first time in my life I slept in a tent and it was a truly remarkable experience for I woke up in the morning, opened the zip of the tent and the shore of the lake was a couple meters away from me. The silence and the tranquility was everywhere. Even for some moments it was way strange for me not to hear anything like car roaring or people talking.
The next day we went to Trigrad. The roads through the Rodopi mountains are very picturesque. We passed a couple of lakes and dams, including the Dospat dam, from which almost half the trout that is for sale in Bulgaria is being fished. Also, the villages and towns that we passed through made an impression to me for the churches and the mosques were side by side, which proves that Bulgarians are very tolerant people, speaking religionwise. Also, on the side of the road, I think after we passed Devin, there was an old Roman bridge that was standing.
The Trigrad gourge, that leads to the village of Trigrad is … I’m speechless here to describe it. Simply a beauty like no other. We went to the Devil’s Mouth Cave, which as the legend goes, is the cave where Orpheus went and used as entrance to the lower kingdom of Hades on his way to get back his wife Evridika.
Then we went to Trigrad. Trigrad actually is not a town (as the Bulgarian „grad“ – meaning town implies from the name). It is a mid-size village with about 800-900 inhabitants. What I really found remarkable was the fact that the village people were so open to outside people. While we were going to the house where we slept, one of the wheels of the car got stuck in a hole. Out of nowhere two men came, offered their help and got out car out of the hole by pulling it with their jeep. And these people wanted nothing in return. When in the evening we bought them a drink, they were a bit offended by that, telling us that they helped us because we are on their land and it’s their duty to do so. Besides from the open-mindness of the Trigrad people, I have to mention that they are very merry people and it is a truly unforgetable and remarkable experience to go to the local pub to have a drink in the evening and to listen to the locals talking. Moreover, when they see that you are an alien to the village they make participate actively in the conversation. If you go anytime to Trigrad, you have to see the Apachinata, Emo Alpinista, Slavi, Zhelev and the others key figures of the village.
On the next day it was action time for me. I went to climb the Haramiiska cave. It is a cave that is about 150 above the gourge. In the cave there are traces from the Neolit age for people back then were living in the cave. To get to the cave however, you have to climb up a 30 meter route. Then you pass through the cave (which at time you literally have to crawl your way through) and then reach the cave’s big hall, where there is a descend by rope for about 50 meters. At the end of the cave, there is a big open exit and then follows a one hour hike downhill. It was a great experience!
The same evening it started to rain damn hard. The next morning when we woke up the Trigrad river, which in the spring had washed away the whole road to Trigrad, had risen quite a lot and we decided that it was best if you head back to Sofia. That day was Mio’s 23rd birthday and we initially planned to go to Shiroka laka and then to Gela for the gaida festival, but obviously the weather wasn’t very cooperative for that idea of ours. We managed to get out of the Trigrad gourge successfully and then headed to the junction to Shiroka laka. When we saw the river there, it was very obvious that the raging fury of the water was rising with every minute.
When we reached Devin, we found out that around Smolyan all roads are cut off. Same with Velingrad, Tchepelare and Narechenski bani. The only road that was still ok was the one through Krichim. It was actually somewhat ok because half of the road was covered with stones and rocks and driving on that road was very tricky. In the middle of the road was closed by traffic policeman. We though this road that was also cut off, but it turned out that we had to wait for some 10 minutes in order some construction works to be done on a new dam. They blew up some rocks and it was quite spectacular. Milen and I joked with Mio that it were her birthday fireworks ;)
Anyhow, after passing the big dams of Vucha and Krichim (which both were full almost over the top) we managed to get to Krichim. From there it was quite a backroad trip through the country in the valley because two thirds of the roads were cut off or closed. The bridge at Ognianovo, where we were supposed to cross the Maritza river was torn by the river just two hours before we got there.
We had to go back and then through a very weird route head to Pazardjik. Then the traffic police re-routed all the traffic to Vinogradetz and we were supposed to head to Belovo. However, before we reached Vinogradetz, the road in Belovo was closed and the traffic was once re-routed through the already re-opened highway Plovdiv-Sofia.
We finally managed to get back to Sofia at about 9 p.m., almost 8 hours after we started off from Trigrad. It was quite a journey and adventure combined into one. The one thing, besides from the „apocalyptic tourism“ as I call the flood disaster that we happened to be in the middle of, is that Trigrad really made a mark on my heart and for sure I’ll try to go back this autumn!