From cathedrals to eco-trails – the journey begins

From cathedrals to eco-trails – the journey begins

This post was updated on January 20th, 2020

Off the beaten track – Belogradchik

5a.m. and the alarm go off. Time to get ready for a new day photographing in Bulgaria. Phil is picking me up to go to the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral (Bulgarian: Храм-паметник „Свети Александър Невски“). Here we are going to shoot the sunrise over one of Sofia’s central places. Later we all leave Sofia toward Belogradchik (Bulgarian: Белоградчик). The orange line in the map below represents our little hiking adventure on the Vazov Eco Trail.

You can find the story from my arrival day here.

Belogradchik, Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, Sofia

The cathedral was commissioned to honor the more than 200.000 fallen soldiers of the Russo-Turkish war of 1877/1878. The war led to the liberation of Bulgaria from the 500year long Ottoman rule. The construction was mostly founded by the people of all parishes of Bulgaria and took place between 1904 and 1912. The result is a stunning cross-domed cathedral in the neo-byzantine style. It serves as the cathedral church of the Patriarch of Bulgaria.

Off the beaten track – Belogradchik: The Alexander Nevsky Cathedral was built to commemorate the 200.000 soldiers who gave their lives in the battles of the Russo-Turkish war of 1877-1878, which lead to the libaration of Bulgaria from the 500year long Ottoman occupation. 

The building got its name from Lord Alexander Nevsky, a Russian Tsar, who in the 13s century defeated the Swedes at the River Neva and the Germans two years later in the famous "massacre on the ice".
Sunrise over the Alexander Nevski Cathedral

The crosses in the wall above the main entrance have the classic orthodox shape with three crossbeams. The lower one would have been the one to which Jesus’ feet were nailed, the middle one – as in Catholic and protestant depictions – the one to which his hands were nailed and the upper one to hold the sign with his name. Some Bulgarian orthodox churches feature crosses with a half moon below the lower crossbeam symbolizing the victory of Christianity over the Islam.

Black and white of some details of the Alexander Nevski Cathedral in Sofia - Off the beaten track – Belogradchik
Details of the Alexander Nevski Cathedral

Breakfast is served

After two hours of photography, Phil takes me back to the hotel so I can enjoy my breakfast before they’ll come and pick me up again.

Showers in Sofia turn out to be very hot indeed. Gosh this must have been more than 40˚C water, which almost burned my foot. Better be careful next time, or I might get just a little too crisp on the outside…

Off the beaten track – Belogradchik - Holy Synod of the Bulgarian-Orthodox Church (Българска патриаршия - Свети Синод)
Sofia, Sofia City Province, Bulgaria

 The holy synod is the highest body of the Bulgarian orthodox church.
This highly decorated building was build in 1908, much of the original sculptural ornaments were unfortunately destroyed during the second world war.

The mosaic in the top middle depicts Ilarion Makariopolski, Avxenty Veleshki and Paisiy Plovdivski, who fought for an independant church.
Holy Synod of the Bulgarian-Orthodox Church (Българска патриаршия – Свети Синод)

Hiking the Vazov Eco Trail

Time to leave Sofia, northbound toward Belogradchik. Not, of course, without a stop to pick up some sandwiches and sweets for the tour. Yea, we not only share the same taste when it comes to books. We all have a sweet tooth too!

Our next stop is the Vazov Eco Trail. It is named after one of Bulgaria’s national poets, Ivan Minchov Vazov (*1850, †1921), who is said to have taken this walk several times in his life. 

Along the way to Belogradchik: View from the top end of Vazova's Eco Trail
View from the top end of Vazova’s Eco Trail

I am happily following Evo’s recommendation and change into my hiking boots before we start our tour down the trail. The choice pays off within minutes, as I use one of the first wooden bridges to miss out a step and overstep my ankle. Ouch. Damn this hurts. Am I going to spend this holiday in the hospital instead? 

Looking toward Lakatnik on our hiking break along the way toward Belogradchik
Looking toward Lakatnik

Evo immediately gets ready to call Phil back, who is taking the car down to Bov (Bulgarian: Бов). I am lucky this time though, after a few minutes the pain vanishes, at least for now, I might need to tape it later.  It is quite a relief that we do not have to call the emergency services right away. 

There are waterfalls…

At the first waterfall stop, the light is not quite in our favor. It would have been good to have some clouds. They would have evened out the difference between the bright lid mountains and the shady forest. Nevertheless, we are here for photography. So Karin and I make the best out of the situation while Evo tries to find the best possible spots for us.

Skaklya: Bulgaria's highest waterfall with a hight of 85 meters, one of the main features of Vazova's Eco trail.

After a short break, we are ready to go on. Battling the heat of the day until we come to our second stop. We find the river, that created the first waterfall, again in a spot where it has a few smaller waterfalls. This time it is a beautiful shady spot, out of the direct sunlight. So it is an excellent chance to take at least some decent photographs before we have to head on to the car.

Small waterfalls and creeks along the trail
Creeks and waterfalls

Going toward Belogradchik

Our next stop is the railway station in Bov, from where Phil, Karin and I will take the train to Mezdra (Bulgarian: Мездра). This gives us the chance to drive though a beautiful gorge, while Evo takes the car. 

From Mezdra onward we have united again. Continuing to our final destination of the day, a guesthouse in Belogradchik, which we reach in the early evening. There is just enough time to get a nice shower and a short rest before we head out for dinner. Of course, we brought our cameras along. But unfortunately, the weather is not in our favor. This means we won’t be able to take photos of the sunset over the fortress. 

Evo, however, promises to wake me up early in the morning, if the weather is suitable for sunrise photographs. I cannot complain, on the contrary. I have had a brilliant day with these three people, and we have some more days ahead of us.

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