Bulgaria’s longest cave and an almost forgotten monument

Bulgaria’s longest cave and an almost forgotten monument

This post was updated on June 29th, 2020

Off the beaten track – Beklemento

After yesterday’s visits to not one but two fortresses on the Western borders, we are now leaving the North-Western parts of Bulgaria. Going East toward Beklemento where we are visiting an almost forgotten monument of Freedom. Of course, we are also going to see the stunning Prohodna Cave along the way.

Beklemento, Saturday, June 16, 2018

Going East

Today our journey continues eastward. We stayed farther west than planned last night. So we’ll have quite some driving to do before we reach our final destination in Beklemento. Despite starting right after breakfast, we are behind schedule by the time we reach Vratsa (Bulgarian: Враца), our first supply stop. Not that anyone of us cares too much about it. As long as we don’t get to Prohodna (Bulgarian: Проходна) after dark, we’ll be just fine. 

I’ve got to admit I never took more than a glance at the final schedule anyway, so every day comes as a pleasant surprise. I do know roughly which places I am going to see, but never precisely when. 

The drive is entertaining, to say the least. Getting bored with these guys seems impossible. Not to mention the scenery out of the car window is beautiful too. There seems to be always time left for the unplanned stop along the road. These stops can be about the scenery or storks, there is no way we would miss out on a chance to take photographs. 

Overlooking Vranski Karst from Vratsa
Overlooking Vrachanski Karst, Vratsa

Prohodna Cave

Arriving at Prohodna the parking lot does not look promising. It seems the tour operators have discovered this place as well now. So the question is if there will be enough room for us to take photographs, or if we will find crowds of people. Prohodna is Bulgaria’s longest cave, with two entrances, one large one and a smaller one. We make our way down to the smaller entrance, using a slippery-when-wet, narrow path. Though it seems that we are taking more breaks to let people get out of the cave than walking into the cave. With a little bit of help from Evo, I am able to get where I need to go. Though I am questioning if I should rather have worn my hiking boots than my sandals. Well, it all works out fine. Evo and I go right through the 262-meter long cave toward the Big Entrance (Bulgarian: Големият) with a height between 42.5 and 45 meters. Along the sides of the cave, we watch and photograph climbers on the walls. 

Prohodna Cave
Prohodna Cave

Before we notice the bungee jumpers jumping down from the top of the cave. Not that I would like to try bungee jumping today, but photographing them is interesting. Some of the jumpers seem to almost crash into the roof of the cave when they bounce back. 

Bungee jumping in Prohodna Cave
Bungee cords at the cave’s larger entrance

The Prohodna passage is located near Karlukovo in the Karlukovo Gorge. The latter being a tributary gorge of the more massive Iskar Gorge. Once upon a time, Prohodna was an even longer cave, but parts of its ceiling have collapsed over the years. Even today the roof is getting thinner and thinner. One day in the future there will no longer be a cave but a valley instead.

Time to get back to the car

On our way back to the Small Entrance (Bulgarian: Малкият) we enjoy finding black riders, Scream and other “creatures” in the rocks along the walls. 

Black Riders and Scream in Prohodna Cave
Black Riders and Scream

God’s eyes and prehistorical inhabitants

But of course, we cannot overlook „God’s eyes.“ The windows or Oknata, in the ceiling shaped like a pair of eyes. When it is raining these eyes seem to be crying. During the spring equinox, the sun shines through these Oknata illuminating a small body of water. 

Traces of prehistorical inhabitation have been discovered within the cave. Maybe it was once used for religious rituals during the equinox too? Today only our blue wizard is trying his luck in addressing the masses. They are, however, unflattened by his performance. 

Prohodna Cave & God's Eye
Prohodna Cave (God’s Eye) – Пещера “Темната дупка”

Climbing is fun

Not much later it is time for me to see where my newly discovered (mini) skills in climbing can take me. I won’t climb the walls of the cave though. With a little bit of help, I am able to make my way not only onto one but two spots. And with some more help, I get even down in one piece from both. The second spot started freaking me out a little bit, so I need more training in climbing all these places!

Not that far…not yet at least
Not that far…not yet at least

Once again we have taken more time than what we planned for, but it has been so much fun, nobody complains about it 🙂 

Time for a break in Troyan

Back in the car, we make our way toward Troyan (Bulgarian: Троян), for a combined lunch/dinner. The restaurant serves delicious food, and, of course, we cannot avoid sharing some of it. Tasters to one side are rewarded with half a meal in return. Nowhere else have I had so many dishes to taste a day, and it is always fun and entertaining. I don’t know what I am going to miss more when I return to Norway, the food or the food sharing…

Beklemento Pass

Not before long we hit the road again. This time our way leads us up to Beklemento Pass. This is the highest point of the Troyan-Karnara Pass with 1630 meters in altitude. 

Freedom Arc

Here we find the Freedom Arch, a 34-meter high monument. It serves as a reminder of the battle of Beklemento-Pass during the Russo-Turkish war of 1877/1878. On the backside, I find different inscriptions. These are reminders of the resistance against the Nazis during the second world war. In the early stages of WWII, the Kingdom of Bulgaria became an ally of Nazi-Germany. Tides had turned by 1944. As a result of the Yalta conference, Russia invaded Bulgaria. After the war, Bulgaria abolished the monarchy in favor of a new communist regime. 

The monument was designed by a team around Georgi Stoilov and opened in 1980. 

Freedom Arch at Beklemento
Arch of Freedom Monument, Beklemento Pass

Statues of Russian soldiers and Bulgarian women welcoming the soldiers with bread and salt, according to Bulgarian traditions, decorate the arch. 

Today the monument belongs to those almost forgotten reminders of the communist era. Its ethereal flame has been extinct for years.  

Decorations at the Freedom Arch of Beklemento
Decorations of the Arch of Freedom

Photographing fun around Beklemento Pass

While I am climbing out of the car, a thought hits me. Should I give Evo some space for himself to do whatever he wants, instead of being stuck with me? But before I can finish thinking he asks me if I would like to come with him for some photography. Of course, I want to, I cannot miss out on that type of photo-fun! Whenever the same thought hits me later, Evo immediately answers it with the same question.

Wandering around, finding viewpoints to photograph from the time passes fast.

Beklemento Pass a historical battlefield
Beklemento Pass

Sunset over Beklemento Pass

During the sunset photoshoot, Phil ensures that I am not missing out on any sights. After all, we won’t be back up here tomorrow for another sunset. Who knows anyway when everything would work out this good again?

Sunset over Beklemento Pass
Sunset over Beklemento Pass

We stay around until after sunset before we finally make our way to the not too far away hotel. 

Another fantastic day comes to an end, but tomorrow’s adventures are waiting for us. If only my wish for 1400 hour days during this tour was granted… 

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