This post was updated on June 29th, 2020
Off the beaten track – Kalofer
Yesterday we ended the day with the light show over Tsarevets, which serves as a reminder of the Ottoman yoke. Today, we are starting with photographing the sunrise over the same fortress, before we head on photographing monuments which serve as reminders of rebels, rebellions, and kings of old, but also the communist regime. Follow me on my journey toward Kalofer.
Kalofer, Wednesday, June 20, 2018
Sunrise over Tsarevets, Veliko Tarnovo
Some fog is still lingering between the mountains and the fortress of Veliko Tarnovo, Tsarevets. This is just the perfect subject for our sunrise photo-adventure. That I had to get up as early as 4.16a.m. for this is soon forgotten. Who cares about a little lack of sleep if this is what we can get to experience?
While Phil, Karin, and I are busy photographing the time just flies by. It would have been nice to visit the fortress from the inside as well. But with the time- and weather restrictions of the past two days it did not work out. One day in the future I will come back, well I have to.
Only too soon it is time to make the way back to our hotel for breakfast, but not without a tiny little detour. When we walked to our first evening’s dinner here in Veliko Tarnovo, I spotted a few places from which I would have loved to take some photos. However, I did not have my camera with me. It’s now or never – well for this tour. Phil and Karin have a hard time following me, as I know exactly where I want to go.
Second Bulgarian Kingdom & Veliko Tarnovo
At least I get to see the Monument to the Asen Dynasty (Bulgarian: Паметник на Асеневци) from afar one more time, and this time with my camera available. The monument depicts the first four kings of the second Bulgarian Kingdom (1185-1359). The three brothers, Assen, Peter, and Kaloyan as well as their heir, Ivan Assen II, the son of Assen, on horses around a huge sword. The monument was built in 1985 in celebration of the 800s anniversary of Assen and Peter’s rebellion. A rebellion which ended the period of the
Veliko Tarnovo became the center of the second Bulgarian Kingdom, which reached its height during Tsar Ivar Assen (1218*, †1241). Not only did the first Bulgarian coinage appear during his reign, but the head of the Bulgarian church received the title of Patriarch in 1235. Unfortunately, the successors of these early four kings could not match their ability. So the second Bulgarian Kingdom ended with the Ottoman invasions in the 14s century.
Visiting a fortress of the April 1876 uprising
After another delicious breakfast, it is once more time to pack our bags and get going. The first stop comes as a surprise. Only about four kilometers after we left the town, Evo suggest visiting a monastery. Of course, I want to see it. Why should I want to skip the Dryanovo monastery, when all that I have seen so far have been incredibly beautiful?
The monastery was founded during the Second Bulgarian Kingdom. Its original location was about two kilometers from today’s monastery. During the 14s century, it was one of the leading centers of Hesychasm,
[a] type of monastic life in which practitioners seek divine quietness (Greek hēsychia) through the contemplation of God in uninterrupted prayer.britannica.com/topic/Hestychasm
At the end of the 14s century, the invading Ottoman forces destroyed the monastery. It was later rebuilt in the area known as “The Big St. Archangel.” The new monastery shared the fate of the first one. The Dryanovo Monastery (Bulgarian: Дряновски манастир) of today was built in the 17s century and renovated during the 1840s. During this renovation, the residential buildings were added to the complex too.
During the Bulgarian rebellion against the Ottoman yoke, the monastery played an important role. It was used as a fortress during the ten days of the April 1876 uprising. (April according to the Julian calendar, May according to the Gregorian calendar.) After the defeat of the rebels the monastery was burned down once more and in 1880 restored again. The church tower and an arch narthex on the North wall were added first in the 1930s.
Battlefields and monuments
We continue our tour toward Kalofer (Bulgarian: Калофер), with another photo stop at the Shipka (Bulgarian: Шипка) Monument. While Phil and Karin stay on the ground, Evo and I climb the seven floors to the top of the monument. On every level, we find an exhibition about the battle of Shipka Pass from 1877. Winter combat with temperatures reaching as low as minus 30˚C…
This battle of the Russo-Turkish war is not only the decisive one, which lead to the liberation of Bulgaria. It is also the one where the Russo-Bulgarian troops ran out of ammunition! Instead of giving up, they fought on. This by throwing rocks and the bodies of their dead comrades onto their enemy.
In the end, the lack of crucial enforcements for the Ottoman troops decided the battle in favor of the Russo-Bulgarian forces. The combat of Shipka Pass should turn out to be one of the crucial ones of the Russo-Turkish war of 1877/1878. It led to the liberation of Bulgaria from the Ottoman yoke.
From the Shipka monument, it is but a short drive to Buzludzha (Bulgarian: Бузлуджа) monument, where we are going to now.
The peak of Buzludzha was in 1868 the place of the battle between Bulgarian rebels and the forces of the Ottoman Empire. 30 rebels (Chetniks) fought and lost against the Ottoman forces of 700 soldiers. Yet their fight inspired the later Bulgarian uprising.
In 1891 the first Bulgarian Social Democratic Workers Party, the later Communist Party chose the mountain for a first meeting.
To commemorate both events the Communist government build Buzludzha. Yet after the fall of the communist reign in 1989, the monument was abandoned. This only 8 years after completion.
While Phil and Karin climb down the mountainside already, Evo and I stay behind for some more photographs. Though slightly hidden in the dust, I can make out the Shipka Monument in the distance. Soon enough we follow Karin and Phil, though in the comfort of the car, and pick them up along the way.
Yesterday, during lunch, Karin challenged Phil, Evo and herself to guess what kind of music I like. They weren’t too far off, but now Evo asks to hear some more of the group he did not hear of before. How many people will it take to connect a photo via Bluetooth to the radio? Well in our case: all four of us 😀 But we succeed.
We are already looking out for a place to photograph the Lavender fields during sunrise. Even though that won’t happen before tomorrow or even the day after. But in which direction is East? The GPS of my camera comes in handy. Since it also offers a compass function…is there anything that we need that is not in my bag?
After a late lunch break, there is just enough time left to go to our new accommodation and repack our bags before we head out again. Karin said weeks ago she would try to break me with our tight schedules. So far, however, she has not been successful – this tour is nothing but fun for me.
Sunset on top of Botev
This time Georg picks us up in his jeep to go to the top of Botev, the highest peak of the Balkan Mountains. Now, if you expect some super modern American vehicle, that’s not what we take. We are sitting in an old Russian army jeep, which might as well have seen the Afghanistan war. Don’t expect seat belts, we are on an adventure of our own.
It is a crazy drive! This not only due to the number of bumps and holes in the path. But occasionally I am wondering if we are hanging over the cliff with at least one wheel. I suppose this is why Karin wanted me to enjoy the view from the front seat. While Phil clings on to the roof of the car, I just try to not lose my camera, balancing myself with my feet. This, of course, does not go by unnoticed by Phil. He soon explains to the other two to be extra careful if I should grab for the handlebar on the dashboard. Because then it would become really crazy. For a moment I am considering to grab for it, just for the fun of it…but I cannot be that mean. Not in a car which’s driver’s door opens by itself during the ride. And that not only once or twice, but eight times during the evening! Did I mention that there are no seat belts in this car?
A little bit of history
The mountain’s original name is Jumruktschal (Bulgarian Юмрукчал), but in 1950 it was renamed after the freedom fighter and poet Hristo Botev (Bulgarian: Христо Ботев). He aimed to rekindle the revolution that started with the failed rebellion of April 1876. However, he was shot dead only three days after returning to Bulgaria.
Jumruktschal, the original name of the mountain, is a named derived from the Turkish for fist-formed. Describing the shape of the mountain, with its steep sides and the flat top pretty precise.
Another fantastic day comes to a way too early end! Tomorrow new adventures are waiting for us!