Hidden gems of the Rhodope Mountains

Hidden gems of the Rhodope Mountains

Estimated reading time: 9 minutes

Rhodopean Explorer, Tuesday, May 28, 2020

Yesterday, while not having the best light for photography, we had a fun day riding. Today the light is much more in our favor, so we are going to explore some of the hidden gems of the Rhodope Mountains.

Early bird gets the worm, they say

My alarm goes off at 04:20 a.m., and it is only “this late” because we are saving time by skipping breakfast. instead, it is all about getting dressed and ready to drive to our first hidden gem of the day. It is a couple of hours away, so we need to start early to be there in time for the sunrise.

I already charged my batteries and packed my bag for the tour last night. This time Rusko is accompanying us on the shot. We’ll see if he insists on being my model again, or if he just comes over for some cuddles. I don’t have much of a clue of where we are going, which is part of the fun.

Sunrise over the Rhodope Mountains

We arrive just in time for the sunrise and start shooting immediately. Of course, Evo points out elements of particular interest. What about getting the foggy mountains in the frame? What about using the village down the hill as a foreground?

All the things that I haven’t consciously considered yet, or would later regret not to have thought about. It pays off to be traveling as a team. Evo’s reminders of what to consider and the extra information on what to expect are highly welcome. Since I sometimes seem to forget to use my feet, Evo even reminds me of that too.

As always, time passes incredibly fast. Before I can blink twice, two hours have passed already. It is time to look for another location, a little further up. Maybe if we explore that top over there, we will find a new favorite photo spot? Naw, our initial area was better. Of course, the sun has now risen higher, and the great light of sunrise has left, so it works out in our favor.

Did anybody mention breakfast?

Time to go back home and have breakfast. On the way back, we pass one of the many chapels that you can find on every hilltop in the Rhodope Mountains. There are wild horses on the other side of it! Breakfast has to wait a little bit longer. We cannot miss this kind of a chance for another photo shooting.

Wild horses in the Rhodope Mountains
Wild horses in the Rhodope Mountains

I need more praxis with these kinds of photos, though.

Since we are both getting a little hungry, we add another short break for granola bars and nuts. You didn’t think I would not have packed them, did you? Then there is also another opportunity along the road. What I have seen before from a photograph, I can now see by myself—the property on which Evo wants to build his future photo studio. With an incredible view that nobody can spoil, this is the perfect place to have a studio.

Eventually, we make it back home. However, breakfast is now more a brunch of sorts. Who cares? It works out in our favor, as we do not need to take the time for an additional lunch break later. So we can use that time for some photography again.

Cascading rivers and mountain villages

We have another long drive ahead of us to get to our new location. There is a cascading river with a nice bridge crossing it, somewhere in the Rhodope Mountains. A gorgeous location. However, when we arrive, Evo realizes that for once, we are a little too early. To get the best possible photographs, we need the sun to move a little further. OK, technically we need the earth to rotate a bit further as the sun is stationary, we do know that!

Mountain villages in the Rhodopes

Are we unfortunate by being early? No. It gives us time to do some more explorations. A little well on the side of the road allows us to fill up our water bottles. There are plenty of these wells in the Rhodope Mountains. Most of the ones that I have seen so far had a little plague to remember a deceased person. It is an old tradition here, and a beautiful one too. The water from these wells is clear and cold, wonderfully refreshing on a warm summer day.

Once more, I wonder how it would feel living here in the winter. Once more, I prefer Evo’s home and his soon to be studio location. How on earth to drive down that sandy, narrow road that we came on, during a snowy winter day? I don’t notice any shops in this village, though there is a hotel. So you might have quite an adventure ahead if you are living here in the winter.

The river awaits us

It is time to get back to the river to get the photos before losing the light we have been waiting for so eagerly. Evo parks the car along the road, and now I notice how steep the path is that leads down to the river. Am I supposed to go down there? If I didn’t know better, I would say Evo is nuts even to try. But yea, I do trust him. With a little bit of help, I make it down in one piece. It wasn’t that bad after all.

Of course, we forgot to bring rubber boots with us. We talked about it this morning. However, I packed my water sandals, so I am ready to go everywhere I want to.

There are so many possibilities to take photos of this small area. How can I use the white water as a leading line? What are the best angles to shoot from? Questions to be answered. Of course, as always, Evo is pointing out new spots and new answers to everything.

One of the best spots is, who would have anticipated it, in the river’s middle. With its clear water, it is hard to estimate how deep it is. This is why I not only brought water sandals with me but am also wearing zip-off pants. Though I must admit, I am regretting that I did not pack my swimsuit. That would have made things even more accessible. A quick check if I can get where I want to later, and I fetch the camera and tripod from the shore to get some photos.

In between photos, I go back to the riverside to show Evo my results and get some more tips to improve them. I will be going home with the best possible images from this journey.

The river is everything but warm. After a while, though, I do not notice it anymore. Evo is taking photos for evidence of my craziness – though maybe one with a thermometer showing the water temperature would have been extra fun.

By the time I get out of the river, my feet are incredibly cold. Thankfully, this time I took a little travel towel with me as well, a lesson learned from last year’s shot at Wonderful Bridges. However, drying them does not warm them up sufficiently right away. So back in the car, Evo turns the heating on, so I can eventually get them warmed up and put my socks and sports shoes back on.


How on earth did it get so late so fast? Isn’t it just minutes ago that we enjoyed brunch? It is 9 p.m. before we even start thinking about dinner, and 10 p.m. before we get to a place where we can eat. After dinner, we head straight back home. Tomorrow another early shoot somewhere in the Rhodope Mountains is waiting for me.

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