Have you been to Montana Bulgaria?
This post was first published as a email newsletter to my subscribers at my previous blog When Woman Travels.
A few years ago I was back in my home country for a one-month vacation. While I was there, I visited one region of Bulgaria that is less internationally known but certainly very interesting.
My two-day trip was to Berkovitsa, a mountain town that is near many points of tourist interest. I visited Chiprovtsi, Bulgaria’s traditional carpet-weaving town and a monastery that has been totally renovated and looks like a postcard.
Chiprovtsi – the town of Bulgaria’s traditional carpet weaving
In the Historical Museum of Chiprovtsi, you can learn about traditional carpet weaving in Bulgaria. This is a tradition inscribed in UNESCO’s List of Intangible Cultural Heritage. At the museum, you can learn the meaning behind each decorative element you will see on the rugs and talk about the technics and materials used with the guides. You can also observe how the work is done – always by hand and done by women only!
Even the timber balconies of the traditional Bulgarian houses in Chiprovtsi repeat the most recognisable details from the carpets made here.
Monasteries in Montana Bulgaria
There are not many monasteries that look like Klisurski Monastery in the West Stara Planina (literary – Old Mount and one of the most beautiful mountains in Bulgaria). It has been an active spiritual centre since 1204 during what we call the Second Bulgarian Kingdom. Since 2008, it has been home to nuns and you can see the results of their hard work in the immaculate gardens, clean premises, and light and positive energy in general that keeps you hanging around for longer than you planned.
Unlike many man’s monasteries in Eastern Europe, all are welcome here! Families come to celebrate the baptising of their children, visitors walk the shady paths…
There are picnic tables and a nice walk path to the water spring. It is believed that the water here is ‘alive’ and heals. The monastery offers accommodation – there are 80 beds and two apartments available. The price per bed is 8-10 levs and all rooms have private bathrooms. The telephone is 0886560612 however I believe it will be difficult to book without the help of a Bulgarian-speaking friend.
In the monastery, there is an icon art studio where the nuns still create in the ancient Ochrid Style. From the gift shop, you can buy homemade products like strawberry jam, honey, and raspberry wine.
Accommodation in Berkovitsa
As an alternative accommodation, I can suggest the Green Hill Boutique Hotel in Berkovitsa. It is where we stayed and fell in love with its serene atmosphere, friendly staff, and scrumptious breakfast! The coffee is very good and the jam is upper-class as the owners have a strawberry farm.
The reality of many Bulgarian towns and villages
As I have dedicated myself to providing a more truthful and full-fledged view of the world to my readers, I will share this photo with you. This is the reality of many Bulgarian towns and villages. Our countryside dies, as I am sure the one in your own country does. But the way our disappears is ugly, painful, and pitiful. It is not only poverty, but it is also the sadness of young people leaving and the government letting everything fall apart. The proof is in the statistics – Bulgaria is one of the fastest shrinking countries in terms of population. Travelling around, you can see it.
This is why I will ask you – if you happen to travel to or live in Bulgaria, go to places like this. The state of Montana, where the places I mention are, is one of the most suffering economically. But they have a wealth of tourist attractions as Nature is stunning, and history is rich. In addition to the places I have already mentioned, not far are the internationally renowned Belogradchic Rocks and Fortress.
The caves Magura and Ledenika are in the vicinity at a one to two-hour drive. Magura Cave is interesting for its prehistoric wall paintings, some of the most significant found in Europe from the Post-Paleolitic Era. Ledenika Cave, as its name suggests (‘Icy’ in translation from Bulgarian), fascinates with its galleries decorated with karst formations of stalactites and stalagmites.
Go to (the Bulgarian) Montana! You will not only have an amazing adventure roaming the less-explored paths, but also will help the local community and economy. You will help those who still try to keep the countryside alive!
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