Another post deviating from the normal Bike trip format but the sight I visited today warranted a write up of it’s own.

The Buzludzha monument sits atop of a mountain pretty much smack in the middle of Bulgaria. It was originally constructed to commemorate the location of the secret meetings of the Bulgarian communist party from before they came to power. In recent years it has become a popular off the beaten track tourist site although it is a little tricky to get to.

I had originally hoped to cycle there which would’ve involved about a 200km detour and then a 1,400m climb up to the peak of the mountain, but, as my knee problem progressed last week I had decided to completely forgo this. I needed the extra time to rest my leg and for contingency so I didn’t miss my flight home from Istanbul. I was gutted at this as I’d wanted to visit the place for quite some time.

As luck would have it on my rest day in my hostel in Plovdiv I met a guy from the US, Dave, who had just travelled overland from Central Asia to Bulgaria who was also keen to visit Buzludzha but only had one day to do it. Between us we worked out the only option was to hire a car between, drive the 120km to the monument and then drive back the same day. Kind of a break away from this being a cycling trip but it seemed idiotic to come so close to the place and not go due to self imposed restrictions.

We managed to get ahold of Chevrolet Aveo, with 210,000km on the clock, and drove the uneventful 100km to the start of the small road up the mountain. We’d both read stories about this place being difficult or semi-illegal to visit but once in the vicinity we found directions to it marked on the road signs as a tourist site dispelling a bit of the myth of the place. At the base of the climb the weather was lovely but we had anticipated that the monument, sitting 1,400m above us, would probably be a lot colder and had dressed appropriately. If only we had anticipated harder…

After maybe 10km up the mountain road there was a gradually increasing amount of snow on the road and eventually, maybe 2km from the monument, the car was unable to carry on so I did a poor job of parking it by the side of the road and we carried on by foot…

To be fair I was surprised the car made it this far.

To be fair I was surprised the car made it this far.

After rounding the next corner on the road we saw footprints leading off into what GPS confirmed was the direction of the monument (we didn’t have line of sight due to trees and poor conditions). We followed these footprints as they led up a snow covered trail through the trees but as me approached the crest of the mountain the previously calm air whipped up into a furious icy gale. At points we were sinking mid thigh deep into the snow and the footprints we had followed had been blown away. I considered at this point that we really should have stuck to the road.

After battling up the hill we finally found the path again, spotting the people whose footprints we’d been following disappearing back down the mountain into the fog. We continued in the rough direction of our GPS bearing until the monument suddenly loomed out of the white, we were both very happy to have found it.

Buzludzha

Buzludzha.

This video might give a feel for what the top of this mountain is like in Winter…

After freezing our hands getting some photos and video of the outside we ran to the shelter of the entrance and warmed up for a second before scouting around for a way in as the main doors were blocked. On the right hand side we found small hole smashed into the concrete wall that we managed to climb up into.

The way into Buzludzha.

The way into Buzludzha.

The entrance from the inside,

The entrance from the inside,

It was dark inside and I regretted not bringing any torches but as soon as we ascended the flight of stairs we found that the main hall we had anticipated seeing so much was dramatically illuminated by the white out outside leaking through the holes in the roof…

My silly green coat in Buzludzha.

My silly green coat in Buzludzha.

Surrounding the main hall is a huge circular landing which, whilst now dilapidated, was pretty grand in it’s former glory…

The landings now...

The landings now…

...and before.

…and before.

I also shot a little video walking around the place….

Whilst it was much warmer within the shelter of the hall we were both rapidly losing the feeling in some of our fingers and decided getting back to the car ASAP was a smart idea. I quickly had a look around to see if there was a way up into the tower part of the structure. I found a corridor with a dropped out floor and a steel door at the other end with a person sized hole cut in to it but without torches it would’ve been way too risky to proceed.

After packing our stuff away we dashed across the exposed forecourt on top of the mountain and down into the shelter of the trees noticing that these harsh winds persist so much that it has affected the growth of the forest…

Curved trees from the wind on Buzludzha.

Curved trees from the wind on Buzludzha.

After the tough conditions we’d been through on the top we were at least greeted with some picturesque winter scenes on the way back down…

White out in the forest.

White out in the forest.

If you are interested in visiting Buzludzha I would say that visiting in Summer would present no problems at all. The winter white out does afford the fantastic lighting in the hall but learn from our mistakes and come much better prepared! I’m not sure exactly how cold it was but the wind chill was low enough to freeze my beard and to freeze my thermal hat solid. We were both very happy to return to the warmth of the car even though the icy road down the mountain was still to come.

Finally back in the warm!

Finally back in the warm!

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