When we arrive in Belogradchik, we decide to stay very close to the fortress, in a very pleasant hotel. The fortress is still closed, so we walk past it, on our way to the ruins of an older fortress on top of a rocky outcrop close by. The sun is throwing its warm light on the brown sandstone rock formations, and we decide to keep the best for last, and visit it the next afternoon. We first enjoy the views from a viewpoint with ruins of an ancient, much smaller castle, which sits on a higher rock. The next day, I am up early to explore the rock formations, and stop by the fortress to see sunrise. It takes longer than I expected for the sun to appear above the ridge of the mountains to the northeast, and after a few minutes of warm early morning sunlight on the rocks and stones of the fortress, clouds obscure the sun.
At the end of the afternoon, we walk up to the fortress, while the president of Bulgaria is touring town. After buying our ticket from a cheerful lady at the office, who speaks Spanish and tells us that the fortress will close at 19:20, we finally walk through the gate into the fortress grounds. There is no one around, but as we walk through, another woman appears out of nowhere to ask us for the tickets. Once inside the fortress grounds, we quickly realise we are absolutely the only ones around. A wide open yard, covered in grass, lies ahead of us, on both sides protected by long walls that run from the outer entrance to the gate of the inner fortress. We climb the walls for better views, both of the fortress grounds and the town below us, and cannot fail to notice the thickness: up to 2 metres. The inner gate turns out to have decorations, and a slab of stone with Arabic calligraphy.
The outer walls were added in the early 19th century. Behind the inner gate, we find a much smaller terrain, and a path leading further up the rocks. We are heading to the original part of Belogradchik fortress, which is the highest part, and was built already in the 1st-4th century. Here, we are surrounded by tall, slender rock pillars: this part is defined by nature more than human building. A short walk takes us from one viewpoint to the next. A perfect place to build a fortress and survey the surrounding area, and to prepare in case of advancing enemies. For a long time, the fortress was used for that; Tsar Ivan Stratsimir enlarged the fortress in the 14th century, turning it into one of the main strongholds in the region. The Ottomans further enlarged and strengthened the fortress in the 15th century. After enjoying the views on this side of the fortress, we decide to climb the wall, and reach the highest point of the fortress. We discover that we can now continue walking, there are even ladders provided. We are on the other side of the fortress now, and can see all the rock formations around - also the ones I had seen this morning from below. We walk as far as we can, enjoying the early evening sunlight on the town of Belogradchik, the mountains, and the rock formations. We remember the words of the ticket lady, and when we reach the main entrance again, she is sitting there, indicating we do not have to hurry, so we climb to the top of the western walls for great panoramic views of the fortress and the surrounding landscape. When we finally leave the gate (we don't want the lady to be home late), we are thoroughly satisfied of what feels like a private visit to this unique fortress.
Around the World in 80 Clicks
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Belogradchik fortress (Bulgaria). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Belogradchik fortress. Read more about this site.