Vitosha Hike

I explored the beautiful outskirts of Sofia yesterday (not entirely independent of the parking pressures inside of Sofia. I had a rental car, which I had initially thought was a bargain… until I was towed, had to retrieve it from the impound lot, then given ‘the boot’ less than 24 hours later, and again had to hand over cash to retrieve my inexpensive rental).

The morning was spent with friends from Remote Year on a hike above Sofia on Vitosha Mountain, where we watched the sky turn from grey to a silvery blue and stumbled upon a beautiful monastery, just below a ski area.  (All of this is on the edge of Sofia- pretty cool for a capital city to have less than 10 miles away.)

After an enjoyable 4-hour hike in the crisp air, I spent the following 2 hours fighting traffic in Sofia’s center with poor directions from Google Maps, summoning a hasty decision to drive 5 1/2 hours to the Black Sea.  Winter isn’t exactly the season for the town of ‘Sunny Beach,’ but it does mean less traffic, and who wouldn’t want to take a dip in the Black Sea on November 1st?  I switched over to Apple Maps and headed east.

2 hours into my drive, I realized how much further I would have to go on the first leg of the journey alone, and started to get cold feet.  I pulled over for some coffee and to observe the gorgeous scenery from somewhere other than behind my windshield, and I realized I was in the midst of a mountain range with hidden villages and archeological gems, just a few miles from… wait, where was I?  I had pulled off the road in front of a pop-up stop of tents and fire pits, entrepreneurs selling clay pots, local onions being sold in mesh bags, fried cheese (of course), and instant coffee (which in itself wasn’t being sold, but I was able to sign language my way into receiving).

A cave by the name of Prohodna Cave (the Eyes of God, named from the two holes in the ceiling of the cave) was only 14km away, Trip Advisor told me.  Archeological findings from 2-3 Millennium BC were found on this land, and in one of the caves, tracings of the first Homo Sapiens were discovered.  My decision was made.  I pulled off the main highway and snaked my way through farmlands with sheep and cattle, rolling hills, rock-topped mountains and leaves in the process of falling.  And it felt, I have to say, mystical.

The mouth of Prohodna Cave was enormous, probably 40’ tall, and that height was mainly sustained throughout the tunnel and 2nd entrance (or exit) of the cave.  Bats and pigeons appeared to be the main inhabitants, but there was something otherworldly about the rocks and atmosphere.  Each 10-20’ high rock took the shape of a children’s fairytale character.  The back entrance of the cave overlooked a gully filled with trees, bushes, cliff walls and colors.  I was so glad I had made the stop, it was cleansing to just walk through this real-life mural.

And so went my journey to the outskirts of Sofia and my ‘Acres of Diamonds’ afternoon.  

Here are some shots of my journey, and from my last few days of wandering around the fascinating city of Sofia: