Or more like Veliko Tarnovo >> Rose Valley >> Buzludzha.
The latter being the sole reason why we were in Veliko Tarnovo, a random must-see off the beaten track. Literally. Vince had heard about the now dilapidated communist monument through a friend and some research and he HAD to go check it out. In the meantime, while he figured out logistics to Buzludzha, we befriended a ton of fellow travelers at the hostel. All of whom also heard through the traveling grapevine of this famed 'UFO' fallen to ruins.
As we excitedly chatted about this communist remnant oddity and complained at how expensive the hostel's day trip to the site is, we all eventually came to the same conclusion: Why not rent a van together? It's so much cheaper when split 7 ways and this way, we can take our sweet time.
In 2 days time, we picked up our soccer mom van, appointed the youngest of the group as soccer mom (he's also one of a handful who can drive manual), and loaded up on road trip snacks. 4 Americans, 1 Canadian, 1 Argentinian, 1 Kiwi. A whole day's adventure ahead of us with a mini van at our disposal. How exciting!
But first, quick stop to Rose Valley, the world's largest producer of rose oil. To Rosovo we go, hoping to catch a rose festival. After driving around for a bit, we couldn't find anything
remotely related to roses or festival in this tiny village. Kind of a disappointment and a minor setback, so we backtracked to Kazanlak to figure out an alternative gameplan while we lunched it out.
So here's what we came up with. Check out a nearby Rose Distillery. That way, all our rose efforts didn't go to waste! And you know what? On our drive to the distillery, ALL these rose fields mysteriously popped up! What the what!
The rose distillery itself was a nice mini diversion. It smells fantastic here and it's a way prettier version to look at than the rogue rose fields we've passed up. V and I bought Rose Rakia for our hostel mates as an aperitif (and digestif!) for dinner later that night, wandered around for a good 30 minutes, then jetted off to Buzludzha.
On our drive up the mountain and through the numerous switchbacks, we hilariously tried to play some communist music. Not an easy feat, as the internet connection deteriorated the further we ascended. Not to worry, us Americans (4 of 7 in ze mini van) came prepared with commie jokes. And sure, we even threw in a few stereotypical 'Amurica! F yeah! We can do whatever we want - We're American!" jokes.
Yah, we went there. Gotta get into the Cold War spirit! =P
Buzludzha didn't disappoint. With flashlights, we climbed through a hole of the front entrance, straight into the damp foyer filled with massive fallen ceiling pieces. Meg had brought her fiddle along and started playing an Irish tune as we tentatively walked through the debris, up the stairs, and into the enormous circular meeting hall. Where it's just as dilapidated, with colorful tile mosaics stubbornly clinging to the walls and graffitti adorning every inch. The wind whipping through the exposed beams. It's an awe-inspiring feeling, walking amidst the past whilst in the present. We, as a group, eventually commingled in the center and lingered a bit, taking it all in.
Kevin: "What's a communist walk?"
Suddenly we all started walking in a circular congo line fashion, high kicking and fist-pumping in unison. While chanting, "Da! Da! Da!"
This goes on for a few giggly minutes. I must say, one of our more funnier Communist vs. Capitalist moments! If only we took a video of it! Now off to scale the top of the monument ...
Which is only an exhausting climb of 15-20 flights of stairs (ladders?) in an insanely tight space. In the dark. Occasionally passing by open closets full of freaky, questionable objects and sometimes piles of empty beer bottles. Oh, the wild imagination!
25ish minutes later we've reached the top, pass the giant shattered communist red star and up on the tippy top roof, where presumably the Communist flag used to fly. But, oh! The views!
An unobstuct 360 panoramic view of the Bulgarian rolling hills and lush green forests. The perfect spot for sunset gazing.
We've tried to linger as long as possible for the sunset, sitting on top of the exposed metal beams, still cracking Communist/American jokes and still trying to play Communist songs. Anything along those comical bits to keep ourselves entertained, which is not hard to do when you're in good company. =) Even had a good laugh over Kevin's stint of an American doing Commie pull-ups: "What's your favorite American number? ... 1776!
" LOL. But, alas, sunset in these lands sets at an unusually late hour. 830ish? Maybe 9. We figured it wise to leave before it gets too dark as those horrendous Bulgarian roads ain't no joke. And so we've started our slow descent.
Once we've reached the bottom and out to fresh air, we were met by a curious Bulgarian wondering the outskirts of the monument. He asked where we're from, in which soon thereafter his eyebrows shot right up when he finds we're mostly Americans, "What are you doing here??!"
Lol, we're not here to commerate anything. Purely for the Communist novelty, I assure you, sir. ;-) And with that we clambored into the mini van and zoomed off towards our hostel. Towards our late night dinner and towards our late night hangout where we rehashed memories from that day.
We came into this adventure as strangers with a common love for curiousity and unknown wonders. We left as friends. The magic of travel - it never ceases to amaze!
: May 2016
: Hostel Mostel
. 20BGN/person for 10 bed dorm. Breakfast and Dinner (with Beer!) included.
: Free Walking Tour
Off the Beaten Track
. Day Trip as offered by the hostel is 80BGN. Highly recommend renting a car. In our case, we rented a mini van and split the cost 7 ways. Van rental is 50BGN. Gas is 40BGN. Please note: Bulgarian roads are not in the best shape and therefore may take longer to reach destination than expected.