Hello from beautiful Plovdiv – the ancient Phillippopolis – of Bulgaria. This is our first week in the country but it seems as if we left Greece a month ago. One thing is certain: travel distorts your biological clock.
Last Monday we left our home country and entered North Macedonia from Doiran lake just for some shopping and refuelling. This is the only country in all Balkans where diesel costs only 1 euro per litre.
Few hours later we entered Bulgaria from its SW corner. Our vehicle was sprayed at the border – “welcome back to EU” – and right after the border we stopped to visit Samuel’s castle. It was not worth the walk next to the Strymonas river as the castle is not well preserved. You can skip it.
The same day we bypassed Sandanski and arrived to Melnik, a small traditional village, which is considered “the smallest town in Bulgaria” thanks to its rich history and culture.
It’s a village of wineries where many Greeks lived till 1913. We wild camped next to the small park and nobody cared to bother us for the next two days. Melnik is pretty touristic during weekends thanks to its traditional architecture, the fresh clima, the good wines and the decent hotels and restaurants offering a good taste of Bulgarian cuisine. Ask for Cavarma if you go there.
After two calm days in Melnik, our next stop was Goce Delchev – or Upper Nevrokopi for Greeks. We spent the night next to the park, not far from the pedestrian centre, where youngsters go with their cars to relax, have a beer or make love.
From Goce Delchev we drove to Trigrad on the Rhodope mountain to visit the notorious Devil’s throat cave – Dyavolsko Galo in Bulgarian. Following the guidance of maps.me application we drove on a remote gravel road for 12-15 kilometres but we didn’t care. The guidance was wrong.
Anyway the narrow tarmac road through the Trigrad gorge was rewarding. At some points you feel the rocks will fall over you and in two occasions we stopped to check if our Iveco could make it to the top.
Trigrad village feels remote and forgotten as a relic of the communist era can be. We thought about wild camping in the centre but we preferred to drive back to the iconic Horlog castle, which was restored into a hotel in 2014.
This is a hub for bird watching and bear safaris as well and the ideal starting point for a visit of the Devil’s throat cave, which is a couple of kilometres downhill. The night we spent there was almost freezing – 30C in the morning in September! – and was a test event for the upcoming winter.
In the morning, the small parking next to the cave was full of cars and first tourist groups started arriving. You can only visit the cave in a group with a guide for 6 Leva per person. The experience is thrilling because nature has played a wicked game there: imagine an underground waterfall – the biggest in the Balkans – falling from 42 m. into the cave and then disappearing inside it. If you have children with you take care when climbing the 300 concrete steps up to the exit, because they are very very steep.
Let me tell you that the Devil’s throat cave is associated with different legends and with the myth of Orpheus who supposedly descent to Hades exactly there to retrieve late Eyridice. The cave really looks like Hades – if we suppose there is one.