Spring is almost here and my thoughts are turning to possible places to go for Spring Break! So, it’s a perfect time for another guest writer get-away adventure. Today, I am pleased to introduce fellow author, Ellis Shuman.
Ellis has been traveling ever since he was 15 years old, when his family moved from Sioux City, Iowa, to Jerusalem, Israel. Ellis served in the Israeli army, was a founding member of a kibbutz, and now lives on a cooperative agricultural community known as a moshav.
In 2009, his job in an internet marketing firm was relocated to Sofia, Bulgaria, for two years. During that time, Ellis and his wife traveled all around Bulgaria and fell in love with the country. After their return to Israel, Ellis couldn’t stop thinking, or writing, about Bulgaria. He has just published a suspense novel, “Valley of Thracians,” which is set in many of the places Ellis visited during his Bulgarian years.
Let’s now go to Bulgaria with Ellis:
When I think back to the two years I lived in Bulgaria, there are so many travel memories. My wife, Jodie, and I arrived in Sofia in January 2009 on a two-year relocation of my job in internet marketing from our headquarters in Tel Aviv to our Bulgaria support center. We decided to make the most of our Bulgarian experience, and traveled extensively around the country at every opportunity.
One journey stands out, however, and the places we visited would play a major role in the suspense novel I wrote upon our return to Israel. One weekend, when our friend Iris was visiting from Israel, we drove to the northwest. We stopped in the town of Montana to pick up Ivelina, a colleague and friend of mine from the office, and she served as our travel guide as we headed through the lush countryside to our destination.
We arrived in Belogradchik, a town whose name literally means “small white town.” We were not far from the Serbian border, and about 50 kilometers south of the Danube River, which forms Bulgaria’s northern border with Romania. The town was built on the slopes of a steep hill; we drove up its winding streets to the top.
Belogradchik Fortress is a man-made construction set against a stunning outcrop of rocks. The combination is so unique and picturesque, that it seems to have been lifted straight out of a Disney fairy tale. The initial fortifications at the site date to Roman times, with the rocks serving as natural protective walls.
Initially, Belogradchik Fortress was a surveillance post, as it overlooks an extensive area. In the 14th century, the Tsar of the nearby town of Vidin fortified the walls, extending the fortifications and building additional garrisons in the protective shadow of the rock massifs. The fortress fell to the Ottomans in 1396, and they further strengthened the stronghold.
The Ottomans upgraded the defenses of the fortress in the early 19th Century, and they used the fortress to suppress a Bulgarian uprising in 1850. The stronghold last saw combat in the Serbo-Bulgarian War of 1885.
More unique than the fortress is the surrounding countryside. The Belogradchik Rocks, seen from above when standing inside the fortress compound, are a stunning arrangement of strange-shaped sandstone and conglomerate rock formations. Some of these rock buttes resemble human figures, and the area is full of legends as to how they were created. Sculpted shapes form rocks known as the Madonna, and the Schoolgirl.
To fully appreciate the beauty of the fortress and the views of the rocks, we made our way up a series of ladders. There were railings to protect us from the sharp drops down rocky cliffs. The view from above, overlooking the town and the distant mountains, was stunning.
The Belogradchik Rocks were named in 2009 as Bulgaria’s candidate to be selected as one of the New Seven Wonders of Nature. The site is hardly known outside Bulgaria, and it was quite strange to walk around the fortress in the total absence of other tourists.
Bulgaria has so much to offer visitors, and it is all available at very affordable prices. The Belogradchik Fortress is just one of many amazing destinations in the country. For me, the visit to Belogradchik will always form one of my most memorable travel memories.
As I mentioned, Ellis is the author of Valley of Thracians, a suspense novel set in Bulgaria. The book is available at Amazon in Kindle and paperback editions. Ellis continues to write frequently about Bulgaria, Israel, and other interesting things at his blog, Ellis and Jodie’s Bulgarian Adventures.
Till next adventure, tutti, where are you planning to go this Spring Break? Perhaps not as far as Bulgaria – or maybe you’ve already been there and have a favorite memory from it as well. Would love to hear!
Safe travels – here, there and in life!