From Serbia, we had two days of stops in Bulgaria. What I loved about cruising with AmaWaterways is that the company offers free shore excursions to all passengers in each port, plus a variety of options from which to choose, ranging from slow and steady to a bit more fast-paced.
You’re not surprised then that I chose the latter every day, and I was glad my group of eight was of the same mindset, particularly as you’ve never met a speed demon quite like my mom. Those little legs carry her great distances at a very brisk pace that nearly doubles that of my stride!
Unfortunately, though, she had to pay an emergency visit to the dentist the day we docked in Vidin, and the rest of us were forced to go to Belogradchik without her. (Sorry, Mom.)
The bus ride out to Belogradchik was a winding and turbulent hour, one in which my sister and I—both very prone to motion sickness—were afraid we might not make it. (Take your Dramamine beforehand, folks.) But when we arrived to the otherworldly landscape of northwestern Bulgaria, our stomachaches quickly subsided and we were glad we’d made the trip.
Spread out over the Balkan Mountains, the sandstone rock formations looked like they could have belonged in the American Southwest, in northern Arizona or even Southern Utah. The difference, however, was the lush foliage—pops of brilliant green—that surrounded them.
Oh, and the fact that their formation begin roughly 230 million years ago.
To walk to the base of the Belogradchik Fortress from the parking lot was a quick stroll, but to get to the top required quite a lot of climbing. We had parked my dad, who is just six months post-stroke and a bit wobbly at times, on a bench at the base while we set out to see the view—only to turn around and find him making the climb on his own.
This would have been a huge accomplishment pre-stroke as he’s had a bad knee and hip that have been nagging him for years, but after a significant brain injury, it was a purely magical occurrence. My sister and I couldn’t stop beaming from his grit and determination. Go, Dad! (Or maybe he was just humoring Mom since she wasn’t there to see it.)
Steep stairs aside, the hike up to the top was a pretty easy one—no more than 15 minutes of climbing—and once up there, there were unobstructed views of the surrounds (i.e. no burdensome railings like you’d find in the United States).
Naturally, I took this chance to do a little outdoor yoga.
Because that cliff’s edge was totally made for inversions, don’t you think?
SVV and I stayed up there so long, we wound up being the last ones down and back on the bus (oops). But it was too pretty—both the weather and the scenery—to be cooped up in a vehicle if you ask me.
Our slight delay (again, sorry to my shipmates!) meant we were late to our play at the Baba Vida Fortress back in Vidin. Given that it was in Bulgarian and like a community theater version of Game of Thrones, I didn’t mind too much—that is, until I found out they’d held the entire play for our arrival!
Vidin didn’t offer a whole lot more by way of tourist draws, so if you’re headed to that area, I’d highly recommend you gloss right over the city and head out to Belogradchik by car—or private transfer (we use Blacklane)—instead.