Teteven and the region of the Teteven Balkan Mountains can offer numerous opportunities for spending a pleasant time and “recharging your batteries” amidst a natural environment. That was precisely what we decided to do in one of the pleasanter September days. We were lucky enough to have sunny and peaceful weather, with the sun and clouds offering a soft refracted light ideal for photos.
Teteven is located at the foothills of two mountains, between the northern slopes of the Zlatitsa-Teteven and the southern ones of the Vassilyovska mountains. The town is surrounded by the peaks of Ostrich, Pеtrahilya, Cherven, Treskavets, and Vezhen and runs along the flow of Vit.
It is no chance that writer Ivan Vazov once said that he would have remained an alien to Mother Bulgaria if he had not come to Teteven.
We decided to take the trip on Sunday morning and did not leave too early. It was about 9:30 am and the day promised to be quite pleasant (unlike the previous two ones). We just wanted badly to change the urban environment for the forest already decked in autumn colours.
We did not have any definite plans. We had heard about Ostrich Peak and the eco-path leading to it, as well as about the waterfalls around Teteven. We also knew that the St. George Glozhene monastery is nearby. Our intentions cleared along the way with the help of the map and the GPS.
We left Hemus motorway after Yablanitsa and directly turned right towards Teteven. The road actually does not branch off to the
St. George Glozhene monastery
in Glozhene but in the village of Maluk Izvor, a pleasant settlement winding around the road up the mountain. The way to the monastery is indicated at several places and you could hardly miss it.
The monastery stands 7 km away from the road branch of the main road to Teteven and 4 km away from Maluk Izvor. This 4 km are traveled slowly over what is called “a two-way single track road”. Such is the case with many mountain destinations. The turns are sharp and dank and the elevation was a test for our small city car. Slowly and with patience, however, we achieved our goal at around 11:00 am – we were already in the parking lot by the monastery.
Now for a bit of practical information – there are two parking lots because there are probably quite a lot of visitors during the holidays and feast days. The fee is BGN 2.0, as we were told by the lady at one of the stalls where it turned out we had to pay. She returned the change along with the receipt. The people around are hospitable, offering the usual mountain fruit preserves, Yablanitsa halva, wines and brandies from local grape and herb varieties, boiled corn, and souvenirs.
We headed for the monastery – a beautiful, well-maintained building, flanked by an inn for visitors (lunch had just been cooked and everything smelled of bean soup and grill), the monastery kitchens and museums with exhibits dedicated to 19th century National Revival hero Vassil Levski and noted Bulgarian writer, cleric and political figure Vassil Droumev.
Legend says Glozhene was once called Chiren Pazar (‘crockery market’) and stood about 1.0 km away from the present one, on the left bank of Vit. The same legend says the present village was founded by the Kievan Prince Glozh who was granted the lands by Tsar Ivan Assen II. Here the prince built a small fortress and a monastery dedicated to the Holy Transfiguration.
They say that Glozhene monastery is one of the most interesting ones in the Balkan Range. Unlike the rest, it does not huddle in the bosom of the range but is perched on a high rock terrace standing on sheer cliffs.
The so-called Prosechnik Tunnel, cut into the rock, is the only way to reach the terrace.
The present church was built in 1931.
The monastery is famous for the icon of its patron, St. George, which is said to have been brought there from the Kiev Pechersk Lavra by Prince Glozh.
Glozhene monastery was a hub of revolutionary activity. One of its abbots, Hadzhi Evtimii Simeonov of Sopot, was a close associate of National Revival hero Vassil Levski who always found refuge in the monastery. His hideout has been preserved to this day.
We lit candles for health and longevity and headed for the next point in our plans,
Mount Ostrich above Babintsi village
We went back to the main road to the main road to Teteven. The trip back seemed much easier although there was much more traffic in both directions. We passed through Glozhene. The turn to Babintsi is to the left, after Polaten (a neighborhood at the beginning of Teteven), directly before the stone inscription ‘Teteven’. Be careful, however, because the sign is small and noticeable at the last moment. It was clear signs are not a favourite in Teteven (which is no exception by far). In such cases, it is good to keep the GPS handy, although to be sure we combined that with asking chance passersby.
We headed up, along with sharp turns and steep slopes. Babintsi stands 8 km from the turnout. Once again it was full of people, young and old. A large number of heavy-duty trucks, some loaded with logs showed that the main livelihood of most people in the area is logging and wood processing.
We had not seen children playing ball in the street from time immemorial! This is now in the past. City children today stay glued to computers and tablets, and there are barely any children in the villages …
The village has one main street. We passed by the school and stopped at something like a turnaround by the village store. The people sitting around with cups of coffee or glasses of beer looked at us expectantly and responded affably to our greeting. We were not a novelty to them. It turned that media publications had done their job and the eco-path is a well-known destination. The locals knew why we were there and were ready to help with information:
“You can leave your car here.”
“The path starts from the school.”
“First go to the mayor and take the key for the chapel.”
“Have no fear – the path is nice and there are places to rest.”
… – all of which really helped us.
True, the path starts from the school (a new or renovated building obviously resulting from well-absorbed European funding) and the mayor’s house is right across. We went into a cozy, well-appointed garden. The mayor’s wife apologized that they had just dug out the potatoes, but said she would give me the key for the chapel right away. In fact, it turned out that the said key was just hanging on a beam and we could have taken it ourselves. They told us that if there was no one when we returned we should hang it back and if we chanced upon another group of tourists to offer it to them. In and out. Everyone is welcome to the holy place.
We headed up the path to the peak, one of the best known around Teteven, standing at 1,069 m. Its conical shape resembles a volcano, hence the name of Ostrich, meaning ‘sharp’.
The path is well-made, with a bower and places to rest, and there is even a place for a sanitation facility. Everything has been thought of. The distance is not big. You can take it in no more than half an hour, complete with resting and pausing for photos. Nevertheless, the gentle slopes in all nuances of green against the backdrop of the distant bluish outline of the Balkan Range are quite tempting to spend much more time here.
We saw purple candles of the autumn crocus from the very beginning.
A small chapel dedicated to The Protection of Our Most Holy Lady the Theotokos has been erected right at the top. We enjoyed the views all around and entered to bow to the icons. Then we left after duly locking the door and headed back.
The way to the waterfalls
begins at the other end of Teteven, once again a challenge to find our bearings without signs. Thank goodness the town is inhabited with kind people who have acquired the habits of guides – we received step-by-step instructions how to reach the waterfalls.
After the third “iron” bridge we see a parking lot and the familiar stalls from which an eco-path called “Under the drops of the waterfall” leading to Skoka (literally ‘falling water’). The place is extremely picturesque. Koznitsa River, whose waters at this time of the year (the end of summer and before the autumn rains) are not very deep, has eaten the rocks away and the rocks and trees flanking it are covered with soft dark green moss. The rays of the afternoon sun add to the mystical experience.
The forest is covered with a green veil and an array of light.
After a walk of about 20 minutes, we see Skoka at the very end of a small canyon in the river gorge. It falls from 15 meters and is the main one of the so-called Teteven waterfalls. The other one is Pruskalotot, falling from about 50 meters, but it is inconsistent and can only be seen in spring or after abundant rains.
The total length of the path starting from the central part of the town is 4 km (a trek by foot of about 2 hours), including 3.4 km asphalt road and the remaining 600 m of eco-path. There are tables and benches along the path, and there is a shelter with a fireplace right next to the waterfall making it appropriate for picnicking.