We love it when people come to stay because it forces us to behave like tourists and venture out on day trips. Seems like whenever we have the time, energy and money for a fun day out, we default to a day in Sofia. Don’t get me wrong, I adore Sofia. We live in the Sofia oblast (region). The city is only an hour down the motorway for us (or we can get a bus from Etropole). And there’s always plenty to do. Which is why we go there all the bloody time.
Of the day trips we’ve done this year, one was to Troyan Monastery (who am I kidding, I just wanted to go to the big pottery exhibition next door) and the rest have all been Sofia. All of them. It’s like the rest of Bulgaria ceased to exist for me during the pandemic, and now – thanks to having visitors – I’ve finally been reminded that there are other places to go besides Sofia.
(I’m excluding going on hikes and stuff. We do plenty of that. And we went on our beach holiday to the Black Sea in August. I’m talking about a good old-fashioned day trip, of the ‘packing snacks and a flask of tea, driving 150 km, making sure you have layers of clothing’ variety. Basically, a school trip, but for adults. That sort of day out.)
Anyway, we did a few nice day trips with Rob’s parents…
Man, I was bowled over by the beauty of this area. Driving along the snaking roads, stopping to admire the dramatic rock formations and monasteries, reminded me a bit of the Rhodope region. And when you get to Lakatnik, there’s a cave to explore, hiking trails, a pretty spring, more lovely rock formations, and a striking wooden hut nestled into the cliff face.
It’s almost shameful that we’ve never been here before. It’s not that far from us really, about 90 minutes (that’s on slow-ish roads) – and it’s still in the Sofia region. Which, as should be obvious by now, is always a plus as far as we’re concerned! You can even get a train from Sofia to Lakatnik. Judging by the scenery, I bet it’s a beautiful train ride.
We didn’t do a lot of hiking in the area. (For some reason, many of the people who come to visit us from England don’t like walking uphill. Which is … challenging when you live in the mountains.) But we’ll come back soon, just the two of us, and explore the trails in more depth.
This wasn’t the first time we’ve been to this open-air ethnographic museum, and it probably won’t be the last. It’s quaint. It’s easy to get to. There’s a shop selling handmade silver jewellery and another that sells handmade knives. So that’s both my bases covered. (‘Earrings for show, knives for a pro.’)
We toyed with the idea of going on to the Shipka monument and checking out what’s happening at Buzludzha, but the heaven’s opened (and, again, schlepping up hills doesn’t appeal to everyone). It’s another item on the list of things for us to do ‘one day’.
This is only about 30 km from us and we used to go here regularly. (It’s just outside Lukovit, which for years has been the location of our nearest Lidl, so we’d go here for a walk whenever we did a food shop. But lately we’ve just been popping into Lidl whenever we’re in Sofia instead. Which is, as mentioned, often. My point is, we haven’t been over Lukovit way for ages.)
If you’re in the area and you like gentle, photogenic, riverside strolls, this is a lovely place to spend an hour or two. I don’t know why, but the river itself always looks so magical and compelling to me – I feel a strong urge to jump into the milky blue water every time I come here. The wooden bridges and walkways are cute, and there’s a little cave to explore. But it’s mostly about strolling and soaking up the peace.
Speaking of which, in the last year or two, the river has been touristified, with kayaks and pedalos for hire, and motor boat rides on offer. I’m ambivalent about this, to be honest. Kayaking down the river seems like fun and I’m generally in favour of anything that gets more people out in nature, but the motor boats ferrying folks along the river were bloody noisy.
So that’s what we’ve been up to lately. How about you? Been on any nice day trips of the ‘flask and anorak’ variety? Do tell.