Bulgaria: Vidin and Belogradchik Fortress

Post 10 of a series detailing our Eastern Europe road trip. View all the posts so far here.

We stopped in Vidin, Bulgaria, to break up the journey from Belgrade to Sofia and, most importantly, to give us time to see the Belogradchik Rocks. I can’t resist a strange geological formation (my favourite to date being the hoodoos of Bryce Canyon, USA) so seeing a fortress built within a mound of knobbly, twiglet-like rocks was an absolute must. It didn’t disappoint!

Anna-Kristina Hotel

After a long day of driving through Serbia’s Djerdap National Park, we really appreciated the warm welcome at Vidin’s Anna-Kristina hotel. The friendly staff at reception took our bags up to our room, enabling us to head straight to dinner.

We were directed to a kind of restaurant marquee beside the outdoor pool, comprising a wooden frame covered with thick plastic sheeting. Despite appearances it was warm, comfortable, and had a really nice almost-outdoors ambience too. I had the dish labelled ‘Sach’, which was pork cooked on a sizzling-hot plate with peppers, onions and mushrooms, while Steve had pork and mushrooms in gravy with a sprinkling of roquefort cheese. Both were filling and delicious. We shared a gorgeous melting-middle chocolate pudding for dessert before heading to bed.

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A walk through Vidin

The following morning we enjoyed a decent buffet breakfast in the hotel’s downstairs breakfast room, before walking out to explore Vidin a little. The landscaped waterfront was very quiet, with barely a soul around but us. We passed one particularly grand but hollowed-out building, towering and crumbling, that added to the ‘ghost town’ feeling.

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We walked along the riverbank until we reached Baba Vidin, the town’s fortress (another one!). Unfortunately, we were unable to go inside as we hadn’t yet acquired any Bulgarian lev to pay the entrance fee. It was interesting to see and worth the walk nevertheless.

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Belogradchik Rocks
We made sure to get some cash from an ATM in Vidin before leaving for Belogradchik. When we reached the dramatic, hilltop fortress, we were able to park our car right outside. It costs just 6 lev to get in, which is a bargain for such an incredible place. Even from the outside, the fortress looks surreal and fantasy-like – you can imagine dragons hiding among its bulbous rock columns, eyeing the red-roofed houses clustered below.

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Climb the stairs to the entrance of this half-natural, half-manmade wonder and you enter a bouldering playground. I was in my element clambering up to different ledges and gazing, awe-struck, at the spectacular views of the town and the rock-forest below. The whole area would be an amazing place to hike if you had the time.

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Lunch at Pri Ivan

Once we’d exhausted the fortress’s every nook and cranny, we walked into Belgradchik to find lunch. With Tripadvisor’s help we found a lovely, surprisingly empty restaurant called Pri Ivan, hidden up a steep side street. The menu was more Serbian than Bulgarian and I was glad to have another chance to try a Serbian dish.

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I ordered the Pljeskavica: a large ground-beef patty, in this instance topped with bacon and cheese (as if the patty alone wasn’t fattening enough!). I ordered some (badly needed) roast vegetables as a side. Steve clearly saw no need for healthy accompaniments, ordering a ham and mushroom pizza alongside chips covered in ‘white cheese’ (this is ubiquitous in this part of the world, but I still don’t know what type of cheese it is!). The food was really tasty but, like practically every other meal ordered on this holiday, there was too much of it and we had the leftovers packaged to take away.

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From there we began a three-hour drive to Sofia. The drive was one of the most enjoyable we’d had yet, taking us over forested mountains and through glorious green vistas. Three days in Bulgaria’s cosmopolitan capital city awaited us.

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