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Roussenski Lom – the secrets of the valley

George Georgiev

I have heard a lot about the beautiful site along the banks of Beli Lom, Malki Lom, Cherni Lom and Rusenski Lom Rivers, which was announced as a Natural Park “Roussenski Lom”. I have read about the beautiful valleys and canyons, for the rich flora and fauna, about the caves, which were inhabited in prehistoric times, the Cherven fortress, the rocky monasteries and the incredible feeling, that seizes you when visiting the park. However no matter what I have heard, and what I have read about the site, it was hard to describe what I felt there, although I have to admit that I saw just a small part of the park, which takes an area of 3260 hectares, 20 – 30 km south of Rousse city.

One day in the end of April I had to go to Rousse. This was a great opportunity for me to visit this unique natural park. I drove along the road from Svishtov to Rousse, when I saw the junction for Cherven village. Not long afterwards a wide plateau site, surrounded by vertical cliffs with a fortified tower on top, surrounded by medieval ruins appeared in front of my sight. Far in the distance the colours of green meadows and ploughed fields, lighted by the warm, setting sun. This was followed by a weaving road down, which passes through the village and leads to the entrance of the fortress, at the foot of the cliffs. The fortress can be reached by steep, cut in the rock steps, but the view, that is revealing when you reach the top definitely worth the effort. The fortification tower is one of the few preserved authentic fortification equipments in Bulgaria. The remains from churches and administrative centre are from the apogee of the Second Bulgarian Kingdom.

I was a little bit tired by the ascending trip, so I sat down among the ruins, and than it was when I felt the magic of this site. The leaves of the trees whispered the story of the ancient town. “Right here, where you are now sitting”… said they “…is the house of a local aristocrat. He sat on his veranda, enjoying the beautiful sunset. This same day he has made a tour round his lands and was happy, because the crop this year seemed to be rich. Servant were helping him to take off his boots and remove his garments, and hi turned his head towards the main gate of the town, which was getting noisy. The guards harshly moved to clear the way of an old ascetic monk, riding a lean donkey – the abbot of the nearby rock monastery. The honorable Bolyar stood up, clapped his hands and asked his servants to prepare the table, and he got out on his own to welcome the holy man. Craftsman and merchandisers gathered their goods and bowed in front of the monk. Just like that”- whispered the leaves – “people lived in the end of the 14th , just before the time when Bulgaria fell under Ottoman rule.” I am sure that they were about to tell me more stories, but I had to continue my way on.

I went out on the main road and headed to the Ivanovo village, where the Ivanovo rock churches are cut in the cliffs. I reached the foothill of the rocks by dusk and I was met by the guide of the complex. I was sorry to find out that his working time has ended. However, after a short conversation he took out a bunch of keys and said: “Everything that the valley is hiding is behind these locks. Go and take some pictures, communicate with the nature and use your chance completely.” At that exact moment, I thought that the man in front of me is not the guide, but the ancient guard in this holy site. I had no time to loose and immediately headed towards the rock churches, which are rising 36 metres above the river. In fact the complex comprised of 40 medieval churches and over 300 rooms, but most of them were destroyed by earthquackes, atmosphere influence and human impact. Today just the first church is opened and is protected by UNESCO. The most valuable parts of it are the unique wall paintings, preserved ever since the complex was created. I also had the keys to the other three, relatively well preserved sites, and there was no way that I could miss them. And although the paintings were severely damaged, I could clearly see wall paintings, a masterpiece created by the medieval icon- painters.

The inhibitors of the valley were even more impressing, although I could only hear their voices. When I got closer to the river, the sounds of the frog chorus were winding with the soft solo performing of the nightingale. From time to time I could clearly hear the voice of a cuckoo bird, and the jays constantly informed the inhibitors of the forest for each step that I made. Later I heard the screech – owl, and up in the blue sky hawks were flying. I often crossed the prints of wild boars, and in a moment, just a few centimeters away from my feet, a colourful snake was trying to catch the lust sun beams.
As it was getting late, I found my way back, when a versicolored pheasant crossed my way. At first the bird was stunned, starring at me, when I raised my camera, it rushed in panic, trying to escape. I think, that I have never seen such a fast animal before.

The next day I visited the only one functional rock monastery in Bulgaria, the Basarbovski monastery, 10 km away from Rousse. The monastery is extremely well preserved and is a real attraction. The church and the sells are rising high above the river and have preserved it look ever since it was created, around 14 – 15th century.

This was my stay in the Natural park “Roussenski Lom”, but the time I spent in the site, seemed to me insufficient to enjoy the incredible beauty and grandeur in this site. Thus I recommend everyone, who decides to come here, to plan at least 2- 3 days, to be able to feel the atmosphere of the park and to rediscover the secrets of the valley.

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