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Out and About around Vidin

The town of Kula is 32 kms to the west of Vidin and just 13kms from the Serbian border. At the start of the 20th Century people from the area of Teteven (central Bulgaria, Stara Planina mountain range) came to settle in Kula. It is believed that they came from the village named Golyam Izvor and strangely enough not far from Kula in Serbia itself there is also a village with the same name, most of whose inhabitants also speak Bulgarian!


Perhaps Kula has some particular attraction for people from elsewhere as two Italians also settled here. The first was Umbert Berborov who came after the First World War and after the Second World War came Renato Karloni. These days there are around 5,000 inhabitants in the town.

Kula was built on an old Roman fortress called Kastra Martis and today you can still visit this magnificent tower which rises up right in the centre of the town. Its origins date from the end of the 3rd Century and start of the 4th Century when the Danubean boundary was restored and new fortresses were built inland from the river.

Kastra Martis had a strategic role in guarding the road from Bononya province to Singidunum (these days called Belgrade) and held a key position in protecting the lands in the most western part of the Stara Planina during the 4th to 5th Centuries. However, the fortress was later destroyed during the Avars invasion and it was not until the 14th Century that it was partially restored and was used in the protection of the Vidin feudal kingdom.

Set on the steep southern slope of the Voinishka River, the central building faces the northern fortress wall. There is a central inner yard surrounded by two storey buildings. The large one on the northern side of the yard was a gathering point for commanders. Near to the fortress remains is a small building which houses an exhibition illustrating the culture of the local population through the ages and also including life in the fortress, with maps and military plans, tools and instruments used by the soldiers.

Belogradchik
This has to be one of the most welcoming and attractive tourism sites in Bulgaria. The town is just 52 kms from Vidin and is set in one of the most fantastic natural environments. The two main interests are the Belogradchik Rocks and the Balogradchik Fortress.

Belogradchik Rocks
These unique red rock formations have been moulded by nature during some 200 million years. This is a fascinating place for anyone, not just those interested in natural wonders.
The formation of the rocks started when the red sandstone and limestone were on the bottom of a huge sea and the earlier Paleozoic rocks stayed on dry land and began to gradually weather and change. The weathering process over millions of years has resulted in a multitude of fantastic figures and shapes.

Visitors will instantly recognise rocks called ‘The School Girl’, ‘The Mushrooms, ‘The Bear’ and ‘The Monks’, along with others. Covering some 90 sq. kms. this is a sight which really has to be seen!


Belogradchik Fortress
The fortress arose on a small scale during the 1st to 3rd Centuries built on the highest point of the rock massif in the area.

It was to guard the road from Ratsiaria on the Danube going south (eventually culminating in Rome), which was used predominantly for military purposes. The fortress was at that time surrounded by 150 plus meter deep pits so that the only access was by a ladder cut directly into the rock.

During the latter part of the 14th Century the fortification was expanded with two more huge walls and a garrison. It was at this time that the fortress became the second best, only coming behind Vidin in importance. The fortress went through periods of Hungarians, Ottomans and Turks. The largest reconstruction and enlargement of the fortress was during the early 1800’s with the addition of 12 meter walls, three interior yards, metal gates and ammunition depots, plus an outer defence. The remains which you can see today are the headquarters of the guards and the passageways under the fortress, which were used mostly for storage.

The fortress is amazing not only for its history but for its visual impact. The castle walls are decorated with all manner of columns and reliefs of plants and animals. The entrance arches are a stunning combination of red and white rock. One of the best preserved fortresses in the country.
Perhaps Gerome Blanqui summed it up best when he wrote in 1841 ‘Neither the famous Ollioules gorges in Provence, the Pincarbo defile in Spain, the Alps, nor the most ancient mountains of Tirol and Switzerland possess anything that could be compared with what I have seen in Belogradchik’.



Lom
The town of Lom with around 29,000 inhabitants and 56 kms south east of Vidin, is set on the bank of the Danube at the estuary with the Lom River. It is the second most important port on the Danube after Rousse.

Lom’s inhabitants are spread amongst the inevitable apartment blocks and houses, ranging from the small town centre buildings to the grandiose old houses, set on the hills overlooking the town and river, and reminiscent of it's more splendid past.

Lom is a major trade centre ,with it’s port being second only in importance on the Danube to Rousse, and housing a large customs point. It has good links to Sofia, other large towns and cities in Bulgaria, and through to Greece via its rail and bus links and the good highway connection through to Sofia.


The town is lively and bustling with many young people frequenting the pavement cafes and bars, dancing the night away in the new discotheque and buying their clothes, shoes and electrical items, mobile phones, CD’s etc from the many shops in the town. There is also a good middleaged and older population, giving the town a truly settled family feel with a friendly and open disposition to the visitor.


The town is built around the large central square with it's large monuments and splendid old buildings, some of which need to be brought back into a good state of repair, but one can still see how beautiful the original architecture truly was.

There is also a large daily bazaar selling all sorts of garden produce, meat, clothing, shoes, accessories, plants etc which comes alive on a Saturday and is bursting with throngs of people.

The amenities are all set close to the central square and easily accessible, so it is not far to walk to find the banks, post office, police station, hospital, lawyers offices, hairdressers and the like while browsing through the many shops. Although English is not widely spoken, anyone who can speak a little, is always anxious to help in any way they can, and all the local tradespeople are friendly and helpful.
There are several good hotels and restaurants to visit, many with live music in the evenings and of course the river with it's stunning views across to Romania, good fishing, water sports and swimming.

A nice town to visit and spend some time, the face of which is changing and improving on a daily basis, as the flower beds are planted, new seating installed all around the public areas and new wide pedestrian areas created.

Things to see and do
The Town Museum of History  is actually housed in the interesting old town hall.

The Beach - this is a 500 m. long stretch of pebbled beach on the bank of the Danube and about 3 kms from the centre of town
Preserved remains of the ancient fortress of Almus

Borunska Church
Surrounded by many pretty villages, and mountains in the not too distant area, beautiful lakes and fertile land full of sunflowers in the summer, a real little undiscovered gem in this corner of Bulgaria.

Magura Caves
This is one of the most beautiful caves in Bulgaria. It is hollowed out in the Rabisha Hill and is one of the largest in the country. The galleries exceed 2,000 meters and consist of a main gallery with three side branches. The halls are enormous, each one over 200m long, more than 50m wide and over 20 m high.

Champagne Magura - the area offers favourable climatic conditions which are similar to those of the Champagne region of France. The Magura caves provide the steady temperatures and humidity required to make champagne-like wines ... and in one part of the caves these naturally fizzy wines are produced

Rabisha Lake
The largest inland lake in Bulgaria and up to 40m deep. The lake offers excellent conditions for windsurfing and swimming. Also attractive to fishermen with carp and sheet-fish to be found.

Along the Danube
This splendid wide river offers wonderful opportunities for sport, fishing, water sports and just pure relaxation.

There is a big water tourist base in Vidin where you can start lovely river excursions. The Orlyaka recreation area is located just 4kms southwest of the town on the river and certainly worth a visit if you have children. Bozhuritsa is another recreation area, 18kms from Vidin. It has a small dam and is set in a forest environment with swimming, rowing and fishing, along with beautiful forest walks. If you can’t face the eco treks, you can always take a gentle outing on a horse and cart.

Rastaria is the name of an ancient Roman town, set close to the village of Archar which is 27kms to the south east of Vidin. Worth a visit to see the ancient ruins.

 


 

Off the Beaten Path...
Chiprovtsi
A charming village set in beautiful surroundings. Only 3,100 inhabitants the village is quite a way from Vidin but worth visiting. Don’t miss the waterfall - although not high, the place where it is located is really beautiful and picturesque.

Chiprovtsi Monastery
Situated 6kms to the north east of the village of the same name. This monastery, called St John of Rila has its origins in the 10th Century. It is one of the monasteries which were built during the first Bulgarian state which strengthened Christianity and helped Cyril and Metodius who introduced the cyrillic alphabet into the country. If survived an invasion in the 13th Century, Ottoman rule and the raids of Mihail Hrabri. During uprisings it acted as a main shelter for the Chiprovtsi inhabitants. Raided and robbed on several occasions it was also partially destroyed and then reconstructed during the 19th Century

Lopushanski Monastery
in Chiprovtsi area, 20 kms north east of Chiprovtsi, is impressive for its proportions and architecture. It was renovated in 1850 by priests from the Chiprovski monastery. Architecturally it is a monumental building and looks like the main church of Rila monastery. There are stone reliefs on the walls and on the monastery gates. In the monastery you’ll find old icons and iconostasis. They were made in 1863 by the Bulgarian Revival artist Stanislav Dospevski (1823-1888). The wood-carving iconostasis of the cloister is of historical value.

Kozarnika Cave
3 kms from the village of Oreslets, since 1984 archaeologists have been excavating this cave and have discovered numerous artifacts dating from the Early Paleolithic (1.4 million years ago) evidencing human presence that arguably includes the earliest traces of man ever found on the European sub-continent.

Rakovitsa Monastery
32 kms from Vidin and 4kms from the village of Rakovitsa, this was built in the 10th and 11th Centuries


Dobridol Monastery
25 kms west from town of Lom, the monastery was founded in 11th century


Chuprene Nature Reserve
Protected by Unesco, this covers an area of 15,000,000 sq.m. and is home to the only capercaillie population in Bulgaria. There are some 10 eco-trails offering a beautiful area for a quieter holiday.

If you are interested in investment in this beautiful region read Buying a House in Bulgaria - Vidin