Location: Stara Planina Mountain Type: day trips around Sofia; hiking; monasteries; Bulgaria Suitable for children: yes; with a baby carrier for babies and toddlers
Do you have a favorite place in the world? I have an answer that pops in my head immediately – our family summer house in the mountains over Batulia. Where is this, you may ask. Batulia is not a fancy resort, but a tiny village located in Stara planina, near the Iskar gorge, no more than 40 km from Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria.
Most of my cherished childhood memories live there. The coziness of the cool adobe house in the summer, the aroma of the wild strawberry jam in the air, the songs of the crickets that animate the night, the lights of the fireflies that illuminate our family barbecues near the gazebo. Here is a peek at our yard in the summer…
Endless mountains are hugging the sky here. A stunning view is revealed from the windows of our house and from the meadow nearby, covered with a colorful carpet of wild flowers. One can see the hills of Stara planina huddled by the Iskar gorge and above them Sofia and Vitosha mountain. In clear weather you can even spot the snowy peaks of Rila mountain. Everywhere you look there is an Instagram worthy photo to be taken.
There are, of course, some setbacks like everything in life. The road up in the mountain that leads to our house is plain awful and if you don`t have a SUV you`ll have to walk. The difficult accessibility has its good side – the area is not so populated and you can enjoy a really peaceful vacation here. Abandoned old houses are a common sight.
I won`t invite you to our house, one of the hills nearby is famous enough with young campers as it is (they call it Schupen vruh and a couple of years ago we`ve stumbled upon a bachelor party there, the guys had even brought a stripper for the groom to be) . But I can tell you more about the beautiful places nearby.
The monastery was build in 1911-1913 by the priest Emanuil Zlatkov. He was a friend of Bulgarian prime minister Alexander Stamboliiski who even stayed here a couple of times. That is actually the reason why two of the monastery rooms are named after Stamboliiski.
The monastery courtyard is cozy and spacious, with trees that cast a thick shadow to chase the summer heat. You will definitely enjoy the peaceful scenery here.
The monastery could be reached by foot or by car along a steep dirt road to the right of the antifascist monument in the center of Batulia. Which bring us to the next landmark in the village…
Nothing special or interesting here, but it`s placed in the village center and you can`t miss it. The monument was build in 1973 in memory of the partisans from the battalion “Hristo Botev”. They fought in a battle nearby in 1944. Sadly, the monument is a little bit ugly. And I don`t have a picture. So you have to check it for yourself.
There are several places around the riverbed of Batulia river where one can sunbath and enjoy the water. You can easily spend the day here and also arrange a picnic among the green and delightful scenery. If you wish to swim in a pool, there is in fact one in Batulia where you`ll be offered beach chairs and umbrellas. We haven`t visit it yet so I can`t share any thoughts. But it looks nice from the photos.
Try the traditional cuisine
Batuliya may not be a big village but it has three restaurants or taverns for lack of a better description. The proper word in Bulgarian is kruchma. All of them are placed on the main road that crosses the village. We`ve only tried one of them – the AC DC kruchma. We call it this way because the owner is presumably a big fan and has put a large AC DC sign in front of his place. Here you can try the infamous shkembe chorba, shopska salad or fried meatballs with pom fries. Everything is very tasty and very cheap. And there are a lot of cats around.
Aside from everything described, the nature around the village will enchant you with its secludedness, fresh air, colors and tranquility. Go give it a try – visit Batulia.