Whenever one books through a new web site there is always a slight doubt that what you booked will be what you get. With Traventuria we were reassured as soon as we walked through the airport terminal, where we were met by Roman who gave us a great drive to Devin. He also passed to us our "Guide Book" and a for each of us drink bottles, neck scarves and money belts, which were unexpected surprises.
The first morning’s walk out of Devin was, indeed, an inspiring introduction to the area, it’s scenery, fauna, flora and geology. The efforts that have been made to build the suspended eco-path walkway over the river, were very impressive. (Is this part of a long-distance path?) we managed to see the waterfalls and, possibly, the ruin of the castle/fort/look-out, though we are not convinced about that! Well worth the haul up to it anyway for the fantastic views from the ridge! On returning to the car park the mini bus was waiting for us and we were greeted by our, second, cheerful and professional driver for a fantastically scenic drive to Yagodina.
After a brief lunch stop we escaped from the tourist trap and headed off for Trigrad. This was really our first opportunity to come to terms with our “book of instructions” and to interpret the directions to the countryside. After the morning’s exertions we were now walking in rain and it is a fair walk to Trigrad from Yagadina, very enjoyable woodland walking with some splendid views from the rare partings between the trees. Part of the route will form a section of a new Long Distance path, The Walk of the Sultan (2000k from Vienna to Istanbul). Once up on the pastures and around the village of Yagodina we had the chance to see a wider variety of flora and broader views. We had been curious about the navigation landmarks but the “alcoves” were welcome shelters and the fountains provided fresh, sweet drinking water throughout. And so to Trigrad and the welcome sight of Hotel Triibia. The text in the “book of instructions”, combined with the Google Earth maps and the printed map had provided perfectly adequate directions and proved to be reliable throughout the week. our smiling driver had delivered our bags and we were greeted cheerily by the Lady of the House, who proved to be an amicable host. After a shower we headed back to the village to find a beer at the bar we had passed on the way to the hotel. It is worth noting that the young lady who seemed to be running the bar spoke good English and was able to help us out. Returning to the hotel we had a substantial meal to end our first, thoroughly enjoyable, day.
Breakfast at the Triibia is an experience! We were served with so much food that more than half of it was wrapped-up for lunch! The walk up through the forest to Vodni Pad provided limited views but Vadni Pad and the return down the valley were a delight. We arrived at the “horse base” at about 13.30, much too early to return to the hotel. So we stopped for a cask beer or two, which made a nice change from the usual bottles. As well as being a well-equipped stables and riding school, offering treks to Vadni Pad and along other local trails, also hires out mountain bikes. We all agreed that today’s walk would have been great fun on a bike! And so after a few beers, back to the Triibia via the fish farm, for a shower and then up to Trgrad to explore the village, returning in time for another excellent evening meal.
The third day’s walk via Zhrebevo started after another substantial breakfast. The start of the walk, after the initial ramp up from the road, gave some inspiring views of the Trigrad Gorge before taking one of the ancient Mycenaean pathways up to some beautiful pastures with masses of wild flowers, even this late in the season. We managed to lose our way twice today but following the advice to retrace our steps and try again, we soon found where we had gone wrong. Wild strawberries and sweet wild plums provided diversions as we walked and the Bulgarian Pyramid provided some interesting photos! Again we completed the walk, as far as the stables bar at about 14.00. walking on through Trigrad we ended our day at “The Hut” for a few beers and a game of “General” with a couple of lads from Sofia. One of our group did go down to the entrance to the Devil’s Throat so that he could get some photos of the Gorge. Back to the hotel to shower and have another fine evening meal.
After breakfast we were again greeted by our smiling driver and his green mini bus for our transfer to Beden. So, well fed again and loaded up we had a spectacular drive down the Trigrad Gorge and along the river before climbing up to Beden. Today’s walk was certainly the least forested and probably the most scenic day of the week. Walking in fine sunshine we were amongst butterflies nearly all day! on one of the, briefer, forest stretches we had a close encounter with a capercaillie who was quite unbothered by our presence as he stomped about his territory. Only one short navigational error today and we were all well in to our stride so we arrived in Liaskovo in “record time” according to (another) Roman, our host for the night, who met us as we turned up from the village square.
If we were to pick out a highlight of the week it would be the walk here and the evening spent with Roman and his wife. They are tremendous hosts and, whilst his wife was running the house, Roman joined us on the veranda and gave his time willingly to talk with us and share his “museum”. The evening meal was without doubt the best of the week! the Rosenovi was comfortable and so friendly that I will certainly put it in my list of places to return to.
After another good breakfast and loaded up with a substantial packed lunch, Roman led us to the start of the last walk. Bidding him a fond farewell we headed up through the woods towards Miraculous Bridges. Where-ever you walk it is a truism that ancient paths are at an angle up and down hill that you can walk all day without becoming breathless. Get on to a “new” linking path and the angle steepens and becomes much less enjoyable. This was particularly true today as we headed up along the old forestry tracks and then dived up between the trees on the stepper trail shortcut. A good day’s exercise certainly but short on scenery until the gorge at the end, which despite the constant rain, we reached in “record time” again according to Roman. Still that gave us plenty of time to explore the sights and get a coffee at the café at the top of the visitors centre.
Roman arrived and drove us to Kosovo for our last night in the Rhodopes. A beautiful village and the perfect spot to end a good week of walking. Again the hospitality was first class and it was very interesting to hear of the history of the village and the issues that are now faced in its conservation and re-development. Sitting on the veranda with a beer watching the cloud slowly rise up the forested valley to reveal the hill tops was a fitting end to a well organised week. an excellent evening meal followed by a well-earned sleep restored us, with the help of a fine breakfast.
We had plenty of time in the morning to follow little used paths across to the far side of the villages and circle back round to have our bags ready to load in to the car when it arrives. Our driver was, once again brilliant. As well as going to the monastery he was able to take us to a ruined fort which protected the route to the Aegean and we managed to see where the amphitheater is in Plovdiv on our way through. He delivered us safely to our hotel in Sofia in plenty of time for us to join the free tour of the sights at 18.00, which is well worth doing. We ended our day at a restaurant just down the road from our hotel (I have no idea of its name but there was a cart suspended over the entrance-way).
Our final taxi took us to the airport in good time for our return flight.
Would I use Traventuria again, YES most certainly. I am hoping that a group of us will be able to book through them for their Pirin and Rila self-guided walking tour next year.
Did this trip represent good value for money, YES without doubt.
Was the walking good, YES as good as it could be in such forested country. It was certainly a pleasure to walk all day and see virtually no one.
Was the accommodation satisfactory, YES better than satisfactory it was VERY GOOD.