With its rolling hills and uninspiring towns, the central part of northern Bulgaria appears unexciting and dull, a place you pass through on your way to somewhere else.
However, as so often happens in Bulgaria, appearances are deceiving. Leave the main road and you will discover that the rolling hills hide intriguing natural phenomena.
The Krushuna Waterfalls is one of the best known. Located by the eponymous village, near the town of Letnitsa, the waterfalls started to attract visitors in the 2000s, when an eco trail was built around them.
The Krushuna Waterfalls is a cascade carved by the Proynovska River into the soft travertine rock, the largest formation of this sort in Bulgaria.
Emerging from a large and menacing cave called Maarata, the first of the waterfalls is also the highest. It cascades from 15m, and is also the only one with its own name, Praskaloto, or The Sprinkler. The rest of the falls remain nameless, but you do not need names to appreciate the surreal beauty of this maze of constantly running water, small basins and thick moss hanging from strange rock formations, blurry in the damp mist. The atmosphere is almost tropical, a tamed Asian jungle ready for exploration by the weekend visitor.
Man-made niches cover the rocks around the waterfalls, the only sign that in the Middle Ages monks used to call the cascade home. Here, they practiced Hesychasm, a mystic Eastern Orthodox tradition prescribing personal salvation through contemplative prayer.
The history of the area runs deeper. Nearby Letnitsa is where one of the most fascinating Thracian treasures was found: a set of gold and silver bridle decorations depicting the life of a Thracian sacred king. The town itself is unexalting, but 2 kilometres beyond there is another waterfall. The Urushki Waterfall is 20m high and has the same tropical feel as the ones in Krushuna. It, too, springs from a cave, the Urushka Maara. In the past Yuruk nomadic shepherds used to keep their flocks there, hence the name.
About 7 kilometres from Letnitsa, however, is a much more spectacular cave: the Devetaki Cave, a cavern rising up to 60m high.
For several years now, the Devetaki Plateau, where the Krushuna Waterfalls are located, has been developing rural and eco tourism. The local villages offer proper guesthouses, and the area contains many more caves, archaeological sights and paths to explore.
For more information, including upcoming events, check www.devetakiplateau.org.
The waterfalls are at their best in spring when they swell from snowmelt
High Beam is a series of articles, initiated by Vagabond Magazine, with the generous support of the America for Bulgaria Foundation, that aims to provide details and background of places, cultural entities, events, personalities and facts of life that are sometimes difficult to understand for the outsider in the Balkans. The ultimate aim is the preservation of Bulgaria's cultural heritage – including but not limited to archaeological, cultural and ethnic diversity. The statements and opinionsexpressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the America for Bulgaria Foundation and its partners.