VARVARA'S IRON TREE

by Dimana Trankova; photography by Anthony Georgieff

Abandoned move prop becomes local curiosity

iron tree bulgaria 4.jpg

Agroup of friends meet each summer at the seaside, a small community who know one another so well that boredom becomes inevitable, and so do internal conflicts. And death. The script of The Big Night Swim, a movie that premiered in 1980, sums up what existential angst and ennui looked like in Communist Bulgaria, or at least in Communist Bulgaria's "intellectual elite." Significantly, the movie was shot at a relatively remote location the village of Varvara.

At the southern Black Sea coast, Varvara is near Turkey. As it is situated somewhat inland and lacks a proper beach, it was never seen as a major tourist spot in the mould of Sozopol and Ahtopol. Despite this – or probably because of it – the village became the darling of Sofia's arty and alternative crowds, which started arriving in the early 1980s. They came here attracted by the remoteness of the place and its dramatic sea cliffs. The most popular of these are the Dardanelite, named after the Dardanelles straits, and the Mekite Skali, or Soft Rocks.

When the film crew that made The Big Night Swim packed their bags and returned to civilization, they left behind something that eventually became a destination on its own: a large metal tree. Now known as the Iron Tree, it stands on the windswept shore over the Dardanelite Rocks, a picturesque and slightly menacing apparition.

For some, it is rather romantic – in the 2010s the Iron Tree became a spot for the Bulgarian celebration of the 1 July sunrise, a tradition that started sometimes in the 1980s and focuses on spending the night, awake, by the sea and playing Uriah Heep's long forgotten hit July Morning when the first rays of the sun appear over the horizon.

As for Varvara itself, in the 2020s the village is not only the realm for latterday hippies and hipsters. The Iron Tree has become a magnet for photographers. You can photograph it day and night, in summer or in wintertime, come rain or come shine. There are no special requirements here with the possible exception of a wide-angle lens. The tree can be seen from low or waits-height angles from all sides. As you have a direct view to the north, this is a good spot for some Polaris photography. Bring a sturdy tripod as it can get very windy by the cliffs.

  • COMMENTING RULES

    Commenting on www.vagabond.bg

    Vagabond Media Ltd requires you to submit a valid email to comment on www.vagabond.bg to secure that you are not a bot or a spammer. Learn more on how the company manages your personal information on our Privacy Policy. By filling the comment form you declare that you will not use www.vagabond.bg for the purpose of violating the laws of the Republic of Bulgaria. When commenting on www.vagabond.bg please observe some simple rules. You must avoid sexually explicit language and racist, vulgar, religiously intolerant or obscene comments aiming to insult Vagabond Media Ltd, other companies, countries, nationalities, confessions or authors of postings and/or other comments. Do not post spam. Write in English. Unsolicited commercial messages, obscene postings and personal attacks will be removed without notice. The comments will be moderated and may take some time to appear on www.vagabond.bg.

Add new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.

Restricted HTML

  • Allowed HTML tags: <a href hreflang> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote cite> <code> <ul type> <ol start type> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd> <h2 id> <h3 id> <h4 id> <h5 id> <h6 id>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Web page addresses and email addresses turn into links automatically.

Discover More

WAR & PEACE IN CENTRAL SOFIA
Squirrels and small children frequent unkempt alleys under towering oak and beech trees; а romantic wooden gazebo is often decorated with balloons forgotten after some openair birthday party; melancholic weeping willows hang over an empty artif

SOFIA'S BEST-KEPT SECRET
In 1965, Dimitar Kovachev, a biology teacher from the town of Asenovgrad, was on a field trip to Ezerovo village.

WHAT IS DZHULAYA?
How often do you hum, while driving or doing chores, Uriah Heep's song July Morning? Is it on your Spotify?

MYSTERY CAVE
Bulgaria has its fair share of intriguing caves, from the Devil's Throat underground waterfall to Prohodna's eyes-like openings and the Magura's prehistoric rock art.

RHODOPE'S MANMADE LAKES
Owing to its geological history, the Rhodope mountain range – in contrast to the nearby Rila and Pirin – lacks any impressive Alpine-style lakes. However, where nature erred, man stepped in.

IS RACISM IN BULGARIA ON THE RISE?
"We are fascists, we burn Arabs": the youngsters start chanting as soon as they emerge from the metro station and leave the perimeter of its security cameras.

HOW WOODROW WILSON AND CHARLES DARWIN CAME TO SOFIA
The names of foreigners, mainly Russians, are common across the map of Sofia – from Alexandr Dondukov and Count Ignatieff to Alexey Tolstoy (a Communist-era Soviet writer not to be confused with Leo Tolstoy) who has a whole housing estate named after him.

EMBRACE THE PAST
Picturesque old houses lining a narrow river and tiny shops selling hand-made sweets, knives and fabrics: The Etara open air museum recreates a charming, idealised version of mid-19th century Bulgaria.

JESUS CHRIST ASTRONAUT
Christ was an alien. Or if He was not, then four centuries ago there were UFOs hovering over what is now southwestern Bulgaria.

OF SHPAGINS, TANKS AND ALYOSHAS
Unlike other countries in Central and Eastern Europe, which removed, stashed away or demolished most remnants of their Communist past as early as the 1990s, Bulgaria is a curiosity.

TAILLESS CATS AND MADMEN MAKING POLITICAL DEMANDS
Descendants of millennia-old rites, the scary kukeri, or mummers, are the best known face of Bulgarian carnival tradition. Gabrovo's carnival is its modern face: fun, critical, and colourful.

LET'S PICK SOME ROSES
Both high-end perfumes and more run-of-the-mill cosmetics would be impossible without a humble plant that thrives in a couple of pockets around the world, the oil-bearing rose. Bulgaria is one of these places.