PINNACLES OF LEGEND

by Dimana Trankova; photography by Anthony Georgieff

Rock formation at Stob tells of dark deeds and... climate change

stunning stone pyramids bulgaria

We often take landscapes for granted: the mountains and the river valleys we love to look at and explore seem immune to the passage of time, eternal and unchanging, even though we know this is not true. The landscapes that we inhabit are in a constant state of reshaping, albeit happening so slowly that our human eyes cannot mark the changes – incomparably long compared to not only our short lives, but also to human civilisation.

There are places where these slow geological changes are more perceptible. The buttes and hoodoos of Stob, a rock formation on the road to Rila Monastery, belong to them.

These spiky, vividly red and yellow pinnacles that rise from the steep slopes above the village are the direct result of recent (geologically speaking) climate change.

stob pyramids

When the last Ice Age ended in this part of Europe, about 12,000 years ago, its glaciers loosened their grip on the frozen slopes of the Rila mountains, and then withdrew, leaving behind a cover of fine debris. This turned into soil, but at certain places – most notably on a slope by the Rilska River – this was not the end of it. Wind, sun and rain started eating into the soft crust of the hill and created tall columns.

This was how the hoodoos at Stob, one of Bulgaria's more popular off-the-beaten-track tourist sites, appeared.

Visiting this collection of pinnacles up to 12m high, which covers about 180 acres, is easy. Leave the busy E79 road to the Kulata border checkpoint with Greece when you see the sign for Rila Monastery, and after Kocherinovo head towards Stob.

The sleepy village lies at the foot of the hoodoos, to which leads the easily-accessible eco path. Its trailhead is at the local church.

The best time to visit and marvel at this natural phenomenon is at sunset, when the last rays of light illuminate the hoodoos with the most beautiful shades of red, orange and yellow.

stob pyramids

The result is an unearthly landscape, more resembling something from a dream than ordinary Bulgarian reality.

Understandably, the rocks have become the source of local legends about love, lust and jealousy. Probably the most popular one tells of a boy and girl who decided to marry against the will of the boy's mother. Infuriated with her son's betrayal, she stuck a cross into the earth and cursed all the wedding guests. God heard, and everyone in the party froze into stone for all eternity.

Another version blames the phenomenon on the lustful best-man, who was so enchanted with the beauty of the bride that he tried to kiss her. Appalled by his misdeed, the whole wedding party turned to stone – literally.

A third story concerns a Christian girl and a Muslim boy who could not marry because of their different religions. In despair, the girl threw herself from a high rock and was promptly transformed into the formation known as The Bride.

stob pyramids

All of these legends cannot conceal an important fact. The rock pinnacles at Stob are not static. The stone is too soft and easily collapses under the assault of the elements, so the landscape is constantly changing, with old hoodoos crumbling to dust and new ones being carved out of the slope, a slow but unending result of the forces of nature over which we have no power. 

  • 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

FROM BLACK ROCK DESERT, NV, TO NOVO SELO, BG
Organisers of the notorious Burning Man festival seem to have heeded the lessons of 2023 when festival-goers, paying uprwards of $500 for a ticket, had to wade, owing to torrential rains and flashfloods, through tons of mud in the northern Nevada desert.

AMAZING PLANTS & ANIMALS OF BULGARIA
In Bulgaria, nature has created a number of little wonders. They might not be spectacular or grandiose, but they constitute a vital part of the local wildlife, create a feeling of uniqueness and are sometimes the sole survivors of bygone geological epochs.

THE MANY FACES OF PALIKARI ROCKS
Next time you visit Sozopol, pay more attention not to the quaint houses in the Old Town, the beaches around or the quality of food and service in the restaurants. Instead, take a stroll by the sea and take in... the rocks. 

MOSQUE OF LEGENDS
Bulgaria's Ottoman heritage is the most neglected part of the rich past of this nation. This is a result of the trauma of five centuries spent under Ottoman domination additionally fanned up under Communism and up until this day.

CITY OF EAGLES
As the official symbol of Bulgaria, lions can be seen everywhere, from the national coat of arms to architectural ornaments to "patriotic" tattoos.

SOFIA'S STRANGE MONUMENTS
Some monuments impress with their size, artistic value or historical significance, and some have a hidden history to match.

KUKERI AND THEIR DANCES
From Venice to Rio, carnivals are a time honoured tradition to celebrate the end of winter with a riot of noise and dance, with masks and a temporary subversion of established social roles.

THE VELCHOVA ZAVERA HIKE
Еvery April, since 2020, hundreds of young Bulgarians gather in Veliko Tarnovo and embark on a meaningful journey, retracing the steps of a daring rebellion that took place in the town and its surroundings, in 1835.

SHIPS OF ROCK
Sinemorets, at Bulgaria's southern Black Sea coast, remains one of the most idyllic and calmly beautiful spots around.

TOP MUST-SEES IN 2024
When wanderlust grabs you in 2024 but deciding on your next destination is hard, here is a list of places to whet your appetite. Some of them are millennia old and others are new, but they are all remarkable and most are one-of-a-kind.

BRUTALIST BULGARIA
A white mammoth dominates the upper part of Boulevard Todor Aleksandrov in central Sofia. Its massive, concrete surfaces are imposing.

LES FRANÇAIS EN BULGARIE
Before English took over in Bulgaria, in the 1990s, mastering French was obligatory for the local elite and those who aspired to join it.