Off The Main Road #1
In “Red Sneakers” we’re starting a series of short travel stories about places that can be reached by a mere turn off the main road. They are not our main destination, but this is no reason why we shouldn’t recommend them as “a must see”
Geopark “Iskar” – Panega.
It’s an hour drive from Sofia and has a powerful Zen energy. We raise both hands in favour of at least a two-hour stopover in the area. You are bound to experience the “here and now” moment and find yourself in the centre of your inner universe. It’s so relaxing. The views are gorgeous along the entire eco trail. Green suddenly became our favourite colour.
Skoka Waterfall over Teteven.
We had lunch in Ribaritsa. We love the ”Old Ribaritsa” complex at the very end of the village and we never miss the opportunity to taste the so called “meshavitsa” a mixed meat dish, prepared with several kinds of meat. But no matter what you order here, you’ll feel full and yet you’ll leave the restaurant eager to come back again. Everything is very delicious. We love their mish-mash too. It’s full of flavor, the portions are large enough for two and all the herbs come from the garden. We were travelling back to Sofia through Teteven, when, with the special spark in his eyes, George swerved off and took the mountain road. We left the car at the car park at the start of the eco trail leading to Skoka. Words fail me to describe all the delicate nuances of green I saw on the rail. I can only say that I physically felt what freshness is. We walked along a very pleasant path and I had the sensation my blood was being replaced by pure, exhilarating oxygen, a kind of fresh air I can’t remember breathing in a long time. Nature gave me a powerful treatment. The waterfall does not emit a mighty roar, but the road to it is worth every step.
When you are in the region of Smolyan and reach the village of Smylian, drive on up the road to the village of Arda. Then up again till the end of the road in the forest …and the border with Greece is only 3 minutes away. “Geranitsa”is a fairy tale, just like “Masha and the bear”, with a house, once a hunting lodge, in the heart of the forest, with little wooden stools and several beehives in the yard. Let me add an authentic recipe for Rhodopi patatnik (a local potato specialty), fragrant berry jam and fruit juice. The menu is excellent and everything is lovingly prepared by the hosts. Every customer is welcomed like a long- expected guest. In the yard of “Geranitsa” there are curious swings and a wooden construction reminding of an old-time Ferris wheel. ”Live while you are young” says a wooden board nailed on the tree to remind us of what nature whispers to all humans. Near the front door of the lodge there is a 600-year old birch tree with a little verandah in its crown. This is a place for people in love to meet. You have to be very careful who you travel to “Geranitsa” with, as you may end up falling in love. The beech tree is expecting you. Only the hosts of the lodge are more hospitable than this tree.
The Monastery above Glozhene.
We climbed up the road to the Monastery of Glozhene in the midst of autumn. This made our journey beautifully coloured in the warmest colours of the season, but also a little melancholy in the still life of the Holy abode. But we just can’t skip it, for the same reason we brought together the other three destinations in this travel story. It’s very beautiful here, but in a different way. At the parking lot where you’ll stop before walking up to the Glozhene monastery, a talkative smiling woman sells small icons, crocheted little pieces and tiny jars of mixed dry herbs. However, just as the small icons express strong faith ( in whatever one needs)… the tiny jars have another power: curative, restorative, creative. As well as the mix of dozens of herbs and salt they also contain among their ingredients a magic herb for love. I don’t know how strong or real its effect is. At home we add it to what we cook, but George and I have known each other long before we went to Glozhene and our love has always been strong. In short, even if it were mere salt, if it spells love, take it.
Be healthy, be loved.