Fringed in the forested foothills of the Balkan Mountains in northwest Bulgaria, the 7,000-person town of Belogradchik would hardly register on the world map were it not for its treasured natural landmarks and storied fortress.
Ethereal Rocks or People Cast in Stone?
The Belogradchik Rocks, named on UNESCO’s World Heritage Tentative List, were formed at the bottom of the sea as a result of geologic compression. Comprised mainly of limestone and sandstone, they are an awe-inspiring sight to behold. Reddish in color with ethereal shapes that protrude from the earth as high as 1,000 feet, the fantastical rock formations are the source of dozens of legends, with each shape corresponding to a character in a captivating story, including Adam and Eve.
There’s the legend of the madonna, in which a woman falls in love with a shepherd boy named Anton and is sent off to live in a nunnery by her father. The affair leaves her pregnant and when she gives birth, she is cast out of the nunnery by monks. Anton, riding a white horse, comes to the rescue of both mother and child. However, as the madonna is leaving the nunnery to be by his side, day turns to night and all those present are turned to stone. Similarly, the legend of the schoolgirl begins with a beautiful girl whose heart is stolen by a blacksmith. An evil schoolmaster chases the girl right into the path of a bear and they are all cast in stone, frozen in time for millions to bear witness to their fate.
A wealth of hidden hiking trails is woven through the rocks, offering breathtaking views. The geologic landmark also offers natural protection that has likely been used for millennia. In fact, the Belogradchik Rocks serve as a stunning backdrop for the Belogradchik Fortress.