Riding the Brontë Bus to Haworth in Search of Wuthering Heights

My host is the one who clued me into the fact that I’m right near “Brontë country.” Now, I don’t pretend to be a huge fan of the Brontës as I’ve never been able to get through any of their works, but I’ve always thought that Wuthering Heights had to be one of the most evocative English book titles ever and have a vague general familiarity with the works of Charlotte and Emily. I don’t know much about Anne, however.

It felt wrong to leave the area without going to Haworth, where the Brontë sisters lived from childhood to their deaths, if it was as close by as I’d been told. But with public transportation being so frustrating to sort out in the UK, I kept on putting it off. Well, the other day, as I was walking home from the village, I saw a bus pass in front of my house marked “Brontë bus.” Intrigued, I made a note of the number and the company and headed off to Google.

As it turned out, that bus going in the other direction would take me straight to Haworth in just under a half hour! The stop is literally in front of my house. Talk about convenient!

I thought I’d have the day off, but a small job came in late last night that I could only have if I got the files to my clients by about 8AM their time, which was my late afternoon. So I got up way too early based on the time I went to bed and got it out fast enough to be on “schedule” to grab the 11:15 bus.

Soon we were climbing high up above the valley to give me my first taste of Yorkshire moors. They rather look like a damper version of home…

The road was super narrow and twisty, especially as we meandered through the town of Oxenhope and took super tight turns. The idea of driving in the UK in general, especially something as big as a bus, boggles and frankly intimidates me.  I had a spark of genius last week that was too late to implement here, but that I will investigate it in my next stop, Shrewsbury — I’m going to learn to drive on the left properly, with a driving instructor in a car clearly marked learner. I hope the rates are comparable to here, where I could have have five one-hour lessons for just £55.

At any rate, here’s a rather lovely bus stop in Oxenhope:

I’d bought a day return ticket to Haworth and back (£4.20) and this is where the driver dropped me and told me to get back on to go home.

I understood why when I realised I was at the bottom of the steep Main Street that leads up to the parsonage that was the Brontë home.

I bet Main Street hasn’t really changed that much.

I’m always so happy to see a burst of colour in a rather drab world.

My friend Croft must be a very important man in this country. Every town seems to have a street named after him. 😉

This is the infamous Black Bull pub, right in front of the church, where Branwell Brontë, the only brother, likely drank himself to death.

Here’s the church.

Back of the church, by the cemetery that is between the church and the parsonage.

Looking towards the parsonage on the left. To the right is a school built by Patrick Brontë (the father) for the children of Haworth.   Charlotte, Branwell, Emily, and Anne all taught here and Charlotte’s wedding reception was held here in 1854.

Standing by the parsonage looking back to the church.

I decided to have lunch before touring the museum and heading out to “Wuthering Heights,” the place that inspired the locale of the novel. Almost everything in the village was closed today, but I had looked at the menus of places that were open and the Fleece Inn had the most appealing menu as well as reasonable prices. This was going to be a treat meal, out of the “special excursions” rather than “food” budget, so I focused on getting an experience rather than the cheapest meal.

A sign on the wall offering the chance to sample three local craft beers for the price of a pint caught my attention. I selected these beauties, a lager, stout, and bitter. I find it amusing that folks that don’t really know beer would expect the stout and bitter to be super strong tasting, but they were actually smoother than the lager. All three were delicious, but I think I’m really a bitters person!

I ordered the bacon, brie, and cranberry sandwich on ciabatta, which came with a salad. The soup of the day was leek, so I had to try that! The server goofed and brought me a full portion instead of the half that comes with a sandwich, but I knew I’d be working it off. Everything was so yummy! I love that thick-cut British bacon. The meal was only £14 or 23CAD! The soup was a pricy add-on since I had to pay for the full portion at £4 rather than the add-on price of £2, but it wasn’t worth quibbling over. And, of course, you don’t need to tip. I was really surprised by this bill since the beers were only £3.30. Cheapest pint I’ve had yet!

It was almost one when I was done with lunch and I wanted to at least attempt the hike to “Wuthering Heights,” which is about 10KM round trip. With nightfall being around five and the hike expected to take about three hours given the terrain, I had a half hour to get through the museum. I knew that would be plenty and also that the museum is really pricey at £8.50. That’s actually great for locals as you can use the ticket for readmission over the next year, but it sucks for someone who is just travelling through!

Standing in the garden at the front of the parsonage.

The front door of the parsonage is the entrance of the museum. That extension on the right was added after the Brontës.

Throughout the museum, you can see the costumes that were used in the Sally Wainwright production of “To Walk Invisible” about the Brontë siblings. Considering how much a fan I am of her series “Happy Valley” and that one of the stars (Charlie Murphy) and my favourite character of that series is in “To Walk Invisible,” I’m going to hunt down a copy!

So this is “the dining table at which Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights were written, making it one of the “most significant literary artefacts of the 19th century.” Wow! You can’t see the marks of daily use, like ink stains, from that distance, unfortunately.

Next up is Mr. Brontë’s study, where he carried out parish business and gave his children lessons. Emily and Anne were the main players of the cabinet piano.

The front hall finally cleared enough for me to photograph its “pretty dove-coloured tint, as per a description of the parsonage by a family friend of the Brontës.

Now on to the kitchen, which was demolished during the renovations to add the extension. It has been restored with period appropriate furnishings, including the range.

After the Brontë sisters’ mother died, their Aunt Branwell took over as the female head of household. After she died, Emily acted as housekeeper and Charlotte and Anne went away to work as governesses. “Baking bread or ironing allowed Emily the mental freedom to focus on her writing and she was always happiest at home.” I can really identify with that. Even when I’m travelling, I need to be able to be “domestic” to feel complete.

The next room I visited on the ground floor was the study of Charlotte’s husband, Arthur Bell Nicholls, who had come in 1844 to help Patrick curate the church. The room was originally a storeroom that was only accessible from outside. Charlotte decorated the room in grey and green, a fashionable colour combination in the 1850s.

The marriage was short, but happy. Charlotte died within a year of marriage when she was pregnant. Now’s a good time to point out that I was disappointed that the museum glossed over the sad facts of their lives and especially that their home, with its non-potable water supply, played a role in the sisters dying so young. I also found that the museum only catered to people who know the Brontë history really well as there is very little context given as to who is who. Several people told me there was an event going on for “Branwell” with the assumption being that I would know who that was, but I had to piece it together for myself.

I then headed upstairs to the bedrooms.

I love the story behind this clock, that Mr. Brontë would lock his front door at 9PM every night and call to his daughters in the dining room not to stay up too late. Then, he would come wind up the clock.

A portrait of Anne, Emily, and Charlotte. They had two older sisters, Maria and Elizabeth, who died when they were 11 and 10 respectively when they died of complications of typhus they contracted while at school.

Looking down to the front hall.

Looking up, we can see the entrance to “Charlotte’s room” (at an angle), flanked by the children’s study on the left and the servant’s room on the right.

The Brontës normally had one servant, who had quite a cosy room.

I used quotation marks above for Charlotte’s room because it was originally that of the parents. When Mrs. Brontë died in 1821, her sister Elizabeth Branwell took over. Charlotte didn’t get this room until she married Arthur Bell Nicholls… and it was here that she died. The room is filled with Charlotte’s effects.

I thought it was odd that this costume was in a box when the others weren’t but now I realise that that’s just because there’s no way to keep it away from curious fingers the way there was downstairs with only a small sliver of the rooms being available to walk through.

I loved her collection of shoes! Some are very dainty and barely worn, showing that they were for special occasions.

She bought these moccasins on a trip to the beach.

Her writing desk, spectacles, and quill cutter, which is what made her impossibly teeny handwriting possible.

Next, I went to Mr. Brontë’s bedroom. He moved here after his wife died. It was furnished from replicas thanks to a drawing by Branwell, who was often kept in this room under his father’s supervision because of his alcoholism. He died here in 1848 at age 31.

With the crowd thinning out, I was able to peek into the children’s study, where Emily may have slept. It is so small because room was taken from it to enlarge Charlotte’s room.

The little red arrows point to faint pencil marks on the walls that were likely made by the sisters.

Branwell’s studio was very messy! I was impressed that it was portrayed so realistically.

From his study, we move into the extension, which has a lot more background information. If you’re really into the Brontës and want to get more information about the parsonage, you can virtually visit the rooms on the Brontë Parsonage Museum website.

I learned about the Clergy Daughters’ School in Cowan Bridge, where Maria, Elizabeth, Charlotte, and Emily went. The school regime was harsh and the two elder girls were sent home in ill health in 1825 and died soon thereafter. “Charlotte’s sense of loss stayed with her for the rest of her life, and she later immortalized Cowan Bridge as the infamous Lowood School in her novel Jane Eyre.”

Charlotte’s writing really was teeny!

That’s a fragment from her “Roe Head journal.” There were a lot of interesting artefacts in that case, including an accounts book for the family where she worked as a governess that showed her final payout before leaving the job.

Here is a trunk that Charlotte bought in Brussels, where she was trying to improve her language skills.

Patrick Branwell outlived all his children and lived to the surprising age of 84, in 1861, five years after Charlotte died. As I wrote above, Branwell died in 1848, aged 31. Emily and Anne became ill soon thereafter. Emily died three months after her brother from tuberculosis, aged 30. Anne tried a sea cure and went to Scarborough with Charlotte and a family friend, only to die there on 28th May, 1849, age 29. “To spare her father the anguish of another family funeral, Charlotte had her sister buried in Scarborough, then she returned to Haworth alone.” In 1854, Charlotte accepted Nicholls’ proposal and they married, but she died on 31st March 1855 in the early stages of pregnancy. Nicholls took care of his father-in-law for six years at the parsonage.

Here is Branwell’s drawing of death visiting him in his father’s room. He called it “A Parody.”

It was then time to head off to “Wuthering Heights.” It was 1:30, sunset was at five, and I was told to allow 3.5 hours, which meant three hours for me. That only gave me 30 minutes of wiggle room. So I was hyper aware of distances and times as I walked and hiked as I did not want to be out on the moor in the dark!

The walk starts behind the parsonage. I got so lucky with the weather!

A look back at the parsonage and the gift shop.

I immediately felt at ease with the landscape. It was really not that different from my experience hiking in the Highlands, which I remember in vivid detail thanks to my journal. Most of this is private land and there are rights of way for walkers. Follow the path and close any gate you open.

Sheep here instead of “hairy coos.”

Remember that structure out on the lake. It’ll be worth an exclamation point later.

Status report on my boots about a mile in.

The sky looked ominous, but I didn’t get so much as a spatter of rain. The path was very mucky, though.

This man overtook me just before the waterfall. I was jealous of his trekking poles, seriously overdressed, but surefooted.

Charlotte wrote this about the waterfall on 29th November, 1854

“We set off, not intending to go far; but though wild and cloudy it was fine in the morning; when we got about half-a-mile on the moors, Arthur suggested the idea of the waterfall; after the melted snow, he said it would be fine. I had often wished to see it in its winter power, so we walked on. It was fine indeed; a perfect torrent racing over the rocks, white and beautiful!”

There obviously hasn’t been much rain this winter!

I then headed over this bridge, knowing that I would soon need to check the time.

I’d just come down so of course I had to go up.

Looking back down to the bridge.

Left towards “Wuthering Heights,” right back to the parsonage. The sky worried me. I was adding two miles to my trek if I went left. According to my clock, I had time. It takes me about 20 minutes to walk a mile in rough terrain, so if I wasn’t at the end of the trail in that time, I would turn back.

This lovely stone path did not last.

On the other side of this wall was was… muck.

This is a “stile.” I was bemused by the “please close the gate” sign seeing as there is no obvious “closed” position.

Oh, this was going to be fun.

I soon was hiking in what was more like a very shallow river.

I stepped into one puddle and ended up in water up past my ankles. Incredibly enough, while my jeans got soaked through, my boots didn’t. They earned their keep!

There’s the end of the trail at the distance. Can you see the building on top of the hill?


It had taken 20 minutes to get to this point, so it was time to turn around. I’m glad that I know my limits and speeds so well when hiking that I can make smart decisions. I wasn’t that disappointed since I knew that I’d just get more of this and this was more than I ever imagined seeing!

So I headed back in the muck.

In case there’s any doubt that I was doing some serious hiking. 😉

So much GREEN! This is where I wasn’t sure which direction to go as there was no obvious path. I felt like I was in a video game looking for the exit and trying to avoid obstacles. I spent way too much time and energy in this pasture trying to figure out how to keep moving towards Haworth. The hike is meant to be a loop and I didn’t want to go back the way I’d come.

Ah, the exit.

Which had a swimming pool at the bottom. Total real life video game. 😀

I made it around!

I have rarely in my life been so happy to see a proper road!

The sheep here are dyed, presumably to identify their owners.

Had a nice chat with this handsome fellow.

Remember that structure in the lake from earlier?! I was a bit shocked to find myself so far from it on the opposite side.

I ended up in a place called Stanbury. Huh. A nice lady confirmed that I just had to keep going straight to get to Haworth but that “it’s really far.” I knew I had about two miles to go so while I was definitely off the trail, I wasn’t out of my way.

Everything was going swimmingly to about a mile from Haworth as I’d been going downhill for ages, then I had to climb back up much of that distance. This staircase was fun. I particularly liked the barbed wire handrail.

I was shocked when I got to this intersection because on the way out, I’d had a brief section off the moor and on the road along the fork at the top. I really had done a perfect circle!

I was at the end of my strength so I just made my way straight to the bus stop. I had just enough time to check the time on my phone (40 minutes to the bus, gah) when my phone died. I thought on the way in to get a cream tea if I had such a long bus wait, but I hadn’t seen any tea shops or cafés open and I was way too foot sore to go exploring. So I sat on a bench across the street to wait.

This bus from another company went by. The Quebec ambulance yellow colour caught my eye.

I spent my time just watching the traffic (trying to “normalise” the driving on the left traffic patterns) and shivering as the temperature went from comfortable to frigid as the sun set. A lovely police community support officer who looked just like my favourite character on “Happy Valley” passed me and stopped to ask if I was okay. Nothing that a warm bus and a hot shower at home wouldn’t cure. And maybe a view ibuprofen tablets…

Final status report on my boots. The need a good cleaning once they dry and a coating or two of wax!

The bus finally arrived and it was crowded. Thankfully, I got one of the last seats and no more older people came on so I didn’t have to give it up. It was super dark and I knew there was no way I would recognise when to ask to get off. What I normally do in such circumstances is track my route on my phone. I finally found out what’s wrong with the stupid thing, its battery is on the point of failing, and I’ve discovered that I can sometimes revive it after its shut down. After we got through Oxenhope, across the moor, and started to head down, I tried to turn it on and it came to life. It conked out again promptly, but lasted just long enough to make up for a lot of its recent idiocy by doing so just as my stop was coming up. I was going to go tell the driver my stop when a lady signalled to get off. Based on what I’d seen on the map, she would either be the stop before mine, if there was one, or my stop. As it turned out, it was my stop!

I was so glad to have nothing more to do to get home than to cross the street and go down the stairs. I promptly hopped into a hot shower and fresh clothes.

It was an incredible day in Brontë country. I had perfect weather for it, learned a lot, and got some fresh air and exercise. I now feel that I’ve done all the touristy stuff I needed to do here and am ready to move on to my next location.

Off to Heptonstall in Search of a Grave

Whew. Today was the first time in ages that I was able to get away for a few hours. I keep hoping to be able to get away to Leeds for a day, but that’s looking less and less likely. At least, I could look for something close by to do today and the answer was obvious, visit the ancient village of Heptonstall, which towers over Hebden Bridge. As the crow flies, I am about 0.5KM from the centre of Heptonstall, but I have to go all the way down into the valley, cross the river, and climb up to Heptonstall, so it is quite a trek!

Take a second here to check out the Heptonstall Parish website. You’ll know why when you get there. 😉

Heptonstall is a quaint place to visit for its churches and ancient buildings, but it is probably best known for being the final resting place of author Sylvia Plath. I don’t pretend to be a huge connoisseur of her (it’s been so long since I read The Bell Jar that I barely remember it), but she asked a question that I asked myself many times before setting off on my life by design:

Why can’t I try on different lives, like dresses, to see which one fits me and is most becoming?

Why not indeed? I sure didn’t find a valid answer.

Standing on my porch, sort of looking towards Heptonstall:

I headed down to the village, but where I normally turn left, I turned right to cross this bridge.

When I came home, there were archers practicing on this field.

Looking back towards Hebden before starting the climb up.

I somehow missed the staircase on the trip home and end up going down this super muddy path with only barbed wire to hold on to. That was fun.

At the top of the staircase, I followed a pretty path for a bit.

Climbing up above Hebden.

I eventually found myself on a very rough road with tons of caution signs to truck drivers.

My boots were a bit muddy.

I then had to walk along this road without a footpath.

Hebden’s layout is becoming clearer.

Just in case anyone has any doubt as to where I am, the slow sign being the wrong way should narrow it down.

Blue sky, just for a bit. I’d been switchbacking to this point and was at my final turn. I now have to follow that fence you see at the lower left. It’s now a straight climb to Heptonstall.

I loved how there were these super narrow breaks in the wall for people to squeeze through to reach sheds and footpaths.

I made it!

I made a note of the tearoom as I thought that I might have earned a cream tea!

There is a walk you can do in Heptonstall to see all the sights, but I really didn’t have that much time. So I headed straight for the churches and graveyards.

These are the ruins of the original village church.

And there’s new church.

Quoting from a plaque:

“The original church, dedicated to the martyred archbishop St Thomas à Becket, remained in use until the mid 19th century. Following storm damage in 1847, the decision was taken to raise money to build a replacement. The new church was completed in 1854 at a cost of £6,666. Instead of being demolished, the earlier building was left to become a ruin.”

It was very slippy and I had to be super cautious as I poked around.

Sylvia Plath is buried in the “overflow” cemetery across the street.

I had some limited instructions on my phone for how to find the grave, but of course, the stupid thing decided to die on me the second I arrived (despite having 85% battery life). I can’t wait to replace it!

So I walked among the gravestones looking for it. This stone caught my eye. Neville Longbottom is my favourite character in Harry Potter and I thought his unusual name was made up by JK Rowling. Nope!

I wandered the small graveyard a lot longer than I had planned to be there, looking for anything that had tributes by it. I eventually was able to discern a bit of a pattern to the dates on the markers and narrowed down in what rows Plath’s gravestone could be. On my final pass, I found it!

The gravestone has been damaged by vandals who removed “Hughes” from it, as some of her fans feel her estranged husband was to blame for her suicide.

Heading out, I passed this home with a lovely tower. Anyone who watches “Grand Designs” knows that a common way to update these old stone buildings in the UK and add on to them is by using glass and steel.

There were workers on site doing repairs to the church tower.

I did go for tea! 🙂 They didn’t have a cream tea per se, but I was able to order a pot of tea (Yorkshire blend), a raisin scone without butter, a pot of clotted cream, and a pot of jam à la carte for a total of £5. I was cold and tired and this was the prefect treat to get me home!

Of course, the walk down to Hebden was a lot quicker than the walk up to Heptonstall! I could see my front door from here!

I eventually found my way back to to the bridge after that harrowing downhill journey. It was only while going back over my photos that I realised where I missed a turn to get back to the staircase.

Exploring Hardcastle Crags National Trust Site

Hardcastle Crags is a large woodland area with hiking trails that is owned by the National Trust, making it like a national or provincial park in Canada. At the heart of it is a 19th century cotton mill. You can spend hours hiking the trails and some days there is a café open and you can tour the mill. It is about two miles to the mill from my house and I headed up there this afternoon to check it out.

One of the things I focused on on my walk was my camera as I have not been happy with my pictures here. I think it is because of the crap natural lighting. So I took a lot of pictures of the same thing on different setting, trying to capture the misty beauty of the area and the bright greens that that make an otherwise dreary winter landscape come to life.

I loved this mossy wall.

The parking lots are a full mile from the mill, so I still had a ways to go!

“Who was welcomed by Hebden Bridge.” Boy do I know what that sort of reception feels like!

I have no idea why anyone has this notion that England is quaint and misty and lovely.

These sheds are actually still in use to store things like bicycles despite being open to the elements.

“Public convenience” is long for toilets.”

One mile left to go to the mill!

It was slippery out and I didn’t want to risk another fall, so I opted to follow the road up to the mill rather than do an actual hike. Moreover, it was warmer than I thought it would be and I was over dressed. Next time I go out in this kind of weather (about +8C), I’ll just wear fleece and the windbreaker rather than my heavy coat.

I loved this scene and how my picture turned out. The moss was almost fluorescent!

The mill at last!

I’m intrigued…

I decided to poke around a bit.

I headed out around back to the mill pond.

It looks cold, doesn’t it? But I found the weather almost balmy!

Yes, I walked across this.

My boots are getting a beating and need a good clean, but what a smart purchase they were!

I had fun watching this duck couple paddle around.

There was a world class restaurant on this site in the late 19th century.

When there was a decline in mill work, the owner reinvented himself as a hotelier and restauranteur. That’s how you survive!

Sign before the little bridge over the river.

I was happy to find this trail on the other side of the river as it wasn’t too rough or slippery.

Steps leading down to the river.

With a matching pair on the other side.

Coming back to the bridge, I remembered the stepping stones, so I kept going…

There are so many paths leading up into the hills.

This building is the toilets.

Looking towards the picnic area.

That looks like fun.

Standing in the middle of the river. These require big steps, but were easy enough to get across as they were not slick.

Made it!

Heading home, I noticed this giant lump in the tree.

I also noticed what looks like a church steeple at the top of a hill.

I passed a house with an incredibly steep driveway. Eep!

I find that sign funny.

We use one word for this sign…

Here are my scary steps at home. I had to go down these in the dark the other night!

I was gone a good two and a half hours. What a lovely walk this was!

Exhausted Pups

I didn’t have work again today and didn’t want to start on the small easy job I have due Monday night. So I decided this morning to go on a long hike with Mechka and Sausage beyond my Bulgarian Shangri-La. I thought of having coffee and breakfast first, but our routine is firmly set and the dogs would not have had the patience to wait for me. I’m not addicted to coffee and could definitely wait till we got back. I did pack a couple of jam and butter sandwiches, an apple, and water.

Autumn is definitely coming despite the fact that it’s still quite hot out. So many leaves crunching underfoot!






I love that rebel yellow house!





An unexpected burst of colour.








He looks so happy! I was being slow, so he’s coming back to make sure I’m okay!


One thing that I really dislike about being out in nature in Bulgaria is how aggressive the flora is. There’s these things with super long thorns:


I caught my right calf on one of these early in my arrival here and have a more one one-inch long scar with which to remember the event. I was shocked by how long this wound took to heal and, in hindsight, I actually regret not seeking out sutures immediately after it happened or at the very least some butterfly closures, which I should have in my first aid kit.


There are also low lying vines (possibly from a blackberry plant) that wrap around your ankles and shred them. And then, my “favourite” are the shrubs with barbs that snag at you on the side of the road. One got me yesterday on my way back from Yablanitsa:


Beyond Shangri-La, we followed a very rough 4×4 road.






There’s a picnic table at the top of a hill, for some random reason. Max says he likes to go up there for breakfast. I wasn’t ready to eat yet.


There’s also a fire pit.


And some ruins:





I think these are blueberries, but I didn’t try them:


In the video, I mentioned that it was quiet. Well, no sooner had I stopped filming that I heard a vehicle and found it (and a person) quite far away up a hill:



At first, I thought I found the scene of an accident, but then realised it’s just a dump. I have access to a dump just like this on a friend’s property near Haven.


We eventually turned back and, to my horror, we came to a junction I didn’t remember! I figured, worst case, I’d pick the wrong way and have to double back, but I was getting tired. Sausage seemed convinced as to the direction to go, so I asked him three times where home is and he kept starting down one path and looking back to make sure I was following. He’s never led me astray before, so I followed and, in very short order, I was able to confirm I was going the right way!

We got in a full two hours after leaving. I gave the dogs their breakfast, but all they wanted was water before flopping down! I had coffee and, an hour later, another coffee with a second breakfast of toast with sirene cheese and berry jam. I’ve been eating a lot of peanut butter since I got here and am trying to curb the habit, so I’ve switched to the cheese with jam on my toast. Very yummy. 🙂

Around four, it was time to take them on their second walk. I took a different path, where it was still very clearly autumn.


While the dogs had been very enthusiastic as we set out, the minute we got to the first big uphill, both stopped and looked at me with a “we’re done, thanks!” look. I decided to push on and they followed, but stuck close rather than going on ahead. I have a favourite spot to stop and turn around (start of the second video in the link above) with a nice flat rock for sitting on and admiring the view. I sat there and cuddled with the dogs for a good ten minutes, trying not to cry as I realised how much I am going to miss them. They have spoiled me for life and I will have to be very careful before I accept another dog sit since they’ve raised the bar so high with their intelligence and sweet disposition.

It’s been a lovely homey weekend, but I hope work picks up! I don’t expect anything for tomorrow (since it’ll still be Sunday in North America) and had thought to go to Sofia, but the museum I wanted to visit will be closed. I have to really watch the calendar and bus schedules, but I’m thinking of delaying heading to Serbia by a day or two to have time to visit a couple of Sofia museums. Or I might be able to get away at a late date this week. We’ll see. Work has been surprising the last few weeks!

A Scenic Drive, Etropole Waterfall (and Monastery), and Glozhene Monastery

My plans for today fell through in a big way. I had hoped to travel to Belogradchik Fortress in northwestern Bulgaria near the Serbian border. It’s only about 400KM, so easily doable in a round trip, right? Well, not so fast. I thought that travel was slow going in Mexico, but it borders on the ridiculous in Bulgaria. In just a few days on the road here, I’ve learned that 400KM is a really full driving day here and would take seven to eight hours. Add in the time to view the fortress and it just didn’t make sense. My host strongly recommended that I not attempt the trip, especially since I need to be in Plovdiv tomorrow to return the car.

Moreover, work is picking up, so I had to work this morning and will have to work again this evening. Finally, I am exhausted. Vacationing is hard work!

I had a talk with Max last night and he suggested a driving loop and a few sites I could see in a full afternoon. The drive in particular appealed to me, just a chance to enjoy the car and put it through its paces on twisty mountain roads. He also vetoed my planned route to Plovdiv tomorrow, saying that there is a very long rough stretch that I shouldn’t attempt in a rental vehicle. Good thing I asked! He traced out another route that will go through a bit of what I’ve already done and then take me straight to Plovdiv. He said to plan a full four hours of driving time for that. The car is due back at noon, so I plan to be out the door by seven.

Here’s my route today. I went from Malak Izvor through Glozhene and Teteven on through Ribaritsa and Shipkovo to Troyan, then headed towards Yablanitsa along “the reservoir.” Then on to Etropole by way of Pravets (because Google Maps was being stupid), then back to Malak Izvor and up to the Glozhene Monastery.


I stopped at the fountain in Glozhene for cold water:




And then,  I drove. There wasn’t really anything extraordinary or landscapes I hadn’t seen before, so it was a bit of a meditative drive to clear my head, much needed after so much people time in the last week! I stopped for more water here. What a pretty spot and there’s even a picnic table!


Shipkovo is a spa town, but there was literally nothing of interest to me. Same thing with Troyan, which I’ll be going back through tomorrow.

After Troyan, I turned onto the road Max had told me to take and was surprised to see poplars!


And a beautiful willow!


I could quickly see why he sent me this way!


Here’s the reservoir.











I emerged onto the main road I had taken from Veliko Tarnovo and reached the turnoff for Glozhene that would take me straight to Malak Izvor or I could continue on to Yablanitsa. It was only about two, so I decided to keep going to Etropole Monastery to see the waterfall near it. The road up there was very narrow and single lane. I had to pull over twice to let someone pass. Good thing there was room to do that!


Bulgaria has so many monasteries and churches. The one at Etropole isn’t that interesting, architecturally speaking. People mostly come for the waterfall.





The waterfall is really hard to find. There is a path, but it leads in many directions, with no signage. There was no one around for me to ask either. My word of the day is водoпад (vodopad — waterfall).






After walking around the area for a bit and almost ready to give up, knowing the waterfall would be nearly dry anyway, I had the bright idea to ask Google Maps (yes, the same Google Maps that routed me through Pravets). It seemed to know where the waterfall was, so I took a path in the direction it was telling me to go. A couple of groups of tourists joined me as I appeared to know where I was going and followed me like a flock of Bulgarian ducks. We took a path that ended abruptly with a washout:



After doubling back, we tried another path and tah-dah! I’m glad I was expecting it to be quite dry or I would have been disappointed. Instead, I was delighted by the cool mossy cave!









The path back up was fun…



I wandered around for a couple more minutes, at the back of the monastery.


A real flock of Bulgarian ducks.


And here’s the only sign for the waterfall. It’s useless! I guess that the waterfall is loud in the springtime and findable by sound, but at this time of year, another sign or two would have been welcome!


I made a new friend!




It was past four at this point and I was hungry and tired, so it was time to head home. Coming back into Etropole:


Back in Malak Izvor, I finally took the road up to the monastery. Max told me I could walk it, but he underestimated how far Yablanitsa is, so I didn’t trust that it would be “only” six kilometres straight up the mountain. This road was also very narrow, very twisty, and had scary drop offs. I had a couple of moments where the only reason I didn’t turn around is there was no place to turn around! The climb was worth it! This monastery dates back to 1224!




The views up there were the best I’ve seen yet, and that’s saying something!





The father of the church came out to greet me. I am only going to share my first impression of him because Max knows him and said that he’s pretty sure this is the look the father is going for: Rasputin! I didn’t know until departure, when I ran into him again, that he is the father of the monastery. He was very hospitable and spoke good English. Max calls him “quite a character.”














I’ve been assured that I have seen a very good representation of Bulgaria even not having gone into the northwest and southwest parts of it. I have seen the coast, the mountains, and the plains. I have had a good sample of churches and monasteries and seen a fortress. I have been through villages, towns, and big cities. The villages and towns all look identical, with the same style of construction. To be honest, it’s been enough and I’m ready to move on. Max confirmed my departure date (the 22nd of September) so we’re on the same page. I will have a couple of days before I absolutely need to be out of Bulgaria, so I’m hoping that my routing there will take me through Belogradchik, but if doesn’t, so be it. You really can’t see everything!

It’s been wonderful having the car and I don’t regret the experience. Now, to get it back to downtown Plovdiv!