Bulgaria: Day trip to Chudnite Mostove

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Staring up at the Chudnite Mostove (Marvelous Bridges), massive holes worn into the karst.

Day trip! We’re driving south of Plovdiv to see the Chudnite Mostove (Wondrous Bridges/Marvelous Bridges), Bachkovo Monastery, and Assen’s Fortress, all nestled in the mountains south of Asenovgrad. Here in Bulgaria summer still lingers and sunlight spills over the landscape, sneaking through the trees and dappling the trails. The hot midday air smells like pine sap and cut grass. And the afternoon stretches the shadows long between the steep mountain peaks, bathing us in shade and cool winds. Though it’s the cheapest (and poorest) member in the E.U., Bulgaria has natural beauty to rival any other country.

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The Chudnite Mostove from above.
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Climbing into the valley below the Chudnite Mostove is steep and difficult, but worth it.
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This Martenitsa has somehow survived 5+ months tied to a tree branch.
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Exploring the karst hollows of the valley.
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The cave below one of the Chudnite Mostove (to the East); this climb had some steep drop offs that I wouldn’t recommend you tackle unless you have water shoes and there hasn’t been recent rain.
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A blue fuzzy mushroom.
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An unusual way of dispersing seeds.
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The valley as seen from inside the Chudnite Mostove to the West. Though it hasn’t rained in the last couple of days, a stream still flows through it.
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The entrance to Bachkovo Monastery, of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church.
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Murals painted here date back to 1604 (or earlier). The monastery has been in continuous operation since that date, though it was founded in 1083.
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An ornate chandelier reflects light on the golden foil used in the monastery’s ancient murals.
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This trail leads to a small shrine built several kilometers away in the mountains. It also says something about a waterfall on the sign, but hah, we found none. 
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The trail into the mountains.
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A square-spotted blue butterfly drinks nectar from a dandelion.
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A small shack in the woods.
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I think we’ve found the shrine-in-the-rock.
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The iconography of the shrine, clean and bright thanks to the shelter in the rock.
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A catapult on display at Assen’s Fortress.
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The church at Assen’s Fortress, overlooking the valley below.
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At the very top of Assen’s fortress.

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