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A Few Days on another Planet …

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For the past few years our friends and partners from Nature Madzharovo Ltd., an outdoor day tours service provider in the town of Madzharovo (about 3.5 h drive from Sofia), and more specifically, the company’s founder Marin Kurtev, have been organizing a spring cleaning initiative on the shores of the Arda River.

We, from Excedo could simply not miss the opportunity and this triple pleasure – visit one of our favorite spots in Bulgaria, uncover some new unexplored sites in the area and do something good for the environment! Who could ask for more?!

This year’s event took place in the beginning of April, just as everything began to blossom.

Excedo_East Rhodopean Spring 2
Excedo_Arda River 1
Excedo_East Rhodopean Spring 1
Excedo_Gorno Pole 5

The Eastern Rhodopes and specifically the town of Madzharovo are famous for their wild and peculiar nature, as well as the largest vulture colony in Bulgaria. Here you will find the highest numbers of Black, Griffon and Egyptian Vultures in SEE. But the area is also full of historic sites from the times of the Thracians.

If you are not familiar with ancient Thrace, do not be surprised. As compared to other ancient civilizations, very little is known of these people. The territory of nowadays Bulgaria was the heartland of their culture. They were renowned in ancient times as exceptional goldsmiths and as the mercenaries of Antiquity, who lived for the afterlife.

But there are some names that have lived through the ages, which you will most certainly recognize. Like Spartacus, the gladiator who almost brought Rome to its knees and the legendary musician from Greek mythology Orpheus.

The Rhodope Mountains are full with Thracian sanctuaries, tombs and the remains of this civilization’s strongholds – things that have always fascinated me and never cease to amaze.

Excedo_Thracian Sanctuary 3
Excedo_Thracian Sanctuary 2
Excedo_Thracian Sanctuary 4
Excedo_Thracian Sanctuary 5

After a full day of exploring ancient sites and enjoying the scenery, it was time to actually do some good and get things done.

We and some other 140 volunteers, that Marin managed to bring together, cleaned a 5-6 km stretch along the shores of the Arda River in the vicinity of Madzharovo.

The weather was perfect, everyone was having a great time and we got to see up close some Egyptian vultures circling above our party.

Excedo_Arda Cleaning 6
Excedo_Arda Cleaning 7
Excedo_Arda Cleaning 1
Excedo_Arda Cleaning 3

Whoever said that no good deed goes unpunished does not know what they are talking about.

Laying at the bottom of a long extinguished volcano, the area around Madzharovo, which by the way was established as a mining town, is especially rich on minerals, crystals and gold. Here you will also find the only polymineral vein on the Balkan Peninsula.

So after a day of hard work removing all kinds of garbage from thorny bushes and digging out plastic from the ground, we got our reward – we encountered an amethyst vein. So the late afternoon turned into a gold rush.

Excedo_East Rhodope Treasures 1
Excedo_East Rhodope Treasures 2
Excedo_Gems & Crystals 2
Excedo_Gems & Crystals 1

The spoils were great – both big and small, and we were exhausted, but exhilarated.

Our friends and host at the Wild Farm in the village of Gorno Pole, just a few kilometers away from Madzharovo, who also took part in the cleaning of the river, certainly took great care of us, treating us to tasty homemade traditional meals from the area and wine and rakia – all from their own organic produce!

If you ever travel in the area, in the Wild Farm you will be treated like part of the family and feel right at home. And if you are up for it, you might as well take up the shovel and help out a bit in the farm.

The scenery in Gorno Pole is certainly pristine. If you want to escape the hustle and bustle of the big city and forget all your worries, this is one of the places to go.

Excedo_East Rhodopean Dinner
Excedo_East Rhodopean Scenary 2
Excedo_Gorno Pole 7
Excedo_Gorno Pole 2

And since we were in the area, we could not miss the opportunity for some kayaking on the sweet water reservoir Studen Kladenets – a beautiful place, surrounded by wild nature.

At the foot of the dam you will also find most peculiar rock formations, the so called Abrasive Wells – another place full with minerals and gems.

Excedo_Studen Kladenets Reservoir 1
Excedo_East Rhodopean Scenary 1
Excedo_Arda River 2
Excedo_Gorno Pole 3

On our way back to Sofia, we decided to make a quick stop at the Thracian tomb of Alexandrovo, close to the town of Haskovo (about 220 km away from Sofia).

The tomb itself was discovered in the year 2000, but was unfortunately already plundered. Nevertheless, it is a very significant find and impressive, given the well preserved frescoes of the inside. The actual tomb was sealed for conservation reasons, but visitors can see and enter a full sized replica of the original in the Museum Center above the village of Alexandrovo.

Perhaps not as memorable as the Thracian tombs from Kazanlak and Sveshtari, both UNESCO World Heritage sites, this final resting place of a Thracian warrior or perhaps chieftain is most certainly worth the extra miles.

Excedo_Thracian Tomb Alexandrovo 3
Excedo_Thracian Tomb Alexandrovo 2
Excedo_Thracian Tomb Alexandrovo 1
Excedo_Thracian Tomb Alexandrovo 4

There is not much else to say. The pictures speak for themselves.

In case we stirred up your interest for the Eastern Rhodope Mountains and Madzharovo, you can find further inspiration in the description of a tailor-made program we recently organized here.

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