If you caught up with my last post about visiting Buzludzha Monument in Bulgaria, this is the one I was meant to write but I got a bit distracted by trying to explain away why I swapped palm trees for concrete.
So, back to present day! Well, almost…. I started my Eastern European trip in Varna, Bulgaria. After arriving at my hostel at 4am (yep, AM), I decided that I would spend day one doing what most people do when they visit Varna – head to the beach (because I haven’t seen enough of them recently…) ! I have a couple of days with only a few things ear marked to see, it’s not like I need to rush to see them all… Cue me walking straight to the bus stop with my beach gear in my bag and jumping on the local bus but not in the direction of the beach but to the Park-Monument to the Bulgarian Soviet Friendship. Who was I kidding when I thought I would go and relax on a beach when there’s gigantic abandoned soviet monuments to be explored!
Stood at the top of Turna Hill, once a bloody battleground for the Russians where they were stationed supporting Bulgaria during the 1828-29 Russo-Turkish War. The Park-Monument to the Bulgarian Soviet Friendship was built in 1978 to commemorate the comradery between Bulgaria and Russia.
On opening it was lit up by a hundreds of floodlights so even the ships out in the Black Sea could see the monument illuminated at night. Visitors were greeted to the park with Shostakovitch’s 7th Symphony. 20,000 trees were planted in the park to represent the Soviet soldiers lost in the battle. Imaging this scene as I climbed the “Staircase of Victors”, the 305 steps leading up the monument, hairs stood up on the back of my neck. More so thinking about Shostakovitch’s 7th Symphony being blasted out – what a piece! In hindsight I should have plugged in my phone and fired up Spotify!
The monument is supposed to represent a bird of peace. On the left wing are three Bulgarian women who are greeting the four Soviet soldiers on the right wing.
With the fall of communism in 1989, as with all the other monuments across the country, the monument was abandoned and left weather beaten standing lonely on the hill. Where the Soviet flag once stood the European Union flag has replaced it, showing how the allies have shifted over the years. You won’t see anyone up there except for a few dog walkers now. Where you once were able to access the staircase leading up to the roof to look down on the women and soldiers the entrance has been securely sealed so no urban exploration can take place. There is a sizable hole round the back which leads to tunnels under the monument, presumably to where the bookshop and museum were once, but I’m too chicken and ill prepared (wearing a skirt and I had only a phone torch..) to go explore in there.
Unlike Buzludzha which is literally in the middle of nowhere and a two hours drive from Sofia, this monument can be easily accessed from Varna’s centre by local bus or taxi, or walk, however you prefer – but the bus is easy and only 1 lev (42p!)
If you get the bus, catch the #148 from the side of the Dormition of the Mother of God Cathedral (the golden domed one). If you have your back to the Tourist Information Office, head for the underpass, cross over to the cathedral and go to the right hand side of the cathedral (same side as the cathedral) to the first bus stop. The bus comes frequently and just hop on. The conductor will find you to pay. Here was me looking for an old style UK conductor with a cap and uniform but I had to double check that I was paying the right person when a lady in jean shorts and t-shirt approached me for the 1 lev fee.
The bus stops at every bus stop along the route so you don’t need to ring the bell. The stop for the monument is the ninth one. Here’s a screenshot of my journey in cyrillic so you can see the name of the stop. You can either look at the screens for the stop coming up or show the conductor and they will help you.
It was definitely the best idea to visit here first as for the rest of the afternoon it poured with rain and I cafe hopped along the promenade to get back to my accommodation. Still no beach time, but still the right decision!
Happy exploring x