Cherven - Pt. 1 of The Wilderness of Rusenski Lom
Whoever might think that there is nothing to see in northeast Bulgaria – the following articles from this series are for you.
I was born and raised in Ruse and am a river kid. This is why this set of posts will bring your focus to the river Lom and its wild beauty.
1. Location and General Info About the Fortress of Cherven
In the first part of the sequence, I will tell you about the village of Cherven and the fortress that is proudly overwatching it for the last 1500 years. Together, they are part of the natural reserve Rusenski Lom.
They are located on the river of Cherni Lom, which at this geographical point is about 10 m wide. Nevertheless, its waters get quite high and muddy throughout May and June (rainy season) and it seems like it’s constantly in a hurry to get to its big brother the Danube.
The river is the essence of life and happiness of the flora, fauna and the farmers around. The greenery is overwhelming and it takes over everything, sometimes even the light, and it reminds you of the Amazon jungle.
2.How to Get to the Fortress
We drive through the turnout for Tabachka (a must see village hidden in the rock valley) then continue straight. Not so long after, on the left side we will see wide fields and the fortress in the distance behind them. You’d wanna stop and take a photo. It’s okay because you have enough space to stop the car.
A little bit further down you’ll see a sign for an eco walk (or at least I think so). Please, correct me in the comments if I’m wrong. We ignore it for now and drive down to the village. The road starts to lean more and more downwards and become more bended. We pass through the classic and beautiful Bulgarian houses, playful kids, a library and a town hall.
We continue straight down as we are looking for a sign leading to the fortress and after a bit we will find ourselves on the road between the river on the left and the high rocks on the right – that’s if we took the right road.
At the entrance there is a restaurant (a bit newer than the fortress), where we can relax with a bite and a cold drink after the drive. The fee is 5 BGN for adults as per this current moment (06.2021). You can hire a tour guide or visit this website, which is made only for Cherven. You can find a lot of interesting information about the city plan, history and fortification.
3.History of Cherven
A little bit of base info from me, so you are not completely unaware of what you are getting into, and also so it can be more interesting for you when you look around:
- The village and the fortress were built under the rule of the Byzantine Emperor Justinian I in the VI century
- It becomes part of the First Bulgarian Empire (VII-XI century) and later on, is the second most important administrative centre after Tsarevets (the capital at that time)
- It was called the Hawkeye
- After 1235 it becomes the headquarter of Cherven Metropolitan bishops (I don’t know much about it, but it seems kind of important throughout the spiritual world)
- It consists of an inside/main city (on the top of the cliffs – for the Boyars) and an outside one, which was less protected and located at the bottom, next to the river (intended for the merchants, farmers and… overall – everybody else).
4. A Walk Through the Medieval City
Let’s come back to the present and our walk. After we took a minute for a break, we begin to climb the not-so-steep stairway up towards the skyline.
While you climb you begin to understand why the Thracians chose to live here – this is a natural fortress before all, which easily protects you from enemies and wild animals. The soil is very fertile and the river is a big advantage.
Climbing up the views start to take your breath away, as do the stairs. A little bit before we arrive at the top plain, we see a 10-meter tall, proud castle wall, which almost seems impenetrable, but actually has been taken down more than once.
We come up at the entrance of the fortress and the main street. On the right we see some gorgeous views towards the massive cliffs on the other side of the river and on the left side the ruins of once living, communal and administrative building. The main artery of the city brings us to its most protected area – the castle and the largest church.
5. Knowledge Break
A little bit more info, because knowledge is power, and my power is to pretend I know stuff:
- In between the fortress walls, there are many churches (Metropolitan and Parish), a castle, dwellings, battle towers and other rocks
- Inside the cliffs, there are water supply passages and tunnels which go down all the way to the river so the people living there can have easy access to water during a siege. It is suspected that there is a hidden exit so they could escape or attack the enemy from ambush.
- Interesting fact: some historical dramatic plays take place in the fortress every May. The actors recreate medieval handicrafts like blacksmithing, weaving, shoemaking and others. The program includes war skills and tactics demonstrations as well.
Let’s not forget that we are still at the entrance mentioned in the paragraph above. Here everyone can walk their own way, pass through the once complete buildings, tiny streets and imagine what it was like to live in medieval Bulgaria. Now I will leave you to walk alone, but before that, I will share some….
6. Must Visits Nearby
There are quite a few places nearby that you could visit. Here are some of them:
- Orlova Chuka cave
- Rock-hewn church in Moskov dol
- Tabachka village
- Ivanovo rock monastery
- Basarbovo rock-hewn monastery (only one still active)
- Rock-hewn monastery Gramovets (eco walk from Ivanovo monstery)
- Pisanets – Vetovo eco walk