Narrow gauge railway, Bulgaria, Rodhope mountains

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Velingrad

The beginning

When I was a kid, we used to go to the Velingrad’s market to sell cherries. Excluding that my parents were exploiting child labor, I have very nice memories from that period of my life.

We used to have and we still have (but now we exploit other people) a cherry orchard in the village of Patalenista and every summer we used to gather and eat lots of cherries. Then we drove them to the market in Velingrad. I don’t remember much from the city itself but I have a strong memory of the puffing train passing along the road. We all know how boys are impressed of any trains, and this one – between Sepremvri and Velingrad, is especially impressive.

The narrow gauge rails near Velingrad, Bulgaria - Rhodope mountains

So this winter, after the great snowfalls, we booked a room in a hotel with mineral water pools in the SPA capital of Bulgaria – Velingrad, and the whole week before I lived with the dream of travelling with the desired train of my childhood. But plans are made to eventually fail, so we had to go by car. The fluffy white snow that looks so scary from the TV is not bothering me as a driver so we reached Velingrad easily and quickly. We had not even finished enjoying the outside hot pool of the hotel (I love sitting in the hot water while snow is falling around me), when ideas for adventures started to flow into my mind.



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The view from the hotel - Velingrad, Bulgaria

The view from the hotel – Velingrad, Bulgaria

The medieval Tsepina fortress

The path to Tsepina fortress near Dorkovo village

The path to Tsepina fortress in the winter

So we took the road to the village of Dorkovo. The whole country around Tsepina is crazy beautiful. But the sanded road reaches only the village. From there to Tsepina runs a beautiful white road, cleared by a tractor – otherwise it would be very hard to drive in 50 cm of snow. But this road also ended at the foot of the hill, on which the fortress is located. So we continued walking along the path to Tsepina hut.

Rhodope mountains, Bulgaria

Rhodope mountains, Bulgaria

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The white path to Tsepina fortress, Bulgaria

The white path to Tsepina fortress

Oddly, the hut was not working (it was not working in the autumn either) and it is probably closed. The path is going only to the hut, and from this point upside there is only white, fluffy snow. Climbing towards the peak, the nature is presenting us with a lot of beautiful sights, coloured by the sunset and beautified by the mist above the forests. On the peak we found three horses, watching calmly at us.

Beautiful Rhodopes

Beautiful Rhodopes

A lonely horse met us on sunset at Tsepina, Rhodope mountains, Bulgaria

A lonely horse met us on sunset at Tsepina

Horse at Tsepina Fortress

Horse near Tsepina fortress

Rhodope mountains in the winter, Bulgaria

Rhodope mountains in the winter, Bulgaria

On the way back from our walk we took two hitch-hikers who appeared to be shepherds and we talked about Life, Universe and everything. And a bit frozen, a bit covered with melting snow, we put our clothes on the heater, put on the swimming suits and enjoyed the remaining hours in the mineral swimming pools.

The stunning view of Rhodopes in the winter

The stunning view of Rhodopes in the winter

New dawn, new folly – that’s the main guiding principle in my life. In the morning, during breakfast, armed with Internet access, I started to search a way to travel with the train. It could not be impossible. And the way was found. From Velingrad to Avramovo station runs a narrow gauge railway (760 mm). On Avramovo station the trains to Velingrad and from Velingrad meet so we could transfer to the train back.

The narrow gauge railway

The line between Bansko and Dobrinishte was inaugurated on 9 December 1945. I love travelling with that train!
Velingrad train station Bulgaria

Velingrad train station

Velingrad rail station

I cannot express with words my joy to get to Velingrad railway station, a very nice station. The woman on the counter sold us two return tickets to Avramovo for 6,80 lv in total. On this station I somehow went back into the years when we rode in the Moskvich or the Lada, and we even had a relative with an Italian Fiat. The puffing train came on time and we started our small slow adventure.

The narrow gauge train arriving at Velingrad Bulgaria

The narrow gauge train arriving at Velingrad

There were three cars, very nice, with cosy seats and tables. Within minutes the train was full of women with bags, headscarves and rubber shoes.

Passengers in the narrow gauge train to Bansko and Dobrinishte, Bulgaria

There is no way to describe my pleasant emotions of the journey. I left the busy daily schedule of the city and the strange “values”.

Tsvetino train stop, Bulgaria

Tsvetino train stop

Now a little history as I know it: the narrow gauge rail line was opened in 1929 between the stations Sarambei (Septemvri) and Ludjene (Velingrad). It was serviced by a small steam locomotive with three or four cars (it could not pull more cars). The route we traveled was launched in 1937. The rail line was planned to go to Nevrokop (Gotse Delchev), but it reached only Dobrinishte. Our final stop in this journey – Avramovo station, is the highest railway station on the Balkans (1267 m altitude).

Train at Avramovo, the hignest located rail station on the Balkans, Bulgaria

Trains at Avramovo, the hignest located rail station on the Balkans, Bulgaria

The travel back went quickly and imperceptibly. We went back to the hotel and continued with sauna, rolling in the snow and hot pools.

In the end of this story I want to tell you: use the narrow gauge railway, especially if you travel with good company, leave the busy daily schedule and enjoy the only route of this kind in Bulgaria. Until 2003 there were more narrow gauge rail lines inBulgaria: Varvara – Pazardzhik, General Todorov – Petrich, Cherven Bryag – Oryahovo, but today they do not exist anymore. We have only this train to the past.

One of most beautiful train journeys

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Recommendations: Walks in Velingrad are very nice, the city has very beautiful parks.

2012

 

More photos at: Near Milevi skali (Milevi Rocks), Bulgaria

Dolene Station

гара Долене / Dolene station

 гара Долене / Dolene station

гара Долене / Dolene station

At Velingrad station – 5:55АМ

Влак / Train

Влак / Train

Fun :)

Куриози

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