After months of traveling through Russia and Eastern Europe, I figured I had seen my fair share of Soviet Ghosts. And then I arrived in Bulgaria.
If Communist architecture is your thing – and isn’t it everybody’s thing? – then Bulgaria is your place. I constantly found myself whipping my head around to stare at old sculptures and monuments as we drove through the countryside, but we didn’t take the time to stop for photos, because we were on our way to the biggest, baddest monument of all: Buzludzha monument.
A 3 hour drive from Sofia towards the Bulgarian mountains, and 1.5 hours outside of Veliko Tarnovo, the Buzludzha monument was built high up on a mountain in 1981 to commemorate the creation of the Bulgarian Socialist movement in 1891.
Buzludzha monument proudly stood as Bulgaria’s Communist headquarters, considered by many to be one of communism’s greatest architectural icons. The monument’s glory years were short-lived, however, as after a political shift in 1989 Buzludzha was discarded by the government and left abandoned.
Well, almost abandoned.
Dan, Matt and I visited on a Sunday – on Dan’s birthday, in fact! – and judging from the small group of cars at the bottom of the monument I would have thought we were visiting a tourist attraction rather than an abandoned building. But of course it is a tourist attraction – just look at it! The UFO-like monument sits imposingly on top of a hill, complete with a tower embellished with that infamous red star.
After walking around the
sci-fi movie set Buzludzha and taking a bunch of photos, I turned to walk back down to our car but Matt stopped me and pointed to a small hole in one of the walls.
Apparently we were going inside.
Climbing up into the building was difficult enough to make me feeling like an Adventurer, but not too difficult for those two kids behind me to get inside with a little help from their parents. Because of its damaged roof Buzludzha has been closed to the public, but that doesn’t seem to deter most people. Of course not, because seeing the inside is the best part.
A little Googling showed me that this is what the inside of the Buzludzha monument used to look like:
Much like at Sarajevo’s abandoned Olympic bobsled track, I found it hard to really picture Buzludzha at its prime. Apparently a whole lot can change in a couple of decades.
Walking through the monument is certainly eerie, but sharing the place with a dozen or so other tourists definitely took the edge off. Until Matt pulled out some flashlights and announced that we were climbing up the tower.
^ Matt assured me that this is probably a joke
We eventually found the bottom of the tower – marked by the end of a ladder poking down into the basement, and then we started to climb. And after about ten minutes of climbing ladder after ladder, the tower filled with red light – we had made it to the star!
And then, finally, the top. It would have been a relief if I hadn’t been even more terrified for the climb down back into the darkness. At least there were pretty views!
Now, officially I will tell anyone who wants to visit Buzludzha that they absolutely should go and see it, but that going inside is very dangerous and not worth the risk.
But unofficially, you totally have to climb the tower! It left me shaky for the rest of the day, but I’m also a huge scaredy cat so I’m sure anyone else would be just fine. Matt and Dan certainly were, and Dan even declared that exploring Buzlduzha was the coolest thing we did on our entire trip.
Would you climb Buzludzha?