Melding

Bulgaria

Week 5: 1 - 8 May 2015
Difficulty: Level 5
How to get there: return flight to Sofia

After 4 weeks of hiking we have arrived in Sofia, de capital of Bulgaria. The 5th week of the Sultan’s Trail will start in this city. Count on variable and dynamic weather!

Sofia was the capital of the Ottoman province of Rumelia for more than four centuries, which encouraged many Turks to settle there. You can see the traces everywhere with the many mosques, fountains and hamams. The Sultan’s Trail will pass the Banya Bashi mosque, one of the oldest mosques in Europe.  

When we leave the city we will immediately enter a natural area and go into the mountains. Especially the first day we will have a heavy climb: up to 1600 meters above sea level. You need a good physical condition to do this. The reward is a spectacular view! Actually throughout the country views are breathtaking.

We will pass Vitosha which is the skiing zone of the Sofians in wintertime. Through mountain paths we will continue to Samakov. Now a sleepy town, but in the Ottoman times a lively industrial city with a flourishing steal industry.

Through mountain trails we will reach the Rila Monastery with its beautifully preserved icons, which is on the Unesco World Heritage list. Seven monks still live there. On our way we will sleep in an unmanned mountain lodge. Did we mention the breathtaking views?


Week 6: 8 - 15 May 2015
Difficulty: Level 5
How to get there: return flight to Sofia

Our second week in Bulgaria will commence in Borino, long time a model multicultural city with many ethnic Turks. Just outside the city you will find the Devil’s Bridge and the Devil’s Throat. This is a spectacular cave with the highest underground waterfall on the Balkan Peninsula.

From here on we will mainly walk through the region of the Pomaks, the term used for Bulgarian-speaking Muslims who are indigenous to southern Bulgaria. We will pass Trigrad with its Ottoman bridge and roads. The locals will refer to it as a Roman bridge, but they were actually built by the Ottomans.

This entire area we will walk through is a stunning natural area. The ancient forest, and Bulgaria in general, are often referred to as the last wilderness of Europe.

In Mugla we will have a look at the old wooden mosque and wooden minaret. Let’s see if they are still there, because last time they were building a new one. Next we will pass through Smoljan, another skiing area, and Madan (comes from the Turkish ‘maden’ meaning mine), an former mining town.


Week 7: 15 - 22 May 2015
Difficulty: Level 5
How to get there: return flight to Sofia  

Ardino is where we will start the 11th week of the Sultan’s Trail. Ardino cannot be considered as a place of historical importance, however, for the founder of the Sultan’s Trail Sedat Cakir it has. His parents were ethnic Turks from Ardino who, with many others, migrated to Turkey in the 1950s. The region hasn’t changed much since then. The fruit trees his parents grew up with are still there.

During Ottoman times was on the connecting road from Romania and current Greece. We will pass the Arda river using an Ottoman bridge. This bridge was referred to as the Devil’s Bridge, but in fact many bridges here are called devil’s bridges. The Arda river can be a very wild river and crossing it wasn’t without risk. Many have lost their lives here.

We will continue our hike to Kardzjali, one of the first and important Ottoman cities in Bulgaria. Up to 1918 it was the province capital of a large area between the current Komotini in Greece and Plovtiv which is north of Kardzjali. Nowadays the traces of the Ottoman empire are still visible throughout the city. Many people still speak Turkish. The town was established by Kircaali who also has given his name to the town.

From Kardzjali we will continue through the region of the Thracians who were well-known for their goldsmiths. On the way we will see many Thracians sanctuaries. This view on this entire route is spectacular. It will take your breath away.

 
Week 8: 22 - 29 May 2015
Difficulty: Level 5 and 1
How to get there: return flight to Istanbul. From there take a bus to Edirne. You can be picked up by the Sultan´s Trail from Edirne. This is a bit of a logistical challenge. Therefore we advise to combine week 7 and 8. You could fly to Sofia and fly back from Istanbul.

This week we will walk through 3 countries: Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey. In the final Bulgarian part of the Sultan’s Trail, the road from Kardzjali to Ivaylovgrad will take us through the living area of the endangered Egyptian vulture  Many other bird species can also be spotted here. 

Greece mübadele route (after Ivaylovgrad):
By crossing the border from Bulgaria to Greece we leave the most challenging part of the Sultan’s Trail. From here the trail will be level 1, following the Arda river. It’s a beautiful environment. In our brief time in Greece we will pass Komara, Fylakio, Elaia, Plati, Arzos Rizia and Kastanies. 

Turkey Avyolu route: 
Our first destination in Turkey is Edirne. The city built by the Roman emperor Adrianus was the first Ottoman capital in Europe. It’s also famous for its oil wrestling competition which is believed to be the oldest continuously running, sanctioned sporting competition in the world.

From Edirne we will walk to Hıdırağa, Karayusuf, Ortakça, Kavaklı, Yağcılı, Süloğlu, Büyük Gerdelli, Dolhan, Paşayeri and Koyunbaba.