Urban Exploration in Bulgaria: Buzludzha

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Desi and I had a wonder trip through Bulgaria and Turkey, and I’ll make a few posts on various adventures had. One of these adventures was on our last day in Bulgaria before heading back to Canada. We rented a car in the central city of Plovdiv with the intent to drive two hours north the mountains.

Weeks earlier, I had done some research and found that there are a number of interesting abandoned monuments throughout the country, the best one being Buzludzha. Buzludzha is sitting atop a mountain in the center of the country. It was built in 1981 by the communist party of Bulgaria during the era of the Soviet Union. It was to be a meeting place, celebration center and monument for generations to come. When communism fell in that country in 1990, the monument was left to the elements and to looters. Scavengers took everything of value from the building, including the roof which was covered in copper. Now the building lies derelict, falling apart and off limits.

We headed towards the village of Shipka, and up the Shipka Pass (nine hairpin turns) to the top of the mountain. There was a small monument of torches located lower down the mountain, which is where we parked the car:

I believe this foreground monument was supposed to symbolize the friendship between Bulgaria and Russia. The graffiti saying “Ataka” is the Bulgarian word for “Attack”, but probably also refers to the far-right political party by the same name. These torches marked the beginning of a pathway that leads up to Buzludzha, and off we went.

The walk was not easy. It was very windy and the pathway was not maintained – watch your step. We took a few breaks on our way up, and finally made it to the top. The front of the UFO-shaped monument displays a clear message in graffiti:

As you can see from the photograph, there are steel gates in place, preventing entrance. One of the gates has been broken open (someone cut the welds as they were all welded shut), and a small hole was broken open at the bottom of the interior door, not visible from this angle. This was our point of entry.

Desi did not want to go in, and with good reason; The building is in such a poor state, we were both worried for our safety. Thankfully she didn’t let me go in alone, and we entered together. The bottom level of the building was very dark and it took a moment for our eyes to adjust. This area was completely in ruin and not even worth a photograph, but we could see stairs leading upwards in every compass direction. Picking what appeared to be the most-often used stairs by trespassers like us, we headed upstairs to see this:

In a sad state of neglect and destruction, I can only imagine how it would have looked in the ’80s. Some of the fresco mosaics look to be intentionally defaced (literally), and some have been ravaged by the elements and time. The hammer and sickle is still emblazoned on the ceiling, even though much of the roof is missing and nearly collapsing. This was a scary place to be in when the wind picked up. The top of this mountain is a windy place, and the roof is covered by only loosely attached sheet metal. The wind rattles the roof so loudly it feels like pieces may come falling down. Thankfully, everything stayed in place long enough for me to set up for a large panorama of the interior:

After exiting, I took another panorama of the landscape in which this derelict building sits – breathtaking. If we came only for this view I would have been content:

While making this final image, we realized we were not alone. Another couple was walking up the same pathway as we did, simply to visit the monument. Another couple, much to our surprise, drove their car up to the building – there is a perfectly serviceable road that I had assumed would have been blocked. Ah well, the exercise did us good. 🙂

Last year the Bulgarian government, not having the money to either repair or demolish the monument, gifted it to the current socialist party. It’s their problem now. For the time being, it’s an off-limits destination only for the adventurous.


  1. Diane Enns
    July 26th, 2012 | 5:50 pm

    Thanks for the history and amazing photo’s Don.
    Love Mom

  2. Uncle Ron
    July 27th, 2012 | 6:41 am

    Outstanding job Don, you must pursue this…
    At least you had a nurse with you in the dangerous areas…
    Love to see these photos through your eyes. The stories behind the pictures are wonderful. You have a talent of photography but also your writing skills are superior.

  3. July 27th, 2012 | 10:26 am

    Sean would be proud of you, lol…..nice pics, Don, look forward to seeing more.

  4. Janet Komarechka
    July 27th, 2012 | 11:56 am

    Enjoyed you pictures so much Don, especially with the story that went with them. Good job. Waiting for more…

  5. Helen Komarechka
    July 27th, 2012 | 7:19 pm

    The pictures are breathtaking and the stories that go with them. Really enjoyed them. Waiting for more to come.

  6. Louise Marling
    September 1st, 2012 | 10:56 am

    What an interesting site to see and read about. Your pictures as always were amazing. Sorry I missed you speaking at the club meeting. We are in Utah right now.

  7. Uday
    October 31st, 2013 | 8:54 pm

    Don there is no doubt, about you being one of the best creative photographer I have seen. Keep up with good works. 🙂

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