Forgotten Ghost Towns of the Balkans

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In a remote corner of the Balkan Mountains, there stands a forgotten village with no name. At an altitude of nearly 800m, the village can only be reached on foot – but the spectacular views easily justify the forty-minute trek from the last inhabited town. The most interesting thing about this village though, is that it has remained untouched; many of these houses have simply been abandoned in the prime of their life, and left to decay unnoticed.

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The village consists of a total of probably 15 houses – arranged into two groups, roughly 100m apart. Transport to and from the village is difficult, likely one of the reasons why most of the villagers left their belongings behind. A couple of houses feature padlocks on the doors, but for the most part visitors have a free reign to explore these traditional homesteads.

The remote location also serves as a strong deterrent for looters; as such the entire site is beautifully free from graffiti and other intentional damage. Even valuable objects such as televisions and tools have been left behind, sat for years in exactly the same place where they were last used. Many of the houses have been this way for as long as two decades – when Bulgarian communism fell in 1989 there was a mass exodus, as many citizens moved into the cities for work. More than a million Bulgarians emigrated in those first few years, leaving behind their abandoned mountain settlements and decaying political monuments.

Urban-Exploration-Urbex-Balkan-Ghost-Town-Bulgaria_17-DRApproaching these old wood and brick houses, one of the first things to catch the eye are the countless paper memorials, pinned to doors and walls. These simple black and white sheets are a Bulgarian funerary custom, printed with the faces of deceased. Like an A4 tombstone they adorn the homes of the departed, as a mark of respect from the living. The problem with this system however, is that it often seems as if nobody knows when to take these morbid decorations down – here the deceased of many years past still cling to the walls, paper fading to dust as their solemn portraits keep watch over the village.

A few of the houses in the village have already given way to the elements. Some say that the snow this year has been the heaviest in living memory; here and there wooden beamed roofs have given way, scattering cascades of hand-shaped clay tiles. A number of the older buildings are now being used as storage space – the derelict barn on the edge of the village is filled with mattresses, while another house contains an array of wooden beehives.

Urban-Exploration-Urbex-Balkan-Ghost-Town-Bulgaria_8-DRHouses in the village were almost exclusively built in the traditional style of rural Bulgaria; a timber frame is held together with nothing more than stout pegs, and tiles are designed to simply rest in place, overlapping one another along the beams of the roof. Inside the kitchen one will usually find a ‘jamal’ – this old-fashioned heating system consists of hollow clay columns built into the wall, usually fed from a stove set into the wall in the next room. Not only does this provide a stove for cooking on, but hot smoke is piped into spaces between the walls, acting as a form of central heating.

Elsewhere around the site, strange tools and contraptions have fallen into disrepair, and many are slowly becoming enveloped by the vegetation. While much of the village has gone to ruin, there are still odd signs of maintenance here and there. The padlock on one house looks almost new, while the electricity cables connecting the village seem to have fallen only recently – brought down by storms, to trail hopelessly between houses.

The modest graveyard on the outskirts of the village features, ironically, the most recent signs of life – flowers rest on a number of graves, showing that while the village itself may have been abandoned long ago, those who lived and died here are still remembered by somebody, somewhere.

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One final noteworthy sight from the trip was an old Sovietesque truck, parked at the bottom of the mountain track. This heavy duty vehicle survives now as little more than an engine on wheels, and has been put to seemingly good use as a tow-truck for a logging team. Vehicles like this are by no means rare in rural Bulgaria – where there is a far greater tendency to fix things, than there are the resources to replace them.

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  1. your right Darmon Richter there is absalutly no names for the town at all but except for a lot of places need to be cleaned up so that people can see that the town has changed a little bit. from Wendy Sells

  2. What is the name of that village ? Thanks

    • Hi Ilea. The village doesn’t have a name marked on online maps, though I’m sure it did have one at some point. It’s one of many similar villages however, scattered across the mountains of Gabrovo province.

  3. Hi!Great story and photos.One note though: i’ve been reading your Pripyat and Odessa and other stories here as well in recent days. These are great as well. But i can’t find any date or a year when these stories were published on your page? It would be helpful to have that info somewhere just to have better orientation in time. Or is it just me that i can’t locate this info?
    I might as well use the Patreon link that you have to keep up the great work!

    • And just to reply to myself-i have spotted the month and the year it was published in the link 😀 🙂

      • Hi Mark, thanks for the kind words! I’m really glad to hear you’ve enjoyed reading the posts on here.

        Yes – as you’ve now spotted, the date is featured in the URL. I used to have it more prominently listed on each post, but I decided that this was actually misleading. I don’t tend to post things in a chronological order, and sometimes it takes me quite a while to put a story together – for example, the Chernobyl article was written more than a year after my visit! Where relevant though, I always try and give an indication of the date of my visit somewhere in the post itself.

  4. What is the name of the nearby village or town? Is it near Goliama Jeliazna or Troian by any chance?

  5. There is no such thing in Bulgaria as a village without a name. Your report comes accross as vastly exagerated, there are 100s of these hamlets over the country and this one looks very typical though not abandoned, look at the firewood on the doorstep for example or the death notices which aren’t so old! Starving people leaving for cities? Please do not write such lies!!!

    • Hi, DD.

      Sorry to hear you didn’t like the report. To call it ‘lies’ though, I think is rather unfair.

      I’m sure this village had a name once, but it no longer appears on maps.

      Yes – the firewood seems to be a sign of relatively recent activity, but most of the buildings had at least one wall missing. Some were complete ruins. There were subtle signs of life here and there (as mentioned in the report), but the village was almost completely abandoned by the time I found it. Just look at the pictures for proof of this.

      There are indeed hundreds of such hamlets spread across Bulgaria. I’ve been to quite a few now. Anyway, thanks for sharing your feedback.

  6. Fabulous writing, Darmon. So rich in content and atmosphere. In spite of its dreary history, it sounds like a place I’d be enchanted to visit.

    • Thanks! As dreary as the history sounds, there are positive notes as well – the people who built these hidden villages were usually the more independent, free-thinking and strong-willed types… as a result, the atmosphere of this particular settlement felt more like a pioneer town than a work camp.

  7. Another fine report. When do you get time to do all this?! Well embellished with extra links too, nice touch. It’s sad that these places just died out. Amazing location to live in. As ever, look forward to the next instalment.

    • Thank you, this one certainly made a welcome break from the usual urban sprawls.

See all 16 comments on “Forgotten Ghost Towns of the Balkans”

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