The Roussenski Lom river slowly flows through the plains of northeastern Bulgaria, making its way toward the Danube. It passes by old fortresses, caves and a series of monasteries carved in rock. Only one of them is still inhabited today.
So here we are in the naval town of Rousse, right after passing the Romanian border. We somehow manage not to get lost and quickly found a way out. But this is where the fun begins. Some 20 km more and we reach the small village of Basarbovo. There are no signposts. I admit that we were kind of disoriented. When we saw ourselves close to a bridge, something told us we were close. So before passing it, we turned left on a road along the river. We arrive in a parking place in front of a massive gate. Limestone walls rising above. We take a better look. Stairs, windows, doors, passages, all carved in stone up there. We found the St. Dimitrii of Basarbovo Monastery.
It is still morning. The gate is open, but we don’t see anybody inside. We enter and head for the stairs. As no one seems to be bothered by our presence, we continue and soon find ourselves above the church, looking at the Roussenski Lom river. There’s an entire ensemble of rooms. We step inside the rock church where we glance at the St. Dimitrii icon. Then we stop for a moment to look at the bell tower which seems stuck between the stone walls. It’s amazing how they made use of the steep terrain.
St. Dimitrii was the only saint in this region. In the 17th century he retired in one of these caves. It seems that he died in the waters of the Roussenski Lom river, just under the cliff. His relics were miraculously found by a little girl. Later, they helped to heal the sick.
Meanwhile, monks began to wonder around the yard beneath. They didn’t even seem to notice us. We quietly get down on the same stone stairs. We have a look at the old fountain, dug by St. Dimitrii himself. Then, along the path, we return to our cars.
We spent the rest of the day at the climbing crags in Basarbovo, on the other side of the river. There are plenty of sport routes, especially if you’re only here for a day. This was actually our primary objective. But we got a little… lost. And in the end, a wrong turn revealed a complex structure built by the hands of men in the middle of a rocky cliff, a place to find peace, by the bank of the slow Roussenski Lom.