This post is about an 18km walk from Vratarnica to Zaječar. There is a charming but forgotten village where I end up ringing the church bells.
I wake up in my tent and look at the watch: it’s five in the morning. I open my sleeping bag and the tent flap. The time for the winter sleeping bag seems to be over.
the forgotten village
The village of Vratarnica looks quite pretty. There are some old farm houses with large yards and lots of wood in their structures. As I am taking photos a lady shows up and asks me what I’m doing. I tell her that I’m a tourist and that I like her village.
The lady shakes my hand and says her name is Slavitza. Then she tells me that many of the houses are actually empty. It‘s the same story that I’ve heard so many times in rural Bulgaria: people move to the cities or out of the country to find work, and only the old people stay behind. And then, once they die… Slavitza shrugs and throws up her hands in resignation.
the Church of the Holy Archangel Gabriel
Some of the old people are drinking beer outside of a roadside shop. I toast with them, and they show me the way to the old church. It is located in a hidden spot behind some houses. And it is beautiful. I don’t know how old the church is, but it looks as if it has been asleep for a long time.
There’s a bell tower outside with some stairs leading into it. I climb up the stairs and I find two ropes dangling from the top of the tower. I pull on one of the ropes. Nothing happens. I pull a bit harder, and I can see something moving above me.
Then there is a huge gonging sound. I am ringing the church bell! Gong-gong-gong goes the bell as I am pulling on the rope. It is awesome until a very annoyed man appears and tells me to stop. I apologize and stop, and that one famous line from Emil from Lönneberga comes to mind: “you don’t make up pranks, they just happen.”
where to eat in Zaječar
The road to Zaječar is sometimes winding and sometimes straight, and the hills to both sides are very green. It’s exhausting to walk on it anyway, because there’s much more traffic than the days before, and because most of the cars go very fast on the straight parts of the road.
I arrive in the town after dark, get a room in a hotel called Hamburg, and ask for a place where I can get dinner. “Go to the Irish Pub Rivendelle,” the receptionist tells me, and then, when she notices my confusion, she explains that it is actually a restaurant.
It turns out to be awesome.
the walk from Vratarnica to Zaječar