Buzludzha — Travel to a strange place…

Photo by unknown photographer -- probably made in early 1980

Photo by unknown photographer — probably made in early 1980′s.

We’d been planning the trip to Bulgaria for some time and I was looking for potential photography sites when I came across an article on making images of urban decay.  The author (whose name escapes me) mentioned the Communist monument at Buzludzha and had one or two captivating photos as illustrations.  One look and I HAD to go there.  A little on-line research revealed that, although it had been abandoned for years, there was a move afoot to close it to visitors.  I hoped we could get there before it was sealed.

The monument is massive.  It was built by the Bulgarian Communist Party and was opened in 1981, taking seven years to complete.  In 1989, after the fall of Communism in this part of the world it was abandoned and has since been vandalized and looted. 

We — the Bride and I — stayed at a B&B in the little town of Shipka; ten or twelve miles from the site.  Our host, ever helpful, made a few phone calls and reported that the roadway from Shipka pass to the monument was likely still blocked with snow (late April, 2012) but that we might be able to reach it from another roadway — and he gave us directions.  He said, however, that he had heard that the doors had been welded shut and getting inside would be unlikely.  Oh well…we’d come this far, we might as well give it a try.  

April 23 -11_2_3_4_5

Here’s our first view of the building.  It’s massive even from about one-half mile away.

Although the roads had been maintained no better than the building, we were able to drive to within a hundred yards of the structure.  I made some images as we approached on foot and climbed the steps. 

One of the front doors was standing wide open — and I was one happy guy! 

We entered and found some stairs going up to the main chamber.  Because of the melting and refreezing of snow that had fallen through the openings in the roof the stairs were a sheet of ice — but passable on the outer edges.  Upon entering the main chamber The Bride said only, “Oh, my….” 

I used a 10.5 mm lens at f/6.3 and made 5 exposures ranging from 1/80 to 1/5 second for this HDR.  The main chamber or "state hall" is awesome in its size.  The mosaics on the far wall in this picture are fifteen feet high and  almost 200 feet away

I used a 10.5 mm lens at f/6.3 and made 5 exposures ranging from 1/80 to 1/5 second for this HDR. The main chamber or “state hall” is awesome in its size. The mosaics on the far wall in this picture are fifteen feet high and almost 200 feet away

Part of the magnificence of this place is the pervasive use of mosaic.  It is reported April 23 -54that it took some sixty artists eighteen months to execute these works of art.  Even in their sad state of repair the mosaics are brilliant.  This is a photographer’s paradise.

I’ve found two recent reports by other travelers to the site (September and November of this year).  One says that “…the door remains locked and barred, but access is possible around the side through a broken window”.  The other reports that “…getting inside can sometime be difficult”.  And that prompts me to say this:  Entering a site when the owner has made an obvious effort to restrict access is, in my estimation, morally wrong.  OK, maybe that is a bit “preachy” but I believe it is worth stating.

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Richard St. John - Yes, now I do remember seeing this blog. Am looking forward to all the good things that can com from the Foothills Photography Group.

Your blog is among the finest I’ve visited.
-rich

skeeter - Thanks, Rich. Coming from you…what a nice compliment!

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