FINDING GOD'S BRIDGЕ

by Dimana Trankova; photography by Anthony Georgieff

Natural phenomenon lies hidden near Vratsa

gods bridge

It is easy to say that the Bulgarian Northwest has been forgotten by God. Economically depressed and depopulated, it has for years consistently topped the EU's least developed regions list. Yet, when you visit the Vratsa region you will find yourself surrounded by stunning, and even sublime, landscapes and natural wonders. Here, the mighty peaks of the Stara Planina mountains hang over the town, enfolding delights for visitors of any shade and persuasion. The undulations of the plain that start from there also hide another treasure: two rock bridges carved by nature.

The name of this phenomenon hardly comes as a surprise: Bozhi Most, or God's Bridge.

Which particular god created this phenomenon is not clear, though the legend is positive about one thing: the deity in question created the bridge to span a capricious river prone to violent floods that could destroy everything in their way.

gods bridge

Lilyashka Bara brook, which created the stunning God's Bridge, is low and quiet most of the time

When you visit God's Bridge today, you will be surprised by how tame this river, the Lilyashka Bara brook, actually is. The legend was metaphorically right, however: the rivulet is the reason why the stone arches of God's Bridge exist.

It all started during the Early Cretaceous period, which covered between 145 and 100 million years ago and saw the emergence of bipedal predator dinosaurs (T-Rex's grandfathers) and the ancestors of modern birds. 120 million years ago, no such animals lived on the spot where God's Bridge would eventually appear. Instead, there was a shallow sea there. It was inhabited by much smaller fauna: single-celled organisms called orbitolines, clams, snails, sea urchins, brachiopods and ammonites. These creatures may have been smaller and less impressive than dinosaurs, but they were many. Over time their dead bodies accumulated on the seafloor and slowly solidified into rock.

Aeons later, the Lilyashka Bara brook carved its way into this rock. Initially, its activity was hidden below ground, where it created a large cave. Several thousand years before our time the roof of this cave was exposed, and erosion from sun, rain and wind took over. Eventually, the two rock bridges appeared.

stunning landscape

Stretched between the plain and the mountains, the region offers spectacular vistas

The larger of them is the showstopper: about 20m high, 12m thick and 25m wide. Beneath it there is a cave that is 20m wide, 17m high and 60m long. The smaller bridge can hardly be seen, but it also hides an expansive cave. The two caverns are connected by a pass, which contains a lake.

Despite its beauty, God's Bridge remains relatively unknown to tourists.

There are several ways to reach this natural phenomenon, which is located between the villages of Lilyache and Chiren. If you are on the Vratsa to Oryahovo road, take the turn for Chiren, and then the dirt road that you see to the left. A second option is to go to Lilyache and, from the centre of the village, follow the signpost for the "eco path." The third route involves taking a dirt road through the fields between Lilyache and Chiren; to find it you'll need directions from some of the shepherds who are usually near the road.

Today the place looks desolate, at least most of the time, but it was not always so. In Antiquity, a busy road used to pass nearby. It was so important that the Romans built a small fortress on a neighbouring hill. Its modest, crushed-stone walls can still be seen, peeping above the thicket-overgrown ground, not far from God's Bridge. In fact, the first two paths leading to the rocky phenomenon take you close to the fortress.

roman fortress

A Roman fort used to protect a road that passed by the nature phenomenon

The presence of these ancient ruins, along with the magnificence of the God's Bridge, is why local treasure hunters have come up with another legend for the locality. According to their lore, the Roman Emperor Constantine and his mother Helena used to reside in the cave under the bridge. The queen's golden loom is said to have been hidden there.

The inhabitants of the nearby villages have another, more mundane name for God's Bridge: Zhabokrek, or Frogscroak. Why? In summer, when the water in the Lilyashka Bara is shallow, hundreds of frogs croak in the small pond formed by the brook under the stone arch. This sound echoes beneath the imposing rocky dome at all hours, a befitting homage to the humble prehistoric organisms whose petrified bodies created this stunning phenomenon. 

  • COMMENTING RULES

    Commenting on www.vagabond.bg

    Vagabond Media Ltd requires you to submit a valid email to comment on www.vagabond.bg to secure that you are not a bot or a spammer. Learn more on how the company manages your personal information on our Privacy Policy. By filling the comment form you declare that you will not use www.vagabond.bg for the purpose of violating the laws of the Republic of Bulgaria. When commenting on www.vagabond.bg please observe some simple rules. You must avoid sexually explicit language and racist, vulgar, religiously intolerant or obscene comments aiming to insult Vagabond Media Ltd, other companies, countries, nationalities, confessions or authors of postings and/or other comments. Do not post spam. Write in English. Unsolicited commercial messages, obscene postings and personal attacks will be removed without notice. The comments will be moderated and may take some time to appear on www.vagabond.bg.

Add new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.

Restricted HTML

  • Allowed HTML tags: <a href hreflang> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote cite> <code> <ul type> <ol start type> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd> <h2 id> <h3 id> <h4 id> <h5 id> <h6 id>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Web page addresses and email addresses turn into links automatically.

Discover More

WAR & PEACE IN CENTRAL SOFIA
Squirrels and small children frequent unkempt alleys under towering oak and beech trees; а romantic wooden gazebo is often decorated with balloons forgotten after some openair birthday party; melancholic weeping willows hang over an empty artif

SOFIA'S BEST-KEPT SECRET
In 1965, Dimitar Kovachev, a biology teacher from the town of Asenovgrad, was on a field trip to Ezerovo village.

WHAT IS DZHULAYA?
How often do you hum, while driving or doing chores, Uriah Heep's song July Morning? Is it on your Spotify?

MYSTERY CAVE
Bulgaria has its fair share of intriguing caves, from the Devil's Throat underground waterfall to Prohodna's eyes-like openings and the Magura's prehistoric rock art.

RHODOPE'S MANMADE LAKES
Owing to its geological history, the Rhodope mountain range – in contrast to the nearby Rila and Pirin – lacks any impressive Alpine-style lakes. However, where nature erred, man stepped in.

IS RACISM IN BULGARIA ON THE RISE?
"We are fascists, we burn Arabs": the youngsters start chanting as soon as they emerge from the metro station and leave the perimeter of its security cameras.

HOW WOODROW WILSON AND CHARLES DARWIN CAME TO SOFIA
The names of foreigners, mainly Russians, are common across the map of Sofia – from Alexandr Dondukov and Count Ignatieff to Alexey Tolstoy (a Communist-era Soviet writer not to be confused with Leo Tolstoy) who has a whole housing estate named after him.

EMBRACE THE PAST
Picturesque old houses lining a narrow river and tiny shops selling hand-made sweets, knives and fabrics: The Etara open air museum recreates a charming, idealised version of mid-19th century Bulgaria.

JESUS CHRIST ASTRONAUT
Christ was an alien. Or if He was not, then four centuries ago there were UFOs hovering over what is now southwestern Bulgaria.

OF SHPAGINS, TANKS AND ALYOSHAS
Unlike other countries in Central and Eastern Europe, which removed, stashed away or demolished most remnants of their Communist past as early as the 1990s, Bulgaria is a curiosity.

VARVARA'S IRON TREE
Agroup of friends meet each summer at the seaside, a small community who know one another so well that boredom becomes inevitable, and so do internal conflicts. And death.

TAILLESS CATS AND MADMEN MAKING POLITICAL DEMANDS
Descendants of millennia-old rites, the scary kukeri, or mummers, are the best known face of Bulgarian carnival tradition. Gabrovo's carnival is its modern face: fun, critical, and colourful.