Sunday, April 24, 2016

Bulgaria Day 2: Mt. Vitosha

View of Sofia from Mt. Vitosha
I had a full day to explore Mt. Vitosha. I packed a couple bottles of water, a few energy bars, and arranged a cab to the medieval landmark, Boyana Church, which is near a popular trailhead.
Birdsong in the surrounding residential neighborhood was strong and the little guy in the photo above popped down and peeped for a moment or two. Once in the woods I was able to solve one of my birdsong mysteries. The woodland bird with the explosive phrase (like a more melodic ovenbird) is the chaffinch.
Mt. Vitosha trail
There are two trails to Boyana Falls. One goes straight up the mountain and supposedly takes about an hour. The other runs past Boyana Lake and takes an hour and a half. Eager to see the lake, I chose the slower, easier route.
Boyana Lake
Boyana Lake was lovely and the frogsong was intense. I paused for a bit to watch for kingfishers (no luck) and then made my way back up the mountain.
Scenic Vista
The trails were mostly well-marked but I highly recommend bringing a GPS device. Throughout Sofia park trails are reliably mapped which makes it easy to figure out which way to turn at the rare unmarked intersection.
Birding spot
My favorite moment of the day occurred about halfway from the lake to the falls. I found a comfortable rocky seat overlooking the mountainside and sat for some time scanning the scene. Woodland birds galore, including song thrush, nuthatch, treecreeper, pied (or collared?) flycatcher, and a wren that popped up about three feet from where I was sitting.
Boyana Falls
Boyana Falls is not exactly spectacular (particularly after Iceland), but rather extremely picturesque.
Gray Wagtail at Boyana Falls
Particularly if there is a gray wagtail displaying its beautiful long tail while flycatching above the water.
I decided to descend using the path straight down the mountain. This turned out to be a horrible decision for a person of my girth, knee age, and declining eyesight. The trail was wet and crumbling and was marked by signs detailing the number to call if you fell off the side of the mountain. It was less a walk down than a climb down. Obviously I made it down safely but arrived back at the hotel a filthy mess.

Here is a video of the nicer parts of the day!

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