The Devetashka Cave | From the Paleolithic period to Hollywood action movies

Saturday trips are my favourte! Sometimes we plan them way ahead of time but most of the time we like to improvise: we brainstorm the type of locations we feel like visiting and then choose one pretty much at the last minute. It takes more planning when you travel on a motorbike, but car trips provide a lot of freedom. So here we are: sleepy and chillaxed on  a Saturday morning: making our way to the Lovech province.

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Our main goal for the day is the Devetashka Cave: one of the biggest and most beautiful caves in Bulgaria. If you are somewhere in the area- definitely don’t miss it. It is impressive to be there and the place is full of intriguing history going back to the Middle Paleolithic period.

Some interesting facts about the cave

  • it is paleo-ornitologist’s dream come true. The remnants of more than 136 bird species have been discovered inside the cave: that’s about 1/3rd of the bird species found in the country nowadays.
  • Don’t be surprised by the endless supply of bat-themed magnets outside the entrance: apart from being a home for dozens of protected animal species and the Devetashka Cave is one of the most important hibernation spots for bats in entire Europe: during the winter the bat population can reach 350 000 specimen! It is even part of an international agreement called Eurobats (talk about badass names!) > So now you know why access to most of the cave is limited and it is not open to the public for most of the year
  • It used to be a secret military facility (way before it was part of action movies)
  • It is also called the Maara in Bulgarian via the Turkish word Mağara (the ğ is silent/not pronounced) which means “cave”
  • Signs of human presence in the cave date back to 70 000 BC!

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Camera, action!

When I posted photos from the cave online, a friend of mine who is Canadian and doesn’t have too much exposure to Bulgarian nature immediately reacted “These are famous!”. I was really surprised that she knew about the magnificent cave arches and then I realized that in fact millions of people have already seen them on the silver screen. The cave made a prominent appearance on the Hollywood action move Expendables 2. Unfortunately, fame came along with environmental issues and the bat population of the cave plummeted:

“The shooting of the movie harms the bat habitat – with the placement of props, the cutting down of vegetation, as well as disturbance by the presence of large numbers of people and the noise they make” – Nikolay Simov, Zoologist at the Center for Bat Studies and Protection at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, quoted by Caving News

On the other hand, the film crew built an actual bridge over the Osam river which the locals seem to really appreciate, so I guess there have been some positive outcomes as well.

This article is part of a Series on Mobile Travel Photography which aims to test how well do smartphones capture the excitement of exploration and travel | Model tested: HuaweiP9

How to get there

Practical Tips:

✓ There are two ways to reach the cave: a) If you start off at Devetaki village you can use the narrow path by the river; b) access the cave directly by driving along Road 301 and taking a short 400 m (1,300 ft) walk via the dirt road and the bridge (there are signs along the road so it is quite easy to find)

Start the trip early and include other interesting landmarks in the area: the cave is very beautiful but it doesn’t take long to explore it, so if you have come all the way to this area: it’s a good idea to explore other things like the Krushuna Waterfalls, the Kakrin Inn (where the legendary revolutionary Vasil Levski was captured) or the Eyes of God cave (stories about all of them coming soon).

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