On the way to the Rila Monastery in Bulgaria, there’s an interesting stop that’s worth a visit if you’re interested in unusual landscapes formed by natural phenomena. You need to be prepared to walk up a moderately challenging path, which may be muddy at times (but not too much), not to be afraid of heights, and you need to have two Bulgarian levs to pay for access to the path leading up to the earth formation known as the Stob “pyramids”. That’s more or less one euro.


When I went there at the peak of winter I could go in for free. Driving through Stob I had the impression, which I also had while driving through other villages in western Bulgaria, that it was a deserted place – a ghost town. There were one or two souls populating a square that’s close to the main attraction of this locality. But that was it. Later, looking down at the buildings of this town, I saw broken glass panes that are the hallmark of abandoned buildings. It seemed as if stray dogs were running the place, and I could still hear their barking while walking up towards the pyramids. It was quite spooky, I have to say.


The closed payment booth added to the general air of abandon. But it was easy to lift up the barrier and walk in. As long as the earth looked solid, I reckoned that I should be safe.


My carefully locked rental car, pictured above, left conspicuously alone in the car park in front of the ticketing booth, was my link to civilisation. I handled the solid hardness of the car key in my pocket to reassure myself after taking the photo. Meanwhile, the dogs were still barking.

A church once stood here. Apparently, it was torn down a couple of centuries ago by Muslims who were unhappy with Christian worshippers allegedly peeping into their back yards.

The path narrowed and became rocky, steeper, at times muddy and slippery but relatively safe. And then, all of a sudden, the “pyramids” came into view.


It’s rather clear what’s happening here. A substantial portion of the hill, consisting of soft soil, is being washed down into the valley below. However, on the surface, there are large rocks which act as localised and temporary shields for the material. The soil beneath these rocks is protected while the surrounding soil collapses, with the rocks remaining perched precariously on top of a pillar of soil. Most of these eventually fall down too, but those remaining are numerous enough to attract many tourists to this fascinating scene.


Not on this occasion, however. I was all alone on top of a really strange hill, with the seemingly semi-deserted town of Stob down below and the Rila mountains as backdrop. It wasn’t silent, though, the soundtrack being provided by a moderately strong wind.

The trip back to the car was safe and successful, although I did walk faster than usual in the last few metres in the car park, lest a wild dog would deem that I was trespassing where I shouldn’t.