As we drove out of Bourgas on the road south towards Sozopol the sun was already climbing rapidly into the sky and the mercury was fast heading towards 28c. To our left were pine trees that protected long stretches of golden sand from the road way. The waves were gently breaking onto the shore line as families set up their loungers, chairs and sun umbrellas ready for another day of beach enjoyment. Further south along this road which if continued for a further 80 kms would end at the Turkish border it was noticeable that the hills to the right of us were becoming higher and that we were leaving the vineyards of the Bulgarian plain behind us. As we neared Sozopol I suddenly saw it. A beautiful castle set against the back drop of the mountains. That was our destination. A place I had visited earlier in the year and was desperate to return to.
Just outside of Sozopol is the village of Ravadinovo and it is here that they have been building this replica castle for the last 10 years. It is built of stone and the total area of the site is about 30,000 sq. metres. As you approach, it looks like any castle that you would find in Germany or Hungary with its high spires. The walls in places are already covered by ivy. To reach it you have to negotiate a rutted slope through grass and bushes that has been formed over the years by lorries and other large vehicles. I found it strange that they had not invested in a proper strip of road!! The parking area at the end is again unmade and you need to be careful that you do not bottom the underside of your car.
As you approach the large archway which forms the entrance you pay an entry fee of 6 Lev per person which at the time of writing this equates to about £2.70. Entering through the large arch you suddenly find yourself in an area of beauty and tranquillity. It is as if you have entered a time machine and been whisked back to another age. On your left are immaculate borders covered in plants of different types and colours. Behind these are large ponds with bridges across them reminding me of a Chinese garden. Again the area is alive with beautiful plants and shrubs where statues placed at differing intervals dwell amongst them. In between the ponds are steps that lead down into an underground area which houses an art gallery and a fabulous wine cellar. In the wine cellar area are large tables with glasses and carafes of wine. It is beautifully cool making a refreshing respite from the hot Bulgarian sun. The art gallery has many old paintings and most of them are covered in dust. Whether this is intentional or not it certainly gives the impression that you have just entered an area that has not been used in years which in turn gives a wonderful effect of authenticity.
As you approach the western side of the castle music comes from hidden speakers which give out that deep choral sound that comes from choirs unique to the Balkans and Eastern Europe. It’s so difficult to put into words what a wonderful setting this is. You could be forgiven for imagining it as a monastery with dark bearded monks in their brown Habits meditating quietly as they wander amongst the flowers and walkways of the grounds.
Continuing onward to the rear of the castle is an artificial lake surrounded by Weeping Willows as if forming a protective curtain. Swans glide silently across the lake looking resplendent in the sunshine as they reflect into the still water. There are tables and chairs along one side where you can sit with a coffee and lap up the serenity of it all. The time hurtled by as I sat by the water, surrounded by beautiful plants and flowers, listening to that haunting music in the background and allowing my imagination to run riot.
On the far side of the lake is an area devoted to Peacocks and Peahens who parade about occasionally showing their beauty. Another area is devoted to what will eventually be a small zoo where children will be able to study animals and turn their visit into a learning experience.
The interior of the castle is not yet completed but it is thought that when finished it will become a hotel that is totally unique. Certainly a hotel with a difference. The bed chambers will be vast and the ground floor will have large halls and dining rooms. When it will be finished no one knows but I estimate it will be several years. It is fair to say in all my travels to many parts of the world I have never visited anywhere that I have enjoyed more. Next year I will visit again to see the progress that has been made over the winter months.