I stand on top of a tiny wooden platform, my safety not yet entirely certain, in fact later back on soil below looking up, the platform may well have crumbled and plunged me to my death at anytime, but I try not to think about that now, as you only live once and for a long time I’ve had the mind set that if I die now doing something incredible, then surely there are worse ways to go. But nevertheless, it had taken one hour of climbing up frozen metal rungs, a test of endurance, at times we doubted if it was worth it, I had lost the feeling in both hands and as the space became more and more narrow the further we climbed, we had to leave bags and items on the way up. I think if Nicola and Jonathan weren’t at the top waiting for us, we may well have given up on maybe the 6th flights of rungs.
Nothing really could have prepared myself for opening the hatch to the roof and walking out onto it for the first time. I walked fast to the edge and that was when the pure magnitude of nature hit me for the first time. I have not been left speechless many times in my existence, but standing there, above the clouds, seeing the sky light up a beautiful red and pink and the sun sinking into the a bed of clouds, I was truly in awe of the aptitude of what I saw before me. This was one of those ethereal moments in life, the ones that will stick with you an entire lifetime, one you will tell for years to come, because standing on top of a 70m high tower on top of a 1441m mountain, on top of the clouds watching as the mist clears and witnessing possibly the best sunset I have ever seen in my life, with friends, is a moment I will never forget.
The story starts earlier that day. after a 12km drive up the beautiful Mount Buzludha with skeleton trees dusted with snow either side, it was a long drive, mainly because of the excitement of what we were about to see was all to playing on our minds. It was a cold March morning in Bulgaria, the first signs of spring were to be seen, in fact the snow had just begun to melt, of course we hoped and prayed that it would remain on the top of the mountain where we were headed, I had been told Buzludha with snow was a pure spectacle and not something to be missed, so we were truly thankful that spring hadn’t come in its entirety. On arrival to the site we put extra layers on, waterproof trousers, hats, gloves, the air clouding in front of our faces.
We began to walk towards the site, my glasses and hair froze over entirely on one side, as the harsh wind hit me in the face like a slap. Nicola and Jonathan told us it was not far and we would see Budluzha for the first time, with every step the excitement built as if we were about to withhold something special, unique and out of this world. I squinted into the thick blanket of mist as Nicola said that we were close, I couldn’t see a thing, just a sweeping space of white in front of my eyes. I was waiting for the revealing moment, the ‘Wow! What an amazing place’ but it never came. Nicola exclaimed, there it is can you see it? I squinted more, my eye’s tested to the max, I tried and tried to see a form amongst the blanket of white and disappointed I still couldn’t make it out. As Danny spoke ‘I can see it!’ I walked a bit closer up the steps that I all knowingly knew would lead up to the impressive structure, but still nothing. I walked faster as I could without falling on the snow and then there it was, an outline in the fog. I could see it and the closer I went, then more it revealed itself. Like a tease I could see a giant dome like form in front of me, it was bigger then I expected, maybe because now were so so close, it looked imposing above me. It looked like a gigantic UFO, something out worldly, unimaginable and unique, it took my breath away.
There it was the mighty Buzludha ideological monument, created by the Bulgarian communist party. It was unveiled in 1981 (the year before my birth) on the anniversary of the foundation of the Bulgarian state. It took 7 years to create and 20 of the best Bulgarian artists were commissioned to create the inside, beautiful murals or extravagance and beauty wall to wall of magnitude, an amphitheatre was created using glass and tiles with mosaics of Bulgarian and Soviet themes. I felt like a tourist, spectating a museum of times past, but with the secret knowing that this was a tourist destination know to so few, a place of dreams unimaginable in it beauty.
Carefully we climbed into the monument, still a thick blanket of mist filled the air, the thick glass windows that had once fought back the strong Bulgarian elements from those inside, were smashed and broken. Leaving Buzludzha open to the snow, rain, wind and blasting sun. Looking out it was just white, it almost felt like I was not on earth anymore, that I had been transported to a a different planet. Once inside a strange feeling, not something I have experienced before, it felt slightly claustrophobic for a while, but that was short lived as we walked into the main hall and it was more beautiful then I even imagined. Light steamed in through the decaying ceiling, glinting on the coloured mosaic tiles. It is true that thieves had stolen many of these beautiful tiles and also in acts of violence picked away parts of the Soviet Murals, but still they retained a beauty in their craftsmanship. Above our heads the massive imposing sickle and hammer a symbol of Communism still almighty on the domed ceiling of the building, a lasting memory of Buzludzha’s past. For a long time at the entrance the words ‘Forget Your Past’ were scribed into the door.
We shared a good couple of hours walking round the monument in the mist, taking photos, comically slipping on the ice, some staircases we had to ascend and descend to get to other parts had iced completely over and on a number of occasions we fell flat on our arses, other times we thought the best way to tackle it was simply to slide down on our butts, holding our breath and hoping for the best. We laughed hard, our laughter an echo in such a cold and stark environment. At this stage something special happened, it caught us off guard, because for so long we struggled with the focus in our photos, due to the mist, but then in a God like moment, the sun blasted through the fog, it’s rays like warm beams blasting though the whiteness. It was at this moment the fog cleared, within seconds it swept away, we rushed to the windows and for the first time I realised were were actually above the clouds! Everything became so clear and the warm sun begun to melt the snow, the atmosphere within the hall changed, the sounds of dripping water filled the air and alarmingly the smashing sound of ice falling from the ceiling above. It felt like a completely different place and immediately I began to take photos, I had no idea how long the mist would disappear for, so I rushed to capture it again, like an excited child, unable to comprehend what had just happened. We left Nicola and Jonathan who wanted to climb the tower and we made our way outside so we could see what it looked like properly in the light and yes a UFO it was, a place full of Bulgarian communist history, left to ruin. We meet them at the top a couple of hours later to watch the sunset, a beautiful ending to a day I will never forget.