The Kroushouna Waterfalls (Maarata) are at the northern end of the Devetashko Plateau, only 34km from the town of Lovech. In order to get to this natural sight, we set off towards the village of Kroushouna. The village is about 30km from Lovech and is just as far from Pleven – at the borderline between the Balkan mountain range and the Danube River plain.
We have chosen the road from Pleven. We pass through Pordim on the way to Letnitsa, going through the villages of Odourne and Kamenets. Even though the maps say that the next village is Kroushouna, we take the road to the village of Alexandrovo – we know that the bridge over the Osum River has been pulled down by floods and there is no crossing over. The easiest way to find one's bearings is by asking around. The villages are pretty and full of life and the people are pro-active: the main topics of conversation in the local pub are funding programmes, EU directives and funds, forestation and agricultural development.
In the village of Kroushouna we find signs that take us to the waterfalls. We go across a beautiful wooden bridge and we start our walk along the river. At first the view is quite pleasing, but once you start climbing up the wooden stairs, the colours and sounds around leave you breathless. It is hard to describe the feeling you get from the damp moss covering the rocks, the waterfalls' spray and the tiny turquoise lakes alongside the entire path. The water is very chalky and with time it has managed to sculpt the leaves fallen from the trees into small stone statues. This is a popular destination and once everything is green, it is swarming with tourists. Still, it is a place worth seeing before someone actually decides to build yet another spa complex here.
The Kroushouna Waterfalls are not the only sight in the area. The Devetashko Plateau is one of the Central Balkan regions richest in karst formations – it boasts numerous caves, most of which have not been studied yet. Without special equipment you can get to the entrance and part of the antechamber of the Devetashka Cave, which is what we are aiming for next.
Immediately after the turn for the village of Devetaki, there is a bridge spanning the Osum River. About 100m further on, a small rusty sign on the left marks the path leading up to the cave. Even if you miss it (which is very likely), you can go back to the bridge, leave your car there and go along the path meandering along the river.
The cave has an impressive entrance and antechamber – this is one of Bulgaria's largest caves, with a total length of 2442m. At the beginning of the 20th century it was a military warehouse and since 1996 it has been a protected natural site. You feel strange being inside – the vaults in the antechamber alternate with gashes up in the rock, which in the light look like huge unblinking eyes.
The final destination of our tour is the village of Kukrina and the Kukrinsko Hanche (Kukrina Inn), where Vassil Levski was captured on December 27 1872. The tour guide is smooth-tongued, giving an account of Levski's last hours of freedom; she shows his bed and the room where he slept, as well as the hedge where his sandals' laces got tangled. She admits that the original inn had been fully destroyed after the Liberation and a wealthy trader built a house in the same spot years later. Only in 1926 did the inn's renovation start, with a museum also having been built. The sole witness to the stormy events of these times is a huge, alas now fully dried-up, tree.
Useful information: There are many caves in the region – including four near Kroushouna alone – Boninska (Popskata) Cave – 2753m, Vodopada – 1995m, Uroushka (Proinovska) – 1600m and Gornik – 1080 m. Fans of extreme sports can go down the underwater labyrinths of the Vodopada cave in a boat, but only if they are accompanied by experienced speleologists and are well-equipped.
If you decide to stay here, we recommend the Maarata Inn at the foot of the Kroushouna Waterfalls in the midst of a pine forest. It offers excellent conditions, tel: 088 8946336, (06944) 276.