If there’s one thing you have to appreciate about the Soviets, it’s their very forward-thinking sense of design. While we’ve seen a lot of funky-looking communist architecture and monuments all over the Balkans, Bulgaria’s former Soviet party headquarters is the veritable temple of Soviet futurism. Taking its name from the 1441 metre-high mountain peak its creators determined was the perfect place to rule the world from, Buzludzha is a monumental structure straight that looks like it was transported straight out of a sci-fi novel. Constructed in the 1970s and abandoned by the government after the fall of communism, thanks to the internet it has now been rediscovered by the world and is an irresistible attraction for Soviet kitsch- and ruin-lovers like us.
The mountain top affords unbelievable views of the surrounding areas, perhaps even more breathtaking than those in Serbia’s Tara National Park. But while the views are impressive and peaceful, there’s an incredibly weird vibe to the place. Every square inch of Buzludzha’s hulking concrete mass emanates that great eerie feeling of abandoned and neglect that anyone who explores ruins has come to love. There’s shit everywhere, presumably from (wild?) horses that wander up and down the hillside. Swallows fly in a vortex around the main saucer, feasting on insects, but the setting sun makes them look like bats. A wind farm silently spinning on a nearby mountain adds to the surreality.
Like some of the other more famous ruins we’ve visited, this one is not far off the beaten track. Voices echoed from inside the building as we walked around the perimeter, looking for a way in. We found the entrance–a hole in the wall about one-and-a-half metres off the ground–just as a Bulgarian couple was piling out. He was in flip-flops, she was wearing white shorts and a blouse, like they were on a date. Once they left we had the place to ourselves, but only for about 10 minutes, until a car full of French dudes rolled up. By the time we had finished our explore and were out again, the area was packed with even more tourists (most of them foreign), and we abandoned our idea of camping there figuring it was a bit too high traffic for a very restful sleep. Would be a great place for a party, though!
Having planned to camp that night but deciding Buzludzha proper was a bit too crowded, we drove down the hillside a bit to look for someplace better. We found a spot nearby complete with pre-loved fire pit, ample firewood and abandoned gypsy caravan. Excellent!! Or so we had thought, until the sound of thunder started rumbling from somewhere down below us. The sky grew darker and lightning began to flash in the distance, but we still had some stars above our heads so we figured we could just wait it out and maybe we’d be lucky. We were, until we finally climbed into our tent for the night and it began storming properly, the clouds flashing with electricity. To avoid getting struck by lightning nearby one of the world’s most impressive communist ruins, we drove down the mountain a bit further and re-pitched our tent under some trees.
The next morning we couldn’t leave without one more look, so we headed back up to Buzludzha for some coffee and breakfast. It was only 9am but there were absolutely loads of tourists already. One more location for the ruin tourism committee to consider monopolising.