Poganovo monastery, Erma Gorge and Tran Railway

Since have walked monasteries at Nishava river, the most famous monastery on the other side of the border did not gave me peace. Namely Poganovo. And reading about it, I could see that he was only a grain of many things that deserve in this part of Serbia. Like to see what road has replaced the Tran narrow gauge.

And around these holidays events happened very quickly. Everyone left somewhere and there was not anyone I go to the mountain, our climbing or cave. And while wondering on 22nd while playing with the children on Mobility Week, I thought – why not a ride to Kalotina, and if there is no problem to pass the border to go to Poganovo.Since the last time I said that I have an idea for a more adventurous trip, it took that did not happen, I decided this time to keep it a secret. Thus, even in the morning pack up, the question – Where ?, I replied – Around Sofia… Which was true.
I left from home at 8:00 and quickly went on “big road” to Europe and Kalotina – E80. I never liked this road – a lot of traffic, but only two lanes and I’ve always preferred the old parallel road. Therefore, like a horse with blinders, without stopping quickly I whizzed along Bojurishte and Prolesha and not even I hit the right bridge to get off the paved road. However, by the second time I hit the right exit and pleased left traffic. To realize that now with the Black Panther I have a bigger problem than traffic, namely no compatibility of thin tires with cobbles. Actually section to Slivnitsa is asphalted for the most part, so I paid no attention, but at one point at Dragoman, the road has retained authentic style and not used and the carriage suddenly turned into a cart.

“Driving” 100-200-300 meters, but driving more like crawling around obstacles. My speed dropped below 10 km / h and the situation became absurd. A two meters from me cars blithely flew west. I had two choices – to drag another hour or two on cobbles or go out on the main road with traffic and for 20-30 minutes to get Dragoman. I preferred asphalt and as usually happens when I went on the road lined up truck after truck. However Dragoman was close and quickly came to him. There were 2-3 things that I wanted to buy before you leave civilization and looked open stores. But the day was a holiday and there was little choice. I only buy a piece of sausage and waffles, which in itself was not a bad combination, but still had to look and bread.
On entering Dragoman had a sign for Dragoman Marsh that was on my side of the road and anyway I was close, I decided to passed by him. Definitely a place to visit, but do not expect something unique. Still, it is swamp, but huge and small wooden bridges take you deep through the reeds.
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Road Dragoman – Kalotina is wide, pleasant to ride and constant downward slope. Which got me thinking, what climb will for entering on checkpoint traveling to Sofia. Very quickly I descended to Kalotina and stopped in the village to check last shop. I found working one, bought bread and beer and enjoyed the midday sun.

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Shopkeeper told me that there is no point to go back to the main road and continue at the old road at the border. Was closed to cars, but with bike can go. I went, but it was not as easy as she had said. I hang around a little and went on drill ground before counters. Bulgarian border went quickly, but before the Serbian side had a big tail. I directed were the shortest, but still about 20-25 meters from the counters. Not more than 2-3 minutes later and the car behind me went wide and the man inside spoke to me in English:
– Are you go around the world? – He asked.
– Someday I’ll… – I said, laughed – now only a ride along the border.
Man wished me a great time and said that would have to go through the pedestrian checkpoint without waiting for all the cars. I thanked him for the advice and I went to the front, parked bike to the counter and while looking around to whom to show ID card, border policeman from the first counter for cars called me. He took the card and enter data while asked:
– To where, Ognyane!?
Poganovo – I said, putting emphasis as to sounds Serbian.
– So bicycleto?(With the bike?). I mumbled in the affirmative, and he gave me back my card. Officially entered in Serbia.
This was my first ride with saddlebags outside Bulgaria and the first entry in Serbia. I was driving west and had somehow expectation that roads will become a bit better. But even road become narrow and traffic intensified. I was driving like a horse with blinders with desire rather to reach the exit, not even I went to look at Dimitrovgrad. Parallel to the road saw the big highway to the border and when she started, the way that I was driving would become a haven for bicycle touring. Shortly after the city saw detour with shed and immediately stopped for lunch. It was just after 2:00 in the afternoon and as close to the way it was, I decided that the shed has a fountain. But won’t. But the shelter perform the role on a vine and a few clusters of ripe grapes hanging. Variety lunch with fruit and continued.
But despite good rest, half an hour later again stopped on one detour on the road. I stopped because of traffic. Indeed, many burden. And shortly after stopped a car next to me with a man and woman inside and asked me about Poganovo monastery on Bulgarian. I replied that I look for the exit also and I’m here for the first time. My answer cause bored grumble and when the car pulled away, I saw that a number is from Sofia. I never had a high opinion of fellow citizens, but extremely uncomfortable I felt from such attitude. No one in Eastern Serbia is not required to speak Bulgarian, although the history of this land and no, no one is obliged to know directions, exits and so on, especially if it’s tourist. Extremely arrogant people. And when shortly afterwards I passed at a bridge with a specific shape and saw hidden in the bushes sign to Poganovo monastery, many hoped because of limited visibility, the people from the car failed to see it. The sign for Sukova is clearly visible, but you should know that the road and for Poganovo is there, and left turn is not very pleasant.
After I left the main road already cycling was pleased and I focus on the sights around me. Bridge which was passed before wean over Jerma River, just before inflow in Nishava. Now cycled up the river and the mountains Greben and Vlashka approached me. 15 minutes after the fork went through Sukova and shortly after the village saw sign and fork for nearest Sukovska monastery. I looked at him with interest. I missed the turn for the next monastery and shortly thereafter entered the protected part on Gorge and the road began to meandering through the canyon using old railroad tunnels to Tran. As “old caver” I was strongly attracted to the part for the caves in the sign of the reserve, with interest learned that less than 80 km from Sofia has interesting and decently large caves.

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At 17:00, eight hours after I left home I arrived to Poganovo monastery. I walked along the pedestrian bridge and wonderful lawn, propped bike of one of the lights around the monastery and went to look. Definitely worth the cycling to here. The place is amazing, the monastery – a wonderful …
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Although it reached its destination on this journey it was still early and there was still time until I make camp. I continued encroaching deeper and deeper in the canyon Jerma Gorge. A canyon is mind-boggling. Tens of times larger and majestic than this over the town of Tran and used and abandoned tunnels of narrow gauge make bicycling here as true adventure. The Tran narrow gauge is an interesting project. Attempt to link mines in Gorge and the town Tran with main railway artery following road Belgrade – Sofia in the times when these lands were within the boundaries of Bulgarian state. Then the project was abandoned by the Serbs, and former trace is paved and turned into a road between the villages. Therefore, the path is pleasant to drive, with no major gradients and turns and weak traffic.
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In Trnski Odorovci asked about the way elderly gentleman who after realized that I am from Bulgaria guides me on a relatively good Bulgarian. I unlike people asked me on the road, tried it first on “Serbian” and English to ask.
Here in this village the road is separated from the river, which is directed to the east and enters Bulgaria and road continued west.
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I, however, took on Zvonachka bara on the south by way of narrow gauge. Road became a bit worse and began to climb the ravine of a small river. Shortly before Rakita, at 19:20, I decided that for the day enough. I was just wondering where on these gullies will spend the night and the valley began to open.
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Of course without yeast, I turned into the first dirt road. I went down close to the river and looked around for a place for the tent. Finally I chose flat on deserted road. Or at least so I took. Just put up a tent and start boiling the water for noodles and hop – my first visitor appeared. Little but uproariously dog. I realized that the village was alerted, but decided to be cunning and with slice of bread a silence nozzle. The only one which achieved it was growling while eating but did not stop barking. And hop – second visitor – grandmother with a bundle of sticks on his shoulder. I greeted, she said something about coffee (or so I assumed because the stove), I rumble something sounding cheerful, she called out the dog and went to the village. I thought I passed slightly. But just halfway through dinner and on the road above me a car stopped, he turned and stopped on the dirt road towards me. Already getting dark and two flashlight leaped around me. Welcome new guests – two gentleman on 60 and 70 years. Locals, that came to ask me I’m an immigrant or what… I explained where I come from, where I passed, how I like it and do not worry – I’m not the first migrant with bike in history, but people travel for tourism like that. And they explained to me how on night will freeze so close to the river. I calmed them, but inside I knew they were right. It was a little after 8, and from my mouth came out puffs of fume. They left without looking confident in my words and warning about the cold be repeated several times as they walked away. My stealthy camping was compromise, and already at least two villages knew where, who and why I am. Aside from the cold, I guess no sleep and by worry.

And just to complete the story, because the day is over and fall asleep and hop – new guests. Just to sleep and loud noise by ATV disturbing approached the tent. I think there are two options – either local again came for see what kind of animal I am (not for drama I hope), or this road was used by hunters or enthusiasts and tent stood on it. Strong horn right next to me, assuming second one, only hoped to stop in time. I went out and oh surprise – Hooo,, Police. A policeman and a soldier had come to check on me. Unobtrusively curious and very polite. The policeman told me to report if I sleep in a tent, I had quite forgotten that it was border zone, and with soldier start conversation about the sights around, bicycles and other youth things. Strange, but for everyone here, that I travel alone is not normal… I looked at my identity card and wished me a a nice journey.

Now left to wrap myself nice and fall asleep and the story of the day to end.

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Author: Ogi Stoyanov

There are many reasons to travel. My trips are based on my experience as outdoor lover, Outward Bound instructor and volunteer in social projects and attempt to share it

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