Buzludzha: Bulgaria’s Abandoned Communist Spaceship

In this destination trip report we explore the Buzludzha Monument, an unique abandoned ‘communist spaceship’ on top of a mountain in Bulgaria.

Buzludzha Monument

On top of Mount Buzludzha in Bulgaria you can find a bizarre brutalist monument which resembles some kind of ‘communist spaceship’. Buzludzha is an unique, off-the-beaten-path destination which is well worth visiting if you like bizarre brutalist structures from the communist era.

Due to its mountaintop location, you will need a car to reach Buzludzha as there isn’t any scheduled public transport to the monument. It’s however a fascinating drive and a journey you are unlikely to forget.

Shipka Pass

The Buzludzha Monument – or in full “The Monument House of the Bulgarian Communist Party” – is basically built in the middle of nowhere just a few kilometres away from the top of Shipka Pass.

Shipka Pass, which is located roughly halfway between the two historic Bulgarian cities of Veliko Tarnovo and Plovdiv, has an elevation of 1,190 metres (3,904ft) above sea level.

On top of the pass you can find a huge war monument commemorating a series of battles which were fought here in 1877 and 1878 during the Russo-Turkish war, with Russia and their allied Bulgarian volunteers scoring a major victory against the Ottomans.

For the Bulgarians the battle marked an important step towards liberation from Ottoman rule and independent nationhood. It is therefore not surprising that many Bulgarians make a stop at the pass to pay their respect to the fallen soldiers.

Weirdly, not many visitors seem to be aware that a mere 13 kilometres away from Shipka Pass there is an even more awe-inspiring sight to see: Buzludzha!

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Buzludzha Monument can be seen from miles away, standing on a mountaintop in between some windmills. ©Paliparan
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Driving up towards the top of Shipka Pass. ©Paliparan
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The monument on top of Shipka Pass which commemorates the Battles of the Shipka Pass (1877-1878) during the Russo-Turkish War. ©Paliparan

Driving to Buzludzha

An unmarked road full of potholes leads east from Shipka Pass to Buzludzha Mountain. Already along the way there are great views of Buzludzha Monument – which almost resembles some kind of spaceship or UFO which has decided to land on a random Bulgarian hilltop.

Make sure you stop to admire the reliefs and sculptures on the way up to Buzludzha. The brutalist sculpture of two fists holding torches is especially noteworthy.

Buzludzha Monument, built as a tribute to the founding of the Bulgarian socialist movement in 1891, was meant to become a place for the Bulgarian Communist Party to held party celebrations and introduce the people to the history of communism and the supposed “benefits” it brought to the country.

Construction of the “communist flying saucer” started in 1974 and was completed in 1981.

Even though the building was certainly used for official purposes in the following years, the fall of Todor Zhivkov’s communist regime in 1989 and Bulgaria’s transformation into a democratic republic the following year marked a slow and gradual decline as the Buzludzha Monument was almost literally left to rot on the mountaintop.

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Approaching Buzludzha Monument. Make sure you halt to admire the brutalist sculptures and reliefs along the access road! ©Paliparan

Decay

The Buzludzha Monument is nowadays in a bad shape. The decay is probably one of the things you will immediately notice after you have parked your car in front of the monument and take your first walk around this unusual communist spaceship.

After the downfall of the communist regime, the ownership of the building was transferred to the new Bulgarian Socialist Party, the democratic successor of the old communist party.

As the costs for the upkeep of the remote monument became astronomically high during the post-communist years of economic stagnation and the difficult shift from a planned economy to a market economy, the Bulgarian Socialist Party basically left over Buzludzha Monument to the elements.

Around a decade ago, it was estimated that making the necessary repairs to the decaying building would cost around 15 million euro.

But with limited funds available and there being an immediate danger the roof collapsing and other objects falling down the building, the Bulgarian Socialist Party simply decided not to do anything at all.

It simply closed down the entrance and thus barred people from visiting Buzludzha Monument – on paper that is!

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Buzludzha Monument really resembles some kind of communist spaceship! ©Paliparan
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Due to years of neglect, Buzludzha Monument has fallen into disrepair. ©Paliparan
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View from Buzludzha Mountain. ©Paliparan

Visiting Buzludzha

Even though the entrance of Buzludzha Monument might be firmly sealed off, it doesn’t mean that it’s impossible to have a look inside!

When visiting out of the summer season, you are likely to be all alone at Buzludzha with there being zero oversight by any person of authority.

If you walk around the building, you will easily spot a few big gaps in the outer walls. Although these holes are about 1.5 metres (5 ft) up from the ground, you can easily climb through them with a bit of effort.

Either pull yourself up, or simply gather a few scattered stones and make a small pile to use as some kind of step stool.

Of course, it is technically illegal to do get inside this way, I believe – and you should certainly be aware of the potential safety risks involved.

You are stepping into a crumbling building and if you are not careful you may end up falling through the floor or have something collapse on top of you! That said, if you use common sense and tread with caution, exploring Buzludzha is an amazing adventure!

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It is possible to enter Buzludzha Monument through a hole in the wall. ©Paliparan
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Be careful when you walk through the crumbling structure. ©Paliparan

Mosaics and murals

Inside Buzludzha Monument you really start to notice the state of disrepair of the building. A few staircases have completely collapsed, some parts of the ceiling have fallen down and there is lots of rubbish and dirt throughout the entire building.

Exploring Buzludzha really felt quite like walking in a post-apocalypse zombie world!

The hallways and staircases of Buzludzha Monument are however not the main attraction of this communist folly. The hidden treasure of Buzludzha is the central hall, which with a bit of imagination looks like the control room of this weird communist spaceship.

Even in its completely dilapidated state Buzludzha’s central hall looks absolutely stunning. Entering it will simply take your breath away.

If you look up towards the ceiling, you will see a yellow hammer and sickle which contrasts sharply with the red-and-green tiles surrounding it.

On the walls of this circle hall you can find some equally amazing mosaics, although many are in a bad state of disrepair or have been damaged beyond recognition. You can however still spot the faces of Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin among others!

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The central hall of Buzludzha Monument. ©Paliparan

Communism

Buzludzha’s central hall certainly is a place where you want to take a break and sit down for a while to absorb everything, even though all the dust and rubbish around you doesn’t make it a comfortable place.

To me, Buzludzha Monument really is like an epitome of communism: a once glorious and celebrated ideology which has ended up in the dustbin of history.

What a beautiful and bizarre place it is!

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Koen

Koen works as a freelance journalist covering south-eastern Europe and is the founding father and editor-in-chief of Paliparan. As a contributor to some major Fleet Street newspapers and some lesser known publications in the Balkans, he travels thousands of miles each year for work as well as on his personal holidays. Whether it is horse riding in Kyrgyzstan’s Tian Shan mountains, exploring the backstreets of Bogotá, or sipping a glass of moschofilero in a Greek beachside taverna, Koen loves to immerse himself into the local culture, explore new places and eat and drink himself around the world.

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