Remember those derelict Bulgarian war memorials that resemble space fortresses? Well, it turns out they're just as otherworldly inside. Here's one intrepid urban explorer's journey into the shadowy corridors of the shuttered Bulgarian-Soviet Friendship memorial in Varna, Bulgaria. It's also a case study on why you never tour old Soviet monuments alone.
In its Communist heyday, the "Park-Monument of the Bulgarian-Soviet Friendship" contained an eternal flame, a bomb shelter, and a tourism center. Loudspeakers would also blast Dmitri Shostakovich's Symphony No. 7 on constant loop.
The center opened in 1978 and was later left to crumble after Bulgarian Communism fell in late 1989. And when Darmon Richter traveled out to this ominous concrete-and-iron memorial 21 years later, he found the brick barricades broken...and the pitch-black hallways ripe for wandering:
The darkness is absolute, and at times suffocating – many thousands of tonnes of concrete stand between you and the light of day. Not only that, but even the slightest sound can create long echoes inside this cubist warren of tunnels and stairwells. It wasn't just my own footsteps that were haunting me; the surrounding park is a popular haunt for stray dogs, and every howl from outside would become trapped inside the monument, distorting as it followed me from room to room [...] Many locals I had spoken to refused to come up this way without a can of mace.
Richter didn't encounter any dogs, but he did find the old bookstore filled with many piles of fresh excrement. Upon discovering that, things became very weird very quickly:
Tentatively rounding the last corner I came into a well-lit chamber, with narrow windows spaced evenly along one side [...] This was in fact somebody's home. The same somebody who had been defecating in the bookshop, and who probably knew every corner and crevice of the darkened spaces within the monument.
It was at that point that Richter got the hell out of there. You can read his full account at The Bohemian Blog, which details other strange abandoned spots in Bulgaria. Also, here's a snowy adventure at another Bulgarian monument.