For those of us from parts of the world where wildlife is squeezed into ever-smaller patches of the landscape, the Bulgarian Rhodope Mountains are a breath of fresh air, both literally and figuratively, an inspiration for what we should be seeking to recover in our depauperate corners.
Our base was the remote mountain village of Yagodina – a very apt name which means ‘Wild Strawberry’ in Bulgarian: their ripening flavour-bombs sustained us on many a walk, through rocky gorges, flowery meadows, dense woodlands and exposed mountain tops. ‘Mountain weather’ kept us on our toes, but was largely good until the cataclysmic floods which hit the region on the day we left, leading to landslips and road closures.
We were literally eating the landscape, most of the food we consumed being locally produced, relaxing away from the bustle of western European life, among the outstanding wildlife riches that their agricultural and forestry systems support. A true Honeyguide experience: a window into a world where people are part of the environment, not imposed upon it.
The photos show just a small section of the biodiversity, making no apologies for a particular focus on the invertebrates. At these times when evidence is growing about major declines in insect life in Europe, places like the Rhodopes help us remember what the rest should (and hopefully still can) be like.
No names, no commentary. Just diverse wildlife in all its glory. For names and more pictures, a full tour report will be out in due course.