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Welcome to my new guest post series ‘Off-Beat Experts’ where I put the question out to the pros about their favourite off-the-beaten-track places they’ve visited. Expect first-hand accounts from those who have already been there and done it, digging out the best of quirky, abandoned, dark-tourism, unusual or overlooked places around the globe.
Meet the Guest Writers
Brent Hartinger and Michael Jensen.
Brent and Michael are authors, editors, travel bloggers, and columnists. Today, they talk about abandoned places in Bulgaria and the Ghost Buildings of Bankso.
What is the name of the place and location of the off-beat place you are writing about?
The abandoned buildings of Bansko don’t have an official name. It’s a neighbourhood in the small mountain town, off the beaten track in Bansko, Bulgaria. After we stumbled on it, we always referred to it is the Ghost Buildings of Bansko. OoooooOooooooo…..
Bansko is situated at the foot of the Pirin Mountains, which is about 150km south of the nation’s capital of Sofia.
How do you get to Bansko’s abandoned buildings?
The Ghost Buildings of Bansko are on the outskirts of town, pockets of them sprinkled here and there. It’s quite easy to reach by foot, as Bansko isn’t terribly large. To find some of the most creepy and intriguing, make your way to the River Glazne, which splits Bansko in two, and start walking toward the mountains.
On the right side of the river, you’ll find Banderitza, Igor, and Asanitsa streets. Just keep walking until you start coming to the half-finished structures looming above you.
How did you find out about Bansko’s abandoned buildings?
We are big walkers and discovered the ghost buildings just while out for one of our evening walks. We were so fascinated by Bansko’s crumbling ruins that we kept exploring, finding more and more of them.
I’ve heard about quite a few abandoned places in Bulgaria, but these abandoned buildings in Bansko sound pretty epic, do you know any of the history about the place?
What accounts for these ghost buildings of Bansko? We’ve heard two different theories. The first is Bansko was undergoing a huge building boom right up until the start of the Great Recession back in 2008. And when the bottom fell out of the worldwide real estate market, it hit Bansko especially hard. Dozens of buildings lost their financing and construction halted on the spot. Stacks of bricks, wiring, and other materials were left right where they were sitting.
The second explanation is that it’s something of a financial scam in unregulated Bulgaria: con artists get building loans, start construction, then claim to have run out of money and go “bankrupt,” pocketing the rest.
So what can you see at the Bansko ruins?
Some of the buildings are enormous hotel or apartment complexes; others look like much smaller dwellings. But they’re all made out of concrete, the foundations and pillars put up, often one of Bansko’s famous red-tiled roofs on top. But the inside of the buildings are dark, shadowy places that made us think of empty skulls leering at you.
Are there any recommendations you would give to anyone wanting to do a bit of urban exploration in Bansko?
We wouldn’t recommend climbing around these half-finished structures, no matter how much they appeal to your adventurous side. Some have been sitting here for more than a decade, which is plenty of time for stairs and floors exposed to the harsh Bansko winters to have weakened.
Otherwise, the only thing to keep an out for is the occasional stray dog or two. They usually aren’t aggressive, but if you feel like they’re getting too close, simply picking up a rock is enough to scare them away.
The abandoned buildings in Bansko and surrounds are rather unfinished, with streets petering out into unpaved, rough roads, so definitely wear a good pair of walking shoes.
What were your lasting memories of visiting what sounds like one of the best abandoned places Bulgaria has to offer?
I loved walking around this part of town at twilight because it really added to the eerie, otherworldly feel of the place. Honestly, I kept expecting zombies to come lurching out at me! I don’t at all fancy the idea of living in a post-apocalyptic world, but experiencing what it might feel like for a little certainly makes me feel alive.
Thank you for being an Off-Beat Expert
I’d like to thank Brent and Michael for this fantastic insight into one of the must-see abandoned places in Bulgaria. Bansko’s abandoned buildings certainly tick all the boxes for anyone with an interest in urban exploration, abandoned or off-beat places and ruins.
Do you have an awesome off-beat place that you’ve visited? Would you like to be featured in this series? I’d love to hear from you.