Emen is the second of three waterfalls that lie north-west of the medieval capital Veliko Tarnovo – Hotnitsa, Emen and Vishovgrad. What sets Emen apart is the canyon with the river Negovanka at its bottom. Just before the Negovanka forms a large reservoir, there is a ten-metre waterfall called ‘Momin Skok’, meaning ‘Maiden Jump’ – as with Ovchartsi Waterfall in Rila, this refers to the legend of young girls jumping to their death in order not to be forcibly converted to Islam during the Ottoman occupation of Bulgaria (14th-19th centuries).
To get there from Veliko Tarnovo, take the main road to Sofia (E772) and after 20 km turn right for the village of Balvan. Follow the road to the centre of this village and then turn right for Emen (8 km). Be careful because there is a sign for Emen in Balvan that has been turned back to front and seems to indicate that you should go straight ahead when the road veers left. This is not the case. The road veers left and after a short while you reach the centre of the village.
Here you turn right and after 8 km arrive in Emen. The road takes you over a bridge on the river Negovanka and immediately you arrive at a small square opposite the town hall where you can park the car. There is also drinking water. A smaller road leads to the right, following the left bank of the river. The road becomes a dirt track and then a path. After fifteen minutes, you reach a wooden suspension bridge over the river, but you stay on the left bank. The path climbs up to another dirt track, which then leads on your right to the beginning of the ecopath, where there is a cave. The cave is 3 km long and is home to various species of bat. In communist times, it was used as an arms depot for a military base located directly above it.
The ecopath is said to have been the first in Bulgaria and was created in 1992, shortly after the fall of communism. I think the initial idea was to follow the course of the river at the bottom of the gorge, but the wooden bridges crisscrossing the river have long since succumbed to the elements, which is a shame, and now the ‘ecopath’ actually runs along the top of the canyon on the left. From the beginning of the ecopath, where the cave is, to the waterfall is about forty minutes. The path takes you up to the top of the canyon and then winds along the edge, in amongst trees. After about thirty minutes, the path divides, but it doesn’t matter which branch you take – one continues among the trees, the other skirts the precipice. The path then descends to the left (this is clearly marked by blue arrows) to rejoin the river at the bottom. Turn right, and you will arrive at the waterfall in five minutes. You can hear the waterfall from the top of the gorge.
It is possible to drive to the start of the ecopath. Continue past the main square in Emen and after about 200 m you will reach a crossroads. Turn right, and just as you are leaving Emen, a dirt track forks off to the right, leading to the ecopath. Continue along this road, without taking the dirt track on your right, and in a short while you will reach the waterfall of Vishovgrad, ‘Zarapovo’. Both waterfalls can easily be visited on the same day since they are only a short distance apart.
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