Devetashka Cave is one of Bulgaria’s largest caves, located roughly 18 Km northwards of Lovech, near the village of Devetaki. The cave has been home to humans throughout history, with evidence of human habitation all the way back to 70,000 years bc. It is one of the richest sources of cultural neolithic artefacts in the world, now abandoned by humans and home to 30,000 bats.
The location is probably best known for it’s part in the 2011 film ‘Expendables 2‘, in which Sylvester Stallone crash lands a plane into Jean Claude Van Damme’s subterranean lair here. After the film local naturalists noted that the bat population had diminished significantly due to the stress incurred during filming but most of these have now returned.
The cave itself is immense. The opening through which you enter is 35 metres high and 30 metres wide, with a small hut just within the portal. This follows a tubular channel for a couple of hundred metres before it fans out into a large hall 60m high. In places the ceiling is 100 metres above the ground and there are seven huge holes through which daylight would illuminate the vast interior. There is a river flowing through the cave which flows out into the Osam river. This course can be followed underground for over 2 kilometres and there is a separate, dry branch of the cave with several chambers. There are various signs of recent use, mainly concrete bases for large oil tanks which were installed in the cave in the 1950s when the site served as a military warehouse. A small side tunnel about a hundred metres in leads to a series of surprisingly large chambers with these tank bases in. It is a wonder how the materials for a ten metre diameter oil tank were squeezed through the small tunnels which are little more than a metre wide. The underground complex was certainly safe from prying eyes above.
We did not get long to visit the cave. We had spent the day up on Mt Buzludzha and were heading back to the airport. We didn’t want a repeat of what happened last time, with me missing my plane home, so limited ourselves to a couple of hours. We managed to take a handful of images in this time. The thick rain clouds smothered the surface, absorbing any residual light there was. Sliding our abused bodies down the steep muddy path took longer than anticipated.
It was completely pitch black outside, and no different when we entered the cave. Lighting the huge caverns required plenty of power. Like ourselves, our lamps were soon completely exhausted and could only hold out for a few shots. After what felt like five minutes the memory cards also met their capacity so we took the hint and made our way back up the muddy hill side to begin the long, snowy night of driving back to the airport and back to reality… Ugh.