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VII 2013 – Madan, Bulgaria, part I

 

 

   Just after the Sainte Marie show Asia, John Veevaert, Mark Mauthner and I drove to Switzerland from where flew to Bulgaria, Sofia. We arrived very late so we spent a night in the capital. Next day we started our travel to Madan mining area. Drive from Sofia to Madan is about 7 hours. On our way we stopped to show to our friends old Bachkovo Monastery. We also visited small market with traditional products and a lot of kitschy hand made products. I collect mineral related kitsch and I frequently buy “specimens” on this market. One of the better things sold there are “chapels” made of interesting paragenesis – gypsum, Brazilian agate and Madan minerals combined with holly persons. This time I also bought one :)
   After picturesque drive through Rhodope Mts we finally arrived to Madan. After checking in the hotel called Ural – one of the monuments of the Communism – we decided to have a drive to see the area. First we went to see some landscapes, later long aerial tram and finally monstrous Batanzi mine head-frame.
   We decided to spend next visiting local friends and dealers, we were still waiting for one more person – Malcolm Southwood – and we didn`t want to visit the mines without him. One of the dealers we visited is our great friend Ivan. He moved his storage to the building which describes as “Stalin baroque” style – almost partly collapsed. On one of the top floors he keeps his mineral specimens. This time he had a lot of material in flats but unfortunately not too many better specimens. Mine have not been producing a lot of really good material lately. However he showed us his small but incredible collection containing several very nice specimens including top enormous tetrahedral sphalerite with epitaxial chalcopyrite on quarts.
   After that we visited our another great friend and partner – Shukrit. He had been collecting for us good quality specimens for a long time so we selected several of them. We also saw his collection where among many nice pieces, one of the biggest killers is about 1.5 cm tetrahedral helvite on quartz – the best known from Bulgaria!
   After that we were waiting only for Malcolm arrival, we decided to make him a small joke and told the driver who took him from the airport not to stop in the hotel but drive him directly to Batanzi where we made an outdoor party with homemade rakija in local den :) We had a lot of fun that evening! And I am sure Malcolm did not expect to arrive there almost directly from Australia.
   Next day we drove to see the mines in the Erma Reka area, especially Gidiurska, flotation dump, shafts etc. After that we drove to the old workings in Strashimir where many surficial diggings are still well visible. After visiting some workings and seeing first cavities with crystals we came back to Madan. That afternoon Ivan, his wife Snizana, and friend Gieorgiej invited us for the picnic in the mountains. They prepared for us excellent grilled octopus which Ivan caught a few days earlier in Greece. This octopus grilled on fire bone was definitely the best we have ever had! Beside of that there was plenty of other food and of course beer. We had a great time sitting there with friends in the forest with superb view. At the end Ivan said that very close from here are old workings and years before he collected there some quartz specimens, so we decided to check it out :)
   Next day we were exited from the very morning, because we were going underground! We knew that recently one of the stopes in the Borieva mine was the most productive place so we decided to go there. Borieva mine looks like after a “nuclear attack” and our friends did not believe it still operated. I have to say that I was quite surprised when I noticed that the main mine building were restored and comparing with how it looked a like a few years before it was in much better shape. After changing to mining clothes and taking all necessary equipment we were ready to go underground.
   First we had to walk about 3 km by the tunnel with a lot of mud to arrive to the lift which took us a few horizons below. Then another 3 km and we reached place where pockets and mineralization showed up everywhere. To reach the productive stope we had to climb on wooden ladders. Finally when we arrived we noticed that pyrite crystals are almost everywhere and some of them are up to several centimeters. Immediately everyone was digging, and we collected some dissent specimens. Work in the stope was stopped only because of our presence so we could not stay too long, but it was enough to collect some specimens, take photos and see how these crystals occur. Majority of them was completely frozen in quartz or calcite and were easily breaking, but some of them occurred in open cavities and than they were of good quality. This stope produced the best specimens in last months including very nice chalcopyrites with quartz and calcite and big, lustrous pyrite cubes preferentially coated by calcite. Some of the specimens from that place were really nice (see photos in the report). When we had to go we went the same way back to the lift and than to the surface. We were dirty and tired but happy.
   We returned to our hotel to wash and rest, next day was even more exciting! We decided to go to the old, closed 9th September mine which is a source of many great specimens. Readers have to know that going there is dangerous and officially forbidden (as going to all abandoned mines in the whole world).
   After reaching the old mine portal we walked through the main transportation tunnel to the place where the metal laddres are located. We moved to the lower horizon where we had to walk a few kilometers through a lot of water, mud and some very dangerous collapsed zones, ore-shuts etc. Finally we reached big stope where we had to climb up about 20 meters of almost vertical wall and than walk along hanging ledge. At the end we reached old dam with a whole through which we finally reached old stope with many cavities. Each of us started to dig in the pockets. We collected some ok specimens of pyrite, sphalerite and galena. Mark found a very long pocket where he completely disappeared. He collected from there a dissent galena specimen with big crystals. At the end in that stope we visited one pocket which was left by the miners as an example of how the pockets looked like so we took a photos and didn’t try to mine it. After that we came back through the ledge and the cliff down to the main corridors system and went to see another good collecting spot. There, in the big metasomatic zone on the contact of the marbles and hedenbergite small pockets are very frequent and produce things such as very distorted skeletal galena crystals, very good cleiophanes, quartz, sphalerite. We spent there some time and finally realized that it was very late and we had to walk back. So with our now heavy backpacks we walked all way back – water, mud, collapsed zones – to the ladders. At the end we climbed up and went out to the surface. It was already dark, we spend about 8 hours underground.
   Next day we were rather tired and spent it mostly on visiting a few more local dealers and packing, soon we had to set off back to Sofia.
   On the way through Rhodope Mts we went for short time to see other famous locality and mining town – Laki. We took the photos of the head frames, visited town center with many Socialist realism monuments such as a serious miner keeping ore in his hands, and after that drove to the small hotel on the way to Sofia.
   Next day we drove to Sofia and took our flight to Wroclaw, Poland – we were going to the Crystal Days and Crystal Days Mindat.org Meeting (reed more here) but this is a completely different story :)
   

Tomasz Praszkier

 

 See Madan specimens in our store

 

Map of central part of Europe; the marked area is shown on the next map. Google Maps.

 

Map of part of Bulgaria with our road from Sofia to Madan. Google Maps.

 

On the way through Rhodope Mts. J. Gajowniczek photo.

 

On the way to Madan we visited Bachkovo Monastery to show it to our friends. J. Gajowniczek photo.

 

Gate to the Bachkovo Monastery. J. Gajowniczek photo.

 

Tom and John Veevaert in the gate of monastery, unfortunately it is strictly forbidden to take the photos inside. J. Gajowniczek photo.

 

Fountain in the monastery garden. J. Gajowniczek photo.

 

In front of the monastery there is a market with many traditional products ... J. Gajowniczek photo.

 

... as well as kitsch, sometimes connected with minerals. J. Gajowniczek photo.

 

Tom`s favourite mineral ``chapels``. J. Gajowniczek photo.

 

Saint Michael with pyrite and quartz. J. Gajowniczek photo.

 

Another great example containing paragenesis of the brasilian agate, galena powder and quartz from Madan ;-) J. Gajowniczek photo.

 

Tom has a collection of the mineralogical kitsch, here he is happy with a new addition to the collection. J. Gajowniczek photo.

 

After long drive we arrived to Madan town. J. Gajowniczek photo.

 

Emblem of Madan at the entrance the town . M. Mauthner photo.

 

The Communistic and mining buildings dominate the center of Madan. Here, the headquarters of mining company. J. Gajowniczek photo.

 

Mosque and Socialist realism style hotel called Ural. J. Gajowniczek photo.

 

Library with mining symbols. J. Gajowniczek photo.

 

On the Madan streets. J. Gajowniczek photo.

 

In the very center there is also an old entrance to the "Spolka" mine. J. Gajowniczek photo.

 

Fence made of drill bars and drill machines. M. Mauthner photo.

 

Fence made of drill bars and drill machines. M. Mauthner photo.

  

We spent the first afternoon driving around the town to see great mountain scenery and some mining buildings. J. Gajowniczek photo.

 

Place where trucks load the ore to the aerial tram. J. Gajowniczek photo.

 

Place where trucks load the ore to the aerial tram. J. Gajowniczek photo.

 

Old mining building, partly collapsed, but people still live there. J. Gajowniczek photo.

 

Note the hanging bridge to the upper floor, staircase is partly collapsed :-) J. Gajowniczek photo.

 

About 30 km long aerial tram going to the factory and floatation plant in Rudoziem. J. Gajowniczek photo.

  

Mark photographing aerial tram. J. Gajowniczek photo.

 

Aerial tram. J. Gajowniczek photo.

  

Aerial tram. J. Gajowniczek photo.

 

Johna and Mark under aerial tram. J. Gajowniczek photo.

  

Aerial tram. J. Gajowniczek photo.

  

The metal nets are built in the places where tram goes over the road. Note how big the holes are, only big stones can be stopped with the net. J. Gajowniczek photo.

 

After general sightseeing we went to see the maining buildings. Map above is showing the most important ones in the area.

 

View to the main valley and the Batanzi village. J. Gajowniczek photo.

  

Batanzi mine head frame - giant concrete "monument of the Communism". J. Gajowniczek photo.

  

Batanzi head frame. J. Gajowniczek photo.

  

Note the size of head frame compared to a man. J. Gajowniczek photo.

  

Postindustrial landscapes in Batanzi mine. J. Gajowniczek photo.

  

Postindustrial landscapes in Batanzi mine. J. Gajowniczek photo.

  

Postindustrial landscapes in Batanzi mine. J. Gajowniczek photo.

  

John in front of the giant headframe of the mine. J. Gajowniczek photo.

  

Big plate proudly explaining that for this construction: 120.000 tons of bricks, 365 tons of armature, and 4242 cubic meters of concrete was used :-) J. Gajowniczek photo.

  

We started next day by visiting the "office" of our friend Ivan, in one of the buildings from the 50s, now it is not in a very good shape, but there are still some people that live there. Ivan calls it Communistic baroque :-) J. Gajowniczek photo.

  

Staircase ... J. Gajowniczek photo.

  

... and windows. J. Gajowniczek photo.

  

But in Ivan`s storage we found a lot of specimens. J. Gajowniczek photo.

  

Ivan with Tom examining specimens. J. Gajowniczek photo.

  

Heppy Mark Mauthner packing pyrite specimens. J. Gajowniczek photo.

  

Specimens in the flats. Unfortunately this time Ivan did not have really good quality for sale. Not many top speciemns have been coming out recently from the mines. J. Gajowniczek photo.

  

Quartz with calcite. J. Gajowniczek photo.

  

Quartz with galena specimens from Krushev Dol mine. J. Gajowniczek photo.

  

Beside of the specimens for sale, which as I wrote were just medium quality, Ivan showed us his personal collection and these were awsome specimens. J. Gajowniczek photo.

  

Twinned calcite, Ivan`s collection. J. Gajowniczek photo.

  

Huge sphalerite on galena, Ivan`s collection. J. Gajowniczek photo.

  

Great galena, Ivan`s collection. J. Gajowniczek photo.

  

And the real killer - superb epitaxial chalcopyrite on quartz from 9th September mine, Ivan`s collection. J. Gajowniczek photo.

  

After visit in Ivan`s place we met other great friend - Shukrit. Here, view from his house to the old head frame. J. Gajowniczek photo.

  

With Shukrit in his house. J. Gajowniczek photo.

  

And specimens... a lot of specimens. J. Gajowniczek photo.

  

Some of them were of very good quality. J. Gajowniczek photo.

  

New galenas on quartz. J. Gajowniczek photo.

  

Skeletal galena on quartz. J. Gajowniczek photo.

  

Twinned galena crystals with calcite. J. Gajowniczek photo.

  

Great galena twin. J. Gajowniczek photo.

  

Chalcopyrite with galena on quartz. J. Gajowniczek photo.

  

Cubic galena on quartz. J. Gajowniczek photo.

  

Great twinned galena preferentially coated by calcite. J. Gajowniczek photo.

  

Another galena with calcite. J. Gajowniczek photo.

  

Another galena with calcite. J. Gajowniczek photo.

  

Superb twinned galena preferentcially coated by calcite. J. Gajowniczek photo.

  

Unusual calcite on galena and sphalerite. J. Gajowniczek photo.

    

Now time to pack specimens. Beside of the specimens Shukrit also has a huge box collection ;-) J. Gajowniczek photo.

    

At the end Shukrit showed us his private collection. J. Gajowniczek photo.

  

The best known helvite on quartz from Bulgaria – one of the highlights of Shukrit`s collection. J. Gajowniczek photo.

 

And finally time came to introduce our American friends to home made rakija. J. Gajowniczek photo.

  

Salut! J. Gajowniczek photo.

  

After visit in Shukrit house we went to taste the "Aquamarine" drink :-) J. Gajowniczek photo.

  

Finally at the evening we arranged a small outdoor party to honor the arrival of our friend from Australia – Malcolm Southwood who came that day from Sofia. M. Southwood photo.

 

Next day we made a trip to visit mining facilities in Erma Reka area (Gidiurska mine) and later Strashimir old workings. J. Gajowniczek photo.

   

Lake on the old flotation dump. M. Southwood photo.

  

Strange location of a shaft - in the river. M. Southwood photo.

 

Head frame of the Gidiurska mine. M. Southwood photo.

 

Main entrance to the Giudiurska mine. M. Southwood photo.

 

Unloading ore carts. M. Southwood photo.

 

From Gidiurska mine we went to the Strashimir. J. Gajowniczek photo.

  

Old workings (note extracted veins) in the Strashimir veins. M. Southwood photo.

 

Cavities full of quartz on the surface in Strashimir area. M. Mauthner photo.

 

Old workings. M. Southwood photo.

 

Inside of the old workings in the place of the extracted vein. M. Southwood photo.

 

Inside of the old workings. M. Mauthner photo.

 

After all we were invited by Ivan, his wife Snizana, and Gieorgiej for the great picnic in the mountains. J. Gajowniczek photo.

 

On the way to the picninc place. J. Gajowniczek photo.

 

Caterpillar in the forest. M. Mauthner photo.

 

Two cooks - Gieorgiej and Ivan – grilling octopus. J. Gajowniczek photo.

 

Octpus were caught by Ivan a few days before and Snizana prepaired it in a Greek style. It was definitely the best grilled octopus we have ever eaten! J. Gajowniczek photo.

 

Snizana and Ivan were agreat hosts. J. Gajowniczek photo.

 

After eating Ivan told us that a few meters from where we were there are old workings, we decided to go immidiately :-) J. Gajowniczek photo.

 

In the old workings. J. Gajowniczek photo.

 

Next day we went in the morning to the Borieva mine. J. Gajowniczek photo.

 

Asia is alreay prepared during the breakfast. M. Southwood photo.

 

Old mining buildings in Borieva. J. Gajowniczek photo.

 

Socialist realism sculptures in Borieva. J. Gajowniczek photo.

 

Socialist realism sculptures in Borieva. J. Gajowniczek photo.

 

A monument of miner. J. Gajowniczek photo.

 

A monument of miner. J. Gajowniczek photo.

 

Borieva mine does not look very modern ;-) J. Gajowniczek photo.

 

Fragment of the Borieva mine. J. Gajowniczek photo.

 

But the main building was just renovated. J. Gajowniczek photo.

 

Even the red star :-) J. Gajowniczek photo.

 

Here is the photo of the same portal taken 2 years ago, it changed a lot! J. Gajowniczek photo.

 

There are still old Communistic signs in the building, the yellow one says "Have you completed your production plan?". J. Gajowniczek photo.

 

Tom ready to go underground. J. Gajowniczek photo.

 

John excited to go underground. J. Gajowniczek photo.

 

Interesting constructions at the entrance to the mine. J. Gajowniczek photo.

 

Door is open, time to go underground. J. Gajowniczek photo.

 

First we had to walk about 3 km to the shaft. J. Gajowniczek photo.

 

Going to the shaft. J. Gajowniczek photo.

 

There is a lot of mud in the tunnels. J. Gajowniczek photo.

 

 and some water too :-) M. Mauthner photo.

 

Mining carts. J. Gajowniczek photo.

 

Finally at the shaft, Asia is waiting for the lift. T. Praszkier photo.

 

"Office" of the lift operator. J. Gajowniczek photo.

 

Operator of the lift. J. Gajowniczek photo.

 

Lift is coming. J. Gajowniczek photo.

 

Time to go down! J. Gajowniczek photo.

 

And after a few minutes we are a few houndreds meters underground. J. Gajowniczek photo.

 

Mining tram. J. Gajowniczek photo.

 

We had to walk another 3 km to the zone were mineralization occurs. J. Gajowniczek photo.

 

Walking through the mine. J. Gajowniczek photo.

 

We started being excited. J. Gajowniczek photo.

 

First pockets! J. Gajowniczek photo.

 

Small pocket with quartz. J. Gajowniczek photo.

 

Ore vein in the ceiling. J. Gajowniczek photo.

 

Ore vein in the ceiling. J. Gajowniczek photo.

 

Secondary gypsum crystals in the mine tunnels. M. Mauthner photo.

 

Secondary gypsum crystals in the mine tunnels. M. Mauthner photo.

 

GO TO PART II of the report




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