Last week I visited an ancient Thracian sanctuary in Bulgaria, called Gradishte. The story began in the village of Dolen and you can read about it here.

About 15 minutes in, as I was descending down the first steep staircase from the rocks down into the forest, I thought I heard howling and whining. I followed the sounds to a dog, stuck in an opening between the rocks. It wasn’t that steep, but the pup was obviously panicked and I couldn’t get him out, so I called to Pavel for help. He tried to build a path for the dog to climb up but the pup wasn’t getting it, so I went down to look for the rangers.

While I was gone, Pavel slipped and fell 15-20 meters down the rocks, freefalling, getting slammed on stones and trees. In spite of the horror he went through, he climbed out, all scathed up, unable to take another step.

Thanks to a few locals, we carried him down to the road, where an ambulance was waiting for us. And one of the local men, Hassan, let us leave the car in his yard. While we waited at the emergency room in Gotse Delchev, Hassan and his wife Nursen popped up in the doorframe: “We are waiting for you outside.”

It turned out that we had to go to a hospital in Sofia that same night, and it was already past 10. Hassan and Nursen, two total strangers who wake up at 5:30 every morning to work several jobs, drove us to Dolen to gather our stuff, and brought us back to Gotse Delchev, from where we set off to Sofia. They left their kids at home, took care of us for several hours, and we barely managed to convince them to pay for gas, let alone anything else.

I have no words to describe my gratitude towards these amazing souls who helped and supported us for hours, without asking anything in return. In a world where most people would rather scowl and scorn, than smile and say something nice, Nursen and Hassan restored my faith in our kind. We will try to pay it forward and if you end up near Gradishte – their house is on the right and they are happy to receive visitors.

All ended well – Pavel isn’t seriously hurt, and we rescued the dog as well (as he was climbing up the rocks, I managed to drag the dog out, flooded with adrenalin, because I was afraid that apart from beaten he’d also get bitten). Despite the frightening experience, we are both eager to go back – walk the cobblestone alleys of Dolen once again, play in the high swing at The Gates, visit Nursen and Hassan, maybe even finally make it to Leshten and Kovachevitsa.

Have you ever had an experience that restored your faith in humankind? Please share in the comments below 🙂