13th EuroSpeleo Forum

From 26 to 29 September 2019 Bulgaria hosted the most prestigious international forum in Europe, which is held annually in a country, chosen by the European Federation of Speleology.

Under the motto “90 years of organized speleology and 45 years of cave rescue in Bulgaria” the forum provided a wide variety of presentations, poster sessions, and symposia on topics related to cave exploration: expeditions, biospeleology, geology, geomorphology and geography of karst, conservation and rescue. Within the framework of the 13th EuroSpeleo Forum the traditional National Cave Forum in Bulgaria was held.

A book about the Forum (in English) was published, where you could find information about the short history of the last 90 years of organized speleology and 45 years of cave rescue in Bulgaria, as well as abstracts of the presentations from the forum.

After the 1st EuroSpeleo Show Cave Symposium in Austria in 2018, a 2nd symposium was held during the 13th EuroSpeleo Forum in Sofia, Bulgaria in partnership with the Bulgarian Tourist Union.

In addition to the scientific presentations, the event also included art elements – a photo competition and a film festival that showed the beauty of the underground. The audience was allowed to nominate the best works in those categories. The Best photo award went to “In a long tunnel” by author Florian Bachmann with assistant Toni Glasl, shot at the Grotte de St. Marcel, Ardeche in France. The photo “Ray of sunshine in a flint-stone cave” by author Boaz Langford got the second place with only one vote difference. This work has an interesting story – it was made in a phosphate mine at the central Negev desert, Israel. The cave was discovered during mining activities and unfortunately has already been destroyed. As a memory, only the picture taken is left. The third place took the photo “Broken silence”, taken in Davorjevo Brezno, Slovenia by author Igor Ardetti.

The production of the Portuguese Federation of Speleology “Underground Portugal” was selected as the best movie, followed by the Croatian film “Jama Nedam”. The thirs place was for the Portuguese video about the expedition “East Timor”.

All the sport-oriented cavers had the opportunity to participate in a competition that combined the skills acquired when practicing caving techniques – the Speleo Olympic Games. In the individual races, immediately after the start, the participants had to choose 3 knots out of 9, without knowing exactly what they are choosing, and then while blindfolded, they had to tie the corresponding knot and attach it with a carabiner to a rope. After passing this obstacle, they had to remove their mask and continue carrying a 5 kg caving bag for women and а 10 kg for men through an artificially constructed tight passage, climbing to a height of about 5 meters. From there, they had to go through a Tirolean, pass a traverse and few pits, then finish. In the team competition, a team of 2 people had to carry a total of 6 caving bags along the same route, 3 of them weighing 10 kg and 3 with 5 kg.

The prizes for women, men and team were earned by the Polish speleo team. In the men competition, Michal Macioszczyk was ranked first, Witold Hoffmann (Poland) was second, and Israel’s Boaz Langford was third. Sonia Dudziak took first place in the women, Stanimira Deleva (Bulgaria) came second and Yana Dimova (Bulgaria) third.

In the team competition, teams of two were formed by a random draw, and there were mixed pairs. First place went to Michal Macioszczyk and Witold Hoffmann (both from Poland), second to the team – Dino Groznich (Croatia) and Georgi Berov (Bulgaria), third to Sonia Dudyak (Poland) and Nicola Rosi (Croatia).

The team Toma Solarov and Diana Stefanova (both from Bulgaria) were awarded the prize for the best team effort.

The highlight of the National Speleology Forum was the presentation of Anna Pencheva, dedicated to the 50th anniversary of the expedition to the bottom of the deepest cave in the world at that time – Guffre Berger in France in 1969. During the expedition, Anna and Peter Beron reached the bottom at -1122 m. This made Anna Pencheva (at that time with the Taparkova family) the first woman in the world to reach such a depth. During the National Forum the certificates “Peter Tranteev”, as well as badges – gold, silver and bronze bat, were awarded to people, dedicated to speleology in Bulgaria.

As a part of the 13th EuroSpeleo Forum, a preliminary program was held from 21 to 25 September with organized visits to caves in different parts of Bulgaria. The camp of the Kastrakli expedition was located in the beautiful and still wild western part of the Rhodopes mountain, near “Orpheus hut”. The international team of speleologists visited the caves “Yagodinska”, “Dyavolskoto garlo (the Devil’s Throat), “Haramiyska” , the “Kastrakli” Spring, as well as many natural attractions including the Kastrakli Biosphere Reserve, the Trigrad and Buinovo Gorges.

Another part of the preliminary program included visits to caves in the Sofia area, including the longest cave in the country – “Duhlata”, as well as “Temnata Dupka” (the Dark Hole) near the village of Lakatnik, the “Temnata Dupka” (another Dark Hole) of “Berende” Srping and “Elata” (The Fir).

The EuroSpeleo Forum was held at the National Education Centre of the Red Cross, Dolni Lozen, Sofia. Organizers of the event were the Bulgarian Federation of Speleology and Cave Rescue – Bulgaria on behalf of the European Speleological Federation, in partnership with the International Speleological Union, the National Education Centre of the Red Cross, the Bulgarian Tourist Union, the Research Fund, the Geological Institute of BAS, Aventure Verticale, ant the Bulgarian outdoor shops Alps and Outsider.

The forum was attended by over 200 cavers from 27 countries, including representatives from Europe, USA, Brazil, Israel, Hong Kong.


Number of people attending: about 200

Number of countries attending: 27

Number of organizations represented: about 30

Number of talks: total 55; 10 of them poster presentations;

Number of trips and number of people on those trips:

“Kastrakli 2019”, Western Rhodopes – 50 participants from 8 countries; 21 caving clubs; 12 destinations; 5 days

Guided cave tours near Sofia –4 destinations; 4 days; 16 trips; each trip with about 8-10 people

Number of Speleo Olympics people: 17 people: 15 individuals and 6 teams

The main sponsor: Outdoor shop “Alps” – https://www.alpibg.com/

Number of videos/photos in the competition: 36 photos, 5 movies

The main sponsor: Outdoor shop “Outsider”

Number of people who helped run the EuroSpeleo event: 28

Number of people who ended up in a Bulgarian Police station: 2 UK citizens trying to Brexit from Bulgaria 🙂

Number of questions answered by email:  689 

Most questions answered by email to a single person: 27

Number of questions answered at the venue: more than 2000

Number of beers drank: more than 1500

Wine drank: 70 liters

Number of new romantic relationships: 5 🙂

Number of divorces because of the event: 0 (We are the best!!!)