Play the real-life city expiration games in Vidin, Vratsa, and Belogradchik

Robin Vredenborg
17/1/2023
questo vratsa vidin belogradchik

Traveling to the medieval towns of Vidin, Vratsa, or Belogradchik soon? Real-life city exploration games await there to usher you into the unknown and magnificent historical sites of Northwestern Bulgaria. 

Surely you’ve wandered about beautiful cities, wanting to know more about the myths surrounding their history without having to research online. But have you ever wanted to discover the secrets of a place by playing a real-world exploration game? 

On the Questo mobile app, gamified tours in the cities of Belogradchik, Vidin, and Vratsa now take you down a trip, literally, to reveal pieces of rich history that just need a little bit of unraveling to be appreciated fully. 

The stories?

Weaving together fantasy with real historical accounts, each “quest” tells a mysterious story that needs your problem-solving skills to make it to the end of the tale, and the route.

At the entrance to the city of Belogradchik, we meet the humble wizard Dragomir, who left his powerful family behind many years ago in pursuit of his dreams. Recent news forced him to return in haste as rumors spread of his brother's mad lust for power. Dragomir is afraid of what awaits upon his return to Belogradchik Fortress, but knows only he can talk some sense into his brother. Or face him in a final battle up the famous rocks.

In Vidin, we follow Osman Pazvantoglu, a fearsome medieval Ottoman Ruler who wakes up in modern-day Bulgaria. Confused and lost, he makes his way through the city from his grave, hidden by the Bulgarian Communist Regime behind a residential block, to the edge of the Danube, where his seat of power - the Baba Vida Fortress - still remains. With Osman’s personal stories to accompany you, you unravel his legacy to learn how he shaped the past and future of Vidin.

In Vratsa, as the final battle for the Bulgarian liberation from the Ottomans rages on, the footsoldier Petak is tasked with making his way to an overlook over Vratsa where he can announce victory with his trumpet, for all of Vratsa to hear. However, getting to the overlook is no easy task and Petak needs your help, and that of Levski - a Bulgarian national hero - to make it there alive. 

Via the app, players can start their walking adventure in search of clues and solve puzzles to unveil the stories of these cities. The games can be played by one person, in pairs, or in larger groups, and even in competition with each other. 

How do you play?

The gamified routes offer a multitude of puzzles that transform the cities into living organisms by delving into fragments of their history. Each solution brings you to a new location, and a new mystery to untangle. Finishing a quest usually takes between 60 to 120 minutes, depending on the speed of the players. The routes pass by the most important city sites, while also offering a look at places and stories that might be overlooked by regular tourism. The price per quest is €4.99. The games are currently available in English, but new languages will be added in the future.

A small part of what would you learn?

VIDIN

Osman Pazvantoglu Mosque's minarets are stylized with a spade at the top. The legend says that the spade is actually an upside-down heart, expressing an unrequited love. Osman Pazvantoglu dedicated this mosque to a Bulgarian woman who was his lover. But, due to their different religious beliefs, they could never be together and their love could not flourish. The Mosque’s sweet legend has earned it the nickname of “the heart mosque”.

BELOGRADCHIK

The Belogradchik Rocks are called the Madonna, The Monks, The Horseman and The Monastery. Their story tells of a girl of such beauty the nuns named her Madonna, who was imprisoned here in a monastery. One day Madonna saw a handsome man on a white horse and despite a strict ban, she ran to meet him. A deep love was born between them. He hid there and they had a child. One day, their baby's cry was heard - the girl and child were expelled from the monastery. As they fled, thunder boomed and a terrible storm broke out and an earthquake destroyed the monastery! Then, suddenly, everything was turned to stone. The monks became hard and grey. Madonna and her child were immortalized in rock. And her lover on his white horse was frozen mid-gallop, forever riding to his beloved.

VRATSA

The Steps to Freedom leads to The Herald of Freedom, the name given to the monument that celebrates Vratsa’s liberation and embodies the city’s gratitude to its liberators. According to a popular and local legend, after the Russian troops liberated Vratsa, at 12:30 pm on October28, 1877, one horseman rode to a nearby hill and announced with a trumpet call that the people were now free. The Ottomans were finally driven out of the city, though occasional shots were still heard in the streets echoing from the heights of the hill.

Early reviews of the quests have been overwhelmingly positive as all the quests are currently rated 5 out of 5 stars on Questo.

What is Questo?

Questo is a platform that collaborates with local storytellers from across the globe to popularize the idea that cities are the biggest playgrounds. The adventures offered on the platform include stories from baroque Netherlands through the memories of the painter Rubens, all the way to the foggy horizons of Victorian London in the welcome company of one Detective Sherlock Holmes.

Handplayed creates the tours in Northwestern Bulgaria in partnership with the mobile app Questo and with the financial support of the America for Bulgaria Foundation.