In the October half term, pupils and staff from Oundle School undertook a tour of Bulgaria with a focus on Geography and Geology, heading off the beaten track and exploring the local sites.
Trip Organiser and Geography teacher, Philip Pitcher commented, “Places like Iceland and Morocco remain spectacular; but are now well known and trips there have lost that sense of ‘exploration.’ The trip to Bulgaria allowed pupils to direct the itinerary of the trip a little more; and provided them with the skills to engage with exploration too.
As well as educating the pupils in Cultural and Physical Geography, we covered Geology incorporating ‘off syllabus’ material which is rarely covered in the Geography curriculum in schools.”
The trip took in a walk along the Serbian border in the Balkan mountains, visits to local towns, cities and monasteries and a whole host of Karst (limestone) features and geological landforms, which either do not exist in the UK or are not found on any similar spatial scale. The most impressive were the Devetashka Caves, Krushuna Waterfalls and Belogradchik Rocks.
Eating in local restaurants, and essentially speaking little English, was part of the journey and experience – and pupils were expected to problem solve the language barriers alongside staff. The whole trip being self-driven meant the group had the opportunity to stop and explore places along the way, including shopping in local markets and supporting the rather deteriorating rural economy.
Philip added, “The loss of young people (aged 20-35) in Bulgaria, particularly in the rural areas, became increasingly apparent and most rural towns/villages had a somewhat eerie closed primary or secondary school. Taking in these rural roads and gaining a sense of place by journeying via mountain hamlets and villages helped build up the background to Bulgaria – a background that might not have been gained should a tour operator have been used.
Pupil, Ruben Sector (16) commented “With stunning scenery, great food and a sense of mystery for what laid ahead, Bulgaria certainly exceeded my expectations. Experiencing the country’s surroundings, I felt in awe every time I saw something new. I am amazed that rural Bulgaria isn’t as popular as it might be and I strongly recommend this trip to anyone who wants to experience something new.”
Philip concluded, “The trip was a great success and plans are already in place to run this as a Sixth Form trip every two years. I hope pupils will be inspired when considering their travelling experiences during their gap years.”