Kristian’s Bulgaria Trip
Tuesday, 6 September 2016
All in all it was a good trip with only one night of being chased by dogs.
I arrived in Sofia airport at 1 o’clock in the morning looking for a place to sleep so I set off down the nearest dark road in order to find a quiet place to sleep. At first I set off across some banks thinking I would be hidden from the road there. I smelt a faint wiff in the air and noticed some rubbish laying around so I decided to move on in an effort to move past it. I suddenly looked up and found myself in the middle of a shanty town and some dogs started barking so I hightailed it out of there.
Moving further down the road I came across a construction site and thought that looked promising. Quickly that turned into a bad idea as four dogs ran out of the dark at me and my first thought was ‘Fuck that!’ and calmly turned around and headed in the opposite direction back down the road I came from.
I found a bush to sleep in for the night and got up in the morning refreshed and ready to face my new challenge to find my local contact, Petar Beron. The number I had for him had not worked and he hadn’t responded to my last email to confirm the details for meeting up. I did the most logical thing that come to my mind. To hunt him down.
I knew he worked in the natural history museum in Sofia so I decided to go there first. Low and behold he was there working on a paper. He was expecting me that day but was unsure what my plans were as it turned out that my last email had gone to his junk folder (fitting I think). We had lunch and he showed me around Sofia and told me all about Bulgarian history. A good days sight seeing was had and Petar was kind enough to let me sleep in his sofa for the night as he would not have me sleep outside again due the high number of stray dogs, gypsies, refugees and cutthroats around Sofia.
The next day Petar shoved me onto a bus and sent me to the Rila Mountains. I went via the town Sam Allshornakov to Borovets, a ski resort at the base of the mountains. The first objective was to find the path up Musala the highest mountain on the Balkan peninsula. The guide book said that it started next to the old royal palace so I set to towards the fanciest looking building in the village (it wasn’t the palace). After 15 minutes I realised the mountains were behind me so I double backed and thought ‘highest mountain’ so I then set off up the steepest path I could find. This turned out to be a mountain bike trail that was far too steep and slippy for my liking so I abandoned it and followed a series of markings that ran through the forest that lead me to a very confused looking logger. He did not interest me for that long so I wandered off into the forest in search of water. I finally found a path by a stream that looked promising as there was a big sign in it saying ‘Musala trail’ that pointed back to the village.
The most logical thing to do was ignore this sign and go in the other direction. After several hours and 1200m of ascent through pine forests and ski ramps I arrived at the Musala Mountain Hut. It was £3 to stay in the hut for the night so I decided to rent a bunk for the night, eating lentil soup and listing to locals singing their folk songs.
I awoke the next morning with a crushing sense of dread over my head and I set of in high spirits. From the hut I passed the seven lakes that collect below the peak and headed up the Northeast ridge past another mountain hut Hizha Ledenoto Ezero to the peak. After topping the peak I continued south down the ridge of high peaks bagging each peak as I went (Malak Bliznak, Golyam Bliznak, Marishki Chal, and Yurushki Chal) until I arrived in the area where the next mountain hut Hizha Granchar was based before a long stretch of moorland. I was just midday so I decided to carry on despite my guide book suggesting I should stay in the nearby hut. The walk across the moorland was long but easy and enjoyable and I met a local shepherd who used the technique of throwing his walking stick at his animals in order to get them moving whilst letting his dogs do fuck all; very interesting and he also offered me a drink of gin which I gladly accepted. After a while I rejoined a rocky ridge line and followed it for another hour until I found the second mountain hut. I decided to call it a day at that as I had covered in a day what was two days distance according to my guide book.
The next mountain hut Hizha Ribni Ezera was not as well populated as Musala but I shared a room with a nice Israeli man and spent the night listening to Bulgarian pop music and being attacked by the hut’s kitten.
My final day in the mountains took me over the Kings Lane with the very nice peaks of Vondi Chal, Goylyam Mechit and good views all along the way. I stayed the night in the mountain hut Hizha Mechit that was hosting a party of locals that treated me to some fine food and drink and showed me how to perform some simple local folk dances. I was told many times during the night I needed to find myself a proper Bulgarian woman to marry. I hightailed it out of there before people started me showing pictures of eligible daughters and rested my hangover ready for the return trip the next day.
The next day I headed down to the bottom of the valley and waited for the bus back to Sofia. Whilst I was waiting for the bus I met a lovely chap who was about to back to university to his final year of astrophysics, we was in the area harvesting magic mushrooms and promptly offered me some along with a joint. I politely refused as I am now straight edge. The bus arrived and took us back to Sofia with only one breakdown and the driver softly cooing to the engine throughout the journey.
That night I found a hostel to stay in. Walking up to it I was stalked by a couple of guys dressed all in leather and pestered by half a dozen refugees. The hostel was seedy as fuck and the woman running it was an absolute battleaxe who seemed like she took no shit whatsoever. A lovely experience all in all and I slept with the door locked that night.
After an uneventful day sightseeing and a final farewell to Petar I left for the airport and a final flight home. Good holiday and worth going again if more caving could be arranged.