Published: July 26th 2009February 16th 2009
The song that gives this blog its title!
One of Chris Alger's wily investments had seen him purchase a one bedroom apartment in the Bulgarian ski resort of Bansko. So what better way to enjoy this than to cram six of us into the apartment for a 6 day skiing holiday - and as we drew straws for the beds, Chris ended up sharing a futon in the lounge of the apartment that he actually owned!
Getting there had been the usual "no-queuing" affair that is always a regular feature with Alger Jnr at the helm. This time we were cutting it so fine to get to the airport that I had to stand in the doors of the airport bus stopping them from shutting to allow Steve to park the car and us to make our flight!!
Arriving in Bulgaria the first battle was figuring out the name of the currency. Lev is what the Bulgarian government would like you to call it - but that didn't sit well with our group so it was mainly known as a Shekel (Israel), with the occasional sprinkling of Zloty (Poland), when a change was required!
Bulgaria was a strange mix architecture-wise: no effort at all had been
made to landscape any part of Bulgaria that we passed through. There was no sign of gardens, parks, pathways or even that anything had been "finished". The various buildings had all been constructed - with grim-looking soviet era tower blocks rubbing shoulders with modern glass offices - but without fail the surrounding areas were left as rubble and boulder strewn pits, which seemed very strange.
The best example of this was as the main road out of Sofia passed the Maserati and Porsche showrooms, which were modern glass structures with huge car parks. But as soon as the car parks finished the landscape changed again to piles of rubble and detritus, leaving the office buildings as gleaming islands emerging from a sea of wasteland.
By the time we'd reached the apartment and explored the town a little we cottoned onto the fact that our jaunt to "cheap" eastern Europe wasn't going to be quite the bargain we hoped! Perhaps its to be expected when the only places you visit in a country are the airport and then its main ski resort, but prices were a little steep with £2.50 cans of cokes and £2 packets of crisps greeting
us at every turn!
Nevertheless, we ploughed onwards like good tourists and got stuck into our attempt to drink the town dry after a meal out at an Italian. I hear a good night was had by all, but I'm not sure my memory is up to the challenge of remembering where we went! The next morning Steve, Rob and I - the three of us with our own equipment - were able to make a reasonably sharp getaway in the morning (slopes by noon I think!), and enjoy the slopes of Bamsko.
Again the resort was a strange mixture of old and new that had obviously had massive investment in the early 2000's. Some of the most modern express quad chair lifts available sat next to some of the ricketiest t-bars that I've ever seen, with at least one in three of the t-bars no longer gracing the lift! It was the week before half-term, but the resort was incredibly busy - with both locals and a good smattering of Brits and other Europeans. There was good snow for the four days that we were out there and the more experienced of us got to tear down
some great reds and blacks with the beginners conquering the variety of blues. Even better the sunshine was virtually unbroken during the day, with any dodgy weather being reserved for the evenings.
As we settled into our routine it soon became apparent that there weren't enough hours in the day to combine the amount of skiing and snowboarding that we wanted to do with the inevitable huge nights out that followed, and enough shut-eye to allow you to feel human again by the time you were on the slopes the next morning! Some of the guys decided that sleep would be the key and a lunchtime start to skiing was by far the most sensible way forward. On the other hand I decided that being out the door by 9.30a.m. no matter how bad I felt would be the answer - confidently muttering that nothing cuts through a hangover and makes you feel better like the fresh alpine wind in your face as you hurtle down a slope! I'm not sure my theory really held water, judging by the horrified looks on the faces of an Italian family that were unfortunate enough to share a gondola with me on the way up the mountain as I slumped down on the seat, closed my eyes and desperately willed to pain to go away!
If the skiing was good, the nights out were fantastic with Pete being the life and soul of the party and encouraging, cajoling, bullying and bribing seemingly anyone that crossed our paths into joining our group for their night out and making magic happen. On previous nights we'd been given free home made toffee vodka shots by the owner of one bar, stumbled into a club 18-30's nightmare with bands of sweaty teenagers (male!) dancing topless on a bar and hit a place where flaming sambucas were lit not by a match but by an aerosol flame thrower!!
The final Sunday night surpassed it all for banter with us heading to the "nail bar", where there was a giant tree trunk table and for 2 shekels each you could by a 4 inch nail and borrow a hammer (yes a hammer in a bar full of drunk people), and all you had to do was in one motion bring the hammer up from below the table and smash the nail down into the wood. Everyone has a nail and you go round the table taking one shot each until the first person to get their nail flush is the winner. Never has such a simple game been so frustrating and amusing!!
Along the way Pete had managed to get half the bar to join us for the game, including a group of Irish guys who somehow Pete managed not to get a kicking from despite the conversation going something like this:
Pete: Hey there Seamus, come and join us. What's your name mate?
Irish guy: No worries, its Connor.
Pete: Cool, and what did you say your surname was Seamus?
Irish guy: Its Fitzpatrick.
Pete: Okay, no worries Seamus. Guys, this here's Seamus O'Seamus who's going give smashing some nails a go.
Irish guy: My name's Connor.
Pete: No probs Seamus....and so on....
And so Pete called him Seamus O'Seamus for the rest of the night and how he didn't get a kicking I don't know, but it was one of the funniest things I have ever seen and the Irish boys were all game for a laugh and took it in the right spirit.
Exhausted by our nail smashing we headed onto a late night kareoke bar that we had been into (and dominated needless to say..!!) a couple of times before. The various groups of people that Pete had talked into joining us headed to the bar too, and before long epic (epic in terms of effort expended rather than quality produced!!) kareoke battles were going on with "you're so vain", "afternoon delight" and "hotel california" being the biggest hits! Unfortunately, there is plenty of photographic and even video evidence which shows that I am using the term "hit" in the loosest possible way!
Unfortunately Monday lunchtime saw us having to head back to London and I know that how tough it was at work on the Tuesday was definitely a testament to the great time that was had out in Bulgaria. Cheers boys!