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Published: June 17th 2018
Today I have become an Urban Explorer in the mountains! This is easily done in Bulgaria due to the declining population, the fall of communism and the failure of capitalism, resulting in an extremely high amount of derelict dwellings, factories and public buildings. Glyn and I had driven near to Mount Musala looking for moody, misty mountains (which we found) but ended up exploring what we think were derelict hotels, literally in the middle of nowhere.
We arrived in Borovets in the small hours of the night, having driven from Sofia, and after much confusion mixed with stroppy night receptionists, we eventually dragged our luggage past the only rowdy bar in the area and found our apartment. To Glyn's utmost horror, there was no bogroll and he was getting anxious about his morning poo. So he went back out into the night, just as the bar turned up the (crap) music, it being 4am, and had further altercations with the couldn't-give-a-shit receptionists (pun intended). A bit of arm waving and grumbling ensued, but Glyn did return proudly clutching one small but perfectly formed bogroll. We could now sleep soundly.
Understandably we didn't wake until gone 10am and took a
wander into Borovets. This didn't take long as the town is very small, with a couple of mammoth hotels, some holiday apartment blocks and tatty but cosy wooden bars, clubs and ski schools as Borovets is a ski resort. So yes, as it was pointed out in Bobby's Bar, we had come completely out of season and Bobby himself thought it odd because summer starts next week apparently. We came because it was very cheap, different and had plenty of mountain stuff, plus, as we now now, urban exploration - which can be done in the country, the definition requires only a derelict manmade building and you're set.
Bulgarian Bobby was playing the likes of the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Metallica and Nirvana which attracted us into his bar for an early lunch, as the other places were either shut or pumping chav music. Mrs Bobby (I didn't get her name) is English and was extremely welcoming insisting we have shots of toffee vodka on the house despite it being just 11.30am. She and her mates were already on the beer sitting in the sun, chatting in both Bulgarian and English. Bobby claimed to be tee total and had
a shot of apple juice with Glyn. They taught us how to say cheers in Bulgarian and informed us that eye contact at this point is part of the culture, so I stared them out as I downed the free vodka.
Today is Glyn's birthday, so Mrs Bobby sorted us two cocktails, also on the house. Again mine was alcoholic, so I was doing well as it wasn't even midday yet. We ordered lunch as the rain arrived. And it was torrential, bouncing off the road and instantly soaking all who ventured out. We stayed safely under the huge brollies outside as it wasn't cold and ate a good lunch, had a beer and waited for the rain to stop. I went inside to use the loo and the Bobbies insisted I have another shot of a local spirit that was described to me as 'pretty disgusting', with a description like that I could hardly say no. I chugged it down whilst eyeballing Mrs Bobby as local tradition dictates, or they were having a laugh at my expense! Bobby then told me about how it was his birthday last night and he was dancing naked on the table with
only a helmet (ski helmet he said afterwards realising his faux pas). Bobby is a grey haired older man, once ski jumper for Bulgaria, who claimed previously that he was tee total and had just downed a shot. He and his wife were very welcoming and very happy together; I think getting drunk with them would be very 'interesting'.
The sun started to shine and we wandered around the town further, finding chair lifts carrying people with their mountain bikes up to Sitnyakovo so they could ride the bikes down the mountain paths without the nasty uphill bit first. Thunder cracked overhead, but still the sun shone on, attempting to dry out the roads. We found a tiny wooden church, the only gothic wooden church in the country, nestled in thick forest. Everything is nestled in thick forest here, the area is a constant dark evergreen with towering fir trees. The ice fountain is probably impressive in winter, but comically bad in the summer.
That was about it for Borovets, so Glyn drove us up to Mount Malyovitsa in Rila National Park where wolves, wildcats and bears reside; we did not expect to see any. However, we saw
an animal smaller than a fox but bigger than a rabbit dive into the undergrowth and I'm going to say it was a wildcat because I want it to be.
Mount Malyovitsa has a couple of ski huts/bars, plus a guy selling jam and some sort of flower cordial. We've spotted quite a few jam stands on the roadside and not been tempted, especially as it's around £5 a jar. There's also a path cutting through the forest going up towards the snow-topped mountains. We didn't get too far before the thunder cracked loudly overhead but we carried on as there was no rain. We still continued when the lightening began as it was still quite hot. We found a 'well' that was a jet of ice cold water shooting from a pipe in a stonewall. I attempted to drink some as it was nice enough, but I got wet in the process.
After more thunder, a hiker marched past us, going down in a big hurry. The sky turned dark purple as the light dimmed and the trees were immersed in the yellow-tinged grey 'day-darkness' that you get just before a big storm. We decided maybe we
should walk back and put on waterproofs. However, despite continuing to thunder and lightening, the downpour didn't hit until we were almost at the car. We were gutted that the jam vendor was gone.
The torrential rain didn't last long and by the time we got to a village not marked on my map near Musala, the sun was out again. Mount Musala is the highest peak in the eastern Balkans, so we decided to drive as near to it as we could, it was early evening now and a lot brighter but not the time to go walking.
A small herd of horses grazed by the potholed road, unable to run off as their front legs were hobbled together and they had to hop when moving which was sad to see. Many wore bells that sounded like cowbells, is there such a thing as a horsebell? A free foal galloped around, annoying the older horses and it turned out two of the adults were also free. They used this freedom wisely, fighting and kicking each other; hopefully I got some good photos of this!
Glyn drove on, up twisty mountain roads, alongside a river that was
more rocks than water despite all the rain. A multitude of wooden bridges crossed this river and Glyn wondered why so many were needed. We saw just one other vehicle on the road which eventually ended up at a barrier with a barking dog. Nearby were three derelict buildings, two of which appeared to have been hotels. Floors were missing and wallpaper hanging off the walls. Many windows were broken and the doors of one were rotten and only held closed with a rock that Glyn moved. It looked like the decor inside was once pretty fancy but then it appeared to have communal bathrooms, so not that fancy! Glyn spotted a rusted satellite dish on the roof, so they must have been in use within the last few decades. It probably wasn't too safe, so we only walked on the once brightly coloured tiled floors. We couldn't get into the second hotel as it was padlocked up and we didn't want to break anything, so we eventually left and I drove us back down the long road to Borovets.
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