|There aren't seven of them in this picture but you'll just have to trust us.|
Our Lithuanian EVSer friend Rasa, who we also met on the on-arrival, really wanted to see the lakes, so she motivated us to go see them this weekend. Maria and Vicente were unavailable in one way or another, so it was Rasa, Zanda and me who set out to visit the lakes. The decision and "plans" were made only the day before. We met up near our house in Opalchenska, but then had some problems figuring out how we could: 1) make the first step out of Sofia 2) get to the lakes in the first place. Googling around for help wasn't so useful, either... Sometimes it is like this in Bulgaria: the way to get to any given place is not so obvious, and often even Google isn't enough for a clear answer, or, even if it is, things can always turn out to be very different in reality, as you'll soon realise from this "little" story.
The beginning of our trip was just a taste of what was to come: we lost some time in changing buses and getting lost in the outskirts of Sofia that were closest to where we thought the bus or train station of Ovcha Kupel would be, but found no station. Somehow, mostly thanks to our luck and unexpectedly understanding hurried directions in Bulgarian, we got to Gorna Banya train station, where we got our train to Dupnitsa for 4,5lv each.
|Gorna Banya railroad lady.|
Picture by Zanda.
|Obyadvam v Dupnitsa.|
Composition by Zanda.
The taxi driver was a peculiar but funny guy: in his late-thirties, wearing a Metallica t-shirt and having a Beatles song I'd never heard before playing on his taxi's sound system. I think he misunderstood my saying at some point "mnogo barzo" (very fast): I meant that our visit to the lakes would be very quick, as a reply to something relevant that he had asked me, but he probably interpreted that as permission to start racing up the mountain. He didn't miss a single opportunity to tell us, in a mixture of lively Bulgarian and very bad English and even German when we didn't seem to recognise the words in Bulgarian, all about Sapareva Banya -in which he apparently had the monopoly of taxi driving- and the mountain up which we were riding the taxi. He kept repeating the words skala and kamak. At some point he stopped to show us a rock in the shape of a turtle, which when seen from a different angle also looked like a human face. Apart from that, the view was breathtakingly beautiful, on a mountain side dense with forest.
After we almost crashed on the way, we finally reached the ski lifts. It was 4 o' clock. 2 hours before, Zanda had said that "she had forgot there had been a winter this year", because the weather was so warm that day, all the trees had already blossomed etc. 2 hours later, we were surrounded by snow and people were actually taking the ski lifts for their intended use. We were greeted with the announcement that the ski lifts would be working for just another half hour. That meant that we had to make the decision there and then: give up and go home, cursing our luck, or take the ski lifts and stay on the mountain for the night in a ski lodge we were assured would not cost more than 15lv per person.
|"No time to explain - hop on!"|
|View from the ride.|
|Migla, migla, rasa, rasa.|
Composition by Zanda.
|Lodge in the mountains.|
Anyway, the lodge/chalet had all of its cheaper dormitories booked, mostly by annoying little children *Gargamel face*, so we had to take the 100lv per room per night three-bed one, which we managed to haggle to 90lv. But that room... that room! Its biggest problem was the heating - or the lack thereof. Zanda even resorted to using her Russian, which I hadn't heard her speak before and I gather she doesn't want to as a matter of principle, to complain to the manager about it. He came to the room and "turned on" the heating, which meant making the radiator from freezing cold to pleasantly warm to the touch. Yes, our room flirted with temperatures not much higher than zero for the duration of the entire night. But at least we had a television to forget our shivers with. Switching the batteries from one remote control to the other, we managed to tune to Animal Planet - the only channel not in Bulgarian or dubbed in Bulgarian - and had baby pandas, the Summer of the Sharks and Aina the elephant lull us to sleep. Meanwhile, the other animals in the room were about to transform into butterflies in their barely warm enough blanket cocoons.
Fortunately, the next day was much better. We woke up early, had breakfast, rented some ski boots from the basement of the hotel and headed out, ready to find those bloody lakes! The skies were clear and deep blue, the snow was blinding white and deep, the view was magical... It was perfect. And then it happened: we discovered the first lake.
|Pointing at it, in case you missed it.|
An hour and a half or so after we started hiking from the lodge, we reached the second lake (we even walked over it) and another lodge next to it. There we had some tea and cherished our moments in the frozen wilderness. Yes, the lakes were frozen, but we had made it, and that was the only thing that counted.
|Tea for two, and two for tea... ♪|
Composition by Zanda.
|Composition by Zanda.|
But the cherry on the cake had yet to come.
Even though we had the taxi guy's telephone number safely in our phones, we really didn't want to strain our wallets any further, and so preferred to try our luck with hitch-hiking all the way back, which was the original plan actually. So we signalled to the first car which was looking like it was about to leave the area of the ski lift, ran to it and asked the couple -that could have been our parents- if it would be okay for them to take us to Sapareva Banya. Not only did they take us there, they got us lunch at Hotel Panorama in Panichishte -some of the best food we've had while we've been in Bulgaria - and told us that they could also take us all the way back to Sofia, since that was their final destination as well. If they were chainsaw murderers, they kept their hobby to themselves.
Another thing that made me personally proud of our contact with this couple was that 90% of our communication with them, like in most of the trip actually, was in Bulgarian. When all you want to do is express you gratitude, you don't care about how correct your language is; you just blurt out whatever you know, even if it's just words, phrases, or saying mnogo mnogo vkusno, mnogo mnogo blagodarim vi!
|2500g of guyvetch-y goodness for five people...|
|Only later did we realise that this picture|
Zanda took was of the couple that would
buy us lunch and drive us back home to Sofia...
We decided that we should send it to them
to show them our appreciation.
Oh, and another thing before I sign off that I keep having to learn again and again: