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Kazakhstan or Bulgaria?

What's it going to be, Tero? Shall we fly tomorrow morning for a day trip to Kazakhstan? Or for day and half in Bulgaria? We opted for the latter, because that Tero disliked the ten hour wait at a Moscow airport.

And it was a good choice. I didn't expect or know much, but that weekend turned out to be great for skiing Bulgaria. It had been dumping light snow for days... we arrived in the afternoon and to quickly find the local small hill. GPS gave us five options to reach Vitosha, the local hill next to Sofia, just 15 minutes from the airport. We ended up at the bottom of an ancient ski lift housed in a farmhouse. But it was still snowing, and we headed up.

The snow came thicker and thicker, and the lift kept going up and up. Two hair-rising chairlift rides later we were 850 meters above the parking lot.

And still saw no ski runs. Or other lifts. Or other skiers. Just forest and some paths. We had no idea where to go, so we hiked a bit higher to reach the nearby ridge, and started skiing down.

We decided to ski further down, along the lift track and in the forest.

If this sounds depressing, it wasn't. The half of meter of fresh snow more than made up for the lack of any official ski runs!

The forest was quite thick further down, so we had to ski carefully. In the end we had to revert to navigating with Tero's GPS, to find back to the car as the darkness was already descending on us. One run, but what a great run!

Our next stop was to take the car and ourselves to Borovets, one of the larger areas in Bulgaria. What we found was surprising. First off, it felt like a major ski destination, comparable to many places in Austria for instance. And the village... we were surprised about the number of people visiting this place. And the bars, restaurants, souvenir shops, casinos, and many other things made for the tourists. A very active small village, with several very large hotels. Much more active than most other sleepy villages in the alps!

And the skiing: even more epic than at Vitosha. In the morning, the snow had stopped falling and the sun was shining. The forests in the lower parts of the mountain were too thick to ski them, but if you took the gondola to the upper ski area, the mountain between the narrow ski runs was covered by bushes. And on top of those bushes was at least half a meter of fresh snow. Nobody seemed to be skiing these areas, so we had them just for us.

Details: we stayed at the Hotel Rila, the Casino-spa-hotel with great saunas. Cost was a bit over 100€ for the two of us, including the half-board dinner reminiscent of servings on the boats between Finland and Sweden. Much recommended, except for the food. But it also cost just a few Euros per person.

Photos and videos (c) 2017 by Jari Arkko and Tero Kivinen. This blog is also available on the Blogspot site. Tämä blogi löytyy myös suomeksi Relaasta.

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