16.06.2012 28 °C
I treated myself to a private guided trip with Traventuria today to see the 7 lakes in the Rila Mountains. Although it was quite a lot for one person to pay, I figured it's the same price as a nice pair of shoes (which I probably wouldn't wear) and I may never be back again, so I want to make the most of it.
Since it was just me going, I asked for the tour to start half an hour later than advertised so I could have breakfast at the hotel, which was totally awesome. When I saw the buffet, I wondered how I was going to eat so much in only half an hour, but I had a good go. When my guide arrived, we headed south out of Sofia into the mountains for about an hour and a half. When we got to the chairlift to take us up the mountain, it stopped working. Although we didn't know why at the time, the winds were a bit strong up the top, but after maybe an hour, we had our ticket and off we set. I don't know how people get on and off those chairlifts so casually. My heart was thumping waiting for it to collect me on its way past, and I had visions of getting tangled in it and dangling all the way up by just one foot. Getting off was just as nerve wracking. Guess who's not a skier.
The ride up takes 22 minutes and it was actually quite relaxing. On the way down it seemed a lot longer when I could see how far I was from the ground. Once we were safely up the mountain, we just had to climb for another hour or so to get right to the top. The weather was absolutely perfect with gorgeous blue skies. For a start, I was a bit surprised at how small the lakes are, but when I started to see them from different view points, they were quite beautiful. The glacial lakes are situated between 2100 and 2500 metres above sea level and each have a name according to their shape. This one is called "the kidney". Fortunately, the lake is a lot prettier than its name.
This past winter in Bulgaria was severe, with ridiculously low temperatures and huge snow falls. Two of the lakes were still frozen over, and my guide was quite surprised at the amount of snow still around. Several times we had to walk through it when climbing up and down from the peak, so rather than end up on my butt, I just clung on to my guide's backpack and used him to stay upright. This lake is called "the eye", due to its shape and colour, but it was all closed over by snow and ice today.
The climb up to the highest point was fairly steep, made slightly more difficult by the loose rocks we had to walk over. Today was the first day the chairlift was going since winter, and being a weekend, there were a lot of people around which added to the atmosphere, and the views were spectacular, so it was a great experience.
We didn't stay too long when we reached the top, as the chairlift was only operating until 4pm, and we had an hours walk back down the other side. It didn't seem as hot up there as it has been lately, but I certainly got burnt. My haphazard method of applying sunblock means I now have legs like a patchwork quilt. My guide was really good, a local who has been doing this for years, so we had lots of interesting conversations and he managed to get me back off the mountain in one piece, without having fallen face first in the snow.
My original plan for today had been to visit Bulgaria's most famous tourist destination, Rila Monastery. However, I think I made the right choice leaving it out so I could visit the 7 lakes instead. They really were beautiful and it was a great experience, that I will remember for a long time to come. Plus, I will sleep very well tonight.
I've just been out for a delicious meal in Sofia. I could definitely live in this city, it just has a great feel about it. I love the people, the atmosphere, the food, the weather, the fashion, and the location. It's Saturday night so everyone is out and about, including a few weirdos. Whenever they ask me for money, I panic and blurt out "I don't speak English". Fortunately, neither do they.