I caught the enterprise bus this morning, i.e., the little car driven by a big Eastern European bloke who drives along the bus route 15 minutes ahead of the bus to offer waiting passengers cheaper transport in his car. I was quite happy to take the bus, but when I got to the bus stop, there was an Austrian guy who talked me into joining him in the car. He'd walked to Melnik over the mountains from Bansko, my destination for today. It took him two days, and I am continually surprised by the people I meet who are out there, living life to the full.
We picked up another couple of people on the way, so by the time we reached Sandanski bus station, the little car was full. Austrian guy was hoping to go to Plovdiv, which meant that for the next stage, we would need to catch the same bus, so we filled in the short wait with a coffee (a plastic cup containing about an inch of the strongest, blackest coffee possible). Our next leg was to Blagoevglad, which I have given up even trying to pronounce. Unfortunately for Austrian guy, the only bus for Plovdiv had already departed, so he headed off back to Sofia to get a connection, and I jumped on the mini bus bound for Bansko. I think I had my best driver yet, so I made a point of telling him so when we arrived safely.
Blagoevglad Bus Station
Due to being stupid, I had booked a hotel at the complete opposite end of Bansko, from the bus station. It was a long walk on another sweltering day but eventually I found the place. They didn't seem to know much about my booking and quoted me less than half of what my booking was, so I wasn't expecting my room to be much. However, I was happily surprised to find one of the nicest rooms I've had yet, with a balcony and a beautiful view out to the Pirin Mountains and Bansko ski field, one of the top 5 in the world. It was 37 degrees today, so there wasn't a lot of skiing going on, but the view is fabulous, all the same.
The Pirin Mountains, Bansko
I went for a walk around town, but as it's neither summer or winter season here, many of the businesses (shops, supermarkets, bars) are closed. There are plenty of hotels and restaurants open, but not a lot happening.
Still, it's a lovely place to while away a few hours, and I enjoyed another Bulgarian lunch which I have discovered is reversing all the weight loss that occurred in Romania.
I've seen several storks nests on my journey, usually on the top of power poles, but this one on the church in Bansko is my favourite so far.
After lunch, I walked up towards the mountains along a road shaded with trees. On the way, I stopped to chat with a couple of local men, one of whom owns a hotel here. I promised to call in for a wine on the way back, but got distracted by a picture of the bar of a luxury hotel, and went there instead. It was lovely, despite the one glass of wine costing me more than my lunch of a full cooked meal, bread, and a drink.
I haven't seen any other tourists here, other than Bulgarians. In fact, this evening, there was just me and the free dogs wandering around the streets in search of water, our heads hanging down and tongues hanging out. Now it sounds like there is a bit of a party downstairs in the mehana (tavern), so I really should be sociable and go mingle with the locals.
The temperatures for the rest of the week are forecast to be 38 degrees, so I'm cutting short my time inland, and heading for the seaside.