Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Epizod - Rock group

I posted a new song in the list to the right (click the Play button under Bulgarian songs).  It is called Последен Марш (Last March).  The group is Epizod.  I have plans to see them perform this weekend in Veliko Tarnovo.  They're a well-known patriotic Bulgarian rock band, and a lot of their songs come from the verses of the famous historical poets Hristo Botev (a famous national revolutionary and poet during the Ottoman rule, and Ivan Vasov (often referred to as the 'Father of Bulgarian literature').

Monday, February 20, 2012

City of Sopot and Hija Dobrila

This weekend was the Birthday of Vasil Levski – a famous revolutionary in Bulgaria. One of the annual trips with the Trapezitsa 1902 association’s hiking group is to Hija (Hut) Dobrila, in the mountains above Sopot, next door to Karlovo (the city where Vasil Levski was born).

Last year, it was an overcast, rain day when we started our hike
This year, we had much snow! And the snow did not stop.

When our minibus couldn’t quite make it up one of the hills, heading towards the lift we would need take to get half-way to the top of the mountain, we turned back to find an alternate, less steep road..but not before trying every possible way to get that bus up the hill - everyone out of the bus; everyone in the bus (to weigh it down); half us out (to push), and half in.

Cars start coming down the hill that we're trying to drive up..we weren’t sure if the lift would be working, with this snow (and a light wind) coming down. Cars are passing by, but no one from our group is asking if the lift is working. The girl’s and I are in the back of the bus, and they’re talking about the guys from our group standing around outside, saying ‘Oh, they’re all too shy, why don’t they stop someone..that’s the problem with men’, and they catch me laughing. I explained to them it’s the same in the USA..  Guys would rather drive in circles than ask someone for directions..

We finally made it to the lift. Last year we were lucky enough that we had enough people join our group at the lift that we could get both lifts working, to get to the top of the mountain.  This year, either we were 1-2 people shy of the 20 needed, or it was the wind..I think it was because of the wind that they wouldn't open the second lift..because as we started hiking up the mountain after the lift, the wind was blowing pretty forcefully, and lots of snow still coming down, spraying back in our faces.

  During the drive, Katia keeps talking about a Rat-trap, or rak-trak that you could ride up to the hija..I couldn’t really understand this Bulgarian word. I thought it was maybe a lift for skiers that you hold onto with your hands, and it drags you to the top..yeah, No..a RAK-TRAK is this - see the pic

We saw the rak-trak, and we passed the rak-trak when it could go no further because of the deep snow. Luckily there were 2 snowshoers that had taken the lift up with us; since there were no tracks to follow..and together, we made a path..oftentimes walking in snow up to my hips. But, really, I don’t think you can imagine how beautiful it was (yes, it was windy and snowy, but not so cold, because of all the energy required to hike through the deep snow)..the tall snow-encapsuled (is that a word?) trees everywhere, with icicles hanging off of some of them.

I guess they got the rak-trak going again, because we all had to swim off in the snow to the side, so it could pass again..but, it actually made it harder to seemed to churn the light fresh snow, instead of packing it down. I found this out quickly as I took my first 2 steps and couldn’t get my legs out of the snow..I tried to drag one leg to the other track that was a little firmer, but it was about 2 feet away – but all I managed to do was fall and roll in the deep snow..Thanks to Albena I was able to get my footing back..It was all soooo much fun! I could write so much more..I wrote more on the pictures you can see by clicking HERE.

We almost passed the hija – it was covered up to the roof in snow – See the pic

Ok..maybe that’s not the pic of the entire hut ;)  Here is the whole hija..

My all-time favorite hikes used to be – in first place (always) Mt. Botev..the adventure was amazing; Second place was tied between Mt. Paskal, and the hike to Hija Dobrila. After this fun-filled adventure, I’d have to say Dobrila holds a solid 2nd place!

This was me at the beginning, middle, and end of the first day hike:

Compare these two pictures, and you can really see the difference from last year:
This was February 2011

And this is February 2012

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Hija Paskal..and Hillary Clinton

These winter hikes will always be one of my favorite memories in Bulgaria..and Hija Paskal and Mt. Paskal more than lived up to my expectations of a snow-filled winter adventure! We head up there every year for the hut-keepers birthday celebration. Last year I was christened with my hiking name Kositsa (it’s a small mountain that intersects a lot of larger mountains, including Paskal). To christen me, they removed my shoes and dipped my feet in a tub of water :) Like the picture below..

And, as you may know from previous posts, when it is a person’s birthday, they have to ‘chirpia’ (to treat)..but before we get to that..

The hike was 3-3.5 hours up to the hut from the village Pirdop..with lots of snow, and creeks to cross that were iced over, and an overall sunny day. We were all expecting freezing temperatures and wind, so we were a little overdressed, and even removing many layers of clothing throughout the hike, between the snow and sweat, my clothes were we did a quick clothing change and snack at the hija before 12 of us headed back out for the summit. Now..I don’t know how correct this is, but Bulgarians tell me this is one of the windiest mountains in Bulgaria..and when I’m at the top of this mountain, oh yeah..that’s exactly what it feels like.

Only 3 of us made it to the we had to stay together in tight groups because the fog was so thick..there are many markers, but with the was still difficult to see each..Now Stancho’s got white frost patches covering his exposed face..and Rosi has a few bangs uncovered, they’re completely white and frozen. We have to stand in one place and wait to get a small break from the wind buffeting us around to take a few steps forward, as we walk along the top of the mountain. Finally, as Stancho calls it, and we head back the wind catches him a bit, crashing into us. I could seriously see Rosi walking sideways with her poles planted in the snow. I remember one part on the way up where the snow was so deep, and not quite hard enough that I took a step on what I thought was hardened snow..and the next thing I know, I’m up to my waist in became a little disconcerting when I couldn’t seem to pull myself back onto solid ground..and I look back and see the 3 behind me in the same predicament..then I remembered my friend Daisy telling me about hikers earlier in the day getting caught in the wind at the summit – the wind had been so strong they had to go down the mountain on their hands and knees. So, I started crawling until I reached firmer ground. (This is also where I lost my sunglasses – amazingly saved when another hiker found them later on). But..running/skiing down a mountain with lots of snow..that’s the most fun!

Last year, the ground was frozen solid, and there had been patches that were like ice..this year, the snow was fluffy..I don’t know which was harder..because the ice was especially scary when going down the mountain with the wind blowing so hard..or the fluffy snow that was so difficult to get through on the way up, quickly sapping away my energy. I gotta say – they’re both adrenaline inducing..

The hike gave such a rush, I didn’t even nap afterwards before starting in on the evening festivities of chatting, dancing, and celebrating birthdays. If you click through my newest pictures here, you’ll see a few pics..and the video below is from a fellow hiker Atanas Atanasov. By the time I stumbled to bed at 2 in the morning I slept sooo soundly, even though in the hija we are in rooms with about 10 people and half of them were still celebrating downstairs.

Oh..and about Hillary Clinton. Apparently, she was visiting Bulgaria from February 2nd to 5th after a visit to Germany. The American Embassy was kind enough to invite Peace Corps volunteers to a 15 minute Meet’n’Greet with her. And..lucky me..I was able to catch a ride from my hike to the embassy and attend! Below is a snippet of the speech she gave before coming around to shake our hands!
From Paskal_2012