Wednesday, February 29, 2012

теснолинейка Септември — Добринище (The Septemvri — Dobrinishte Narrow Gauge Train Line)

Six months from today, I’ll be leaving Bulgaria. In terms of work, we’ve got a lot to accomplish between now and then. Good things are happening, and I’m probably more excited now than I’ve been at any point during my entire service. But the clock is also running out on me to see and experience things on my Bulgaria bucket list. Knowing this, I’ve started making a concentrated effort to knock off such items one by one.

Last weekend, I knocked off the first: теснолинейка Септември — Добринище (the Septemvri — Dobrinishte Narrow Gauge Train Line). I’d wanted to take this train ride for some time, and an extended weekend provided the perfect opportunity to do it.

At the advice of a friend who has ridden the entire line, I started two stops from the end of the line in his town, Разлог (Razlog). As someone who loves a good train ride, I thoroughly enjoyed everything about the trip. The scenery was best during the first hour or so of the ride, when we were surrounded by towering snowcapped peaks jutting into blue skies and puffy white clouds, and again near the end before reaching the Upper Thracian Plain, when we followed meandering rivers and were surrounded by precipitous cliffs. It’s not as scenic as the stretch of track through the Iskar Gorge on the Sofia to Mezdra line, but it’s far more interesting because of the Помаци (Pomaks) who live in the villages along the line and hop on and off the train all along the way. Knowing some Bulgarian and eavesdropping on their conversations will enhance your experience, but it’s a ride worth taking even if you don’t know any Bulgarian.

A few shots from Razlog, Bansko, and the train.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Боженци (Bozhentsi)

A while back, I spent a couple hours wandering around the village of Боженци (Bozhentsi). The place has an interesting history, and all of the buildings are from or are consistent with the Bulgarian National Revival. It's an extremely touristy place which I'd want no part of during the tourist season. Fortunately, we visited in the dead of winter, and encountered only a handful of other tourists. If you want to experience Боженци at its best, that's when I'd advise visiting. Bring a lover, a good book, cozy up next to the fire, enjoy the offerings from one of the many механи (taverns), and drift away into yesteryear.

Here are some shots from around the village.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Winter Sucks

Last week, we got a lot of snow. It was beautiful, and I had a lot of fun. Now, it's just cold. Actually, it's still really beautiful, but it's difficult to appreciate given how cold it is. Things have gotten worse than this, and I look worse than this. Record low temperatures are the norm. My pipes are frozen, and no matter how many layers of insulated socks, long-underwear, and fleece I put on, and no matter how many wool blankets I climb under, I can't escape the chill. But I'll survive. And this is the last winter I'll ever spend in a cold weather place. Life is too short, and it's just better in sandals (or barefoot).

We have three dogs. Karolina is my guard dog.

No Name is a dog we rescued from a kid with a pitbull.

Pupa is my girl. However much fun she was having, I was having more.

The heavy snow and cold weather has brought interesting birds into the yard. A European Robin has been in picking berries, and a Wren has been picking up scraps. Both are common species, but I don't recall having seen either in the yard before. I know this is the first Fieldfare I've seen in the yard (again, Fieldfares are common in winter in Bulgaria). It's taken up residence in the apple tree, feasting on the leftover apples.

This was too amusing not to share. A California Sun delivery van snowed in in Bulgaria.