Venue: Bansko and Pirin mountain
Lens: Sigma 35 mm f/1.4
Music: Nasko Mentata – Shushana / Наско Ментата – Шушана ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SRk7AgrRD7g)
Happy new year and my best wishes to everyone for 2018!
After the flashbacks to 2015 and 2016 in my last posts for 2017, today I’m coming back to the present with some photos from my first weekend of the year that I spent in the winter ski resort of Bansko at the foot of Pirin mountain in southwestern Bulgaria. The photos are a mix between the more traditional Bulgarian (and slowly diminishing) side of the town of Bansko and the natural winter wonderland look of Pirin mountain. Enjoy the photos, once again have a great 2018, and visit soon for the continuation of the “US art” series.
We start with the most crowded point in Bansko and probably all of Bulgaria during the winter season – the entrance to the gondola ski lift in Bansko, the main starting point for all skiers. Bansko is one of the biggest ski centres on the Balkan peninsula with many people visiting from the neighboring countries as well.
I myself am not a big fan of skiing and prefer hiking in the mountains. In my preparation for the next day trip in the mountain I had to first strong and warm traditional food in the evening.
A typical gypsy band playing around the tables in the traditional restaurant we visited (known as “mehana” in Bulgarian, which translates essentially as tavern in English). Here and on the top photo you only see three of them, but in total there are typically four guys playing and singing together.
The fourth guy plays the local sort of flute that can be disassembled in several parts and the different parts can still produce sound separately. Here they left it on our table as a sort of special gesture for us, and we were expected to leave some money in the instrument thankful for the nice music.
Energized from the dinner party, the next day I was ready for a hike up the mountain. I started early in the morning and passed on the side of the ski path that was not yet lit by the sun. Far away in the distance one can see the opposing mountain, Rila, which is slightly larger and taller than Pirin.
Climbing further up I stopped for a break close to the main ski centre, where I had some tea with my skier friends.
Further up the hike I finally got away from the skiing crowd and had the mountain, the snow and the sun all for myself. On the right you see the Vihren peak which is the highest point of Pirin at 2914 meters above sea level. It’s the third highest peak in the Balkans, but only comes 11 metres short of the top one. Climbing up there during winter is actually quite dangerous and requires a very serious preparation, so my final goal for the hike was much more modest.
This is Baikushev’s pine, the real goal of my trip. This is the oldest known pine tree in Bulgaria, estimated to be above the age of 1300 years. The official state of Bulgaria was established by khan Asparukh around the time this pine was sprouting, making it a very symbolic tree.
Unfortunately the nice little mountain restaurant and the refuge next to Baikushev’s pine turned out to be closed in winter, which changed my lunch plans and I had to head back down to the ski center area. Not before one last shot of Vihren peak behind my back.
Afternoon on the ski slopes, still on my way to lunch.
Finally down at the ski centre I had my lunch and enjoyed the last rays of sun for the day. Then I spotted this statue of Batman as a skier, which turned out to be very popular selfie spot for the skiers around me.
After a few hours of rest in Bansko I had some time to walk around the streets of the old town, which were quite deserted at the time. The light mist and empty cobblestone streets were a nice reminder of the traditional atmosphere in Bansko before the tourist crowds of the past several decades.
Another evening in another “mehana” decorated with another type of typical Bulgarian music instrument from the mountains.
And another gypsy band playing the same music for me and my friends. A pretty good start of 2018!