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I had a look in the search thing for mention of Bulgaria, but all it came up with was a reputation for being cheap as chips. Well, Mrs streap had a Significant Birthday in January and expressed a wish to have skiing lessons. The suggestion of a day at the Snow Factor at Braehead meeting with scant approval, we booked on EJ to Sofia via Gatwick and headed for Borovets, a ski resort 40 miles further south and 1350m up.

This was the view from the apartment window.

First morning of her lessons, and it shows.

Didn't fancy it much myself, so I took a walk up the road to see the Царска Бистрица, or Tsarska Bistritsa, a royal hunting lodge built for Tsar Ferdinand just before WW1. It was of course confiscated when Bulgaria became a communist republic, but the deposed Tsar Simeon, who was a child when the monarchy was abolished and was taken into exile, returned after the collapse of the Soviet bloc in 1991 and was democratically elected Prime Minister. The restitution of the former royal estates was, controversially,  one of the results, so Bistritsa and the other royal dosses are back with the Saxe-Coburgs. The interior is said to be interesting, but I can't confirm this as it was shut.

This little chapel in the grounds was open though.

Dedicated to St George, who is Bulgaria's patron saint as well as England's. George was a Roman soldier who converted to Christianity, and the marginal panels graphically portray the tortures inflicted to try to make him admit the error of his ways.

The gondola lift which takes skiers to 1050m above Borovets

After skiing, a trip through the woods on a skidoo, a Harley Davidson on steroids and nae wheels.

One of the grander hotels in Borovets.

And this little piggy gets barbied on the main street.

While Mrs got on with skiing, I took a walk up towards the mountains. The track was also a piste.

A dim view of Musala, highest mountain in Bulgaria or anywhere in the Balkans.

Хижа Мусала, the Musala Hut at 2430m. It was closed.

Meanwhile, Mrs was enjoying herself

and had even got quite proficient.

Every cafe/bar/restaurant in the town has a guy stationed outside to cajole passing tourists inside, usually with the promise of a free Rakia. This was 9 in the morning, and he's touting for BJ's Bar while the red jacket is doing the same for White Magic, which incidentally is owned by Christo Angelou who skied in the 1980 Olympics at Lake Placid and is a character hard to miss.

Borovets has a bit of 'Wild West on ice' about it. The heavy in black on the left is a polis, and there is a conspicuous police presence in the town.

One of the pistes is floodlit.

We had a little time in Sofia before returning. This is one of the more striking buildings in the city centre. It had been a grand public thermal bathhouse but was closed 25 years ago, and plans to turn it into a museum seem to have stalled.

The security guy just shrugged when we asked to look round inside, but there wasn't a great deal to see as the building had been gutted.

The Banyi Bashi mosque across the square from the ex-baths. Built in 1576, it is still in use and the muezzin still calls the faithful to prayer.

In the tiny medieval Bulgarian Orthodox church of St Petka of the Saddlers

Homeward bound.

Cheap as chips then? A lev is (or was anyway, I haven't kept up) worth about 42p, and as a very rough rule of thumb you might expect in shops, cafes, public transport etc. to  pay as many leva as you would pounds here (eg, the flat rate fare on the Metro is 1 lev), so I suppose it's a fair enough summary.

Cracking photos ... mind noo,yi spoil that wummin too much and there will be nae controllin her

Watched guys race those bearcat snowmobiles across the lake in Canada last year ... only thing was the lakes were defrosted... Gave a whole new meaning to radio rental.
Doog Doog

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