Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Blissful Slopes of Bansko - Day 1


Bansko                                                                           Bulgaria

Saturday 9th January 2016

A great start to the New Year has approached as I take on another adventure. This time though I would be taking up skiing to a place called Bansko situated in Bulgaria. I was dead excited to get going but my flight wouldn't be until the afternoon. I spent the whole morning making sure I had everything I needed for the trip and to visit my family before my grandfather would come pick me up. I treasured every moment I had with my family before he eventually arrived. Anyway I soon grabbed my bags and placed them in the back of the car, got into the car and we soon set off waving goodbye to my family. We got talking straight away about what we did this morning and then talking about cars and what to do on my holiday passing the time well. At this point it began to rain which was a surprise giving the fact the sky was pretty much clear in the morning. We took a bit of a longer route to get to the airport due to the fact there were quite a lot of flooded areas along the usual route. Before I knew it the airport was right in front of us as we approached the car park. I got out the car, grabbed my things as well as giving my grandfather a hug before we parted ways heading into the airport.

Newcastle Airport

It was great to see the familiar sights knowing my way around the place and I soon found the screens with the departure information. It was Sofia I was looking for and once I located it on the screen I noticed the check in numbers weren't up yet, so I headed for the sitting area right next to one of the entrances and sat pretty much staring at the large departure board right in front of me as well as watching the majority of people coming in with all their skiing equipment. An hour or so passed before the numbers finally came up so I grabbed my belongings and rushed to the desks without wasting anytime. I gave the staff member my passport and e-ticket watching her look at my ugly passport photo probably sniggering under her breath. I then asked her for a window seat just before she was about to ask me if I would like extra legroom for £15. I said no and after weighing my bags she gave me my boarding pass and passport and sent me on my way to the departure lounge. I set off straight for the customs area which wasn't jam packed for once soon arriving at the scanners watching on at a few people getting searched. I placed all my belongings on the trays and soon stepped through the machine. Surprisingly, the machine didn't go off and I got straight through. I placed my things back on and walked straight through the duty free area being overwhelmed by the pungent smells of aftershave and perfume.

I cleared the duty free area and arrived in the departure lounge. It was quite busy but not jam-packed like it usual was which meant there was a greater chance at getting a seat for once. I headed straight for the window area overlooking the runway as I caught my eyes on the planes being prepared. The closest one to me was the jet2 plane which I assumed would be my plane. I sat for a good while looking on at the runway with the boarding time vastly approaching for once. I watched on at the few planes taking off as I was getting excited for my turn to take to the air and then 14:40pm was the time I checked the board. My gate number eventually showed up so I grabbed my things and headed straight for gate 19. For once it wasn't at the very end of the terminal so I pretty soon arrived. There was a security guard informing everyone to go straight downstairs and towards the plane. So after having my boarding pass checked and verified I headed straight out for the plane. My heart was beating a bit faster as I approached the Boeng-737, especially at the point when I climbed the steps and into the plane. The stewardess greeted me aboard and helped me find my seat at ease. I sat down and had a great view of the engine right next to me with the wing over my shoulder. I got my headphones out ready as well as my sweets as I watched on at the other passengers coming on board.

A moment later everyone was on and I then noticed that the plane wasn't full and no one was sitting next to me which was great. Then a thought came to me that I pretty much saved money on leg room which was a great feeling as I was a cheapskate. Eventually, the plane began to reverse out which brought the heart rate up again. We soon started making our way up the other end of the runway rapidly as there were no planes in front of us. In no time at all we started turning onto the runway and as there was no planes landing too, the plane accelerated fast straight away which pushed everyone back in their seat waiting for the plane to lift its nose up. All of a sudden we were up gaining altitude quite rapidly flying above the lower rain clouds and then soon banking right heading towards the coast. I knew exactly where we were going to fly over so at this point I had my face pressed up against the glass looking down at the incredible height. Luckily the rain clouds below were breaking apart and I managed to see the river Tyne at the distance and just below me was St Marys lighthouse plain as day. It was incredible to see it at this height and as the plane turned right again, I managed to see a small section of the coast of Blyth and its piers. 

St Mary's Lighthouse

It was soon behind us as we gained altitude climbing above the higher cloud line. All of a sudden, the cabin brightened up thanks to the glorious sun which was slowly emerging to the west. I was happy we were under way with hardly any turbulence until about 15 minutes later where the seatbelt sign popped up on the panels above us. However, this time I was more confident flying and the moderate turbulence didn't bother me at all which was a relief. It would be short lived as the turbulence stopped and it was smooth flying once again. This meant I could relax and listen to my music whilst looking at the marvellous sun as it began to set in the distance. I was really happy I was heading for another country thinking what I would be getting up to when I arrive. Everyone else was busy talking and laughing to each other whereas I was constantly staring out of my window. Then a freaky moment came as I looked out of the window. To the right hand side of my window was the sun at its final stages of setting and to the left of my window was the blackness of the night sky slowly creeping alongside us. It felt as though we were entering into the abyss of a black hole; it was a bizarre beauty to witness nonetheless. 

Setting Sun

Anyway I tried to pass the rest of the time reading magazines on the plane or trying to find patches of light on the ground below. I could see some but not much because of the cloud cover. The captain came over the tannoy and stated the route we would be taking which was across Germany, Romania, Slovakia, Serbia and then the Bulgarian border. This was the first time I had been along this route which was quite interesting to know. We definitely ate up the miles too as the captain came back onto the tannoy an hour and a half later stating that we were making our descent. I was relieved to finally realise we were almost at our destination. We all strapped our belts in and I began to feel the pressure building up in my ears as we were lowering towards the ground. A long while later we were below the clouds as the faded patches of light became brighter and vibrant. We were making a lot of left and right sharp turns before we straightened out and closing in on the runway. The runway came into view and then a thud on the ground brought the reality to us that we had landed safely. We came to a slow steady pace as the pilot began to take us to the gate. From what I could see the airport was about the same size as Newcastle maybe smaller so in no time at all we had arrived at our gate as the engines switched off.

Everyone at this point was frantically getting out of there seats and grabbing there belongings where as I sat waiting for it to calm down. The doors were soon opened and people were leaving heading for the busses waiting at the steps. I eventually left my seat and began heading out into the cold wintery air of Bulgaria for the first time and my god it was cold. I wasted no time getting onto the bus as was everyone else hanging in the back like pigs in a butcher’s truck. In no time at all we set off straight for the terminal where we were then greeted by the border control point. I managed to get in front of the hustle and bustle of the passengers so I got seen straight away. I handed my passport to the officer in the booth and stood there for a good minute as he checked through my passport to see if I was a wanted criminal. With luck I wasn’t running from the law so I headed for the baggage reclaim area which was quite easy to locate plus the fact that there was only two conveyor belts. So I stood with everyone else waiting for the belt to move. I was wrong to assume my rucksack would come on last as it was amongst the very first when the belt began to move. I had to quickly chase it around the belt trying to squeeze through the ever growing crowd until I eventually grabbed it and went on my way through to the arrivals hall.

Sofia Airport

As soon as I arrived I noticed there were a small amount of people scattered around the area but to my left was the Balkan holiday group I was looking for. They noticed I was approaching them and asked for my name. They told me to head outside to the coaches and look for coach 58. So I headed out of the building avoiding the taxi drivers pestering me and straight for the coaches. Funnily enough the first coach I seen was coach 58 so I headed straight for it. A woman approached me and asked for my name so afterwards she said that I wasn't on her list. Typical I thought as she escorted me to another coach which turned out to be the wrong one too. So I walked back to the front end and tried to resolve the situation. Eventually I was located on the list and then got escorted to a van. Riding in style I thought as I was handed a pamphlet, placed my rucksack in the back then sat down with the rest of the small group. 

At this point I could definitely feel the cold air of Bulgaria blowing in my face and neck until the driver closed the doors and turned the heater on. We were soon underway to the small town of Bansko which was a dreadful 3 hour drive away. What made it worse was the fact it was really late and there were no views to see. So the majority of the journey was boring so I spent the time trying to catch some shut eye. It was hard though as the roads were incredibly bumpy knocking us around quite a bit. A long while later we were approaching our stop off where we could have a 15 minute break. We pulled up at a small outside bar and shop which was quite beneficial as I hadn't ate for quite a long time. I quickly left the van and entered the shop grabbing two bags of crisps and wolfing them down. It was time to head off again for the second leg of the journey so as soon as we left I tried to get some shut eye once more. Yet again more bumpy roads lay ahead of us but I tried to block it out.

A long time passed until we finally got the call saying that we were approaching Bansko which was a satisfying sound to hear. Despite this I was still tired and with luck I could see my hotel as the driver came to a stop. It felt great being the first off for once and as I got out, the rep informed me that I had to be at a place called ‘Happy Ends’ bar the next morning at 8:30am despite the fact I arrived at the hotel at midnight. I headed for the entrance almost forgetting my rucksack due to the tiredness and walked up to the reception area. I gave the receptionist my name and passport and in no time at all he gave me my room key card and pointed which way I had to go. I wasted no time and entered the lift for the second floor. My room was 211 and it didn't take long for me to find it. I used the key card and entered into a beautiful looking room just for me. 

Hotel Pirin

Even though I was really tired I managed to empty my rucksack and have a quick look at my view from the window which obviously had nothing much to show as it was pitch black. Despite this my mind was still thinking of what wondrous things I'd get to see and do in the coming days and the fact that I was now in Bulgaria.

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