Friday, 24 February 2017

Blissful Slopes of Bansko - Day 5


Bansko                                                                           Bulgaria

Wednesday 13th January 2016

Another morning brought aches, pains and blisters on my lower legs but that wasn’t the worst part, I was up too early in the morning mainly because of the heat in my room. It was hard to get back to sleep so instead of fighting it I just stayed up watching Bulgarian quiz shows which was quite funny to watch giving the fact I hadn’t a clue what they were saying. Eventually it was time to get changed and head downstairs for breakfast. I was hungry so as soon as I arrived I didn’t hesitate to fill my plate up with all sorts of baked goods. I sat down and ate as Sean entered the room looking a bit rough himself as he sat at my table. He explained that he went out drinking again last night and somehow managed to survive the morning. I was shaking my head laughing as we ate our food. I was also telling him about the incident with my shoes and the Bulgarian feast which was definitely a different vibe than where he went to last night. We were talking about what our plans were today and I said to him that I would have liked to get to the very top today to see the panoramic views as it was quite sunny this morning.

Hotel Pirin

It was time to head back upstairs to get my ski clothing on but this time I decided to leave my new shoes in my room as I didn’t trust anyone anymore. So I left my room with my socks on and made my way to the lobby. After placing my heavy ski boots on the shuttle bus arrived on time and we all clambered in and left straight away. The ride was short and sweet and soon arrived to the hustle and bustle at the gondola station once more. After the usual routine of picking my skis up I made haste for the gondola station. I immediately noticed the queue was the biggest I had seen so far but it still moved forward at a quick pace. After passing the barriers, my car was slowly turning and I rushed in ready to make my way to the top. All of a sudden 7 other people came rushing in and sat down which meant it was going to be a jam packed ride up the gondola and to be honest I found it to be the most awkward moment in human history. This meant it was a long and gruelling ride to the top but eventually we made it getting ourselves ready to jump out and grab our skis.

Surprisingly it was quite quiet at the top despite how busy it was at the bottom but it did mean there were no queues at the button lift. I was getting the hang of riding the button lift now with confidence which meant I could let go of the handle and let the lift drag me along and then before I knew it I had made it to the half way point. I must have went up and down the slope several times perfecting my turns before the lesson would start enjoying the fact that it was still quiet. I also took the risk of turning on the steeper side of the slope which was quite intimidating at first giving the fact I was a beginner but managed a controlled descent to the bottom.

Bunderishka Polyana

Eventually it was time for the morning lesson so I met up with the other learners talking about what we all did last night until Katy arrived raring to go. She took us up the button lift again which was starting to form a queue so it took a good while before everyone in the group was riding to the half way mark. Everyone made it but Baz being Baz fell over as soon as he came off the lift. We were all feeling sorry for him but laughing with him too as he reluctantly made his way to us clipping his skis back on. Once we all lined up, Katy went through the objectives for today which was slalom turns as well as keeping close behind one another in a snake like formation. It was great to have a different skill to learn and everyone over time was picking it up very well including Baz who had started to show progress from when he first started. We all did to be honest and Katy loved the change and how far we came from the start. It definitely gave us a boost in confidence and motivation to keep on pushing our capabilities.

As the lesson went on, a huge snow cloud was approaching the area again which meant my plan to get to the top was jeopardised again. The lesson eventually finished in time for me to be hungry again so with haste I made it straight into the restaurant to grab the same snacks as the previous days. As I was eating outside I was watching on at the few people who were dressed up such as a minion, a chipmunk and a Japanese looking cat. I was also admiring the unique Hummer vehicle right next to me which instead of tyres had 4 triangle caterpillar tracks. It belonged to the ‘Happy Ends’ bar which I assumed was up this way to promote the bar and get people to go in. I had finished my dinner and decided to go straight up to the moderate route again.

Happy Ends Bar Hummer

At this point it was beginning to snow making the ride up the chair lift even colder. I had my goggles on all the way up and all I could here was the slight cold wind and the snow gently hitting my goggles. The silence was out of this world and I savoured that moment until it was time to get off at the top station. As guessed the snow was a hell of a lot deeper than the bottom of the lift which felt quite magical to be honest as I made my way to the top of the moderate route. The views of the mountain tops weren’t there of course but the trees were beginning to get covered by the snow making the area look like a winter wonderland. With the lessons and confidence gained the past few days I was eager to get down the slope without falling this time. So I took a deep breath and made my way down with turns and ploughs feeling more in control than the previous days passing the point where I fell last focusing on the next section.

The overwhelming feeling I felt when I made past the steeper section was phenomenal as I gained a lot of speed on the flatter surface whizzing by everyone feeling more alive. I quickly made my way onto the beginner route heading back to the start and I had more fun going down this section as yet again I was in complete control speeding past nearly everyone. The very last turn and steep slope felt like nothing either as I quickly arrived back at the start weaving through the crowd back to my group in time for the afternoon lesson.

Katy informed everyone that she was confident enough for us to go down the ski road together after a few more slalom turns on the learner slope. Unfortunately I couldn’t partake in the ski road session because I was taking part in a snowboard taster at 3pm and by the time we would get to the bottom of the ski road, I wouldn’t have made it back up in time. I told Katy of this but I said I can still join in with the slalom turns beforehand. So we all made our way to the button lift and immediately seen how busy it was to get up. So some of us decided to unclip our skis and walk up whereas some stayed in the queue. The walk up was very tiring with all the thick clothing on and the snow blowing in our faces but we eventually made it to the top of the slope. We all eventually clipped our skis back on awaiting the other members coming up the lift. They were taking forever to even get towards the barrier area so we were all talking to each other to pass the time.

There were also other lessons going on around us and we must have been in the way because there was an abrupt old instructor telling us to move out the way and wondering where our instructor was. Maz was getting annoyed with him at the fact he had no manners whatsoever and basically biting back at him for talking to us like that. I thought Maz was an absolute legend from that point as we all praised him. A very long time passed until everyone was back together ready to head down the slope. We were slightly soaked from the heavy snow so we were eager to get down and away from the old abrupt instructor. So we began to follow each other closely down the slope in a snake like formation stopping now and again to make sure everyone was still together. Quite dramatically everyone was skiing a lot better than the morning session which was amazing. I loved the sense of joy when the snow got heavier blanketing the whole area thickly whilst skiing in formation thinking it was truly beautiful.

Bunderishka Polyana

We made our way back down to the bottom when Katy said she was ready to take the group down the ski road. I parted ways wishing them all good luck as I was awaiting my snowboard taster. I had seen I had plenty of time still so I decided to head up the chair lift again to the moderate route. Yet again I enjoyed the peaceful ride up as the snow was hitting harder against my goggles until I reached the top raring to go down the route without any falls. I decided to record my run so after switching my GoPro on I made my descent. Everything was going well until a skier cut me off and I lost control speeding up in the process. Within seconds I fell backwards completely gutted trying to pick myself back up. I was laughing though at the fact I was recording it as well which I thought was typical. After getting myself back up I continued on smoothly the rest of the journey enjoying every moment of it until I came to a stop at the bottom again. By then it was time to prepare for my snowboard taster.

I could see the familiar face of the larger than life rep waiting at the snowboard meeting point with a clipboard so I made my way over to him and gave him the voucher he requested. He gave me a drinks voucher for the ‘Happy Ends’ bar when I finished and then informed me on where to go and what to do. So I took on his advice and entered a building next to the gondola station to swap my ski boots for snowboard boots. I left my skis on the outside rack and my boots in the room as I put on my new boots. It was quite easy to put on the boots and then surprisingly comfortable when I walked around in them. The trouble was when I was stationary; the pressure in my calf muscles was overwhelming with the forward angle of the boots. I wasn’t the only one suffering as I could see other people’s faces twisting.

A short moment later I grabbed my big snowboard and made my way outside to join the rest of the group eager to get started on something new. The instructor we had was Bulgarian with a hint of an American accent and he was asking us all if we had ever snowboarded before. When a guy and I said no he lined us up in front of him and without warning he pushed us both. It was intentional of course to see which leg we used first to stop ourselves and mine was the right leg. As soon as he realised what our strongest leg was he adjusted the snowboards for us and then began the lesson telling us how to carry our snowboard around and so we did making our way to a quieter area of the slopes. We walked over to a very flat area as it was just a taster and then we all dropped our boards to listen to the instructor. He told us all to undo one of our boots to show us how to tie them properly. There were two different types of boots and luckily I had the one that was easier to tie as it was just a wire cable that I could tighten with a dial. We spent quite a long time waiting for the other group of people who had to tie there boots with very long laces. 

Bunderishka Polyana

Eventually we were all ready to learn how to drag our boards with one binding. I could definitely feel the pain in my calves as I had to drag and turn my board in motion with everyone else. Then we had to slide with our board with one binding which I could feel in my quads as I tried to push myself up the slope with my board. Everyone got the hang of it eventually and then we were told to bind the second foot onto the board as we were going to learn how to turn left and right. All the while I was thinking of an old snowboard computer game I used to play thinking I was one of the characters. Anyway, the instructor was going through the process of how to make a perfect ‘rainbow turn’ stating that we had to keep our back straight and dip slightly forward with the toes or dip backwards with the heel for the opposite turn. Time and time again I was slowly falling over trying to perfect the movement but I couldn’t do it.

There were times I was really close to getting it right but again I fell every time. However, there was one frontal turn I did where I didn’t fall and the instructor liked it. It boosted my confidence up but it was in vain because the next few times I constantly fell over. I could see half the people were getting sick of falling over and the fact that their calves were killing too and looked as though they gave up. I couldn’t though and kept trying despite the pain. Our next quick lesson was learning how to get up properly once we did fall over instead of unbinding the board. Even that was hard to do as once I was up I was either falling back down or sliding away eventually falling down again. It wasn’t funny at the time and I just wanted it to be over but I knew I would be laughing about it later on. The lesson lasted about 1½ hours and I could see everyone was relieved it was over. There was one more thing to do which wasn’t snowboard related and it was to have a sleigh race with everyone to the meeting point on the boards. We all lined up on the hill and the instructor counted down from 3.

In the back of my mind I was thinking I’m going to win this but as soon as he said go it was the total opposite. We all picked up speed going at good pace in a straight line and then I veered off to the left leaving the group and slowly but surely, I fell off my board sliding into the compacted snow as I watched on at the other group stopping just before the meeting point. I couldn’t believe I was the only one who went the opposite direction and I was laughing away as I picked myself back up. I picked my board up and made my way to the rest of the group who were now inside the building retrieving their ski boots. I was the last to get in changing back into my ski boots and then grabbing my skis ready to leave the area.

Happy Ends Bar Hummer

As soon as I put the skis on, I forgot for a second how to ski feeling my legs go all over the place. I got my control back and began to make my way down the ski road. Just before I got under way, I decided to switch on my GoPro again to get the whole run down on footage. As I started the snow started but not as heavy as beforehand which was still brilliant to whiz by as I picked up speed through the winter wonderland. I always thought going down the ski road was a great way to end a day of skiing. The run was going great and as I lowered in height the snow became rain which was no bother as it wasn’t bad enough to get soaked through.

About halfway down the road I could see Tania ahead of me slowly learning her turns so I slowed myself down with the plough and surprised her when I said hello to her. We had a brief talk mainly because I didn’t slow down fast enough and flew by her making my way to the bottom. I finally came to a stop just in front of the gondola station but instead of going straight in, I decided to wait for Tania to come down. It took a very long time for her to come down but when she did, she stopped next to me and we had a talk about how their ski road session went and how my snowboard taster went. She found it funny at the fact I was constantly falling over. We both walked into the ski centre still talking as we returned our skis and then I decided to have another look at the shelving to see if my shoes were there. They weren’t but the other shoes I thought looked similar to mine were still there. I just left still disappointed at the fact my shoes were stolen. 

Waiting for Tania

I headed straight to the ‘Happy Ends’ bar to use my voucher I got and as soon as I entered I recognised Tracey crossing my path. She had seen me and asked how my snowboard taster went. Again she found it funny how I was falling over but praised me at the fact I tried. We parted ways as I then bumped into Flora who was one of the women from the Bulgarian feast last night. She was surprised to see me and asked if I was leaving or just came in. She then asked me to come join her and her friends and so I did. The other women had seen me approach them and they looked happy to see me so I took my thick ski jacket off and sat down with them in the warm vibrant bar with a rock band playing behind us. Within seconds of me sitting down the lead singer came over and held the microphone between us all as we all sang along. He eventually returned to the stage with smiles on our faces.

Happy Ends Bar

Sitting with the 4 women were another 3 I had never seen before but we were all talking about our day of skiing which slopes we went onto etc. I was talking to Flora about my snowboard taster and what I had learned in skiing as she knew I was only a beginner. She was impressed with what I had accomplished and then I realised then how kind hearted she was. Anyway, I then decided to head off to the bar and grab my free drink with my voucher. The barmaid was wondering why I had 2 drinks vouchers instead of one which I didn’t really know why but she eventually said that I could only have hot chocolate or red wine. Of course I went for the red wine so she went off and brought over 2 glasses of it. I thanked her as I made my way back to the table. I offered one of the drinks to anyone who wanted it at my table but no one stepped forward.

Happy Ends Bar Band

Flora and I were talking more about her university interview she had to video call the next day saying she was getting stressed out about it as I was surprised at the fact she had to do that on her holiday. The new acquaintance that was called Adam had a brief talk with us too and then I joined in the conversation with the other 3 women. I was asking them if they remembered how to do the paper rose and they were ecstatic for me to show the new acquaintances. So I grabbed the napkin and went through the process with the man opposite me as he was copying my technique. We ended as he presented his floppy paper rose to his partner who was laughing at the fact it wasn’t straight. By that point all the women and acquaintances were taking there leave except for Adam who stayed behind to have a talk with me. He was a funny guy who had quite a lot to say. He talked about his knee injury of a dislocated knee and he was shocked at the fact I dislocated mine 5 times.

I eventually finished my red wine which I didn’t like to be honest and we both left the bar making our way back to our hotels. He was wondering why I still had my ski boots on and I was explaining my stolen shoes to him and the fact I left my new pair at the hotel as I didn’t trust anyone anymore. As I thumped down the street with my heavy boots we bumped into a pestering guy who was trying to persuade us to go into the restaurant next to us. Adam decided to have a joke and pester him instead asking where another person was and then having a laugh when the guy had a Manchester United hat on yet never supported them.

Hotel Pirin

It wasn’t long before we were outside his hotel where we parted ways. I said goodbye and went on my way back to my hotel which was a long walk due to the fact I was walking in my ski boots. My boots were loud as I walked down the smoky old town feeling like an outlaw cowboy with the metal straps hitting hard against the boot. Eventually I made my way back to the hotel feeling relieved taking my boots off with the huge swell of steam coming out of them. I was finally in my room relieved when I took my ski clothing off and lay star fished on my bed. I quickly got changed and entered the dining room for my dinner which was yet again quiet as a mouse heading straight for the canteen. I piled my small plate up and sat by myself stuffing my face as though I hadn’t been fed for weeks. I had finished and surprised at the fact Sean didn’t come in for his so I took my leave heading back upstairs to rest for a while. To be honest I was getting a bit bored of sitting in my room doing nothing and realised I had no activities or events to do tonight so I decided to put on my thick ski jacket and go out into the town and admiring it in more detail plus have a look around the areas I hadn’t seen.

I left the hotel heading straight for the Christmas trees and the beautiful water features trying to admire them all. However, as soon as I tried to go near the water feature, a guy would keep coming up and pester me so I just walked away. It was getting frustrating too when I would walk up one of the main streets with guys trying to get me in to their restaurants too. Along the way I had to take care whilst I was walking because the rain today had frozen already making the path very slippy. Despite this, I walked through as quickly as I could and thankfully made it away from the main areas and started walking over to the river and bridge. I felt better standing on the bridge overlooking the water rushing below me because no one was there to pester me. I was enjoying the sound of the water as it was making its way down to the north of Bansko and beyond. What made the place quite pretty were the lights on the bridges with lines of lights slowly dropping continuously as though it looked like icicles falling.

Strolling Bansko

I continued heading west for a moment and turned right onto the road the shuttle bus used. It was so quiet and really dark as there were no lights in the area. Parts of the path were incomplete as well which meant I had to go on the small road but it was nothing to worry about as there were no cars coming along it. It was great as it was just me with nobody to be seen. Then I clapped my eyes on the glorious stars above me. It was spectacular as I was constantly staring at them looking on at some familiar constellations. I eventually came upon the lit up area now and quite near to me was a bridge leading back to the old town so I crossed it. There were a few more locals and tourists in the area but nothing to the extent of the central point. I continued north admiring the area and then just before I had to turn right again, there was a peculiar old wooden well and mill right next to me. I couldn’t make out what it was for but whatever it was it was an old piece of wonder which definitely made the town look old along with the old broken or lop sided orange rooftops.

Water Feature

I made the right turn which I assumed would lead me back to the Christmas tree and water feature area and luckily my assumption was right. The first thing I seen was the huge lit up Christmas tree feeling relieved that I was going the right way down the right street. I swiftly made my way back to the hotel at about 9pm and as I was quite worn out from everything I did today, I had a very late shower to relieve the strain in my legs. Then I dried off then drifted off into sleep thinking about the stars shining as they were in the clear night sky of Bansko.
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