Travelling through magical places (Bulgaria)

Eastern Europe is a magical place with people being different from what we're used to in the "western world".

A trip to Bulgaria has been "on the list" for quite some time and I'm happy I've finally made it.

Arriving at Sofia was as normal as always. Plane full of people (something you get used to flying to Eastern European countries), which seemed to be either going back home or coming to Bulgaria's capital to have fun.

Our target was totally different from the rest. We came to trek some of the mountains and to get to know people far from the crowds of capital or shopping centres. We came to meet extraordinary ordinary people. People who were willing to share what they had with people they never met. We were up for an adventure...

After landing at Sofia airport we grabbed our backpacks, which were to become our best friends for the next week or so and off we went into the city centre. It was late at night so there were no buses. The only choice was a taxi (or waiting till the first morning bus/tube).

Note: The tube only runs from the new Terminal 2. Between Terminal 1 and Terminal 2 runs a shuttle bus.

And of course we haggled, you were meant to so that people respected you. You're not expected less in the eastern parts of Europe and in Asia.

After Sofia, we wandered around Sofia at night, we got on an early morning train to Asenovgrad - our starting point in getting to the area of Belintash. It's not easy getting there. There are no trains or buses, only local mini vans (actually just one), which we took not knowing what an adventure this was going to be...

Exploring Belintash

As we started packing into the van, not surprisingly, we were the only ones that were not Bulgarian... This didn't seem to make any difference to locals...

As we started I noticed that we were a bit overcrowded... There were 9 seats and 13 of us... You don't see that in western countries...

The route towards Belintash guides you through beautiful countryside and slowly goes higher and higher. It's not a far distance but it takes time to get there. You need to keep in mind there are no motorways or dual-lanes there. After about hour an hour or so we stopped in a small village to... change into another mini van and change the driver.

And this was the real start of an adventure... After about another 30 minutes we stopped in another village. As it came out the driver decided... to take  a break and go for a drink... He was a very friendly person, like most Bulgarians especially in the countryside, so I'll keep his name anonymous. He asked us to join him, which we of course did and we enjoyed company of locals. Here's a picture I took:

It was so peaceful and quiet. I found it amazing to be in a company of people spending time together with no mobile phones in their hands and no tv running... just them talking or just enjoying each other's company. I could sit there all day and just soak the atmosphere...

And, by the way, people in the van were waiting patiently... I guess they were probably used to it. He was probably doing this on a regular basis. People were so nice and so open, they even didn't want any money. They wanted to buy us a drink. Imagine people with so little and offering you so much... And not wanting anything in return...

And after a drink, off we went towards our destination. We got there safely of course. We didn't get all the way to our destination but we got very close. He had to take people home.

But we didn't have to walk to our final destination.

As we stopped and unloaded our backpacks a car stopped and suddenly people from the car (a couple)... started asking us if they could give us a lift somewhere! Can you imagine people doing that in France or England or Germany? We gladly agreed and off we went with them to our final destination of the day where we were going to spend the night, on Belintash:

View Larger Map

Note: If you look to the right of the mountain you'll see a monastery.

That's where we arrived and from there we went to the top of the mountain Belintash.

But I'm not going to talk about trekking mountains like Belintash here as Mountains page is going to do that. I want to focus on interactions with people and exploring the country here.

The point I'm trying to make here is that wherever we went we met some amazing and very warm people. Something that becomes very rare in more "modernised" society. People in western world have more money, more stuff but don't communicate in person any more. They're "closed" in their digital world with their noses in their mobile phones and tablets.

That's why I like travelling to "poorer" countries so much. They may be poor in money terms but they're very rich spiritually and have very friendly-towards-strangers people.