Thursday, August 27, 2015

Bulgaria here we come........

"Why have you moved to Bulgaria?" we said.

"Because it's cheap, and there's endurance horse racing, and it's cheap, and there's climbing!" she said!

"It's only cheap because no one wants to live there!" we said!

"Come visit then!" she said.

So we did!

I wasn't quite sure what to expect from an ex Warsal Pact country, poor roads, poor food rotten infrastructure maybe a suspicious population, were but a few of the thoughts to cross my mind.

Lets deal with the negatives first, the roads are bad. There must have been white lines at some point but little evidence exists to suggest so. Some of the pot holes are so big and deep they double up as extra parking spaces. Once you know the roads, you can drive like a local and avoid the holes on your side, and slow down when the holes are on the other side to avoid the oncoming traffic. (This is referred to locally as "redpoint driving.") The cars seemed to be less dented than Spanish ones, I never used the horn, didn't even hear a horn being used. So once you get used to it driving isn't a hardship.

Infrastructure does look a little shoddy around the edges, with many derelict government buildings dating back to the Cold war period. But this isn't really a bad thing either, in fact it's quite fascinating with some of the buildings and monuments being super impressive. 

Some may well feel it is worth a visit just to see these. We used trains and taxi's which were clean and punctual with friendly and helpful staff.

The language is tricky and roads signs are no exception, but once you know a few rules and are familiar with the new letters it's not so confusing, a little like reading code and perhaps being slightly dyslectic helps.

It was the first time I'd travelled outside of the English or Spanish speaking world in over ten years so not speaking a single word did feel weird. "Bunglish" and miming works well, and just about everyone was prepared to try and teach me new words, perhaps they were just doing for the comedy value!

At one of the properties we looked at the neighbours appeared suddenly and started assisting us with the hacking of vegetation to help us gain access, it did feel a little "Hansel and Gretal", but what a lovely old couple. The word of that day was "thank you" which translates to " Благодаря", I know how are you supposed to say that!

Ok whats the climbing like I hear you ask?

First crag was Vratza, this compact area has one of the only paper guide books to climbing in BG. You can order the book online, however we did order if using a friends address and a paypal account, I think if you email them and ask them to send to a UK address and then give them a credit card you could be ok. We did find on Amazon but was more expensive and I am not sure who much of the cut they take!

This is an impressive looking area and close the main airport of Sofia. Wizzair, Ryanair etc....

Roadside routes up to 300 metres and all grades. With just about everything you could image from super steep sport cliff, and easier sections, to super long almost alpine length mountain days.

Second crag, and I use the word loosely, we visited was Karlukovo which is more of a through cave than a cliff. Futuristic and as of last week BG's first 9a, but not by me! The cave has two sky lights which are rather famous and more tufas than a tufa factory! There are also routes of all grades which is nice to see at a hard crag.

The eyes!

Here is a link to a Petzl road trip page which shows how cool the thing is!

We visited many crags around Veliko Tarnovo area which is in centre of the country. We didn't realise that this area is "the Llanberis" of BG, except much prettier and with better restaurants, we didn't find the "Pete's eats" equivalent

Gaz and Rich enjoying the shade on a hot day!

Really looking forward to exploring a fascinating country, visiting existing climbing areas and developing some new routes. Watch this space for Orange House BG possibly!!!!

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