Borovets, Bulgaria

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It was snowing almost everyday here. Which makes a good scenery from the window of our apartment every morning. All white, powdery snow covering everything. Can’t imagine how this place will look like in other seasons – dirty littered streets with the stench of horse manure. I thank the stars for the continuous supply of snow during our stay. They piste the ski runs very well, and everything in town appears white and clean. Borovets is a pretty little town, in winter.

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There are undoubtedly many lovely little restaurants with fireplace, shops and bars, within walking distance to the ski runs and to all the hotels surrounding the area. In fact, no locals you see in Borovets actually stay in Borovets, they just work here. Most of them stay in Samokov, the nearest town about 10 km away. Borovets is mainly a tourists’ haven. Again, only in winter.

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That’s probably why the local businesses all tried to get the most out of tourists during these short 3 months. A sightseeing stroll along the main street could neither be peaceful nor undisturbed as every tout outside every restaurant and bar will try to lure you in with their sweet talking, the most famous pick-up line being : “Where are you from?” which by the nonchalant way of their speech, i guess they can even recite the line in their dreams. After 2 days of this, we decided to pretend that we couldn’t understand English (coz they most definitely can’t try to tout us in Chinese, haha!) Unfortunately, being the only 2 Asian-looking tourists in the whole of Borovets, we get recognized easily everywhere we go. Not a good thing.

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Almost every local in Borovets could speak English. (I’m quite surprised that in Sofia, being the capital city of Bulgaria, it’s the exact opposite. It’s a miracle if you can find someone who can speak understandable English.) That’s because about 90% of the tourists are British. It is imperative to learn and especially for the tout, to be fluent in English, if they wish to secure more regular customers.

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I’ve learned 3 Bulgarian words here : blagodaria (Thank you), nazdrave! (cheers!), and godchitza (mustard). Why is “mustard” important to learn? Well, because i couldn’t describe mustard well enough to be understood by the waitress and she brought me something which was not mustard (and not even yellow), and charged me for it.

Yes, they will charge for everything, even the slice of bread that goes with the soup, the chips that goes with the steak, and the sauce/dressing that looks like tomato paste. Oh, and if you ordered A and they mistakenly (or intentionally, not sure which?) brought you B, which is of a higher price, they will also charge you the price of B, doesn’t matter if it was their own mistake, and doesn’t matter even if you have an allergy to item B. No point debating over this matter either, as they will only shake their heads and repeatedly say the only English word they know: “NO”.

Oh, and when in Bulgaria it is advisable to always carry small denominations, as restaurants, money changers etc, will take the liberty to round things up without asking. Or if you happen to notice the short-change and not too embarrassed to ask about it, they will just shrug and say they have no change!

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The local food though, is pretty palatable. Satch (big sizzling pan of a mixture of vegetables and meat), Schopska (salad with cheese), Kawarma (claypot stew of chicken, vegetables and cheese in a stew gravy), Mastika shot (liquer), etc.

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We have a very special CNY eve home cooked dinner though, specially prepared by Chef Roesler – German Thuringer Bratwurst (specially flown in all the way from Ludwigslust 😉 with bratkartofel, fried cabbage and Bulgarian-style schopska. Why fried cabbage and not sauerkraut? Well, there was a little episode of comedy that precedes this. Before going to the supermarket to get our food supplies, we’ve actually prepared a shopping list in Russian, using a dictionary. That was really funny as the supermarket staff kept passing the list around each other and scratching their heads not understanding what we wanted. Finally they gave us a jar of pickles in place of sauerkraut! So we’ve finally decided to take the bratwurst without the sauerkraut.

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The apres-ski was good too. Plenty of bars and cozy restaurants to choose from. Everybody seems to drink lots of beer here. Beer and hot wine and Mastika… Somehow we keep gravitating to this little pub covered by football club banners on every inch of its walls, beers for 3 Leva, live football matches every night, and nightly live music by a seemingly bored woman and an even more bored (and terrible!) bald singer. It was quite unfathomable why we tend to drop in here every night. And meeting the same Welsh group (who were also our ski-mates) here everytime too. We finally found out their actual names while having a (many) beers together one night. What a relief; now we could finally stop identifying them with their heights and jacket colors! Phew! 😉

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Bulgarian Village Night

A night in a typical Bulgarian village house, beautifully decorated to receive guests, where we were served traditional Bulgarian dishes, home grown wine, free flow lagers, and homemade (triple)extra strong liquor which was served in a jug and keep refilling into your cup like water. After the sumptious meal we were also treated to a comedic play cum dance, performed by our elderly hosts with audience participation. Though we couldn’t understand a word being spoken, it was rather entertaining, seeing the British boys dressed and all dolled up in traditional Bulgarian women’s attire, complete with makeup, boops and all…. Hehehe… It was a good last night for us, perfect way to bid farewell to Borovets and say hello to Sofia.

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Rila Monastery – Largest monastery complex in the Balkan Peninsula, situated up in the Rila mountain.

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