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Rhodopean Explorer, Sunday, June 2., 2019
Yesterday we had two wonderful hiking tours, one in the Rhodope Mountains and one in the Pirin Mountains. Today we are going to visit Bansko and later we will try to reach the Lakes.
We decided to sleep a little longer as the weather forecast was not promising for a sunrise shooting. However, we did not agree on a time for breakfast beforehand, either. So now I am lying in my bed, waiting to hear something from Evo’s side before I get up and have a shower. Now, if you imagine a shower cabin and maybe a massage head for the shower, you are far off. The bathroom is so tiny that it doubles as the shower cabin. It works. While this guesthouse is not a five-star accommodation, there is absolutely nothing to complain about. The hosts are kind, the beds are comfortable, the place is clean, and their food is delicious. I don’t need anything more than this and would choose to come back at any time.
We get homemade, freshly baked pan bread for breakfast, which is still warm, with lovely Bulgarian yogurt, homemade jam, and herbal tea. Delicious. I feel spoiled.
After breakfast, there is still time left to relax before we head out to some market in Bansko, which we missed out on yesterday. This guesthouse has a nice terrasse upstairs, shaded from the sun, which we enjoy.
As always, the clock seems to run faster in Bulgaria, so we head off to the market in Bansko. Though, we are going to visit this marked with a twist. Evo informs me that we will split up so that he is not mistaken for a tourist. Should I find something that I would like to buy, I will have to let him know in secret to get it for me at a regular price.
However, first, I have to get out of the car, which is more challenging than anticipated. As I prepare to let go of my camera to have the strap hang from my shoulder, I realize that I hold the entire belt in my hands.
That could have gone so wrong. I am undoubtedly awake now.
Little did I know that this would not be the only time when I almost break my camera on this tour. On my last day, while strolling through Sofia, I suddenly held my camera’s body in one hand and the lens in the other. Good I had both hands on my camera that day.
Visiting the market of Bansko
Strolling over the market, I am wondering what I am missing out. There must be something Evo was thinking about when he took me here today? However, this is like any flea market I have seen before. So what am I not seeing? I’ll take a second look to be sure before I head back to the car. Waiting at the car, I can see Evo pass across the junction. But why is it taking him so long? Down that way, there were like two more stands at the most?
There Evo is passing again. He doesn’t spot me. Time to leave my hiding place and go after him, so we don’t end up with some search and rescue operation here. When I find him again, he carries a beautiful woven bag, which I hadn’t seen on him before. Or had I?
Back at the car, he reveals the surprise. He got me a stunning traditionally woven rug as a present. Rugs like this one are hard to get by these days, as seemingly no one makes them anymore. However, Evo knew he would be able to get one here, which is why we went to the market today, not to the more exciting spice market yesterday.
I cannot put this on the floor in my flat; it is too beautiful for that. So instead, I am going to use it as a bed cover, calling it little Bulgaria. A reminder of the fun we have had so far, and the fun we are going to have on future tours.
Sightseeing in Bansko
We still have some time left, so we had off to another part of the town for a little sightseeing and lunch.
Bansko (Bulgarian: Банско) today is mostly known for its skiing area. However, it dates back as a settlement to the times of the Thracian kingdom. The first written mentioning is in an Ottoman register from 1576, which registered cattle breeders. During the 18th and 19th centuries, it developed into a center for trade and craftsmanship in the Bulgarian Revival period.
We have our lunch break in a restaurant in the older part of the city before continuing our little stroll. Soon enough, we head back to the guesthouse for a bit of relaxation before our journey continues. Sure enough, all those early mornings and late nights – not to mention the driving – have taken their toll on us. So it is good to have some time to recharge before we head toward the Lakes.
Leaving the Pirin Mountains
The sky is darkening by a lot. We enjoyed the sunshine this morning, but now it seems we are heading directly into the rain. It is pouring down as if there is no tomorrow. We haven’t come far from the guesthouse when Evo decides to pull over and call our next accommodation for a weather report. Unfortunately, they are suffering from heavy rains and a muddy road. So we are not heading to the Lakes after all. Instead, we turn around and head toward Melnik (Bulgarian: Мелник).
After all, we call this tour an adventure, though getting stuck is not part of the plan. However, being surprised by new locations and never knowing where we are going is part of it. I would not want it to be any different.
Melnik is a few hours of driving away from where we are, at the southern end of the Pirin Mountains. At least the weather is improving in this direction. Now, of course, we also do not have a place to stay for the night. Evo sorts that out once we arrive, and as a pure surprise to both of it, the hotel we are staying at ends up being the one he parked next to before calling around. However, it is not entirely clear if the two rooms are free for us to take or not. So far, only the elderly owner’s mother is at the new place, but her son arrives soon after. The people who originally booked at least one of the rooms haven’t shown up, so we get them instead. It all works out in our favor today.
After checking in and getting our stuff sorted, it is time for a stroll through this little town.
Today Melnik is the smallest town of Bulgaria, if not the world, with only about 269 inhabitants. It only preserves its status for historical reasons.
However, in its high time, a staggering 20000 people lived here, and Melnik was a thriving commercial center until about 1912. That is hard to believe now when you see this little town known for its wine. The old Slavonic word mel describes the sandy-chalk soil, which Melnik resides on, so it might also be the origin of the town’s name.
As a settlement, Melnik dates back to the Thracian tribe of the Medi, before Romans and later Bulgarians inhabited it. From the 9th century AD, it is registered as a city along the main road to Thessaloniki in Greece.
A shortcut exploration of the town
Unfortunately for us, the weather today is not playing along. Before we can explore the city and its rich history in detail, rain sets in. With that, the sandy paths get slippery, and, since we do not want to risk an accident in the dark, we decide instead to go and have dinner.
Maybe we will explore the town a little more tomorrow. We’ll see. But for now, we share a delicious meal. Yea, this is propper Evo & Wiebke food sharing style tonight, which I love as it gives me the chance to try out more than one dish.
After dinner, there is just enough time left for a short stroll through the town once more. Well, stroll…whoever sees us along this stroll must believe that we are running away from something. But we paid the bill at the restaurant!
Tomorrow new adventures are waiting for us. I’ll learn tomorrow morning where we are going to; now it is time to go to bed.