Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Hiking in Bulgaria - Trek of a Lifetime

I first visited the Seven Rila Lakes in June 2010. To my amazement, I found myself walking in a few inches of snow alongside mountain meadows full of brilliant purple crocuses. At times I wore a T-shirt and at times I put on a long-sleeved shirt as I hiked through terrain that appeared to be lifted straight out of Antarctica. The views were stunning, the air was fresh, and despite some of the steep uphill slopes, I enjoyed every moment of it.

My friends and I only made it to the fourth of the seven lakes; it was frozen solid, even in the middle of June! The rest of the way was impassable because of the snow. I promised myself I would come back one day. I dreamed of taking another incredible Bulgarian hiking trek. And then, nine years later, my dream came true.

In July 2019, I joined seven other hikers (from the US, Northern Ireland, Italy, and Slovenia) and a local Bulgarian guide on an eight-day "Hiking trek in the Pirin and Rila mountains." The trip was organized by Traventuria, a Bulgarian company with a well-earned excellent reputation for its hikes and tours. After an overnight in Sofia, I was picked up at my hotel and set off on the trek.

Right away I realized that I was the least-experienced of the hikers. My daily routine in the gym and even my participation in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem marathon races had not prepared me for the hike. “The only thing that prepares you for hiking, is hiking,” I was told. My leg muscles ached on the first day. I wondered if I had bitten off more than I could chew. Yet, I quickly adapted to the pace and got past the muscle aches. I may have been the oldest member of our group, but I wasn’t always the slowest. But often I fell behind the others as I couldn’t stop taking pictures of the astonishing views around me.

Bulgaria has been blessed by the wonders of nature – mountains, forests, seashores, plains, waterfalls, caves, rivers, and more. I had explored much of the country during the two years I lived in Sofia, but except for that one-day visit to the Rila lakes, I had not previously taken long hikes in the mountains. My trip to the Piran and Rila ranges this year opened my eyes to scenery and landscapes I could not have imagined.

Hiking in the Bulgarian mountains, and climbing their peaks, was the most challenging physical thing I had ever done in my life. Memories of the trek will last a lifetime and I am glad to share my experiences. One thing must be noted, though. None of the photos I took can ever do justice to how beautiful, how stunning, how majestic Bulgaria is. The photos, along with my words, can give you only a small taste of that beauty. Hopefully, you will be encouraged to follow my footsteps and go hiking in Bulgaria.

1 comment:

  1. Wow! Lovely scenery and impressive feat! I assume you made it all the way with the group. I look forward to more about this trek.