Having two sisters living in Amsterdam was cool. Having one sister still in Amsterdam and the other now with a ski slope on her doorstep is even cooler.
That ski slope is Vitosha, a dainty magical mountain on the outskirts of Sofia. It takes fifteen minutes to get there… Fifteen minutes of creeping under mysterious silver trees towards the clouds, fifteen minutes of glitter-like flakes falling sleepily through the air, settling gently on our windscreen, fifteen minutes of taking in some of the most Disneyesque surroundings as we made our way to the slopes.
Arriving at the top, to a place called Maslovitsa, was the first excitement. Introducing the piste to the boyfriend was the next. Now, I’ve skied for years. I could ski before I could ride a bike. James on the other hand, until last week, had never before seen a snowy mountain in real life, let alone be at the top of one, let alone be about to ski on one.
Being the avid skier that I am, I obviously wanted to be ‘Instructor Anna’ for the day. But my dreams were crushed when sensibility arrived in the form of my big sister Tamarra. “Sis, you do realise that’s not a good idea, don’t you? It’s like teaching your partner to drive- never works… ooh I know- How about I teach him?!?”
So (because I knew she had a point) I meekly pushed my irritation aside and ‘Instructor Anna’ had to take a back seat. However, just two hours later, the only black man on Vitosha Mountain neatly glided down the piste. There he was, cool and controlled, skiing.
So, after a few runs together with the Sis, Dad and James we decided it was time for lunch. Ok, so ‘lunch’ in Bulgaria isn’t quite ‘lunch’ as we know it. They like their stuffed vegetables, their cold yogurt-like soups, they love their pork and not to mention their oddly shaped meatballs (which are basically sausages but they call them meatballs I think just to confuse people.)
So, for lunch, we have some elongated meatballs at Aleko Hut, the only cafe in Maslovitsa. Inside, you can’t really tell if someone is being deliberately rude, if their cat just died or if they’re having the best day ever. Emotionless faces filled Aleko Hut, and probably most of Bulgaria. My sister informed me that “that’s just how they are here” and that “they really are lovely people” which I’m sure they are, they just clearly don’t know what smiling is.
It made me think then about how different cultures can be. At home, if you were to slam down a customer’s hot chocolate receipt on the counter in front of them, as if you were angrily swatting a fly, you’d probably get the sack. It terrified me. He backed away, yet held my gaze, with no expression on his face whatsoever. “Blagodarya” I mumble, trying to show him that yes I may be a tourist but I have learnt ‘Thankyou’ in your lingo so please don’t kill me, before heading back to my meatballs.
On a good note, for all of us to have ‘lunch’ (-that’s myself, Mum, Dad, Sis, James and my niece Hayden) along with five hot chocolates and a few rums it cost around 20 Levs, which is about eight quid. For that price I think I can put up with the ogre behind the bar.
The week that followed such a fun first day entailed; go karting, adopting a stray Husky for the night, watching ‘Split’ in a Cinema where you get complementary champagne and popcorn upon arrival and have the comfiest recliner arm-chair with a swivel table (all for half of what we pay in Cardiff), a trip to the local shooting range and feeling like I was on a scene from Taken, Virtual Reality Gaming, and last but not least, buying a puppy.Yes a puppy.
Blu was her name. She was literally that doggy in the window and was the sweetest thing. She wasn’t your typical hyperactive bouncy ball of fluff. She was a calm and cuddly baby Husky who needed a new home.
Bad news struck when, after a trip to the doggy clinic, the vet told us she had Parvow (a fatal disease which explains why she was so unexcitable and sleepy). Cut a long story short, we had to leave Blu with the vet as she had to stay for a minimum of six weeks for her treatment, and we planned on going back to the shop to get our money back, which by the way was only £100- for a HUSKY! We started to think that maybe the shop knew she was ill and that’s why, amongst the pug, the scruffy terrier and the King Charles spaniel, she was the cheapest.
To our surprise, when we went back to the shop to explain what had happened, Blu’s sister had taken her spot in the window. Debatably, what we chose to do next was the right thing, and so, to save breaking my niece and nephews hearts, we went home with Blu’s sibling, whom we named Bowie. I couldn’t stop thinking about poor Blu. What if they don’t go ahead with the treatment now as they know she doesn’t have a home to go to? What if she doesn’t get better? What if she does get better but no one will want her as she’ll no longer be a puppy puppy? James and I seriously want to go back to Bulgaria purely to re-buy Blu and bring her back to Cardiff..
Anyway, the days went by and little Bowie was fitting in just well into her new home.
On our last but one day we drove to Borovets to show James an actual ski resort. I’ve been before but this time it was even better. The pistes weren’t too firm, nor too loose, there were tonnes of different runs to chose from, and there was more than one cafe that sold only Bulgarian meatballs.
What a trip. Who would’ve thought you could fit so much in to one ski trip. Albeit, this was a bit of a rollercoaster of a holiday, another ski trip some time soon is definitely on the cards. You never know, I may just come home with a Husky.