Patjama
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Bulgaria – The Hot Chocolate Haven

19th January 2016

When it came to deciding where and what I wanted out of my holiday this year, I had no idea. Torn between the sunny Canary Islands, or skiing in the snowy mountains of France, after much deliberation, I decided to do something different with my trip and push the boat out completely. Brochure after brochure, hotel after hotel, prices after price after price, Bulgaria had won. Won over by the snowy forests and the beautiful mountains, and of course the skiing, before I knew it, we had booked a spa hotel on the outskirts of Borovets in Bulgaria, only minutes away from the town and the nearest slope. It was something so different for me, I had never done anything of the sort. Before this holiday, all I had done holiday wise, was go to places in which you sit by the pool all day. And don’t get me wrong, I love those holidays as much the next person, but the thought of doing something different won me over. So this is how it went.

FLYING & SKIING

The plane flight was great. Considering I’m the most anxious flyer and I always have to hold either my mum’s or partner’s hand throughout the take off, this time, once in the air, I was great. It turned out the flight wasn’t even full, so the whole way there we had an empty seat next to us! Hello free extra room! Don’t mind me. Hours went along and I had way too much tea and hot chocolate, but oh well I thought. We’re going somewhere snowy… No harm in having a cheeky hot chocolate (or as many as I could handle). Three hours had now passed and we were approaching to land. By this time, the sun had fully set and it was too dark to see out of the window, but from the little icicles forming on the window, I knew it was getting cold. Good thing I had packed about eight pairs of thick socks and planned on buying about five more scarves. Because of course the snow! I was so exited about seeing actual snow and hearing that satisfying crunch of it as you walked on it. Ohh I was so excited. The amount of snow angels and snow men I was going to make, I was more prepared for that than the actual skiing. And before I knew it, we had landed and were on the way to our hotel. The bus journey, which seem to go on forever, actually only took about an hour and a half, but eventually, dropped us off at our hotel. By this time, snow had started sprinkling the floor and already we were taking too many photos. The opportunities couldn’t have been missed… the one with snow around the light is one of my favourites.

The next day had come around quickly and finally my chance to storm the slopes with my skis had come around. I’m only joking. It was my first time ever skiing and I had no confidence what so ever. In fact, I was an anxious mess. I was sat alone for about an hour waiting for my teacher to come over and whisk me away towards the mountains. I was cold, I was nervous and frankly all I wanted to do at that point was head back to the hotel and go to the spa. But then, like a weird Disney character, this man came out of nowhere, dressed like an Olympic Champion and told me to follow him. I did. Slowly and awkwardly, me and this large group of people reached the bottom of the slopes to ski. The first thing that I saw, (at this point my feet were already killing and the poles that I was holding kept nearly hitting people in the face) at the bottom of the hill, was a friendly, comforting group of people on a small, tiny hill. Saying that, it was hardly a hill, but more a big lump of snow. Anyway, on this hill, at the bottom, there was a sign with ‘beginner’ written on it. A fair few people were moving around cautiously on it, some even holding hands in circles. Young people, older people, a lot were practising here which made me feel a lot less nervous. There was no way I was going to fall over on this perfectly sized hill, I thought. Oh, I was wrong. Before I know it, me and group of nine lovely ladies are waddling our way far past the group of people on the small hill at the bottom, way past the ‘1 week’ experience sign, past the ‘2 week’ sign and even past the next. Feeling now rather nervous, still waddling slowly behind trying my best not to trip, me and this lovely lady named Helena finally found ourselves one with the group. We both got there panting, both feeling shocked as to where we ended up; it was on a slope – a steep slope – and in the very middle of the mountain. At this point, I didn’t even have my feet clamped into the skis and wanted to go back and grab a hot chocolate. But before we had time to realise, our teacher was telling us something. And being at the end of the group, neither me nor Helena actually heard him. So we clipped ourselves into our skis questionably and tried our best to listen. However then, the rest of the group started shuffling sideways even higher on up the slope. And both feeling rather clueless, we attempted it also. Only, we weren’t shuffling upwards like the rest of the group, but we were sliding backwards. Through the heavy shower of snow from the snow machine, we were discussing what to do, what to shout for help as we carried on sliding backwards. Next thing I know, to my relief, our instructor had flew down to us and started helping up the mountain again. Problem solved I thought. Again, I was wrong. Once he had told us what we were doing wrong, he disappeared up the mountain and carried on talking to the rest of the group. Slowly, me and Helena made our way back up the hill and joined them. When we got there, our instructor had just finished telling everyone else something with his legs bent awkwardly, but because we were both too far away, again neither me or Helena heard him. It couldn’t have been important I thought as he finished talking. Again, wrong. Soon enough, we all started flying down the slope one by one, everyone stopping but me and Helena. Each one of us either crashing into someone or falling over and landing roughly on our sides almost every time. “I don’t know to stop!” I shouted a couple times later, hoping it might actually help, but again I had fell and couldn’t get back up. And by the way, getting up with skis attached to your feet is even harder than falling over. I must have been on the floor for about five minutes before I figured out how to get them off. I was losing patience. I decided then, that next time I made my way up the slope, I would ask the teacher. And once back up the hill, I did. His response: “snow plow!”

Sorry what?!

I had no idea what he was going on about. It wasn’t until he showed me properly and I watched everyone else for a bit that I understood. And you remember the part that I said me and Helena had missed the instructor telling the rest of the team something? When he had his legs bent weirdly? Well, that was this ‘snow plow’. And if you’re a beginner like me, the snow plow is basically how you stop. You bend your knees awkwardly and separate your legs in a ‘V’ shape… yeah, I couldn’t do it. Again and again I tried, but carried on falling over. I didn’t know what I was doing wrong. I felt hopeless, I felt cold. The only thing I could think of at that point was a hot chocolate. The idea of something so warm and comforting was the only thing that fuelled me then. It was that moment, as I’m sat on the floor wet, awkward and cold, that I looked up and saw Helena slide down and fall also. But unlike me, she got to her feet, breathing heavily and covered in snow, and carried on back up the hill. She wasn’t going to give up and I admired her for it. I thought then, if I can do it just once, that’ll be ok. And to my surprise, I did it! Helena too. Me went down the slope – with some help – and both rather slowly, but we made it. Once without falling over in heap, we made it to the bottom of the slope. It was the best feeling ever! I was so chuffed. But then, thinking the lesson had ended, our teacher came over and told us, after lunch we were to go to the top of the mountain and ski down on our own. I definitely nearly cried. There was no way. So when no one else was looking, me and Helena waddled ourselves away from the group, laughing about everything that just happened and then went our separate ways. I limped back to where the ski stuff was kept, changed quickly, and then grabbed the nearest hot chocolate that I could find.


 

THE GONDOLA

A couple of days after my skiing experience, and some well needed spa trips, I was ready to brave the Gondola. If you’re unsure as to what the Gondola is, it’s basically a metal bubble attached to a very thick wire. The wire that you’re attached too, pulls you up the side of the mountain. And if like me, are scared of heights, it’s petrifying. Just for the record, I’m a very anxious and nervous person as is, so once I was sat down and flying out of the little terminal thing, I was as tense as a piece of wood. And as quick as the doors shut and you flew out, you were then being pulled high up through a very dense pine forest. To be honest, once the nerves had faded, the view was spectacular. If you’re a fan of The Hunger Games, it looked like an arena out of that and I genuinely felt like I was looking at a photo. As you whisked your way further and further from the terminal, I could spot things like animal tracks, big and small, weaving their ways around trees, over small streams and all over the place. The little streams were also very cool. Occasionally you would see them popping out of the snowy grounds and then disappearing underneath again. Honestly, it was spectacular. And now, best of all, I was feeling relatively calm.

The more that we went along and the further we went, the better I felt. In fact, I honestly felt like I was flying. And even though the wire had gone almost vertical, and we were gaining height rapidly, I was just more and more excited to reach the top. The minutes went along and by now we were above the clouds. The town, far behind us, looked the size of a finger tip and the terminal in which we got off was coming into view. Skiers and snowboarders were speeding around underneath us on the slopes and even though the wind was causing the gondola we sat in to swing slightly, we were approaching slowly and I was so ready to get off and take some pictures.

Once we were off the gondola, again, all I wanted at that point was either a tea or a hot chocolate. We left the place where you get on and off and was instantly shocked. The first thing that I saw once leaving was this:

And because of the café behind us playing Hello by Adele, I felt like I had walked into a real life movie. The air up this high was significantly colder and fresher and the wind louder, but my attention was so drawn to this view, that I struggled looking away. I must have taken about seven photos of that mountain, and I did manage to get the name of it off of one of the locals living there, but typical me, forgot it. After taking many pictures and admiring the sight, we decided to explore some more. To the left of this shot, the mountain continued with even more restaurants, some more slopes, and even a B&B. However, because we were so cold and the nearest café was only behind us, we decided to go the other way – back in the way of the Gondola. This way, there was again more slopes, the café and also the Gondola going back down the mountain. It looked something like this:

We admired this view for a good while, and took about the same amount of pictures. Now however, I was seriously ready for either that cup of tea or hot chocolate. So we made our way back over to the café and decided on getting some chicken soup as well. (F.Y.I. the soup, just like the pizzas, are INCREDIBLE.) I got my tea, a nice bowl of soup and some lovely toasted bread. We enjoyed our lunch with the view just like a photograph and it was wonderful. If it wasn’t for the seriously cold and biting winds, I could have stayed there all day. So after eating and having a pit-stop, we boarded the gondola and took off again. Only this time down the mountain and not up it. For some reason, this way was A LOT easier.

 


 

THE REST OF THE TRIP

For the rest of the trip, we mainly just enjoyed ourselves. I ate way too much chocolate, way too much soup and without a doubt too much coffee, tea and hot chocolate. Every day we went back to the ski slopes, however only tried one more time. I haven’t given up entirely however; right now I refuse to be beat! The town, only about a minute away from the slopes, was the other place we spent most of our time. The shops were also like nothing I have ever seen before; most of them selling ski jackets, coats, scarves and socks. A lot of the others sold gifts, a lot sold food and there was also a toy shop. I was drawn to the toy shop, mainly because there was a basket at the front that held faded and old, small Hannah Montana footballs. I was honestly quite surprised they still sold them!

But honestly, if you ever get the chance to visit Bulgaria, or somewhere similar, you should. The views, the food, the Bulgarians, the culture, everything is just incredible. The thing I love about going on holiday, or travelling all round, is the taste of something different. And if you’re the same, you will love Bulgaria. Plus strangely enough, even the air in Bulgaria is different. Like when you step off of the plane somewhere warm and instantly feel the warmth, it’s the same in Bulgaria, but instead it’s the freshness of the air that shocks you once you step off the plane. And that’s not even when you’re on the mountains, standing literally above the clouds. And of course, if you like soup, pizza, hot chocolate, coffee or tea, you will be in your element. Every corner you turn around, you will find a place selling everything listed above, and honestly, everything they do is delicious. One day I will return to Borovets and succeed in skiing down the dreaded slope on my own, but until then, I will carry on exploring this planet of ours, trying different hot chocolates all over as I go.

I also learnt a lot while in Bulgaria. I learnt that the world is full with such an array of different people, and sometimes, you will find yourself lost within them. Never forget that happiness should always be your own priority. You will be told over and over again things you should do, and things you should believe, but honestly, it’s ok to want something different.


 

Well, thank you for reading! If you have any words to say, I would love to hear them. If you would like to, you can either comment below or tweet me on Twitter.

I hope you have the most joy filled day,

– Pat xx