Many years ago, I came across a photo of these lakes on the internet and decided one day I would go there. That day has arrived.
I had never originally planned to travel to Bulgaria in this trip but it was pretty cheap to fly from Israel and figured it would be a good opportunity to see the Rila Lakes. I didn’t know much about Bulgaria before I arrived other than they use the cyrillic alphabet (which I can just about read) and apparently are the creators of it. There are similarities to Russian in the basic phrases so I was able to pick those up relatively quickly.
Heading in to the city with no expectations I decided to just wander around and see what I could find. It’s a very pretty city with lots of nice buildings and parks scattered throughout. Relatively small central area makes it very easy to navigate and get around. I think I probably should have spent more time investigating some of the museums but came to the conclusion it would be better to rest before the trip to the mountains. Despite that I did stay up to watch Bulgaria vs Sweden at a pub close to my hostel. We walked in and Bulgaria scored, we decided we were good luck and the barman promised us free shots when Bulgaria scores. Ending 3-2 made it a cheap night.
The following day I made my way to the Rila Lakes along with Ben (who works at the hostel) and his friend Rory. At the beginning we split up and I made my way to the top meeting them at one of the lakes (the kidney) on the way back down. It was a really nice walk. Not too crowded, areas for your to take small detours from the path if you feel like a scramble, and obviously all the lakes themselves. Each lake has a special quality e.g. the highest in the range, the deepest, the largest surface area etc, regardless of all that they really are quite spectacular. Once you get to the top you can go a little further if you want a bit of peace and quiet. You’re rewarded with this amazing panoramic view of the lakes and the mountain. As no one was there it was very relaxing whacking on a little podcast, dangling my legs over the edge and eating my last sandwich.
Despite the lakes themselves being beautiful and the hike being very nice, I think the best part was coming down in the chairlift with some music and a beer. After the initial jeep ride up the mountain (which demolished my spine) it was a very welcome gentle ride back down.
As with so many of the places I’ve visited a lot of it comes down to the company you have. I must say from Jordan to Israel and now Bulgaria I’ve met some really nice people to hang around with and keep me company. Morocco and Egypt were a bit quiet in terms of travelling companions so it was nice to have a more lively couple of weeks. A couple of Scots, a Swede, a Russian, a fellow Brit, a crazy Italian. Actually should probably briefly mention the Italian as I’m pretty sure he wasn’t all together well. On my penultimate night at the hostel this Italian guy I had previously met was being particularly crazy, muttering to himself and people who weren’t there, throwing things around the hostel. Apparently this had been going on for some time and the other guests in his room were becoming increasingly nervous in his presence. As a result he was asked to leave and as the police arrived to help the staff escort him off the property he kept going on about how all the guests here were illegal and to check their passports. Something was definitely wrong which is hard because you want to help but without knowing what it is it’s very difficult. He seemed like a nice enough guy but he had issues for sure.
Bulgaria was lovely. Beautiful place, cheap food and drink, nice nature, nice buildings, friendly people. I plan to return with friends hopefully and spend a little more time travelling around the country as I reckon we could have quite the blast.