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Borovets, August 2022

Day 1

Finally back in Bulgaria! We arrived last night in Sofia and this year, there are 18 of us for this summer workshop that consists of yoga and hiking. Most of the participants came along last year, either for the summer or the winter session. For this summer 2022 edition we head off to a different mountain range: after having discovered the Rhodopes in 2021, we will be spending a week in Rila, one of the three major mountain ranges in Bulgaria.

Before leaving Sofia, though, I decided to surprise the group with a sightseeing tour like no other… This morning we did the Communist Tour of Sofia! Nikolai is our tour guide and his task isn’t easy: how do you condense 45 years of history in a mere 3 hours?

Nikolai knows his subject matter well and plunges us straight into the Marxist-Leninist universe… From the get-go he manages to grab everyone’s undivided attention with his discourse, peppered with personal anecdotes: one of his grandmothers, for example, was a member of the Communist Party, while the other joined the resistance movement. In so doing, we were treated to a nuanced view of the period, with both its positive and negative aspects.

The tour takes us to a number of emblematic places such as the former Bulgarian Communist Party headquarters and the Secret Police Investigation Facility. Truly a thrilling experience!

We leave Sofia in the early afternoon: direction Borovets! Shortly thereafter, we arrive at our base camp for the next week. And what better way than a yoga class to round off day 1?

Day 2

After a morning yoga class, we’re all itching to start our first hike! To whet our appetite, our guides Ekatarina and Damyan escort us along the Iskar river. The Iskar is the oldest river in the Balkans and also the only one to have retained its original directional flow, despite the significant geological changes throughout history.

The hike itself isn’t particularly hard and the scenery is breathtaking! Those who had never visited Bulgaria before are beginning to take in the magnificent beauty of this little known country.

After a second yoga class we, unexpectedly, go out to party! We seemed to have overlooked the Borovets Jazz Festival. There weren’t many people, maximum 300 I’d guess, despite the headliner being Julian Marley, son of the great Bob… Some of us don’t mind joining him in the dressing room for a sneaky selfie.

Day 3

On today’s agenda: Malyovitsa! Malyovitsa is a 2729 meter high peak and is the birthplace of Bulgarian rock climbing and alpine sports; the first expeditions were organised in the 20’s and this is where Boyan Petrov used to train. Boyan Petrov was a Bulgarian zoologist and alpinist who, before his disappearance in 2018, conquered 10 of the 14 peaks, at over 8000 meters altitude, without supplemental oxygen. He was a cancer survivor, lived with diabetes and became a national hero.

The landscape is mind-blowing and we even run into a group of wild horses. After a few hours, we decide to split up, as some fancy climbing higher. Running out of time, we have to stop about an hour from the summit.

The beauty of these majestic mountains is astonishing and, in my humble opinion, the absence of hordes of tourists is truly what makes Bulgaria so special; we’re alone in this untouched and striking natural setting.

Day 4

We leave Borovets at dawn because we have a lot of ground to cover today: the hike will take us up to the summit of the Seven Rila Lakes! I did this one last year and it left me filled with magical imagery; I already know the participants will be blown away…

The lakes are located between 2100 and 2500 meters altitude and are connected to each other by small streams; each of the lakes is named after specific characteristics, like the "Trefoil" because of its irregular shape that looks a bit like a clover leaf, and the "Kidney".

Arriving at the summit is almost overwhelming, when you get to see the panoramic view from up high, the beauty of the Seven Lakes! Personally, I believe this to be the most beautiful natural area in Bulgaria. We head back to Borovets in the late afternoon and there is, of course, nothing better to stretch those muscles than a yoga class. Tomorrow, we go to Mousala

Day 5

Mount Mousala is Bulgaria’s highest peak at 2925 meters altitude. We first ride the lift, which the Bulgarians call Gondola, to 2300 meters; these are the same lifts that the skiers and snowboarders use in the winter.

Ekatarina and Damyan lead us along the mountain paths of their childhood; Ekatarina started mountain hiking with her family when she was just 4 years old and never stopped.

Once again, the beauty of the mountains takes our breath away. Even fewer people than at the Seven Rila Lakes

It’s time to head back but, as the weather isn’t looking too promising we decide to take the Gondola back down… halfway down, however, there’s a black-out and we stall! So we had to walk down anyway! As if we haven’t walked enough these past few days! 😉

Day 6

Since we arrived in Bulgaria, we haven’t really stopped, we haven’t been able to enjoy the hotel’s spa or wander around the village. So, today, we’ll be taking it easy… yoga, strolling around Borovets, swimming, shopping and more yoga.

Day 7

Well, it’s our last day in Bulgaria and it’s with a certain sense of melancholy that we leave Borovets. Before going back to Sofia, I take the group to visit the largest monastery in Bulgaria, the Rila monastery.

This monastery was founded in the tenth century by Saint John of Rila and represents the realisation of the Bulgarian cultural identity, after centuries of Ottoman rule. The monastery of Rila has been listed as a world heritage site by UNESCO since 1983.

This week in Borovets was extraordinary and I want to thank all the participants for their presence. This little getaway has been - and I think I speak for everyone - magical, full of warm and friendly reciprocity. A blessing from above…

We will be back in Borovets next summer, maybe even in winter (if we don’t go to Pamporovo, that is), so if you’d like to join me, send me a message.

Day 1

Finally back in Bulgaria! We arrived last night in Sofia and this year, there are 18 of us for this summer workshop that consists of yoga and hiking. Most of the participants came along last year, either for the summer or the winter session. For this summer 2022 edition we head off to a different mountain range: after having discovered the Rhodopes in 2021, we will be spending a week in Rila, one of the three major mountain ranges in Bulgaria.

Before leaving Sofia, though, I decided to surprise the group with a sightseeing tour like no other… This morning we did the Communist Tour of Sofia! Nikolai is our tour guide and his task isn’t easy: how do you condense 45 years of history in a mere 3 hours?

Nikolai knows his subject matter well and plunges us straight into the Marxist-Leninist universe… From the get-go he manages to grab everyone’s undivided attention with his discourse, peppered with personal anecdotes: one of his grandmothers, for example, was a member of the Communist Party, while the other joined the resistance movement. In so doing, we were treated to a nuanced view of the period, with both its positive and negative aspects.

The tour takes us to a number of emblematic places such as the former Bulgarian Communist Party headquarters and the Secret Police Investigation Facility. Truly a thrilling experience!

We leave Sofia in the early afternoon: direction Borovets! Shortly thereafter, we arrive at our base camp for the next week. And what better way than a yoga class to round off day 1?

Day 2

After a morning yoga class, we’re all itching to start our first hike! To whet our appetite, our guides Ekatarina and Damyan escort us along the Iskar river. The Iskar is the oldest river in the Balkans and also the only one to have retained its original directional flow, despite the significant geological changes throughout history.

The hike itself isn’t particularly hard and the scenery is breathtaking! Those who had never visited Bulgaria before are beginning to take in the magnificent beauty of this little known country.

After a second yoga class we, unexpectedly, go out to party! We seemed to have overlooked the Borovets Jazz Festival. There weren’t many people, maximum 300 I’d guess, despite the headliner being Julian Marley, son of the great Bob… Some of us don’t mind joining him in the dressing room for a sneaky selfie.

Day 3

On today’s agenda: Malyovitsa! Malyovitsa is a 2729 meter high peak and is the birthplace of Bulgarian rock climbing and alpine sports; the first expeditions were organised in the 20’s and this is where Boyan Petrov used to train. Boyan Petrov was a Bulgarian zoologist and alpinist who, before his disappearance in 2018, conquered 10 of the 14 peaks, at over 8000 meters altitude, without supplemental oxygen. He was a cancer survivor, lived with diabetes and became a national hero.

The landscape is mind-blowing and we even run into a group of wild horses. After a few hours, we decide to split up, as some fancy climbing higher. Running out of time, we have to stop about an hour from the summit.

The beauty of these majestic mountains is astonishing and, in my humble opinion, the absence of hordes of tourists is truly what makes Bulgaria so special; we’re alone in this untouched and striking natural setting.

Day 4

We leave Borovets at dawn because we have a lot of ground to cover today: the hike will take us up to the summit of the Seven Rila Lakes! I did this one last year and it left me filled with magical imagery; I already know the participants will be blown away…

The lakes are located between 2100 and 2500 meters altitude and are connected to each other by small streams; each of the lakes is named after specific characteristics, like the "Trefoil" because of its irregular shape that looks a bit like a clover leaf, and the "Kidney".

Arriving at the summit is almost overwhelming, when you get to see the panoramic view from up high, the beauty of the Seven Lakes! Personally, I believe this to be the most beautiful natural area in Bulgaria. We head back to Borovets in the late afternoon and there is, of course, nothing better to stretch those muscles than a yoga class. Tomorrow, we go to Mousala

Day 5

Mount Mousala is Bulgaria’s highest peak at 2925 meters altitude. We first ride the lift, which the Bulgarians call Gondola, to 2300 meters; these are the same lifts that the skiers and snowboarders use in the winter.

Ekatarina and Damyan lead us along the mountain paths of their childhood; Ekatarina started mountain hiking with her family when she was just 4 years old and never stopped.

Once again, the beauty of the mountains takes our breath away. Even fewer people than at the Seven Rila Lakes

It’s time to head back but, as the weather isn’t looking too promising we decide to take the Gondola back down… halfway down, however, there’s a black-out and we stall! So we had to walk down anyway! As if we haven’t walked enough these past few days! 😉

Day 6

Since we arrived in Bulgaria, we haven’t really stopped, we haven’t been able to enjoy the hotel’s spa or wander around the village. So, today, we’ll be taking it easy… yoga, strolling around Borovets, swimming, shopping and more yoga.

Day 7

Well, it’s our last day in Bulgaria and it’s with a certain sense of melancholy that we leave Borovets. Before going back to Sofia, I take the group to visit the largest monastery in Bulgaria, the Rila monastery.

This monastery was founded in the tenth century by Saint John of Rila and represents the realisation of the Bulgarian cultural identity, after centuries of Ottoman rule. The monastery of Rila has been listed as a world heritage site by UNESCO since 1983.

This week in Borovets was extraordinary and I want to thank all the participants for their presence. This little getaway has been - and I think I speak for everyone - magical, full of warm and friendly reciprocity. A blessing from above…

We will be back in Borovets next summer, maybe even in winter (if we don’t go to Pamporovo, that is), so if you’d like to join me, send me a message.

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