What is it about Veliko Tarnovo that grabs your imagination and doesn’t let go?
Certainly its location, high on a cliffside in the rugged Balkan range, is a show-stopper. When Bulgarian nationalists needed a place to make their stand against Ottoman invaders beginning in the 12th century, this is where they came.
Tourists have been tromping up Tsarevets hill ever since for a glimpse of those fortifications. And don’t expect American-style guard rails everywhere. You thought this was Disneyland? It’s actually possible to walk off the edge of a castle and plunge to your death here.
Sadly, ski season appears to be winding down here in Bulgaria. With each passing day the mountains above Sofia seem a bit less white.
But I would be remiss if I didn’t point out what an incredibly great season it has been, with plenty of snow and comfortable temperatures for the last month. Last weekend my daughter and I ventured up to Borovets in the Rila Mountains for what could be our final runs of 2012, though in truth we’re already scheming for a return in December.
In that spirit, I offer a few observations on how much better skiing in this corner of the Balkans has turned out to be than I ever expected. For a skier who was raised (okay, spoiled) on Rocky Mountain powder back in the day, it has been a revelation. Continue reading →
Bloggers will give you all sorts of reasons why there hasn’t been a post lately. Ferret ate it. Got hit by a tram. Been renditioned to a foreign country. Probably you’ve heard ’em all.
But the simple truth is, it’s winter! And paid work presses. And even as I write this, I’m running a temperature of 38 degrees Celsius. (That’s 101 in Yankee.)
Suffice to say, Bulgaria has indeed been walloped by snow. Plowing has been hit or miss in Sofia, and apparently mostly miss in the countryside. Folks are stranded, dams are bursting. Even for die-hard Slavs, it’s been a hard season.
Anyway, please accept my apologies for hibernating this blog in January and, okay, a good part of February. More soon!
Walking through the riverfront park in Vidin, Bulgaria, the eye is naturally drawn toward the Danube or distant monuments. It would have been so easy to overlook the ruin in the trees just to the south.
I had heard mention of a synagogue here. What I hadn’t realized — could scarcely have conceived — was the sheer extent of its decaying presence.
We wandered around the perimeter fence and, spotting the Star of David, realized what we had stumbled upon. Nestled amid houses and apartment blocks, it appeared to be completely abandoned and forgotten.
And then we saw that the gate had been left ajar. With a gulp and a look over my shoulder, I plunged through the weeds and into the shell of this once grand building. Continue reading →