Sunday, August 22, 2010

Goodbye, Bansko... Hello, Sozopol!

The famous Bulgarian roses!
 Okay, so it's been a while since my last post... the conference ended up being a pretty busy couple of weeks, surprisingly enough. It was mostly full of social stuff but hey, that's why I went. I got to know a lot of the other Americans here in Bulgaria for the year pretty well and made some Bulgarian friends as well, all of whom I hope to meet up with throughout the year. We even met the US Ambassador to Bulgaria at our farewell dinner. Right now I am at a hotel in Sozopol on the Black Sea coast, which is FABULOUS.

But back to Bansko, I really enjoyed the conference, only actually took one course the last week (Bulgarian Culture, Art and Music) and had a great time. The second weekend we were there everyone went on a daytrip to Blagoevgrad, a nearby town where the American University is, and a smaller village to hear some traditional folk music and participate in a mock-wedding ceremony. That part was really hilarious because our two volunteers had to dress up in folk costumes, dance around with the singing babas (literally: old grannies) and drink homemade rakiya
The setting for the folk singing/ wedding ceremony was in a beautiful rose garden at a medieval church, which was covered in restored frescoes of Bulgarian Orthodox saints. The church, located in Dobarsko in the Pirin region of Bulgaria, is famous for a few of its icons which have irregular angular shapes depicting heavenly light. One of the strange shapes around the figure of Jesus has been likened to a rocket ship.

The next day our group took a bus into the Pirin Mountains just behind the town of Bansko and hiked to a few glacial lakes nearby. And while the program described a 'walk' to one of these lakes, whichever path our group ended up taking was definitely not the easiest hike. But it was well worth it and the views were amazing. Going up there definitely made me want to try skiing and I imagine it would be relatively inexpensive to try it here. Two of the girls (also ETAs) and I decided to take a mini-vacation to the Black Sea resort town of Sozopol following the conference, and that's where we arrived this morning after taking a night bus from Sofia. We didn't realize that the night bus would only take 6 hours, however, so we ended up waiting near our hotel for a couple of hours before it opened at 8AM. But Sozopol is absolutely stunning, with cliffs and sandy beaches on either side of the peninsula and an extremely walkable and enjoyable old town center. We walked around a fair amount today and plan on staying here for two more nights. Then I'm headed back to Sofia to spend the weekend with Ellen (who is teaching English at a high school there) and off to Pleven on Sunday!

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