Skiing in Pamporovo – Bulgaria.
The red lights of Plovdiv airport wink at me through the night.
I walk freely across the tarmac and drink in the silence of the night sky around me. The deep black night above is the kind that steals light from your surroundings, and highlights only the pinprick twinkles high above.
As I set foot into this tiny airport I feel like I’ve stepped into another reality. The rules are different, the people are different, but I feel somewhat the same. Children are riding the baggage belts and running riot, and customs consists of nothing more than a look so stern you’d be scared into conformity.
Hidden in the mid-south of rural Bulgaria, Plovdiv airport has only been operating international passenger services since 2010. Previously acting as a hub for charter flights, it is now operational, though mostly in the winter months to service the nearby ski resorts of Bansko, Bovorets, and Pamporovo; our final destination.
The 2-hour bus ride from Plovdiv to Pamporovo is not without it’s own colorful character. As we pass through Asenovgrad a shiny plethora of white gowns catch our eyes. It seems the local economy has been built on the hopes and dreams of young virgin brides. Wedding dress production proves to be the major earner with over 30 shops within walking distance and I can’t help but laugh to imagine the poor husbands [to be] that are brought here on ‘holiday’ unwillingly.
We wind our way upwards through a gulley with vast walls and steep drops swallowed further into the blackest of nights and a dim low glow from the silhouette of a cross hangs over us on the horizon. As we emerge from the haze into Bulgarian reality we are greeted by the projection of neon and blue lights shouting at us from afar. Brightly lit to disguise its weathered shell, our hotel greets us.
Hotel Snezhanka is a Technicolor dream, but why on earth, I’m not quite sure. The word ‘Snezhanka’ directly translates to ‘Snow White’ but she’s obviously borrowed Josephs DreamCoat. Techno rave music vibrates our bodies through the lobby floor and while our bones rattle, we then fumble our way around the hotel through a heavy haze of stale cigarette smoke. Welcome to Eastern Europe.
Then tucked up in our questionable bed as the clock strikes two, Snow White unleashes the sounds of violent militant shelling that reverberates through the windowpanes as we jump to attention. Fireworks rebound across the hotel courtyard and we get to experience first hand the delights of Bulgarian wedding celebrations.
End: Day one in Bulgaria
Upon waking a crisp blue morning greets us, the kind of freshness that freezes your eyelashes together and leaves the sky a rich blue. Pamporovo is well known for being the sunniest resort in Bulgaria and a contender within wider Europe. A forecast of 6 clear days kicks off our holidays, and as we sit down to our first meal of pizza and wine [for under £5] we can catch a glimpse of Greece from one of the resorts many cafes.
While Pamporovo does appear to be somewhat ‘backwards’, it embodies every bit of charm I was hoping for when gambling on a ski trip outside of the European powerhouses of Austria, France and Switzerland. She appears to be the awkward kid in snow school – a polkadot onsie with a broke zipper, wrap around sunglasses reminiscent of ‘The Terminator’, and a novelty hat from the souvenir shop down the road.
She has the odd single-seater chairlifts that are often bright orange, and concrete lift stations that bear the ghosts of resorts-past. Once a satellite state of the Soviet Union, I cant help but feel she has been repressed. But now she blossoms from the awkward kid into her glorious late-teens. Someone believed in her true beauty and has invested a LOT of money into developing her true talent.
Pamporovo is a hidden secret that the rest of Europe is yet to stumble upon. I hope she continues to remain this pure and innocent. The resort is super fun, tree runs galore, the beer is dirt cheap and the people are friendly. What more do you want?
We found this gem through a super cheap package holiday with Crystal Ski. Going to an obscure place like Pamporovo could prove difficult if having to make all the arrangements alone. Although I’m not often a supporter of the package holiday, Crystal Ski made life SO easy and I loved not having to worry about the nitty gritty details such as bus rides and airport connections. They also put on a fabulous entertainment programme throughout the week to make the trip more colorful and provide a way to meet people. Bulgarian Quiz night was a highlight, as was the traditional Bulgarian Christmas Celebrations, which I’ll elaborate on in blogs to follow.
Until then, Dovizhdane! Chao!