Linking up a wicked winter of travel, after Austria and Kyrgyzstan I headed directly to Bucharest, Romania. Joining Jordan Manley, Forrest Coots and Chad Sayers we converged hoping to catch some of the monumental storm that had forced large parts of Eastern to declare a state of emergency. What we arrived to were rising temperatures and not the bottomless powder we had hoped for. What ensued was a not an ideal situation for skiing but a refreshing travel experience that I haven't had for a long time.
Jumping a train to Sofia, Bulgaria, we rented a car and headed for Malyiovitsa, a two poma resort tucked away in the Rilla Mountains two hours from the capital city. Settling in at the stone cabin a few kilometers hike about the lifts, we explored the narrow valley before poor visibilty and high winds squashed our plans of skiing to the Rila Monastery. We did return to enjoy some truely deep skiing a few days later before hedging our bets and making our way to Kosovo by bus in the hope of catching a storm. Travelling on limited information and not at all sure that it was possible to actually enter Kosovo, in the end we rented a car in Macedonia and drove right on in. Not intimidating in the slightest, Kosovo proved to be a breath of fresh air after the somewhat gruff demeanour of of the Romanian and Bulgarian people.
Confronted by less than ideal conditions again we ventured away from the mountains into Prizren, a beautiful city with large Turkish influences. We enjoyed plenty of greasy meats, befriended the imam of the local mosque who allowed us to climb to the top of the minaret affording us a unique perspective of the city and scrambled amongst ancient ruins. Between Prizren, Brezovica and the capital city of Pristina I spoke with many people, learning much about the Kosovo-Serbia conflict and the lingering sentiments. It was an enlightening expereince to discuss a chapter of modern history that I remember hearing about on the news as a teenager but understood nothing of.
Often times on ski trips, really experiencing the culture of a place comes second to the skiing. In the absence of skiing, we had an opportunity to more thoroughly connect with the local people and explore away from the mountains. We were afforded incredible hospitality truely unlike anywhere else I have visited and made some good friends who we hope to visit again. It would be nice though if it snows next time.
Look out for an article coming this Fall in Powder magazine about what we experienced in Bulgaria of the cataclysmic storm that pounded the region.