28/02/2013 I can't believe it has been nearly a month since I have last been on here, this has been a great season so far, tons of snow loads of off piste skiing, loving the new skis, hotel and restaurant have been soon busy. Love my life!! Massive shout out to K2 for my new skis, god they have made a difference, it is so easy and even though the snow pack has been pretty unstable this winter I have been playing in the posder like never before! Sorry if I've not had the time to share it with you guys but no news from me means great news for me!
03/02/2013 So busy this last month I have barely had a chance to think, the hotel has been packed with guests for nearly every country that visits Bansko. We even have a Kazak family with us this week. Unsurprisingly there has been a huge downturn in Greeks visiting Bansko but a massive upturn in Turks. Russians are still coming in serious numbers as are Serbs and Romanians. A lot of the local businesses have really noticed the lack of Brits this year. With Us Jan has been the busiest month we have ever had, with the new restaurant menu proving a huge success. the Burgers and posh salads are massively popular with lots of people coming from outside the hotel as well as guests eating in. The Skiing has been a bit of a mixed bag with some great powder and some really warm temps. the pistes are holding up nicely but the off piste has gone from perfect to aweful to scary. I saw a huge crack all the way down to the grass the other day which shouldn't really happen until may! !2 degrees in the village today and minus temps expected by Wednesday and then 20cm of pow on Thursday! JUST WEIRD! my new skis have proved a huge success k2 have done themselves proud!
21/01/2013 My god we have had a load of snow over the last week 1m of powder in places, all the off piste has been opened up skiing really well and I have been in bed with some version of Aussie bird flu! Temps have shifted back to mild and damp and the backcountry has turned into some sort of soup. I am one seriously unhappy fat man.
12/01/2013 Loads of snow falling but I've no idea where it is going! the pistes are holding up well but off piste it just seams the same every day! Where is all my powder!!!!
07/01/2013 Today is Ivanov Den, which is Vania's name day. Name days are a great Bulgarian tradition more like a second birthday than anything else. No presents are given but the person who's name day it is gives out loads of chocolate, drink and generally plays host to anyone who drops by. Each saint in the Orthodox church has their own day and if you are named after a saint then that saints day is also yours! Vania and I will go out tonight for a drink to celebrate but due to the long hours at the mo it will probably be a pretty brief celebration! On the skiing front things are pretty dire, the pistes are getting very worn down, ice abounds and rocks are poking through all over the shop. We had a little bit of snow today but not nearly enough. If it carries on like this I think I will dedicate the next couple of weeks to mountaineering. I climber the gully on the front of Todorka the other day which was great fun if a little scary solo. Using my skis as ice axes worked really well if a little heavy!!
04/01/2013 Happy New Year! The last 7 days feel like a lifetime! The hotel has been rammed the restaurant has been rammed I've been skiing every other day, brain body and spirit are all now in need of some R&R which isn't going to come soon as today I am off up the hill to do my first bit of solo winter mountaineering. Either it will be the end of me or the start of something awesome. I am aiming for the gully on the north face of Todorka, a very small easy route but should be great practice for bigger and better things to come! The Burger menu at the hotel is proving a massive success, Bacon, blue cheese and Beetroot?! Yeah Baby! The polak has come up with a killer chili sauce which is massive on flavour and HOT but not offensive, works perfectly with everything! 2 more liters of water to drink before I head off into the void! The Polak and Natalie are learning fast, it is pretty harsh that the first two weeks of any season are always the busiest so new members of the team get properly dropped in at the deep end but it should make the rest of the season a breeze for them!
28/12/2012 I was forced into a meeting yesterday, the local property management companies had asked for a meeting with the mayor which became a meeting with the mayor, all his team, the town council and all the tourist associations. The main point of the meeting was for the British business' to get some clarity on the position of apartments in Bansko as related to taxes and their legality as tourist business'. There has been some confusion about this over the last few years mainly because the law concerning apartment rentals is made in such a way as to make it as difficult as possible for apartments to be rented out. So below I have written a precis of the points as I understood them.
Rental or non rental. The law starts here, if you have guests staying in your apartment they and you are split into 2 distinct groups. If the guests are paying they become tourists if not they are considered friends and family. If you are renting out your apartment for money your property is a Tourist business and if not it is a residential property.
Registration of guests. All guests that are paying to stay in a Tourist business must be registered with the local police no matter where they are from. Any guests staying in a residential property do not need to be registered with the police unless they are from a non EU country or staying for more than 90 days.
Tourist business', all tourist business' must comply with all relevant laws as businesses' i.e. have a registered company, cash machine, accounts, be catagorised by the muncipality, pay all local, tourist and national taxes and in all ways be a proper firm just as a 5* hotel would be.
Long term rentals this is a slight anomaly if you are renting out your residential property for a long term rental you do not become a Tourist business and do not have to comply with all the requirements of a Tourist business.
Catagorisation this is a bit of a bugbear with the property management companies, but I think yesterday finally gave some clarity. If you are a Tourist business your apartment needs to be catagorised by the municipality. This basically means someone comes round and officially states your property's standard. Each and every apartment can be catagorised seperately from the block it is in or together with the block. If the block has been catagorised already it is most likely that your apartment that is being catagorised seperately from the block will end up with a different level of catagorisation from the block itself.
Why is it all so F***ing hard, all I want to do is get a bit of a return on my investment! The law has purposely been made in such a way that it is really not worth the hassle and cost of making your holiday home a Tourist business. This is not a Bulgarian F**k up but an intentional move designed to dissuade people from running residential properties as Tourist businesses . The reason for this is that Residential buildings are not designed to be hotels, they do not comply with all the safety requirements of a hotel and as such are much easier to get building permission for. The Bulgarian government does not want apartments to be rented out and so they have made the requirements for renting out apartments very strict.
What does this mean for you the apartment owner? In the short term now is the time to panic. Every official body in the town hall has just had been informed that it is "too hard to make the British owned apartments legal" Add to this the perception that all the tourists coming to Bansko are now staying in apartments not hotels and you have a pretty explosive mix.
Local community leaders do not understand that the reasons that their hotels are empty are more to do with the world crisis, over supply of hotel beds, poor service and communication and a general lack of tourism talent than British owned apartments. However for the foreseeable future we will have to deal with Bulgarian "dark lord" syndrome where by all problems are heaped onto the closest scapegoat who is then destroyed by The Knight in Shining armor.
27/12/2012 Gossip in town is all about bosses exploiting their staff. Rumors about all the cleaners walking out of one of the big 4 star hotels and the boss having to clean rooms warm my heart! Finally Bulgarian workers are standing up for themselves. The out right exploitation of workers here in Bansko would be shocking in the west. Whole teams of staff not getting paid for months on end, people being forced to work double shifts with no extra pay and people getting paid in kind rather than money are all normal practice here. It is great to hear of a little bit of solidarity and the workers standing up for themselves. Hopefully this will change the way the VIP's look at their workers.
23/12/2012 The first two days of my season have been just awesome! The skiing has been great with empty slopes and good snow, not all the runs are open yet which is a bit of a bore. Ulen have almost finished grooming the two top blue runs on Plato, the red back to Shili and the black at Chalin. The other runs are in perfect condition with a good mix of man made snow and loads of real snow. in the woods there is a good base layer and some nice powder. All in all a great start, unfortunately I am not in such good condition, lungs aren't working as well as they should the legs are complaining like mad and all my joints are aching like mad! I'm hoping two weeks of training will blow the cobwebs away but right now I feel like an old man! Fortunately I have been skiing with the old man so it has not shown too much but as the Polak is now working for us it is not going to be too long before I have to ski with him and then I am properly in the POO. My only hope is that after a summer of sitting on his bum he will be in as bad shape as I am! Staffing is proving a bit of a mare as Slavi has finally left us to go and get married, after 5 years of doing our night shifts I am going to miss him. Our new night man is really nice and hard working with much better English but still it is a bit of a blow to lose Slavi. Calre and Rune who ran the restaurant for the last 2 years have now set themselves up with their own property management business which is fantastic but again a bit of a blow to lose them. So all change on the staff front, as I said the Polak has finally decided to work after 15 years as a ski bum so he is in the kitchen and we have a lovely girl from Nottingham as waitress and barmaid. However with new staff come new problems, I am trying to remember how to teach people(without getting grumpy), Vania is having to restrain her urges to do everything for everyone, I'm sure it will all be fine but for now work is proving a little harder than normal!
21/12/2012 officially it is the end of the world today so I am off up the hill to ski, my dad is in town for his regular two days skiing a month and it looks like this could be the winter when he will finally get 10 days of skiing in! My new skis and bindings arrived last night new ski socks and ski shirt, lets just hope it is not the end of the world today as I have spent a fortune on new gear this winter!
12/12/2012 Season passes and seasonaires.
Your average skier is a rich guy, he might ski 12 weeks in his whole life, and these 12 weeks will be spread over 5 or 10 different resorts. His hobby is a luxury sport, not for the poor or weak. The reasons he will choose a resort vary, price is an issue, fashion and location are both relevant.
The resort that he will go back to over and over again however are the resorts he “loves”. How can you love a ski resort? It is just groomed snow and identikit heavy engineering. He loves it because of the feel, the atmosphere.
Seasonaires on the other hand are a strange breed. These guys are normally poor and unemployed, they speak in some sort of unintelligible language of grunts and swear words they don’t have any money they are neither chic or VIP. Why would a resort want them around? Why do most of the older more experienced resorts in world spend so much money and effort trying to get these guys to do a season with them?
The answer to me is obvious. These young people might be poor but they are definitely “cool”. They might be scruffy but god they can ride. The ease with which they spin and flip in the park is the stuff of dreams for your average holiday maker. Crowds will gather to watch some young freerider rip up a gully. The same crowds will talk all day about the “cool” guy they watched. Everything your middle class, middle aged Jo Average holiday maker wants to be, these guys are. Young, Fit, Talented and Cool. These guys personify a resort.
Normally seasonaires will spend most of their time as a “ski bum” riding just one resort, a resort they love a resort they know like the back of their hand. A resort they are passionate about.
They understand social media better than a marketing exec. They are on facebook, twitter and instagram all day every day. Not because they are being paid to talk up a resort but because they love what they do.
The reason most of the old resorts offer stupidly cheap rates to seasonaires is because of this “cool” factor. These guys are ambassadors for the resort. They make the resort cool, they know the liveliest bars, the best lines and look great on the hill. They have passion for “their” resort and will promote it with more integrity than any paid exec. For the rest of their lives they will advertise the resort where they did a season. When they are middle aged accountants in London New York or Paris they will still be advertising the resort where they did their season.
It is sad for the long term future of Bansko that the people running the resort do not want this spirit, this atmosphere of youth and cool.
A season pass in Bansko this winter is 743 euros or 9.90 euros per km of piste. In comparison a season pass in some of the biggest and coolest resorts in Europe are:- Zermat 7.3 euros per km, Chamonix 5.32 , Courcheval 1.80 , Espace Killy 3.5 , St Anton 2.66 and Finally a strange one in Austria Kitzboheler Alpen All Star which is in total 10 resorts offers a season pass for all ten resorts for 554 euros for over 1000km of piste or 0.55 euros per KM.
12/12/2012 I've never seen a start to the season like this one. So much snow has fallen over the last few days Bansko is looking like it normally does in January. There's about a foot of snow in the garden and the roads are murder! I tried to drive to Sofia yesterday, by the time I had got half way down the hill and seen 2 crashes and 3 lorries in the ditch I decided it was time to get back in front of the fire. Fortunately one of our drivers collected our new waitress from Sofia so everything worked out in the end. Giving up on a drive in the winter is a first for me, maybe it is age but I really couldn't face the risk! Clear blue skies this morning but with very strong winds so Bansko is feeling like the south pole!
08/12/2012 Student weekend in Bansko! 5000 students descended on Bansko on Friday night for 3 days of drunkeness and revelry! This most comunist of holidays is a celebration of students which I am sure was started by the socialists with all the best intentions. The modern reality is of young rich students staying in 4 and 5 star hotels charging round town in top of the range cars getting hammered. For the first time in a long time family Hughes and a few of our friends decided to hit the town for the 8th. We had a great time at chateau antique loads of beautiful young things, great food, way too much Vodka.... I felt 19 again. Unfortunately I now feel 60!!!
29/11/2012 The hotel is now ready for the season we just need to stock the bar and make the beds and we are ready! We have a new menu for this winter with a great selection of all our most popular dishes as well as some gourmet burgers! Out side it is starting to rain which means snow on the hill WEH HEY her we go again!
19/11/2012 Training for the winter continues much to the disgust of my body. Every other day I am either in the hills or the gym trying to get what really isn't a sporty body ready for the coming season This has lead to some tragic moments. Plugging away at the gym for a couple of hours last week left me crippled for 3 days, trying to keep up with some pro mountaineers on Saturday means that yes I can type today but not much else. Hopefully it is all going to be worth it. In all seriousness it is well worth doing some sort of training before you come out for a skiing holiday but I am finding it harder and harder to convince myself that the pain is worth it. Staurday's trip with the OXO boys into Rila was truely awesome. I rarely go into the hills in the Autumn but hiking when the temperatures are lower, the weather stable and with a little snow on the ground made a lovely change from the baking heat of summer. Unfortunately hiking with people fitter than you has its own price which has to be paid for in shame for being the last guy to the top and always out of breath. There are some photos of the trip on the Avalon facebook page here:-
13/11/2012 Autumn walks with the dogs have been taking up most of our free time since we got back to town from our holiday. It is only when you have been back in the U.K. that you realise how sunny it is in Bulgaria. We managed two days out in the hills while we were in the U.K. both pretty cold and blustery and the rest of the time we just got rained on. In the week or so we have been back in BG it has been wall to wall sunshine. We did a big loop walk of about 6km from the top of Dobrinishtay round to the east and then back to Dobrinishtay last weekend and it was HOT! All the trees have started changing colour, there is a little snow on the tops of the mountains and we finished the walk with a round of Bacon, egg and HP butties. You have to love this place!
09/11/2012 hiking in Pirin this summer has been fantastic for me. It has been a few years since I have spent any real time in Pirin but this year has been a wonderful return to what is an unforgetable area. At one extreme Di and I have done some proper climbing ropes and all. The route up the north face of Vihren was truely awesome, with unstable cast limestone causing real difficulty but the hundreds of edleweiss made up for any terror! Ascending the north face of Yalovarnika with no route, marked or otherwise, freaked me out so much I remember almost none of it. Quotes such as "there must be a route up here somewhere" "if a goat can make it so can we" "this bit is really slippery and there is a bit of a drop so don't fall" will all stay with me for the rest of my life, probably around 4 in the morning when I wake up screaming.
At the other extreme, as Di and I started a walk into the hills to do some climbing, all tooled up with boots, ropes, camping and climbing gear we bumped into an ex pat strolling the other way, plastic carrier bag slung casually over his shoulder dusty feet clad in nothing but flip flops. We stopped to chat and he explains how he had been in a festival in Sandanski and thought a stroll back to Obidim would be a nicer way to get home than driving.
The trail out to, and back from, tevno ezero hut is as lovely as ever with plenty of alpine flowers, butterflies, meadows and lakes to please the eye. The walking to tevno is not too hard and being able to stay out in the mountains over night is priceless. I slept in the meadow near tevno one night just in my bivi bag and the stars are so clear up there. Everyone who visits Bansko regularly should try and make one trip up to tevno it is a unique place.
On our way to Tevno Di and I decided to climb Jangal, this is a wonderful mountain as you aproach it from Bez Bog your view is dominated by this mighty lump shaped like a castle. Huge rock walls tower above you layered together with steep fields of alpine sedge and then more walls of rock. We decided to aproach it from the south side as Di was pretty sure he had seen a notch that we could ascend through. As we crossed the col to get round to the south side we started joking about the quality of Bulgarian maps. The Bulgarian Catorgraphical institue is not the best in the world ond some of there maps are very poor. As we started climbing towards the summit of Jangal it became clear that what was marked on the map as a small bump near the col was actually quite a big hill and the higher we got the bigger the hill became until it really stood out as a unique summit in its own rights. The maps were dammed as useless as we unpacked the ropes and started the final ascent, some bloody knees and difficult climbing later we stood on top of Jangal. Only to realise to our horror that the hill/bump/mountain that we had been thinking was not even marked on the map was actually Jangal and the mountain we had climbed was actually another!
From Tevon Di and I did a long walk/climb over Kamenitsa, Yalovarnika, Zabat and Kuklitay down to the south side of Pirin and spent the night in Begovitsa Hut. Another extraordinary place, deep in an old pine forest the area around the hut is very wild we saw countless traces of boar. This is the first time is have seen traces of bear in Pirin which added a certain chill to the evening as we pottered around in the woods trying to find the trail to the hut. The hut itself is clean and well managed with good food and a pleasant old badger running it. I would have fallen in love with anybody who brought me hot food and cold beer when we arrived but our host deserves his praise as he looked after us well.The walk up from Begovitsa to Tevno is like nothing I have seen in Pirin before, a classic glaciated style valley with stunning meadows laced with alpine streams, great peaks crowning the skyline. Due to grazing by local shepherds the meadows are covered in very short grass almost like a mowed lawn. The water in the streams is bone crunchingly cold and as clean and fresh as you could ever hope for. This was such a pleasant contrast to the barren, dry rocky peaks we had be climbing the day before.
The last trip of the summer was probably the most bizzare, a group of us decided to hike from Bunderitsa hut to Yavorov hut. Jeeps were left at Javorov the day before, trail mix bought and at 09:00 we set off from Bunderitsa. This is a truely spectacular route with every aspect of Alpine hiking covered, old forest, meadows, rock, peaks, snow fields, via ferrata, vertical cliff faces to be traversed high alpine lakes the works. On a good day i is a brisk 6 hour walk on a bad day 9 hours would be o.k. . Now our group was a bit of a mixed bag with some slightly more mature hikers, some less fit and some not so experienced. To say I was the guide is some sort of indication of our skills! We averaged just over 1km/h we were still on the ridge as the sun started setting, nearly everyone was limping as we crawled into Yavarov 13 hours later BUT I think everyone had an unforgetable day!
08/11/2012 A huge apology for the delay in posting, the end of the summer has been one huge adventure for me. I have spent a load of time in the mountains climbing and hiking which has been great fun, more details will follow. Family Hughes have also been spending loads of time just hanging out mostly on the beach in Greece, spain or by the pool in Dobrinishtay. I am now back in Bulgaristan and plan to be on the web a lot more, so watch this space!
17/08/2012 A word on community
“ We are a small community here in Bansko. If you stretch the numbers a bit we could be a total of 50 people living here permanently. Ex-pats and their families dot most of the villages in our region. Our children go to the local schools, we use the local doctors and get married in the local churches or town halls. Our community stretches from Pirin to Rila, down to Simitli and the Rhodopi. We all have Bulgarian friends, local people we want to share our successes with, celebrate with and generally be there when the times are good. Like it or not we are part of the Bulgarian community, we stand out admittedly but still we are living here and part of it.
Things are different from the U.K, some things worse some things better but nearly everything is different. But that does not mean we have to change, just as we would in a community in the U.K. we need to look out for each other. If you see something wrong tell someone, if you don't trust the local police or town hall, tell the embassy, send a letter to the local prosecutor. Tell people, anyone! We are part of the community whether we like it or not. Turning a blind eye to crooks or criminals just because we are from the U.K. is not acceptable. The next victim could be you.
The language barrier can be hard, the Bulgarian way is not always easy for us to understand. Some institutions are almost impossible to work out but there are people here to help. John Sutton and I are in Bansko all year round. The local police can always find a translator. The British Embassy in Sofia has a small but professional team, and the FCO is on call 24/7 in an emergency. Don't be afraid to use all these services but please don't just bury your head in the sand and think "it's not my problem, I am not from round here."
As I said earlier we are from round here our children are at the local school, my doctor lives in the village. I have never been more local to anywhere in my life. But this means we have to be a part of the community, take part in the community. Petty crime, assault - sexual or otherwise, burglaries and corruption are not just things that happens in Bulgaria they are crimes here just as much as they are anywhere else and as such must be reported. These problems will not go away if ignored but only if they are addressed through the proper channels. “
07/08/2012 O.k. I'm rubbish. Nearly a month and no news. But what a month! My niece has been over for a couple of weeks so Family Hughes have been charging around the woods and pools doing all the things 5 years olds do.It is so easy to keep children entertained in Bansko we found a picnik spot in the woods with a stream running past it which was heaven for them. We left a watermelon in the stream to get cold as we collected fir cones and wood for the BBQ, a huge lunch, missions into the woods and building dams in the stream made for a perfect day. Another day I took Vania, Penny, Dylan and Aunt Yana out to clear the Foxy lady MTB trail for the race and a happier pair of babes you could not ask to find. What is normally just a hard days work turned into a proper adventure in the forest running away from lions, tigers and bears. Bouncing along the mountain roads singing and laughing! Heaven.
The Road to Nowhere IV was a huge success with 95 racers perfect organisation and everyone going home happy. Unfortunately I can't take all the credit as team Bansko in the shape of The Morgans, The Applebees, Jonny Boy, BAMRO, Bower, Explore Bansko. BANSKO SKI MANIA, Mountain rescue and a horde of WAGS did an amazing job making it happen. A fantastic weekend and I am eternally grateful for all the support.
We had our first Supper club at the hotel which turned out to be a huge success if a little intense for me! It turns out that my bomb proof pastry reciepe that I have used since 95 does not work in a 45 degree kitchen so as batch number 3 went into the bin I had a bit of a Ramsey moment! All in all I am happy how it went and I think the guests were pleased. We left the wine selection with a Someliere from Blagoevgrad and I think he did a great job. We even had a Bulgarian dessert wine! If it works over the next 3 weeks I am thinking of doing it in the winter as well.
Jazz week has been as busy as ever with thousands of people turning up for the useual mix of Jazz, blues, swing and rock that seams to caracterise the festival. Town does seem to be a lot quieter than normal with BRT and the hotel Bunderitsa both having canceled their stages. Unfortunately this is due more to Politik with the new town hall than anything real. The official opening of the Jazz was at Florimont which was just embaressing for all those in the know. The absence of local support for the town hall is palpable.
My personal adventure with the town hall has been a huge uphill struggle this year. Due to a boycott by a huge chunk of the town council the town hall seized up for most of June and July. This meant that the funding for the MTB rally didn't get voted on until the day before the race and didn't get handed over until yesterday. This has led to a fai bit of shouting and moaning by suppliers but that's Bulgarian life. On the Bansko Opera Fest front this has been a lot more stressful. The Plovdiv opera company with whom we have been working for the last two Festivals have been training since March and even though the funds were approved by the town hall last week we still do not have a contract!!!
I have been climbing with our guide this week, Di and I went up the north face of Vihren by a particularly difficult route. Not so much difficult for the actual climbing but due to the rotten cast limestone that makes up the ridge we couldn't get any protection in which made for some interesting moments I have posted some pics here http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.450808198287131.106787.264882260213060&type=1 . It took us 6 pitches and a total of 11hours and was a truely awesome day.
16/07/2012 you have got to love the summer in Bansko I have been back a week and I'm sure I have been really really busy everyday doing loads of stuff but from the looks of it I have done nothing. The days just trickle by collecting fruit boiling up jars, faffing with the town hall about the opera and MTB rally. It is so hot at the moment that even the smallest jobs outside are proving a challenge, I'm not sure how I am going to cope with the trail marking for the MTB rally but hopefully the team will break the back of it! Vania Dylan and I took my sister and her family out to the golf course last night for dinner, we had a lovely meal at the Greek restaurant there for 60lv!!! Highly recommended, the down town area of the golf course is looking more and more lived in with a lovely atmosphere.
10/07/2012 just back from a really full on couple of weeks cooking at the wimbledon championships, a truely amazing experience just to se such a huge operation in action, 1000s of tons of strawberries being munched every day more scones and clotted cream than you could shake a stick at! The restaurant where I was working was voted the best food at the champs which was cool. I am now back in town getting everything ready for The road to nowhere and hopefully the opera. still no light at the end of the tunnel on the opera front but fingers crossed. On a sad note the mafia gunned down 4 people recently in Banya 2 of whom were innocent bystanders. A very long story that I will expound on soon.
21/06/2012 Still struggling really hard to make the opera fest and MTB rally happen. Loads of support from the local Brits and Bulgarians but the town hall has now totally seized up. The town council is now in deep trouble as a large chunk of the councellers are boycotting any votes and those that are left can not raise a quorum so all voting has been suspended until a resolution of the dissagrements can be found. On a positive the chairman of the town council has some great new systens in place to make the council work more smoothly and I think once the mayor comes back from his holidays things might get back on their feet. Our mountain guide Di Davies is now back in Bansko for the summer, he has an almost encyclopeadic knowledge of he Pirin and is a great mountaineer to boot! He is taking bookings for 2012 direct this year so if you are thinking of coming in the summer and want to explore Pirin I can't recommend him highly enough Contact Di Davies direct on 00359 897064468 . On the Mountain Biking front the mighty Nigle Morgan should be back from his adventures in Greece in a week or so. Nigel is a fantastic guide, nice company and can cater for every level of rider from 1/2 day trips to epic 100km off road marathons. With nearly 2000km of trails in and around Pirin he is able to cater to every level. Contact Nigel Morgan direct on 00359 886 797 800. For all other types of adventure in the region, George Yopev, who runs Bansko ski mania in the winter has a host of option available Contact George direct on 00359 878 676 012.
I am off to work at Wimbledon for a couple of weeks as of today, trying to see if I can still cook professionally, should be fun. I'll let you know how it works out when I am back. In the mean time Avalon will have vania at the helm and the lovely Zornitsa behind the bar.
11/6/2012 Good and bad over the last couple of weeks on the good front
the weather has been great and the hotel is ticking over nicely,
Jubilee was a massive success with loads of happy people, the locals
from my "mahala" really enjoied trying all the British food and drink.
Pirin run which is a mountain 1/4 marathon and mountain bike race from
Bansko town to the summit of Vihren (with the bikers stopping at
Vihren hut) had a huge turn out for its second year, some of the
runners were amazingly fast jogging past vihren hut bearly out of
breath! Team Bansko did really well on the mountain biking side of
things with some respectable times and places! Vania , Dylan and I
have been taking the dogs out to the lavendar feilds near Razlog in
the hope of catching them in flower before the farmer takes all the
flowers away for their oil. It is a bit of a lottery every year, as
soon as they flower they are harvested but the walks are amazing with
some fantastic views of both Pirin and Rila. I have had two proper
trips into the hills on my bike and one proper walk which has been
lovely. On the bad front the new town council is really struggling.
Staff are leaving official positions in Bansko like it is the end of
the world, chief of police has gone, chief of the fire brigade has
left, head lawyer for the town council has quit, most of the serious
businessmen in town have shut up shop and basically given up on the
summer. The mayor has responded by floundering around finding jobs for
his supporters and surrounding himself with sycophants. The municipal
budget is in such a mess they haven't got a clue whether or not they
can make it through the year. However they are still spraying cash at
"important projects" like there is no tomorrow. The local business
community have been given the contract for repairing the roads which
is reassuring as I am sure their business experience will set them in
good stead for laying tarmac. The mayor now has an extra secretary,
three deputies, a chairman of the council , a tourism think tank and a
wave of new directors of departments but is struggling.
2/6/2012 First proper day back at work today, I have extended my biking route from Razlog to the hotel by an extra few KMs and considering I have spent the last 6 weeks doing little or no exercise I was surprised at the fact I didn't have to stop at all! The new route follows the new ring road from the start of town up around Bansko royal towers on the edge of town. It's lovely to get a proper view over the fields towards to golf course. These once neglected wild meadows are slowly getting eaten up by the plough which in some ways is great as it means there will be more money coming into the valley from Agro business but in another way it is a little sad to see what was once truly wild feilds and all their bio diversity being turned into a wheat mono culture. It looks like there are more sheep (and their sheep dogs) than ever before which could be interesting for MTBikers. Thinking of dogs I met a monster this morning, maybe 100kg of short haired earless mastif like beast. He cam bounding up to me on my bike but wasn't too agressive but the tiny little Daschund that was with him was after my blood!
1/06/2012 Just back after a fantastic holiday in the u.k. A whole month spent on the farm in Dorset. I spent most of the time in proper cuntry mode! I laid my first hedge, dug a ditch, went riding on Dartmoor took Dylan and his cousin out on ponies and even for a donkey ride on the beach! Bliss. Most days we baked real bread or made cakes with the children or went for walks in the woods. Hours were spent slow cooking and eating far too well. All in all a great time had by the whole family. We got back to BG a couple of days ago and it is greener than ever I have seen it, I'm sure the spring has been super wet and from what I have heard there has even been a bit of snow in may on the mountains. Really happy to be back and looking forward to a lazy summer in the sun!
16/04/2012 winter 2011/12 is over. One of the best winters I have had in Bulgaria, everything worked this year, the snow was perfect, the hotel was full as was the restaurant. All in all a great season. The cherry on the cake is that Dylan has learnt to ski, his last day on the hill he skiied all the way down blue ten turning nicely and in control. Vania has skied more than ever before this winter and is really enjoying it which is wonderful, as I always feel a little guilty about the amount of time I spend on the hill. The Old Man, Vania, Dylan and I all managed to ski together in April which was a real high point in my life. Nearly all the people I love all together! Other highlights have been climbing Todorka countless times, skiing loads of new routes, the best of which was the front face of Todorka. Another high point was organising for over 50 people to have avalanche awareness lessons this winter. Hopefully this will be a step toward keeping people safe in the mountains. Things are looking up for 2012/13 we already are 30% booked and bookings are still pouring in! God willing the snow will be as good again next year!
04/04/2012 The pistes are still skiing really well but it feels like people have forgotten about Bansko, everything is really quiet in town and the mountain is pretty much empty except for a few hardcore seasonaires and apartment owners. Maybe things will pick up a bit over easter but there is a real "end of holidays" feel about town. Slowly all the black sea monkeys are closing up shop and moving off and soon we will be left with the other Bansko. Bansko really is two towns rolled into one, with all the seasonal people changing the atomsphere massively in the winter. No matter how much I love winter Bansko and enjoy the skiing there is a huge space in my heart for the summer Bansko.
I had my first meeting about summer stuff with the new mayor and he really impressed me with how much he has taken control of things. I now have the feeling he will do good things. We spoke about tree planting (one of my main missions), park building and the future of adventure sports here and on all three counts I think he is on message!
28/03/2012 Death in the afternoon, some thoughts on Back country skiing. Recently a friend was taken by a medium sized avalanche, she survived unhurt but it did make me think a bit.
22/03/2012 Another great day of spring mountaineering, The Polak, Village Hippy and I climbed Todorka and then skied over to the foot of Little Todorka and climbed her. The sense of wilderness is just truely awesome. O.K. we were only an hour or so's walk from the top lift but the feeling of being alone in nature was great! As we skiied down to Ribno lake there were no signs os any tracks human or animal just a serine snow clad wilderness. Lovely! Later on we had a bit of a play in the jump park, I did the biggest air of my life (by mistake) but landed it so I can almost claim it! More sun today more fun!
20/03/2012 Some pretty special firsts for The Polak, Joanna and I yesterday. Skiing the NE face of Todorka (the one you can see from the Plato lift). Joanna started what looked like a small spring avalanche on her second turn. After about 10m it knocked her off her feet and started to accelerate picking up more snow and power as it went. After 100m the whole F-ing lot went over a 12m cliff with Joanna on top, we lost sight of her for maximum 2 seconds but it felt longer. After the cliff it spat Joanna out and carried on for another 100m. Other than a graze on her knee and some stress Joanna was o.k. The Polak and I had a pretty good run down after her, finding some good lines here and there but to be honest the fun was some what taken out of the whole affair! So a first run for the Polak and I and Joanna's first avalanche.
10/3/2012 first real avalanche of the season this week, a small 25m wide and 200m long number. Spring is definately here changing the snow pack and bringing wet heavy snow. The new snow skis well and Tom and I have been having a great time in it but the fact that it has fallen on a crusty wind blown surface means that instability will be a huge problem over the enxt few days. The pistes are skiing amazingly well and slowly slowly the lift queues are dieing down. March seems to have become a second holiday month with loads of apartment owners and regulars in town for 4 or 5 day mini breaks. It's great to see so many faces about town that have been coming here for years! Still snowing now and more on the way, looks like 2011/2012 is goning to go down in history as an amazing year!
2/3/2012 it just gets better and better, fresh snow on the night of the 29th and now blazing sunshine the skiing today should be great. I'm planning to just hammer the bowl for a few runs and come home for a curry night. I'm having a bit of a week from hell so I've not had a chance to ski as much as I would like, car written off by the Polak, coffee machine broken, front door of the hotel broken, boiler troubles, internet troubles one high maintenance family staying and then one of the Dads had a DSK moment with one of the team. This is the first time anything like that has happened here and it really upset me almost as much as it upset the lady in question. I know most of my job is fun but weeks like this really test the nerves!
29/02/2012 Spring is definately in the air, loads of the snow has melted in the village under the blast of warm wind that has been coming up from Greece in the last week. Winter is still trying to fight back! 20cm of fresh snow on the hill 2 days ago and a light dusting last night, the winds today are ridiculous 168kmh at the top so half the resort will be closed again. I thought this week would be quiet as traditionally it is but the gondola queues are still manic! when will the season finally clam down?
12/2/2012 Half term, fully booked, too much skiing too many late nights, too many early starts, too much snow knackered.
31/01/2012 One of the best weeks of my life the last 10 days have been aweome, on the hotel side we have had a huge group of regulars in for their 7th visit, which has been more like a huge house party than real work. This is probably the best part of being a hotellier, regular guests coming back year after year. Hopefully some of them will be out in the summer. On the skiing front the snow I mentioned last week came and carried on coming and carried on and on and on. In the end we were skiing in waist deep bone dry snow, every turn sprayed so much snow in our faces we couldn't breath. Falling over was both a real pleasure as there was no chance of hurting yourself but also a compleate nightmare as we just kept sinking deeper and deeper into the powder.
All the training has paid off in spades, the Polak and I had some of the best first tracks of our lives skiing in the forest down to the Vihren road. We hooked up with some really cool guys from Macedonia and for most of the first day we were the only people skiing there. The low cloud helped keep all the grokkles off the hill and so we had it all to ourselves. As ever there was a huge crowd down from Sofia with the fattest skis imagineable and all the most expensive gear but as there were only in Bansko to look good they didn't take any of our lines! Even 4 days after the snow the Polak and I were still getting fresh lines in the trees at Chalin Valog! Anyone who says Bansko is not a resort for advanced skiers is just full of it.
As ever when the conditions are this perfect there is the usual group of beginner off pisters decided to go and have a try in the deep stuff causing outrage amongst the more experieced riders. Deep powder skiing is great fun and looks amazing on the videos but is a leathal passtime. Every year 100's of people die trying to replicate what they see on the tv without spending the time and money learning. The boys from www.freemountains.com came round the hotel mid week to have a huge rant about stupid Brits going where they shouldn't and couldn't ski, it is sad that even with regular deaths in Bansko people still insist on skiing well beyond their experience.
I have decided that I am now getting too fat and old to have only one pair of skiis for all conditions and must now invest in some proper powder skis, something really wide and long that can keep the 100kg of ginger man above the deep stuff, I have asked all my friends in the ski business to try and find me something cheap at the moment the short list stands at:-
All three are bad to the bone powder skis but as I can't afford any of them I will settle for whichever one I can get cheap! Low point of the week came when I spoke to one of the pro skiers in town about my dream of having some dedicated off piste skis and he replied "but James you are too..FAT,Old and rubish to need these skis"
20/1/2012 Skiing Skiing Skiing, the last week has been just one long burn round the mountain, the off piste is now off the menu until we get some more snow (which is on the way http://www.snow-forecast.com/resorts/Bansko/6day/mid )so we have been piste bashing. Fitness levels are up, queues are short happy days! I have the old man here this weekend so I should get a couple of days of gentle skiing and a chance to recover a bit.
Even though we have been doing early starts until late most days this is a great time of year for me. The whole hotel has been full of regulars, the great bit about running a hotel is seeing the same guys coming back year after year. When you are really happy to see old friends arrive and sad to see them leave it stops being work and becomes more like one constant house party!
13/1/2012 Some great skiing over the last 4 days, having a great time riding with the Polak, we went off the back of Todorka yesterday for what he rekons was a great run, from my point of view it was a nightmare. Which goes to show how different we all are. The Polak is happy with a run as long as he has had some good turns, for me the whole run has to be in the balance good, I don't mind some rocks and ice as long as there is more good than bad. So weirdly we both skied the same runs and at the end of the day over the Curry he was raving about how good it all was and I was moaning about how much of a nightmare I'd had. The feedback though is clear, we need more snow before we go and ski the back of todorka again!Ski BG
9/1/2012 this season just gets better and better the last two days I have had the polak back in town to ride with and he has been amazing company, we have skiied some of the best snow I have seen in ages and skied better than I have skied in ages! Other than the back of Todorka and the gullies we have pretty much covered every inch of off piste on the hill. For some reason I am skiing better than I have ever done before and have been loving it! Bring on the snow. Everything is on the back burner at the mo, work, Politics even fighting with Frank. This is why I live here, a great mountain with loads of snow and no one skiing the back country!! I had a bit of a burn with the chalet lot and Phillip from creative yesterday which was fun as the Polak had gone off hunting (a Bulgarian Student!) and we had a ball bopping through the powder under the old communist 3 man chair and down the black at Chalin which was ungroomed (comedy!)Over the last two weeks we have mostly had Greeks and Russians staying so I have been learning some new words! but as their main holidays are now over and all their kids are now back at school it is time for play play play!
6/1/2012 As we drown in snow the town hall is strugling more and more with clearing the roads and clearing the rubbish. At the start of a new season and a new mandate this is not impressive! 2012 has been one of the best starts to a winter season I have seen in years in two weeks we have had 3 massive snow falls and I have had 3 fresh powder days, which is unheard of this early in the season! The hotel has been full since the 20th of December and the restaurant has been packed! Last night we must have served 30 people and we have 45 booked in for tonight. Our Chef and his wife are doing a great job running the restaurant even with all the pressure of the holiday period.
The queues for the gondola have been as crazy as ever with all the holidays coming at the same time, Christmas, New Year, orthodox christmas and new year, Epiphany, Ivan Day and Fotis day all fall within two weeks of eacj other and it means Bansko is rammed with all nationalities, Brits, Russian and Greeks. Strangely this year has seen a downturn in the number of Romanians, maybe the crisis has hit them hard? Who knows, the Crisis in Greece however has caused a big upturn in the number of Greek tourists as the flee their over priced Greek resorts for some real value in BG!
Avalon has become more and more international last week we had 6 different nationalities staying in the hotel!
2/1/2012 New Years eve was a huge success with 50odd people here for dinner and then another 30odd for drinks after dinner, the party in the main square was epic, loads of people and a huge fireworks display. Dylan and I went to see our local carnival/street muscians on the morning of the 1st. He loved it, everyone from our area in razlog was dressed up in traditional costumes with a band playing traditional music and loads of the murmerers dresed as monsters to scare away the evil spirits. We started the year with a sunday roast on the 1st wich was sold out and another success. I really feel our restaurant is finally getting up to speed, it is not easy with our location being what it is but as people find us and spread the word things just get better and better! Rune and Clare are doing a great job which is giving me more time off to catch up on sleep, all I need now is for the queues to dissapear and I can get up the hill!
30/12/2011 finally gettin into the swing of things, the last curry night was a huge success not just in the restaurant but in the kitchen as well, Rune our chef has really upped his game this year and did nearly everything on his own wich was great for me as I used to spend hours getting the curries ready. The sausage saga should be finished today! for the last 3 weeks I have been asking my butcher to make up some more of my "british" sausages and weirdly for a butcher he has had no meat AAAAGGGHHH! Last night he got a delivery so all should be fine today. Weirdly this Bulgarian way of doing things has hit me twice this week, Galin, the guy who does our advertising and printing has also spent the last 3 weeks doing nothing! I finally cracked yesterday and spent the whole day designing our new menus for the hotel and found my own printer. Sometimes it blows my mind in bulgaria that you can be stood there saying "I want to buy what you sell" and the answer is "F*** off!" Never mind the menus are printed, the sausages will be made and hopefully some day soon I will be back on the hill. Fresh snow forecast for tonight so maybe New years day I will be skiing!
26/12.2011 The last ten days have been really busy the official opening of the season and the arrival of our guests has kept me away from the Blog. Fortunately not all of it has been work, As some of you might have heard the snow situation in Bansko has gone from famine to feast. I have bought my season pass (with a huge discount again this year!) and went up the hill with the Old man for a couple of days. Normally the two days I ski with the Old man before Christmas are a pretty ropey affair. None of that this year, Day 1 we must of had 45cm of fresh powder, light as champagne and empty slopes. The off piste was a little sketchy as the new snow was way too light to take my weight and thinish skis, all day it snowed and snowed building up in huge fluffy piles. Not easy to ski on but fantastic to see. On day 2 it was still snowing like mad but the base had consolidated wonderfully, all the little rocks and trees were covered with a dense base layer with loads of fluff on top. The pistes were still lumpy but fun all the same, no one was on the slopes, probably the best start to a season I have had in ages.
The Old Man, Dearly beloved and I went to the Soprano's restaurant above the happy end on the Wednesday night and I was shocked at the quality of the new head chef. I have done a review of it on www.Banskoblog.com check it out.
15/12/2011 After 2 really full on days with the whole team cleaning and shifting stuff around I came into work this morning to a hotel that looks like it is ready! First curry night tonight which conicides with the opening of Mr Sing's Curryoke bar and we are fully booked so I hope we will do o.k. through the winter. Can't wait for the season to start properly, I am off skiing with a friend from Sofia on Saturday to see how good the snow is so I will let you know how it went.
13/12/2011 lovely local dinner the other night, cooked at home without much thought we had a whole grain spagetti with meat balls. it was not until I was pottering around the garden afterwards that I realised that nearly the whole dish was made from our own or friends produce. The bottled tomatoes and passata were from Douglas and Tash's garden bottled by Vania, the onions from Yana's mum's garden and the meatballs were from a wild boar shot in belitsa by Yana's Dad. Only the garlic and spagetti were bought in. For me this has become so normal that I had forgotten how rare it is in the U.K. to get home made stuff. Lucky is not the word!
06/12/2011 Finally all the builders have finished in the hotel, in some ways this is my least favorite time of year to be in Bansko, the stress of getting everything as good as possible in time for the winter and complying with new legislation always does my head in. We have had to totally gut our kitchen in the last 2 weeks and now I am just waiting for the new kit to be delivered. Every day the clock is ticking and I am in the hands of my suppliers. I'm hoping to do a birthday party for Bamro on the 17th and a curry night at some point soon but the kitchen is bare!!! I have also been spending days wandering round the hotel with my tool kit fixing all the little things, this is a job I hate, I am a terrible handyman and just the sight of anything flat pack upsets me so you can imagine how happy I've been! On a positive note I have found a guy who sells radiator keys, I know this is irrelevant to most people who live outside BG but it is a classic example of BG life. 8 Years ago no one sold radiator keys so I have been venting my Rads with a screw driver which is a fiddly nasty job I also stopped looking for radiator keys as the screwdriver works. However as the years go by the screws in the rads get more and more worn and harder and harder to open. So last week I went to the radiator shop to get some new vents for the rads and explained my problem to the guy. The guy in the shop then offered me a key which he has been stocking for 5 or 6 years, AAAAHHHHHH. It happens a lot here you get so used to finding a weird alternative solution to a problem that you forget to look for the easy solution.
20/11/2011 Avalon has gone a little more green, over the years I have always tried to keep avalon as green as possible with insulation, solar panels and other little tricks mostly because of my hippy views. However this year I went to order our fuel oil for the winter and was terrified to see that it has gone up 15% in price. Finally it is worth it to convert our heating from oil to something cleaner. Over the last week we have had a back boiler fitted to the fire in reception and a wood chip boiler fitted to our central heating. this should reduce our carbon emissions by 16000kg a year! A huge contribution to the plannet.
15/11/2011 Visit to the new mayor. Yesterday I went to meet our new mayor Mr Ikonomov, I knew Georgi when he was incharge of the town council so it was not too bad going to see him now he is mayor. Obviously I am not the most popular person in the town hall at the moment as I was a massive supporter of the last mayor in his bid for election. We have a good chat with the new guy, it looks like he has a hell of a job on his plate trying to find his feet but I think he is up to the job and should do o.k. . Probably the best thing for Bansko and those of us who love the town is that the new mayor is part of GERB the ruling party in Sofia, they also have a very strong position in the town council so should be able to move things forward without too much oposition. I am shocked as are a lot of the town by some of the sackings and by the people who have been put in place in the town hall. Maybe there is a cunning master plan but....! We will see! I didn't really beg but near as damit begged for some of the events and programs that I have been working on with the last mayor could be carried on but from the look of it there is going to be a bit of a witch hunt in the next few months. If this is the end of the MTB, Opera and events part of my life don't be surprised. There are some very bitter people in power now and I think they are looking for revenge! Minimum another 15% of the town hall are going to get the sack due to cuts and I gaurentee thoe people who lose their jobs will not be the useless ones but anyone who was a fan of the old mayor
11/11/2011 Remembrance day, for the first time in a very long time I do not have any friends serving in a war zone, it is great to know that my military friends are safe. Remember those who didn't make it back.
Vania Dylan and I have been away on holiday for the last few weeks and Bansko has changed massively while we have been away! From mild summery weather we are now in the depths of winter, snow on the mountains and cold cold cold.The elections were a closely fought battle with GERB the national ruling party winning by a small margin, so all change in the town hall. Hopefully the new young team that will now be running Bansko will step up to the challenge. Nearly all the old guard of town hall workers look as if they will be sacked and replaced with a new young team.
09/10/2011 News about next years Road to Nowhere rally
28.07.2012 and 29.07.2012
Day 1 Perfect day and Dead dog 31km
Day 2 Foxy lady 27km
please note that The Road to Nowhere is a rally I want people to come to enjoy themselves and ride for FUN the categories are just for riders to be able to compare themselves to people of a similar standard. There will be prizes for all the categories. For serious racers there will be a longer course and separate prizes:-
1) Under 21
3) Over 45
For the Racers there will be a trophy and medal for first place and medals for second and third place. The winner will get his name engraved on the trophy and will be able to keep the trophy for a year, at the end of the year they will be asked to return the trophy. If someone wins the race for four years running they can keep the trophy for ever.
The difference in the Racers course will be an extra lap of Foxy lady so a total of 54km.
50lv entry includes entry number for two days racing, a professional cycle jersey, insurance, drinks on the course and 2 nights accomodation.
30lv entry includes entry number for two days racing, a professional cycle jersey, insurance, drinks on the course.
15lv entry includes entry number for two days racing, insurance, drinks on the course.
07/10/2011Unfortunately my SKY T.V. does not pick up BBC or ITV so my supply of British soap operas has been limited since 1995. However the campagnes for the elcetions are in full swing at the moment 2 nights in a row now I have attended meetings and rally's. Each party's list of candidates is like a mini picture of Bansko, the alliances are as clear as a bell, "why is this girl on that list? Oh her husband is so and so's biggest customer." Like in any good soap opera there have been a couple of moments of melodrama as people move from one party to another. The big shocks as people who you were certain would stand, suddenly stand down. The dark horses who had promised never to be involved who suddenly appear as a candidate. Best friends are throwing dirt at each other families split on party lines! Promises of returibution are made on a daily basis "when I am in power that guys is going to get it!" "vote for me or I will crush your bussiness". Cubic meters of fire wood are being given left right and center in exchange for votes.
What has really stood out is the quality of the Mayoral candidates Nearly all the people standing for mayor of Bansko are of a similar type, obviously I am partisan and prefer my candidate but in truth they are all much of a muchness. The lists for town councillors are the really interesting bit, you really get to see the alliances and feudes in town painted in the party lists. Every party has it's mix of young and old, academics and sportsmen there is even a pretty good gender mix. The cast of charicters is almost perfectly balenced for a perfect soap opera, Eastenders needs to watch out !! 2 more weeks and the show will be over and the political wars will be hidden for another 4 years.
06/10/2011 Bansko’s Future, Bansko is balanced between success and disaster.The demand for skiing and ski property in Bansko has been huge, with queues for the gondola lift of up to four hours at peak times. The total bed capacity in Bansko is unknown but conservative estimates vary from 40,000 to 70,000 beds This huge over supply of beds has led to a rapid devaluation of both the rental market and sales market.
Mass illegal exploitation of apartment blocks as hotels has been a huge blow to the legitimate economy and the town’s reputation as an investment destination. These illegal “arpart hotels” pay no VAT, Profit Tax, Tourist tax, National Insurance for their staff, have no licences and do not comply with any fire or health and safety regulations.
There is no need for new legislation to deal with the problems in Bansko there is plenty of law pertaining to grey business but what are laws if they are not enforced. At every level of the Bulgarian civil service people have been informed but no one is willing to stand up and address these problems.
One of the few people who seem to be keeping a steady hand Mayor Kravarov. Party politics in the town council and in Sofia mean that even though he might have the right idea he lacks the support at a local and national level to take the steps that Bansko needs.
A tough few years are ahead of us. There is no easy solution to Bansko’s problems,h owever, with some strength, I see a future here that could be both sustainable and profitable.
For a set a period of time (I would suggest.25 years) ban all new building of ANY sort in the towns of Bansko Razlog and Dobrinishtay. There is a huge glut of unsold, unfinished and half built property in the region that could meet any demand for the next 20 years.
Control the downward spiral of room rates, either by regulation or rigorous checks by the tax authorities to make sure every business is white.
Create BANSKO the brand. At a national level this decision needs to be made and then a 20 or 25 year plan laid out.
UNESCO and EUROPE would accept 12.5% of Park Pirin developed into a ski zone. At the moment Pirin has just 3.5% of its area set aside for tourism.
Remove the grey economy.If Bansko could aim for 90% of all guests staying here being in legal accommodation the municipal budget would be huge.
Invest in summer tourism, this is one of Kravarov’s strong points Bansko has a great future as a summer destination.
Personally I believe the local people can make Bansko a success, it will take unity which is not traditionally a Bansko trait but it will also take determination which is!
02/10/2011 New site and The Avalon Blog is back. This summer in Bansko has been one of the more exciting ones for me. Intrigues in the town hall, intrigues in the ex-pat comunity, huge successes, some slow starts but all in all a great summer.
This year I started the Avalon summer program trying to get people to try some new activities in Pirin and for a first year I am really pleased with how it has gone, the big successes have been with the hiking and biking.
Di our hiking guide has been taking people out at least twice a week and has been getting great reviews. Some of his guests have been coming here for years but with the support of local knowladge and lots of mountain experience have been able to see parts of Pirin that they would never have dared explore before! I am thinking next year to offer more tailor made tours as most guests have been looking for something especially organised for them and possibly some longer two or 3 day tours.
Nigle Morgan from Devonshire lodge has been doing an amazing job, what with guiding people for the mountain biking, finding new trails, maintaing the trails we already have and taking part in competitions all over Bulgaria he has become the Godfather of MTB in Bansko. The Road To Nowhere race was bigger and better than ever this year, the team of back office helpers excelled themselves this year, all the competitors commented on how well the trails were marked and how well the marshals did. We had 87 entrants from 9 different countries and only a couple of crashes! Next year I plan to make some small changes to the race but all in all I am happy with how it went.
Unfortunately our bird watching and flower tours had some teething problems this year but I hope if our guides will be fit and well enough to take people out next year. I am planning to add butterflies to the nature walks after some of your guests explained how unique Pirin is for butterflies, I need now only to find a specialist Butterfly guide and we are away!
The Bansko Opera fest was a huge success again this year with a capacity crowd and some big stars performing, due to the financial crisis it was unbelieveably hard for my team to find sponsorship and we are all really grateful to the town hall for their continued support. I am hoping next year to make the festival one day longer and rearrange the layout of the event.
In the background through the summer I have had a team of lads from Sofia building a mountain bike dirt jump park in the town park. The lads were all here on a volunteer basis just getting food and accomodation in exchange for their labours so it is all the more impressive to see what they have done. Again the town hall helped with machienery and material support but the grunt was all volunteers. We put on a small jump show and a pump track race to open the park and hopefully next year we will be expanding the park.
As I look back through the Blog I see nearly every point has hopes for next year which brings up the most important point of the summer. This year is an election year, in Bulgaria municipal authorities have huge powers and vast budgets at their disposal. Unfortunately bansko is a very partisan village with certain political groups trying to exploit the process for their own gain. I have recieved a huge amount of pressure from opposition parties this summer which has really taken the fun out of some of the things I do. Seeing your own projects hijacked for political or bussiness purposes, or budgets plundered to line other peoples pockets has really wound me up! I have staked a lot of my future in Bansko supporting our current Mayor Kravarov and hope that he wins the elections as I really do not have much faith in the oposition not to just milk the system for their own personal gain and destroy Bansko in the process.
Bansko is at a cross roads at the moment and desparately needs a steady hand at the tiller to guide it through what will be 4 tough years ahead. The over development of the town and undevelopment of the ski area has to be handeled carefully, the vast grey economy must be brought under control. Corruption must be stopped or the house of cards that is our economy will fall. Unfortunately a lot of people see Bansko as an easy way to make money wether it is through building apartments or fiddling the town books.
I truely believe Kravarov is the best candidate for Bansko, he has the experience, local knowladge and a proven record of not accepting bribes. Many people accuse him of corruption but considering people have been trying to bring cases against him for nearly all his time in power and never convicted him of anything I fell him must be clean. I was briefly involved in the political process and was almost a candidate for one of the main Bulgarian parties however Vania finally put her foot down and refused to let me stand. I think the summer has been so busy that the prospect of me taking on more work horrified her!