Seeing the year “2022” was a little surreal. Honesty time; I still think the 90’s was like 10 years ago. I know right, “But don’t you teach history?!” Yes, I do, but feeling time and reading it in a textbook are two very different things. When someone mentions that the 90s was 30ish years ago, in my heart, it feels closer. It’s funny how time is more of an emotion than a tangible thing.
I’ve always found the New Year serves as a good benchmark for reflection. What went well in the past year, what didn’t, and what you’re working on in the new one. For us, we wanted to reclaim a bit of what COVID had removed in the past year. With travel restrictions loosening, exploring a bit further and potentially visiting with some friends was back on the table.
Unlike last year’s rather mild winter, this January was long, dark, and snowy, but we filled it with household projects, puzzles, and cooking up some great food. There was much paperwork and planning in preparation for our upcoming move to Bali. At the same time, I needed to submit all my paperwork and materials to renew my teaching license back in Vermont. Needless to say, loads of “adulting” needed to happen; far too much in my opinion. There are always challenges and difficulties doing things in a foreign country that you wouldn’t think twice about back at home. Like mailing documents or getting fingerprinted for a background check. Many thanks to our Bulgarian friends who helped us navigate the red tape.
February saw our dear friend Sam visiting us from the UK. We like playing the roles of hosts and tour guides. Being able to show Sam some of our favorite spots was a fun time! We walked around downtown Sofia to take in some of the sights and food, walked at Pancharevo for some fresh air and great views, and stayed over one night in the nearby city of Plovdiv (the cultural capital of Bulgaria). Sam also saw our high school firsthand when he came for a visit one day when both Alison and I were working.
The first of March signifies the quaint Bulgarian tradition of Baba Marta. On the 1st, people hand out little red ‘n white bracelets to their friends and family. When someone gives you one, you give them one in return. By the end of the day, teachers and students leave school with their arms full of the colorful bracelets. You’re supposed to wear the bracelets until you see some sign of spring such as tree buds or storks returning from the south. At that point, you take your bracelets off and put them on a nearby tree branch. This is such a cool tradition that we love! However, we weren’t able to take our bracelets off so quickly this year because winter continued to drag on with snowstorms continuing in this month.
Naturally, there were a few sporting events/trail runs that we attended this spring as well. There is a great sporting community here that puts on many local running events, one of the organizations is called trailseriesbg. Alison and our friend, Douwe, have taken part in some of their weekend runs and I’ve tagged along to a couple of them. Alison’s not one to brag about her accomplishments, so I’ll do it for her! During the Baba Marta 6k run, Alison beat out the other female competitors to take first place! Trailseriesbg gives out one-of-a-kind homemade clay medals for the top three men and women in each distance. A few weeks later came the 7 Hills 18k race. This trail run was in a beautiful little village outside Sofia which contained, yep, 7 different hills for competitors to run up and down. Again, Alison *rose* to the challenge (literally up through the clouds and back down again) to take first place! So proud of this little race fiend!
Winter hikes with our good friends Douwe, Yana, Tobias, and Tonks are shown here. Hikes happened on Vitosha Chimneys, Bistritsa, and Bankya.
We’d heard about the skiing in Bulgaria and knew it was a destination for skiing and snowboarding enthusiasts all over Europe. Just head to the airport during the winter and you’ll see bus loads of people shuffling off planes from various places all wanting to hit the slopes. We didn’t manage to go last winter, but this year we were determined to get out there and give it a try! Alison grew up skiing and myself snowboarding, but neither of us had really done much in the past 10-15 years. It was truly like riding a bike. We handled ourselves very well and had the most excellent day at Borovets skiing village. We were saying it’s almost too bad we’re not staying somewhere cold for our next teaching gig so we could make this more of a routine hobby! Maybe someday 😉
During one of our weekend getaways, Ali’s friend, Ventsi, from a local biking group invited us to travel to a village in the southern part of the country to do some cycling around and sightseeing. The main attraction for cycling was the town of Suhovo in the Rhodope Mountains. In this area, there is a river that winds through the mountains; forming a horseshoe at one unique spot. It was a great chance to visit a part of the country we hadn’t seen before and explore other unique sights of Bulgaria like the Arda River and the Devil’s Bridge.
With only a short time left here in Bulgaria, we’re attempting to capitalize on these next few weeks and try to check-out some other places and activities we’ve always wanted to. We’ve got some ideas but who knows what will happen! Check back soon!
Peace & Love,
Grant & Alison