The English Mining Experts

Ready to head underground

In June 1998, Rali got a phone call from a friend who worked for an non-government organization that provided foreign experts for the Bulgarian government. The friend said that some English mining experts would be coming to Bulgaria, and the agency needed to hire a translator for them for a week or so. Rali loves doing translation work, so she quickly agreed.

The first place they went was a mine in southwest Bulgaria. The mining experts later admitted that they were concerned when they first saw Ralitsa: attractive, elegant, and well-dressed...and perhaps not suited for the rigors she would face underground. But Rali quickly dispelled those notions. Here she is outside the mine: attractive, elegant, and, well-equipped.

Mine Fashion

Here's Rali again. Who ever called hard hats, work boots, and coveralls unattractive? (I'm her husband, so I'm allowed to say this!)

Sometimes the snow comes down in June

Rali enjoyed the mine translation experience so much, she invited the four Englishmen to our apartment for dinner. After dinner, we poured ourselves a few beers and watched England against Argentina in the World Cup. And despite the potentially dangerous combination of beer, Englishmen, football, and a loss by the English national squad, no hooliganism broke out.

But I digress. We all decided to make an overnight trip into the mountains that weekend. One of the Englishmen skipped the trip, but Peter, Robin, and David (left to right in the photo) strapped on their backpacks and headed up the hill with Rali, Jackie, and me. We walked to the Seven Rila Lakes, but the hizha (a Bulgarian mountain cabin, sometimes translated as "chalet" or "hut") there was full. So we kept walking over the next ridge to the highest-altitude hizha in Bulgaria, Ivan Vazov, where we spent the night.

At Ivan Vazov, things started to heat up

At Ivan Vazov, the hizhar ("hizha-keeper") had very limited supplies. But we met another group of hikers, two couples from nearby Dupnitsa, who were staying at Ivan Vazov on the last night of their mountain trip. They had plenty of food and drink, so they shared it with us. Particularly the drink. They had homemade wine and rakiya (a strong brandy-like drink), which they insisted they didn't want to carry all the way home. So we helped. Boy, did we help. This is a scene from early in the party, before we started dancing on the tables.

Looking down at Okoto Lake

The next morning we got up (with some difficulty) and headed back over the ridge to go back the way we came. The weather was beautiful, and I took this photo of the group as we prepared to descend toward the second-highest of the Seven Rila Lakes, Okoto ("The Eye").

The weary hikers

When we stopped to take a break on the way down the hill, David sneaked off to take a photo of the weary group. That's Robin on the left and me in the red T-shirt...we were hiding from the flies that we found at lower altitudes on the way down.

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