A trip to Hizha Bezbog

The crowd at Krasi's the night before we left
With Kristof keeping Rali and me busy at home, we didn't travel to the mountains at all during June and July 2000. When Jim, a former AUBG professor, made his annual summer pilgrimage to Bulgaria (traveling from China this year), he invited me along on a hike he was planning in the Pirin Mountains in early August 2000. So Rali, Kristof, and I traveled with Rali's friend Irena (whom you might remember from our Rila Mountain hike in 1999) to Bansko, where Rali and Kristof stayed, while Irena and I joined the group. The night before we set off on the hike, we had dinner (and plenty of drinks) with our host, Krasi, and his family (left). Krasi's a department head Jim and I know from AUBG.

Did someone call for a 'pochivka'?
Along with Irena, Jim, Krasi, and me, the group of hikers included Krasi's son Danny (above, far left) and Steve, the VP of an American summer-school program in Eastern Europe (above, far right).

We left Bansko early on a Saturday morning. Since the first part of our hike was in a valley between two high ridges, we were out of the sun, and it was pretty chilly. Nonetheless, we had all worked up a good sweat by the time we arrived at hizha Demyanitsa, about 1-1/2 hours after leaving Bansko. Shortly afterwards, the sun rose over the ridge, and we stopped regularly for water breaks.

Fine dining at high altitudes

We stopped for lunch near a lake while we were still on the way up. Here's the group (left): Danny, Krasi, Jim, Irena (with her back to us), and Steve. And Jackie, of course, between Irena and Steve, as close to the food as possible.

Golyamoto Ezero
The last lake we passed on the way up was Golyamoto Ezero, or "The Big Lake." Here's a view looking back at the lake. By the way, it was just about this point when I ran out of gas. [I'm mentioning it here only because my fellow hikers won't let me forget it!] It was on a climb up to a pass high above the lake. Until about midway up the steepest part, I had been doing fine. No, really! But I wobbled the rest of the way up to the pass, finishing some 15 minutes behind the rest of the group.

Pausing at the 'Samodivska Porta'
The pass is the lowest point on the ridge, although it was a long steep climb up, followed by a long steep climb down. This point is called the Samodivska Porta. I could have spent the rest of the day resting here, but we had to move on eventually. Note that Irena decided to catch some rays. Meanwhile, I neglected to apply sunscreen. We both endured the same result a few days later, when our sunburned skin was falling off in great sheets.

It was another few hours before we reached the hizha, but I was too tired to take more photos along the way...sorry!

View from the hizha
"Bezbog" means "godless" in Bulgarian. The story is that a hizha located here was swept away by an avalanche years ago, so the peak from which the avalanche came, the lake the old hizha was swept into, and the new hizha were all named "Bezbog" in remembrance of this godless event. Or something like that. We met someone else who had a theory about a ancient god (bog in Bulgarian) named "Bez," but I have my doubts about that explanation for the name.

This photo (right) was taken from in front of the hizha, looking back at the trail we took to get there.

Across the lake to the old hizha
We spent the night, then the group left for a picnic lunch. I stayed behind with Jackie because her feet were sore from the trip. That's my story, anyway, and I'm sticking with it. We walked around the lake in front of the hizha, and I had Jackie pose for a few photos. Behind her here (left), you can see the remains of the old hizha. There's just a foundation; everything else was lost in the avalanche.

Across the lake to the new hizha
From the same spot, here's another photo looking across the lake at the new hizha. There were more people at Bezbog than I'd ever seen at a hizha before. That's because (1) the setting is so beautiful, and (2) the hizha is located at the top of a chair lift, so it's accessible to anyone, regardless of physical condition. Drive to the bottom of the lift, take a 20-30 minute ride up, and you're in the mountains.

In front of the new hizha
Here's a photo closer to the hizha. The ski lift drops off passengers right behind the building. When the group returned from the picnic, we took the ski lift down the hill (it's okay to take a lift down without feeling guilty, isn't it?), where a van was waiting for us to take us back to Bansko, a 30-minute ride away.

If anyone is interested in hiking on this route, drop me a line, and I can tell you about the trip logistics. And--who knows?--I might even be willing to take this hike again!

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