Our anniversary on Mt. Musala

On the way up the hill in the cabin lift
August 1, 1999, was our one-year anniversary. How did we celebrate? Well, remember our lifestyle...no expensive restaurants or resorts for us! We decided to spend the weekend climbing Bulgaria's highest peak, Musala (say it, "moo-sa-LA"). Musala is the highest peak on the entire Balkan peninsula, at 2,925.40 meters (that's about 9,597 feet, 9 inches) above sea level. BTW, the second-tallest peak in southeastern Europe is Mt. Olympus in Greece, at 2,919 meters. Anyway, we began our trip on Saturday by driving to the mountain resort town of Borovets, about 100 kilometers south of Sofia. Borovets is the most luxurious ski resort in Bulgaria, but ultra-cheap by Western standards, so the town is overrun by budget ski tourists from the UK and Germany every winter, but it's very quiet during the summer. We parked the car and took a cabin lift to the top of the ski trails, about 2,300 meters above sea level.

Preparing to climb the peak
From the end of the lift, we walked about an hour over an easy trail to arrive at hizha Musala. Hizha Musala did have electricity and a small cafe/canteen where we spent Saturday evening, then we slept in some rough tourist beds. The weather was foggy and cloudy on Saturday; we could see barely 50 meters from the hizha in all directions when we arrived. But Sunday morning was much clearer. Bright sun, and barely a cloud in the sky. We left the hizha early and followed the marked trail to the peak, about 600 vertical meters above the hizha. The walk was strenuous, although not extremely difficult, and we reached the peak around 11:30 a.m.

Rich and Rali with The Prez
The view was spectacular in all directions. We were looking around and taking photos, when two men climbed up to the peak from a different route. One looked familiar somehow...yes, it was Petar Stoyanov, the President of Bulgaria (say his name, "PET-ur sto-YAN-ov", not "PEET-er STOY-an-ov")! We chatted with him for a little while (he remarked that my Bulgarian was better than his English--Bulgarians who've heard me speak the language may beg to differ!), and his bodyguard took a few photos of us as a group, including this one.

Looking down from the peak
After about 20-30 minutes at the peak, the clouds rolled in and the views disappeared. We had a picnic lunch, then headed back down the mountain. Just as we reached the car, the rain started. Not a drop on the trail, though--we were lucky. All in all, it was a wonderful weekend. And in direct contrast to the sweltering 35-plus degree temperatures (95-plus Fahrenheit) of last August 1, we enjoyed the cool 5-degree (about 41 F) night at high altitude a year later. Here's one more photo from the peak, looking down at the trail we used.

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