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Reading Room-Bliss in Beli Iskar << Back to list of articles
Fri 14 Jan 2005
In spite of its proximity to the overcrowded winter resort Borovets and the town of Samokov, the village of Beli Iskar still retains its quiet beauty and blissful peace and the feeling of being somewhere far, far away. Until it becomes part of the Super Borovets resort, a time that is fast approaching, many people are likely to stay “Beli what?” when I tell them that our party of nine spent a great three days there celebrating New Year.
My reaction was pretty much the same when this newspaper’s Editor-in-Chief was telling me about the good time he spent at the weekend home of friends of his in Beli Iskar. But I remembered the name of the place when, while looking for a place to spend the New Year holidays, I saw an ad on the website of Zig Zag travel agency for the Diva Reka house in Beli Iskar. With little hesitation, I booked the house for five with a tavern with a fireplace and negotiated for an additional four places in a neighbouring house. Our main concern was how to get there without a car, and I was assured by the travel agency that there were busses running regularly from Sofia to Samokov and from there to Beli Iskar, only seven km further, and that the roads are kept in good condition even in the winter. The other main concern, of course, was how we were going to eat, because the price included only a New Year dinner and drinks.
The travel agency told me that there were at least two taverns in the village, and that the hosts would be willing to cook for us for a negotiable additional fee. With this sorted out, we left Sofia on the morning of December 30, complete with snow gear, ski, red wine and good spirits. To our greatest delight, a few km after the Iskar dam on the road to Samokov, it became apparent that there would be lots of snow, nothing like the few hesitant snowflakes in Sofia. We found the house easily enough, and were welcomed by the hosts with cups of coffee and amiable smiles.
All of us were genuinely surprised (after all we are Bulgarians and tend to doubt everything) with the fact that the house was all we ever expected, and even more, with a bathtub, slippers and a set of clean new towels for everyone and a TV set with cable in each room. The mehana (tavern) in the cellar had a blazing fireplace, wooden panelling, a long wooden home-made table and old-style couches with cushions which could easily accommodate 10 to 12 people, a bar and a cupboard full of glasses and cups of all sorts. It turned out that the house was in the two-star category. We arranged for a dinner with the hosts and set off for Borovets with a cute little Citroen C2, which got stuck in the snow shortly after entering Borovets. The ski resort was overcrowded, noisy and rather kitsch, and we hurried to get back to the peace and quiet of Beli Iskar.
After a filling dinner and lots of bottles of wine, we went to bed. It turned out that the saying that in the mountains one gets very hungry and needs less sleep than usual was true, and we woke up early in spite of initial plans for sleeping late and lounging till noon. In spite of the low clouds and fog outside, we went for a walk and had a fight with snowballs in a big empty field behind the church at the edge of the village. We returned for lunch and an afternoon nap to prepare for the long night. The pleasant surprise was when I got an SMS from the Zig Zag travel agency wishing me a happy new year and informing me that in the event of problems, I could call the number of the person on duty.
The only problem we encountered was the rather stupendous amount of food our hosts had prepared. I managed through the appetizers, the salad, the fried trout with saute potatoes, the huge chunk of home made banitza with leek and cheese, the home made yoghurt, but could not make it through the three chicken steaks and left them for the following day. After the midnight toasts, wishes and horo (traditional circular dance), the old hosts, dyado Krum and baba Zdravka came down to the mehana to bring us a bottle of special home made rakia and to share a toast with us. In spite our best efforts to sleep late on the following day, most of us were up by 11am and had coffee in the lounge. In the afternoon we went to the yard of the house and made a snowman and his snow girlfriend, played with the two cats and the two dogs, had a walk and had dinner. At a certain point in the evening the electricity went off but we nonchalantly kept on playing cards by the light of the fireplace and a candle. On the following day the electricity was not back yet but we had to leave for Sofia anyway.
“And don’t you write bad things about us in the newspaper,” said dyado Krum, on finding out that I am a journalist