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Bulgaria's Bansko Named Balkan Winter Capital
Bansko, Bulgaria's biggest ski resort, has been named the winter capital of the Balkans at an international tourism exhibition in the Serbian town of Novi Sad.<< Back to list of articles
The little town bordering Pirin National Park, about 160 kilometers south of Bulgaria's capital Sofia, offers a stark but nice contrast between the cobbled streets and churches of the old town and hundreds of millions of euros poured into hotels, ski runs and bright blue gondola bubbles in its modern part.
Supervising all this is the roughly 2,800-meter Todorka peak.
The formerly off-the-beaten-path destination has recently gone mainstream, but it is very rarely that tourists see the vistas doom-sayers warn against - construction cranes and gaudy mutrobaroque hotels, favored by the nouveau riche and organized crime mobsters, known as mutri, with which they try to prove their wealth.
Tourists need to spend no more than 25 euros a night in those hotels, which exemplify Bansko's ambitions best – quite chic, but without the ridiculous attempts to be consmopolitan often found at Bulgarian resorts.
The old town, where the prices are lower even than the capital Sofia, is a collection of ski and souvenir shops with cozy, dimly lit taverns and restaurants. It is not unusual to see an entire lamb or pig roasting on a spit in front of one of the eateries.
The alternatives are the pubs, frequented by British, Irish and Greek tourists, who, together with the Russians, have until recently been the driving force of Bansko's prosperity.
Critics say Bansko was built to meet the standards of not that wealthy tourists, who do not bring lots of money to the country. As the global crisis bit, however, the number of these tourists, who out of fears for their jobs, decided to skip the holidays altogether, drastically decreased.
Bansko's long-term attraction will be limited, unless what is on offer complies with the highest standards, they say.