At long last, the new book has reached its final stages and the action has moved from the deserts of Iraq and Jordan to the icy mountains of Bulgaria. To the ski resort of Borovets, to be precise, which is 1350 metres (4430 feet) above sea level in the Rila Mountains, about 73 kilometres (45 miles) southeast of the capital, Sofia.
I was there about three or four years ago and took a load of pictures precisely so I had a feel and a flavour of the place for when I reached this stage of writing. It’s been very useful to look back over them now.
Take this shot, for instance, up a mountain in Borovets. I’d completely forgotten that, at somewhere around 7700 feet, for quite a lot of the time you were above the clouds, it was like looking down on a misty ocean.
In fact, the highest I went was 2369 metres (7772 feet). The highest peak locally was Mount Musala at 2925 metres (9600 feet).
The only way up is to take the gondola lift. I think the 1315m is the distance up it travels.
You certainly get the most amazing view as you slowly crank your way upwards. Not quite as much snow on the trees this far up, though – there had been too much sunshine that winter.
Down in the resort itself, though, there was the icing sugar coating effect on the trees, which was a beautiful sight.
Despite Borovets reputation as the booziest place to ski in Europe, there were plenty of entertainments for smaller visitors, like this mini dog-sled ride …
… or varying sizes of very small pony. I wasn’t quite sure about the handlebars and the horn, though.
|pic from SnowSphere.com|
And for the grown-ups, there was also the sleazier side to Borovets. Bars and the occasional strip club line the main street.
Hog roast is a traditional dish, and most of the restaurants had an outside spit going.
Also to keep the grown-ups happy were night snowmobile rides through the forest, which was an amazing experience and gave me all kinds of ideas.
As did some of the very unusual ‘souvenirs’ on offer in one of the local stores. Didn’t think I’d get any of this lot back to the UK on a plane. Not as carryon, anyway.
Outside the resort, the architecture had a very Soviet feel to it, like this apartment block on the outskirts of Sofia.
But elsewhere there were old tsarist palaces and places like this royal hunting lodge, the style and layout of which I have borrowed for plot purposes.
And I’ve also mixed in the location of this fortress at Veliko Tarnovo. That’s the nice thing about creating your own world, you can take reality and mess with it just enough to keep things believable. After all, we’re trying for realistic, rather than real.
This week’s Word of the Week is actually a list of words connected with snow, courtesy of the Encyclopedia Arctica from Dartmouth College Library:
Anniu – snow intended for melting into water for drinking or cooking
Apun – snow that’s been lying on the ground long enough that it can be cut into building blocks
Ballycadders – ice formed from salt-water along the shore at different levels depending on the state of the tide
Calf – a piece of ice that’s broken away from the front of a glacier or iceberg
Canopying – interlocking flakes of snow
Congelifraction – the shattering or splitting of rock due to the action of frost
Corn snow – grainy snow formed by cycles of freezing and thawing
Debacle – the break-up of ice in rivers in springtime
Duff – organic matter covering the ground in a forest, such as dead leaves, which helps preserve permafrost
Firnification – the process by which new snow becomes hard-packed glacial ice
Fonn – eternal snow