My plan was to dazzle Oriana from the beginning – with a hike to one of Bulgaria’s most beautiful places, the Seven Rila Lakes (Read my previous post about the Seven Rila Lakes and the Paneurhythmy rituals that take place there.)

Our friends Alex and Yoana joined us at my place around 8am, and we began the day with breakfast of champions: yoghurt, lutenitsa, bread with cheeses and meats, ayran (a drink made from yogurt, water, and salt), and my mother’s specialty: banitsa with cheese!

Getting our feet and hands exfoliated by small trout - natural SPA!

By 10 o’clock, we had met with Martin and Emi at Separeva Banya, and drove together to the lift at Chalet Pionerska. The 20-minute lift ride to hut Sedemte Ezera (Seven Lakes) was freezing, and at one point we could hardly see the seats in front of and behind us because of the fog.  Still, we were determined to conquer the lakes despite the weather, and set off towards the Dolnoto ezero (Lower lake), Ribnoto ezero (Fish Lake), and Bliznaka (the Twins lake).

Oriana is a high-school teacher of English Literature, and she was very surprised to learn how international my friends’ education is. Alex, Martin, and I graduated from the American high-school in Bulgaria, and currently study in universities in the States and England, and Yoana has just enrolled in Belgium. During our hike, we switched between English, Spanish, and Bulgarian, with occasional remarks in German coming from our polyglot Marto. I explained to my guest that an increasing number of young Bulgarians get their bachelor’s or master’s abroad. As part of the EU, we are allowed to study, work, and travel freely, and as true Europeans, many of us speak three, even four languages and love traveling to different countries.   

The weather turned out to be very favorable. Every time we reached a new lake, the fog moved away and allowed us to enjoy the view. We dipped our hands and feet in the Trilistnika lake (Three-leafed lake) and let a school of small trout exfoliate our skin (you’d pay a fortune for this in a SPA center!). We snacked on my mom’s banitsa and dried fruit near Bubreka (the Kidney lake), drank pure Rila water from a waterfall, and climbed the steep path to the two highest lakes, Okoto (the Eye) and Sulzata (the Tear). From the peak of the mountain, we saw the entire seven lakes and the opening where the followers of the White Brotherhood perform Paneurhythmy every year.  Had there been no fog, we would have seen the entire Sofia Valley and the Balkan Mountain Range.

The fog is moving away from the Kidney Lake, so that we can take pictures of it!

It took us about 3.5 hours going up and 1.5 hours coming down the mountain. On the way back, we stopped for juice and sandwiches in Separeva Banya, where we saw (and smelled the sulfur fumes of) the highest geyser in Bulgaria.

I thought that a day in nature will be a good introduction to Bulgaria, but this is only a little piece of what’s coming up.