Friday, May 30, 2014

To Bansko

Plovdiv to Bankso by train, certainly one of the top regular (not a tourist train) routes in the world. At Septemvri, 90 minutes west of Plovdiv, we change to a narrow gauge (diesel) and for the next 5 hours head more or less south up to Bansko at 1000 meters above sea level.

Not only is there never ending great mountain scenery starting with a narrow gorge and ending with towering snow capped peaks, but after Velingrad the local Muslim population uses the train like a local bus. Ladies wrapped in colorful smocks and scarfs carrying their Billa bags and satchels full of vegetables sit in pairs engaging each other in soft serious conversations while periodically checking their cell phones for messages. Cows and sheep graze at the the stations.

A group of 4 men also get on at Velingrad. They plop into facing benches behind us and out comes a deck of cards. The first two hands are played before the train pulls out of the station. They are loud and odoriferous as well. SL threatens to move cars but instead puts in her earplugs. The men are obviously locals and after a few stations the four are now one.

Down the aisle in the other direction a man sits down with his 2L bottle of beer and plastic cup. He's joined by a friend.

The conductor wears all black. A long sleeved black tee. Sharp.

Just before Yokoruda there is a thunderstorm but no one seems concerned. We see railroad tracks below and think our train may have come from down there. Tunnels.

There is a mosque with shining copper domes. And now, each small town has a mosque and maybe a nesting stork. Timber country.

After more than hour of serious tete-a-tete arm touching, nodding ascent, head leaning conversation, the two head-scarfed ladies across the aisle suddenly turn ask us where we are going and where we are from and where is SL from. Vietnam? SL pulls out her tablet dictionary. Kitaĭski. Chinese.

The older lady prepares to get off. She takes all her bundlees up to the seat right next to the exit. When she gets off the younger one hands her bundles down. Practiced.

The younger one sits now by herself and smiles at us and talks to heavy buxom woman with head scarf who gets on with a sleeping boy.

The younger one now gets off and is replaced by a plain  woman with a head scarf, two daughters and a son. Her older daughter in western clothes. Her younger daughter could be from Anywhere, USA with straighten hair, sexy outfit with one bare shoulder, makeup, long lashes, and professional jabs and taps to her mobile.

We see the mountains and Bansko in the distance. They get off at Razlog. The car is all ours.

We get off in Bansko just after the "Golf Course" sign.

On the train to Bansko, Bulgaria

On the train to Bansko, Bulgaria

On the train to Bansko, Bulgaria

On the train to Bansko, Bulgaria

On the train to Bansko, Bulgaria

On the train to Bansko, Bulgaria

On the train to Bansko, Bulgaria

On the train to Bansko, Bulgaria



Kathy said...

Sounds like a great ride!

john said...

Kathy, Yes! The kind of ride I like with both scenery and people watching.