If your heart pumps adrenaline instead of blood, consider Bulgaria as your next winter destination. It’s not all about skiing and ice climbing, though. The small Balkan country will offer your adventurous soul a deeper experience – like dancing in the waters of ice-cold rivers – and that’s just the beginning. Read on.
From world-class ski resorts with snow parks to exciting off-piste opportunities, Bulgaria is one of the best undiscovered ski destinations in Europe. Besides skiing, you can shop around at the ski resorts and find your new favorite adventure shushon (traditional woolen socks woven by the Bulgarian grannies, which they insist that you wear almost year-round because you are always in danger of getting a cold).
Or rather, on the morning of January 6, when despite the frosty, teeth-chattering weather, hundreds of Bulgarian men all over the country ignore their instincts of self-preservation and swim only in their swimming trunks in the icy water of rivers, lakes, and seas. The reason for this is an old Orthodox tradition recreating the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River. Yet, this is not for the fainthearted, because winters in Bulgaria are sometimes so appropriate for polar bears that the locals say, “Even a stone cracks from the cold.”
Here’s another Bulgarian winter tradition to warm you up with dances following the sound of the tapan (the local drums): Kukeri. In many villages across the country, Kukeri are the people who dance to scare the evil spirits away and make space for the spring. There’s a catch, though – you should wear a scary, hairy, furry, animal horn-topped mask on your face and no less than 100 kg. (220 lb.) of bells on your waist. From January 1 to mid-March.
Sometimes you need a break from your daily routine, and what is a better change than trying your hand (and feet) at ice climbing? The busiest frozen waterfall in winter is called Skakavitsa, and the best thing to do is to sign up for a one-day course even if you are a beginner with no previous experience.
And if you want to delve deeper into the weird and wonderful life of Bulgarians, read 5 Traditions Only Bulgarians can Understand.