…and it’s all Mark’s fault!

One of the main attractions here in Sofia is to go about 10 kilometers (6.6 miles for you Americans) out of town and take a ski lift up to the top of Mount Vitosha. You can see this mountain from our balcony:


We really wanted to do this before it got too cold. So, Mark asked his partners how to get there, and they said to just show a taxi driver the map and point to the area of the ski lift. Make sure to point at the right lift—there are two, one that is just the little chair and one that is a gondola.

No problem, we thought. So, on a Sunday morning we set out to take a taxi. Mark showed the man where we wanted to go, negotiated a price, and we were off! After a pretty short taxi ride, the man dropped us off on the side of a road. Now this was a main road, but there seemed to be little around it. We tried to ask him where the ski lift was, but he just waved his hand, collected his money, and left.

Well how hard can it be to spot a gondola? I mean, really! We started making all our funny jokes about being on the Amazing Race and where were the little gold and red markers indicating we were on the right path? hahaha. We walked up a little mountain road and began our search for large cables that would lead up the mountain, you know, possibly carrying bright orange gondolas. But we couldn’t see any. What we could see, though, was a huge, fancy hotel out in the middle of nowhere. So we went in to ask for directions.

Mark kept saying, “We are trying to get to the gondolas”. I muttered, “They don’t understand the word gondola, try to use the word ‘lift’”. But no, he insisted on using the word gondola, trying to show with his hands how a gondola would head UP the mountain. They just looked at him. I kept muttering the word lift. Finally Mark used the word lift, as if it had magically popped into his brain. And magically, they understood. Harumph! The lady said something about going back to the main road, turn left before the center of town and a river will be on your left and cross the river, or something like that. I felt we had all the necessary information—go left, cross a river, don’t go past the center of town.

I should have known better than to think I would understand the “center of town”. I foolishly expected there to be a TOWN. But there was a bus stop, a hidden restaurant and a snack shop. Later, we would learn that this area was indeed the center of town.

So, we walked on the main road. Lo and behold! There was a bright orange gondola!
(Look closely, you can see the orange gondola!)
Eureka, we thought! Even though we wasted all that time with the lift/gondola confusion, we were surely headed the right way and we could beat the other teams if we just hurried up! We turned left (remember?The lady said left! For sure this was the right way!) and headed down a small road. The gondolas were even above our heads. At this point, we praised our own navigational skills. Lesser humans would have never figured out to turn down this path. Muhahahah!(Think evil Austin Powers laugh here.) We were skipping along when we realized our little road was quickly becoming a farm road, and then even more quickly, becoming….A DEAD END. There seemed to be no way to reach the gonodolas from this road. So, we headed back up it. I thought I should just try to jump on one, Superman style:


Then we went back down the main road. We looked down each little road but Mark kept saying, “I can’t see the end. This must not be it”. Who was I to argue? Should I point out that if a road turns, you can no longer see the end? Or dare I say that if a road begins to head down a hill, you may not see the end? Well, yes, I dared say it. I DID say it, several times. But we continued to head down the main road, AWAY from the gondolas, AWAY from the river. I pointed out that the other teams in our imaginary Amazing Race were beating us now. His grand plan was to head down the main road, find a taxi that would take us directly to the lift gondola.

Yeah, because that plan worked so well the first time.

After a good half hour of walking IN THE WRONG DIRECTION, Mark found another hotel and asked for directions. Turns out…we were headed in the wrong direction. You don’t say? And, oh yeah, the lady said no taxis or buses go straight to the lift. We would have to walk BACK THE OTHER WAY and take the little road by the church. You know, the road Mark couldn’t see the end of? That one? Yeah, that one.

So, we hiked back up to where we had just come from, found the church, turned left and went to…ANOTHER DEAD END. At this point, I gave up on winning the million dollars.

But, look closely…is it really a dead end? I mean there was that little dirt path covered up by weeds and knee-high brush. Aha, the road continued here:


through a meadow, a construction site,


and a rocky path, to end up at the base of the gondolas. And look, just look!, what we saw when we got there:




Yes, folks…cabs DO indeed come right to the base. And so do cars, buses and even horses. I mean, you didn’t really believe that during ski season, people cut down brush and trounce through a snowy meadow just to get a ride up the mountain, did you? That would just be silly!


Upon our arrival at the pit stop base, that skinny, blonde Australian host of the Amazing Race stood next to a Bulgarian folk dancer and informed us, “Mark and Kristy, you are the last to arrive. I’m sorry you have both been eliminated”. And that was how we lost the Amazing Race. Like I said, it was all Mark’s fault. Just don’t ask him his version….


**Oh…you want to know about the mountains? You mean, what did we do when we got there? Well, that’s a whole other story…