Legend has it that Vitosha and Lyulin mountains were named after two shepherds, female and male, who were deeply in love. Vita was singing from the top of the “Big ridge” and Lyulin was accompanying her song with his fiddle from the “Long ridge”. They had never met before, still they wanted to be together. When Vita came of age, young men from near and far were coming to ask for her hand. However, she always declined as she longed to marry Lyulin. Her mother got tired of seeing Vita refuse to tie the knot with so many excellent gentlemen. In her anger, the mother cursed her daughter and Lyulin to turn into stone. Nowadays, the ridges bear the names of the young shepherds. The summit where Vita turned into black stone is known as Black peak.
On the 27th of August, 1895 the highest peak of Vitosha mountain was reached by a group, formed by Aleko Konstantinov, an acclaimed Bulgarian writer. This excursion is considered the beginning of organised tourism in the country.
On the 17th of January, 2015, I saw Black peak, covered under layers of white snow. I hiked up in winter, like over 300 other participants, who were here to pay homage to the writer only a few days after his birthdate. The route had some difficult parts where I got to practise falling on ice, sliding on ice and maneuvers to dodge others who were sliding down. There was also a long section where I also had to walk against strong winds. I hadn’t dealt with such meteorological conditions since going to the store during a hurricane storm in Glasgow back in 2011.
Nothing can compare to the feeling of reaching the top as a winter wonderland uncovers in front of your eyes. You forget that you’re tired, cold, hungry, and you stop to gaze around. Aleko has described this feeling with great precision: “Passions and worries die, the soul gets calm and speechlessly looking around fills your heart with bliss.”
On the way back we started chatting to a group of elderly people. Bogomila and Bogomil were well over 60. When I asked if they were married, the lively man replied: “We’re not married, but that’s our fifth honeymoon on Black peak since last December!”
It was over 120 years ago since the writer urged all citizens of the capital to get away from the smoke in the cafés and the dust on the streets. The author promises that by hiking up Black peak: “you will transform, you will become better, healthier, more balanced and more cheerful.”
If you were to meet this curious couple, you will see for yourself that his words were true. Explore the mountain paths, you might come across a buoyant old man and a smiling old lady, walking towards their next honeymoon.