Monday, 18 December 2017

Kom Emine Trail: Conclusion and tips

Did I like this trail? Yes, a lot! It is very for a mountain trail in Europe to stay up on the crest for such a long time - with hardly any road walks! Views were spectacular although I missed a lot due to bad weather. Would I recommend it to a friend? Yes, of course - I think this truly is a hidden gem! Still you will need a sense of adventure - very few people speak English and everythings is in Kyrillic. Plus this is the poorest country in the EU ...

But logistics are a lot easier than you would expect! First of all there is an excellent brandnew English guidebook. Although regular OSM maps for Bulgaria are ok, you can download fantastic hiker specific maps for free here. Low cost airlines fly all year round to Sofia from where you can easily reach Berkovitsa and the start of the trail. In summer season you can fly back from Varna or Burgas - or take a bus or train back to Sofia. Just try to figure out what your destination looks like in Kyrillic or you might end up in the wrong bus ...

Trail marking is quite good in the Western part. In the Easter half you should have a GPS with you to avoid getting lost. It helps to walk from West to East - other hikers have complained that the trail marking is worse the other direction. Technically the trail is very easy - only one bit in the middle part requires steel cables and climbing but there is an alternative route around it.
Water is not a big issue on Kom Emine. There are plenty of springs along the trail which are also marked in the guidebook or on the OSM maps - you just have to plan ahead a bit. I never carried more than three litres and never treated my water.

I liked the restaurant food in Bulgaria - especially this sort of raised pastry for breakfast!
Bulgaria is also heaven for coffee drinkers - there are coffee machines in every big. Biggest national specialty is soft feta cheese which you will get for breakfast, grated over your French Fries and of cours in Shopska Salad. Expect to be offered Raki schnapps a lot ... At the end of my trip I had some of the best sea food ever at the Black Sea Coast! In all but very cheap restaurants there is a bilingual or English menu. The translation is usually very creative but at least you get a vague idea of what you are ordering.

When it comes to hiker food though your choices are usually dire! Along the trail you will only find very small shops but at least they usually stock Milka chocolate and cheap but rather good biscuits. Granola is hard to find and normally not very good. You will get cheese and/or sausage with crackers as a could meal. It is almost impossible to find the typical dehydrated pasta meal mixes. I therefore ate spaghetti with tomato sauce out of a packet for several weeks. You will survive, but don't expect any luxury. And I hope you like spaghetti ...

On Kom-Emine you can walk from mountain hut to mountain hut which makes even a winter hike easy - plus there is a waymarked winter route. Most huts also offer some sort of food. I stayed in only two huts and both were basic, but adequate and cheap. But cleanliness and friendliness vary a lot and you never know what you will get. I therefore camped most of the time which is very easy. When in a town or village I stayed in a hotel - and all them were excellent! For around 25 - 30 EUR you will get top notch Western quality including free Wifi. Cell phone reception was surprisingly good even on the crest far away from bigger cities!

There are some Bulgarian "specialties" you will have to get used to: Showers have no curtain - so after taking a shower bathroom floor and toilet seat will be wet - plus your toilet paper ...
There are obituaries plastered everywhere because Bulgarians do this not only for their recently deceased but also to commemorate anniversaries. And one last good news: Other than Romania there are hardly any aggressive dogs!

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