Bulgaria’s Hat Trick in SCIJ

Pamporovo comes after Sofia/Vitosha in 1985 and Bansko 2006

Bulgaria is hosting now for a third time the Annual Winter SCIJ Meeting after Sofia/Vitosha in 1985 and Bansko- 2006.

Probably few of you still remember the cold winter of 1985 when Sofia and Vitosha Mountain welcomed nearly 200 journalists-skiers from all over Europe and North America.

There is enough snow for skiing in Vitosha Mountain even in mid-April. At the background is Vitosha’s highest peak – Cherni vrax (Black summit), 2290 m

For me it was my first encounter with the big SCIJ family. I was really happy to be accepted in it so cordially and so I will never forget the 31st SCIJ Meeting in Sofia/Vitosha. Most of the colleagues were visiting Bulgaria for the very first time and were really surprised that they could go skiing at an altitude of 2000 m above sea level in just 35-40 minutes from their New Otani Hotel downtown in Bulgaria’s capital.

It was bitter cold during that February week of 1985. Bulgaria was undergoing a severe energy crisis that led to periodical electric power cut off.  At the start of the cross country race e.g. the temperature was 27 degrees Celsius below zero?!  In spite of all that, in spite of the still East-West divided world, Sofia SCIJ Meeting-1985 was one of the warmest in terms of friendliness and high spirits.  Live music, singing and dancing all the time, even at lunchtime in Vitosha mountain, interesting round-tables and heated discussions. Michele Rochat, a long-time SCIJ Secretary General, has commented: “Sofia meeting itself has been a total success of the journalists, striving for peace and understanding between the peoples….. “ Nobody present could forget the folklore evening and dinner in the village of Novi han, near Sofia, drinking hot plum brandy as a starter in the open in the chilly night or skiing together with Peter (Pepi) Popangelov – the world known Bulgarian skier in Borovets, Rila Mountain.

The Bulgarian Dream Team – Bansko 2006

SCIJ ”white caravan” visited Bulgaria again in 2006 under completely different socio-political conditions, after the dramatic changes in the whole of Eastern Europe. Our colleagues discovered Bansko, a new and rapidly developing winter resort. The Almighty God was with us – blue sky, bright sun, deep snow and no….wind, though in midwinter- January-February. Over 200 participants in the 52nd Annual Meeting were fascinated by the gorgeous panorama of the snow-covered peaks of Pirin Mountain -a UNESCO World Heritage site, the modern winter sports facilities: cable car, chair- and drag lifts, beautiful slopes and our Alberto Tomba competition ski run –named after the great Italian, who himself is a frequent visitor to Bansko. Not to mention the delicious food typical for that part of Bulgaria. In Bansko namely, during the General Assembly Miguel Aquiso of Switzerland was elected SCIJ President. All our SCIJ friends were so enthusiastic about their new discovery- Bansko, that the press-book about the meeting became as big as …The Bible?!  As a result this winter resort opened up also for new tourist partner lands, like Israel and Turkey. The Holy Land sent even a year later their own ski teachers, speaking Hebrew.

At the start of Tomba!

And now in 2018 we are so glad to welcome our colleagues from 30 countries  in the 85-year-old resort of Pamporovo in the very heart of the Rhodope Mountains, believed to be the birthplace of the mythical Thracian singer Orpheus. Pamporovo is famous for its mild climate, abundant snowfalls and great number of sunny days in winter. And what else? Please, let us surprise you, dear friends!

Borislav (Bobby) KOSTOURKOV – participant in all these three events