Mike and Diane Wilson -
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Here are some photographs taken in the Bansko area of Bulgaria during the last two weeks of June 2010.

Camera: Canon 500D DSLR, with 18-55 and 75-300 zoom lenses.

This bear is now at peace in the Brigitte Bardot Foundation's Dancing Bear Park at Belitsa in Bulgaria. Taken from a life of cruelty with gypsies who made the bears dance via torture, several bears are free to roam a huge area in the high mountains. You have to be determined to reach the sanctuary as the road is long and needs first gear most of the way due to the poor road surface.

For more information about the park, go to http://www.four-paws.org.uk/website/output.php?id=1242&idcontent=2224&language=1



The white building is the Bojurland Hotel complex in Bansko. To the left, behind the trees, are four apartment blocks to cater for the hundreds of holidaymakers who come to Bansko to ski. In June, the town is very quiet.



Blue sky, white clouds, mountains and an apartment. What more do you need? Apart from some snow!

One of Bansko's squares.

The Gladzne river, which flows through the town from the mountains.

In one of the many parks in Bansko.

The Glazne river with a backdrop of apartment blocks and hotels, with the Pirin mountains behind.

The rushing Glazne river.

The tower of Saint Trinity Church in the town centre.

The wide valley beyond Bankso on the way to Kovachevitsa, en excursion provided by Mitch and Co in Bankso. Details: www.mitch-transferbg.com.

The narrow cobbled streets of Kovachevitsa.

One of the many odd-shaped buildings in Kovachevitsa.

A scene in one of the many villages visited on one of the tours we took.

The Pirin mountains soar over Bansko. Note the multitude of wild flowers and grasses left to grow on all the waste ground.

In spring 2010, the Glazne overflowed its banks and caused havoc in this row of buildings.

One of the up-to-date hotels which have been developed in Bansko to cope with thousands of skiers in the season.

 Another wild area left to attract wildlife.

This is Razlog, a small town a few kilometres from Bansko. There were many attractive streets and buildings and a beautiful park.

We took a ride on the pedalos and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. When leaving the boat, however, I realised I'd lost the key to the apartment in Bankso. Panic! We took a taxi back to Bojourland but within an hour the lock have been replaced and all it cost us was five lev, about the cost of a couple of coffees.

This is a view of part of Rila Monastery, taken on a trip from Bansko. The monastery has some lovely paintings on the walls and ceiling of the church.

It is said that the monastery was founded by St Ivan of Rila and it was built by his pupils. He lived not far away with a cave with no material possessions.







Diane examines local craft on a stall in the street.

This magnificent statue is in Vazrazdane Square in Bansko.











After our visit to Rila Monastery, the guide took me to a church in the hills, some way beyond the monastery. This little church is dedicated to St Ivan, who was a hermit who lived in the hills. Close by is a hole in the rocks where, if you can wriggle and scramble your way though, your sins are left behind. You then drink from the mountain spring. You try to find a stone with a cross on it (nearly all stones could be said to do this - you just need faith!). Wash the stone in the spring and keep it. It will protect you for ever. You can then touch the rock where St Ivan offered up his prayers.

I don't believe a word of this, of course, but if others believe and it works then I'm cleansed of all my sins. Can't be bad!

Just after I emerged from the hole, two young couples followed. Their photographs were emailed to them in Sofia on our return from holiday. I hope they had as much reward from visiting the resting place of St John as I did.


Mike Wilson