Leaving Bulgaria, struggling with it, finding peace in the magical Strandzha National Park (October 2022)

After our wonderful hut tour, we arrived back in Varna. Artha started a yoga teacher training and I lived the city life in Rosinante right on the beautiful city beach.

Artha wanted to focus on the yoga teacher training and I could understand that very well. If I had been in her shoes, I thought, I’d have wanted to do the same thing. I lived on the city beach of Varna for a week and found a wonderful little beach that felt like a little natural paradise in the city life. Like a little oasis. I enjoyed living on the city beach and Artha and I met up occasionally. As I write this, it feels like at the time I was pushing far away any thoughts or feelings that might prevent me from enjoying that life. It feels like my love for Artha made me feel this way. I wanted to stay by her side. At least for my ego, that seemed to be the most important thing. And as I described in one of the previous posts, I lived that aspect of myself like anything else. I didn’t push Artha too hard, but I still told her how I felt. I never said it had to be how I felt, I just wanted to be pure and honest.

The yoga teacher training was intense and Artha felt like she couldn’t do it wholeheartedly, while at the same time wholeheartedly living the connection between us. She felt that our connection and the dynamic between us were of a very different kind of energy than this profound personal training. I absolutely felt the same way. Although I didn’t like it, we decided that it would be best for her to focus entirely on her training and for me to continue my nature and travel life. I didn’t like this. I felt that once we put some physical distance between us, it was far from certain that we’d see each other again. We both said that we’d like to see each other again when Artha finished her training, but deep down I doubted it. I just felt that she and I carried this brilliant impulse within us to live our respective lives as holistically as possible. Although my romantic love and ego wanted to stay by Artha’s side, I didn’t know if we’d meet again as I continued my journey. It just felt uncertain. Basically, it was like everything in life. Uncertain. Unstable. My ego just wouldn’t accept it. It was only soothed by the fact that the moment I left Varna, Artha and I were firmly convinced that we’d meet again in about two months.

From Varna, I drove to Strandzha National Park. On the way there, I felt torn. I still didn’t like putting distance between me and Artha, but at the same time it felt good and like I was following an inner urge to get going again. To go somewhere without a fixed destination. To go into nature. To stay as long as I want to. To do the things that feel brilliant to me. I remember riding Rosinante very fast down a dirt road that went through a forest, having a lot of fun. At one point, Rosinante even got a little air when she jumped over a small bump and the wheels squealed. Part of me felt free. When I thought about Artha, I felt like I was losing something.

The mountains in Strandzha are wonderful, magical and pure. I parked Rosinante right in the forest and spent all my days outside exploring nature. There were all sorts of things to explore: ancient ritual sites, shrines and all the marvelous and calm beauty of nature.

I felt wonderful, natural and free. And deep inside I suddenly realized that it’s like so many people say: when you let go of a loved one, you experience pure, deep, unconditional love. Not the romantic ego love that is craving for this and that and wants the person you love to make you happy. But the pure love that wants the person you love to be happy. That steps back and throws light into the blurry self-centered perspective of the romantic ego love. For me, there was no doubt that I wanted Artha to be happy and live what felt genuine to her in every moment. And for me, I wanted the same.

A wonderful mountain hut trip, beautiful views, and the ridge life in Bulgaria (October 2022)

Artha had the idea of spending a few days in the Bulgarian mountains: enjoying nature, hiking, chilling, and sleeping in the mountain huts. She wanted to show her brother the mountains, and when she asked me if I would like to accompany them, I was immediately enthusiastic about the idea.

We packed our backpacks and took two trains from Varna to Dobrinishte in the Pirin national park. For me, it was the first time I went hiking and mountaineering with a big backpack, and when we got on the train, I felt that I had taken too much stuff. The train was super cool. In Germany, it’s super rare to get a real train. A train that makes noises, rattles in its own beat over the rails, and lets its horn shout before it passes a street. And after we changed to the second train, it got even better! This one got really, really slow and crawled up the mountains at about 40 km/h or less through tight corners, forests, past cliffs and the views were fantastic. We saw a beautiful sunrise and the ten to eleven hour train ride felt like a good transition from the city to the mountains.

From Dobrinishte we hiked and hitched to the base of Mount Bezbog. When I had been on that mountain with Rosinante, I drove all the way to the Bezbog hut (open the post about that), and this time we hiked there. It was interesting to feel the difference between these two ways.

We planned to stay one night at the Bezbog hut, but since it was still quite early, we continued on our way to the Bezbog summit. I loved how easy and straightforward we made this change of plans. Lake Bezbog was as beautiful as I remembered and the weather was perfect. From Bezbog peak we went to Polezhan peak. And there we changed our plan and headed for Demyanitsa hut.

But instead of taking the main trails, we chose the more direct route. The view was breathtaking, but as time went by the path became more and more difficult and the trail markings became less and less. We climbed down over large rocks and loose, icy slopes. We lost the trail and it took us hours to cover a few kilometers. It felt exciting and super adventurous. But I noticed I was unfocused and slipped a little several times. Artha and her brother felt the same way, and we all felt the hours we had already hiked. But as the sunlight dimmed, we had done the tricky part and I felt very good. At this point, I felt super good with my big backpack. It almost felt like a part of me.

I had never hiked in the mountains in the dark before and felt like would prefer not doing it. But as darkness fell, it felt super easy and it was nice to explore the mountains in a different way. The sounds felt more intense and it was wonderful. When we arrived at the Demyanitsa hut, we were tired and super hungry. The hut seemed empty, but then we met a woman and were overjoyed to find the kitchen still in operation. The bean soup, the fries, and the bread tasted so good… At that point there could not have been any better.

After a refreshing and vital night, we continued our journey. The next destination was the Vihren hut. On the way there, I felt the connection between Artha and me change (as I described in the last post), but this time I felt very different about it. Instead of thinking and in a way telling myself that it’s all good, I felt pure compassion for her and me and a strong equanimity. Before it had been feeling like I was calming myself with thoughts on mental comments. Now it felt pure and loveful. I felt happy about it. Relieved and happy. But a part of me was desperate to share this new way that felt so healthy and good. And the person I most wanted to share it with, I couldn’t reach out to.

On our way to Vihren hut, we came along beautiful lakes, peaks, and trails, took breaks to meditate and the weather was still perfect.

The next morning, we got up very early before sunrise because the route we had planned was the longest of our mountain tour. I had never seen a sunrise while hiking up a peak. It was wonderful! The sun crept slowly over peaks, her light cast moving shadows on cliffs and slopes, and the colors and their changes were magnificent.

When I had been at Vihren summit on my own, there had been absolutely no view (open the post about it). This time we had a magnificent view and even better, our route took us to a neighboring peak where we had a gorgeous view of the rock face of Vihren Peak that I loved so much. From there, we took a route along the most beautiful ridge I’ve ever seen. I love ridges and hiking on them. This one was fantastic!

Our route took us down the mountain to Yavorov hut, where we spent our last night in the mountains. The next day we hiked to Razlog and spent some time there until our first train would leave. There, a funny thing happened. It seemed to me that Artha was opening towards me again, but I still had the impression that she was looking for a fight or something. It was strange, but interesting. In the end, we had a fight. But a completely over-the-top, silly one that was more fun than anything else. And it felt liberating and compassionate. And again there was this transformation of heavy energy into something else.

We took the slow train down the mountains and it was super cool again. On the train that took us back to Varna, we slept for most of the ride.

All the days of this trip I felt super fit and like I could go on and on. I thought about what it would be like to travel with a mule again.