Don't Go there! Don't support The Mafia!
Mon 24 November 2008 by Bai
Did you know that Bansko was illegal?
The full report “Bansko ski zone: Crime against UNESCO site” can be downloaded from: http://www.bluelink.net/savepirin/REPORT_PIRIN.pdf
Bulgaria property boom has environmental cost 29.10.2007 By Anna Mudeva
BANSKO, Bulgaria, Oct 29 (Reuters) - The citizens of Bansko, a ski resort in Bulgaria's Pirin mountains, are selling their land with gusto to buy fancy cars and replace communist-era furniture.
The same is true of other mountain resorts, as well as Bulgaria's Black Sea coast, as foreigners snap up cheap second homes, sending the price of resort and farming land to 250 euros a square metre from just 20 euros five years ago.
But this growth comes at a cost. The once idyllic little town with cobblestone streets and traditional architecture, which in the 1980s was popular among skiiers and hikers from the former Soviet bloc, has changed beyond recognition.
It is now crammed with concrete hotels. Roads are damaged, infrastructure is insufficient and pressure over water resources grows.
Dozens of ageing, roaring trucks carry concrete and bricks over unpaved tracks to Bansko's mushrooming new districts. Dust and huge cranes mar the view to the mountain.
"Our beautiful Bansko has been spoiled. Look at all these blocks and buildings," said 83-year-old Danka Spaseva, who has lived in Bansko through world war and communism.
The cost also includes corruption, illegal land deals and construction of ski pistes involving local officials and property developers.
"Corruption is rampant. The state has abdicated its functions to exercise control and the rule of law," said Ivan Sirleshtov, 60, a member of a local civil group to fight graft.
"Bansko is being built in a very barbaric, outrageous way. There is no urban planning whatsoever," said Sirleshtov, who once published newspaper ads to lure tourists to his town.
The tale of Bansko is a microcosm of the property boom in mountain resorts and along Bulgaria's Black Sea coast, where corporate appetites grow and laws, rules and environment protection are often compromised.
The promise of high profits after the Balkan country joined the European Union in January has lured investors from Britain, Ireland and Russia to buy property at a fraction of the price they would have to pay in Spain or France.
Pristine nature and sunny weather in what was once the favourite holiday destination for former communist countries are also strong magnets.
Visitors are amazed to discover that Bulgaria, relatively unknown in the West, has 220 km (137 miles) of Black Sea beaches, and its mountains boast 130 peaks over 2,000 metres (6,560 feet) with excellent skiing and hiking.
But the flourishing corruption means many hotels, holiday homes and other investments are built on illegally acquired land or without necessary permits.
"In all too many cases, foreign investors from Great Britain and other countries are silent accomplices," environmental group WWF said in an article aiming to raise awareness among buyers.
Real estate agents in Bansko say many foreigners buy property via the Internet and try to rent it without ever visiting the resort.
The names of politicians, businessmen, and even criminal groups who invest in real estate and bypass the law are an open secret in Bulgaria, but court charges are very rare.
The EU has repeatedly criticised Bulgaria for its ineffective judiciary and lack of vigour in fighting graft.
"For a mayor or a town architect, the more construction there is, the more bribery opportunities exist," said Toma Belev, who heads the association representing Bulgaria's nature parks.
In many cases, mayors give away construction permits before roads, sewage and water infrastructure are in place.
The mayor of Bansko, who has issued over 400 construction permits, had to impose a two-year building moratorium this summer because of lack of infrastructure.
The rush for quick profits is also affecting quality.
Over 130 foreign holiday makers were evacuated when the roof of their newly built hotel in the Black Sea resort of Golden Sands collapsed in September. Such incidents are not isolated.
NATURE PARKS TARGETED
Property developers are now casting their eyes on Bulgaria's protected areas.
Conservation groups that have repeatedly challenged the construction of ski facilities in Bansko, say half of them were built illegally on the territory inside the Pirin Nature Park, a UNESCO world heritage site.
Several consecutive governments, which made tourism a priority, have promised to crack down on illegal building but little has been done in practice.
"It is very difficult to exercise control at this stage," said Valeri Vulchinkov of the Environment Ministry.
But some note that external factors may put a damper on development.
Bansko was unable to fill its 100,000-bed tourist capacity last winter, as unusually warm weather brought too little snow, while over the summer Black Sea resorts many hotels were unfilled and suffered a sharp drop in revenue.
Thu 3 January 2008 by Tommo
This was my second week of boarding so was just starting to get the swing of things after a slow start in Borovets the previous year. We went over new year which was an unusual experience - at midnight all the locals went outside and started shooting pistols and shotguns into the air!!
bansko mixes a nice old town with modern ski facilities. I have read reviews stating that the new gondala to the slopes eliminates the ques - but everyday we had to que for over an hour to get on the stupid things. the slopes were ok for us beginners - not much for the advanced riders. General snow coverage was good - apart from the ski road back to the village - we attempted it one day only to find out that the last 3k didnt have any snow meaning a long trek with a borad on your shoulders at the end of the day!!!
food and drink in all bulgarian resorts is cheap so eating out each night is not a problem - i also picked some cheap snowboarding gear too!
all in all a great cheap holiday for intermediates and beginners - little there for experts. if you are expecting the lap of luxury ecerywhere you go then go to france or usa. if you like some shabby back country charm then this is good!!
one major down side is the 4 hour long transfer there on potholed roads. Bulagrian craftmanship leaves a lot to be desired too - our brand new apartments were falling apart at the hinges - and there was a distinct lack of hot water in the building!!!
If you can put up with the inadequacies - this is a good fun place to visit - enjoy the cheap steaks and cheap beer!!
Sat 8 October 2005 by Jake6The government has recently spent something like 30M euros updating the resort and they are now FIRST CLASS (without the cues!). Well-groomed slopes, a great efficient and modern lift infrastructure, 44 Technoalpine snow cannons, and lots of excellent snow. In Bansko you get excellent ski conditions and and the atmosphere of a quaint Bulgarian country village.
Lots of runs for all levels. For the youngsters there are two childrens ski lifts, a kindergarten for small children, a special children's ski run, a 'ski-roundabout', a children's slalom course, and a ski-through tunnel.
The ski school has 100 licensed instructors offering training in various languages. There's lots of great info at:-
advise on bansko
Thu 17 March 2005 by tom31went mid feb and snow was the best they had in 20 years, which ment very good skiing, however having to dig the lifts out ech morning took about an hour which could hav been done b4 we got on the mountain!!
after a much needed development this site is very much OUT OF DATE! the ski area as tripled and 80% of the runs are covered by snow cannons, (not needed when i went). there was over 200 cms of snow!
very good village run (12 km) which ended the day very nicly.
this resort has two blacks and both not that hard, howeva lots of great off peiste when the snows right!
had a great time and i recomend it to any1... o and the prices ARE BLOODY LOW!
Wed 17 March 2004 by TazfiendWe just came back from a great holiday in Bansko, staying at the Hotel Bansko, booked through Balkan Holidays (www.balkanholidays.co.uk). The following are my personal opinions:
Slopes: limited for advanced but okay for the rest of us (for one week - not enough variety for two). Pistes fairly well managed, although after fresh snow they got pretty chopped up before the piste bashers got round, after which there was some lovely groomed snow to carve up. Best of all it's very quiet, we actually got annoyed on Friday when we had to queue for almost five minutes! On the down side the best slopes for learners are on the far side from the gondola and the only ways back are a track with big flats to walk, or down the (reddish) black run!
Off-piste: excellent and easily accessible powder and tree runs for mere mortals like me (helped by the dump we had at the beginning of the week). I'm told that there is excellent off-piste for the more advanced as well, also easily accessed from the lifts. I looked over the edge and decided life was still too good!
Food: in the Hotel Bansko the food was pretty good, once you got used to the Bulgarian way of serving (i.e. luke warm). Plenty of meat and veg and a huge number of ways of serving potatoes - all good. Nice pastries for breakfast too. In fact the food in the hotel was so good we never ate in town, but I'm told by others that the food in the Tavernas was excellent. Food on the slopes is excellent, especially over the far side from the gondola, and about £4 for a main course and a coke.
Booze: dirt cheap and plentiful, as long as you stick to the local brews. Shomansko beer (I ain't trying the local spelling! ) is pretty good and 2.5leva in the hotel bar (about 80p). Prices in town are lower and the shops sell 0.5l bottles of brandy good enough for a nip on the chairlift, and for sticking in your hot chocolate, for only £1.50! (For the smokers the local fags are quite good and 60p a packet). Don't expect smiles from