Negative equity?

property

I used to think the slump in the Bansko property market was a natural rebalancing after the Bansko property bubble burst. However the regular complaints of estate agents this winter seem to indicate otherwise. A more sinister force is at work. The fixed price commission. As prices for Bansko Apartments plummeted in 2008 and 2009 agents managed to convince desperate sellers that percentage commission was no longer acceptable and thus fixed commissions. No longer was the main driving force the price of the property but now it just came down to VOLUME! The more apartments we can sell the better, and the easiest way to shift a lot of product? You guessed it, sell ’em cheap!  So the sales pitch now is double edged, to the seller “the market is very depressed, we are only getting sales for property around the 300 euro/m2 range” to the buyer “Buy now properties are at record low prices”  and the only winner? Yup you guessed right again, the agent.

 

O brave new world,

Propaganda

O wonder!

How many goodly creatures are there here!
How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world,
That has such people in’t.

William Shakespeare

 

When I look around Bansko the irony of Miranda’s words are not lost on me,  the hope and wonder that Bulgaria would be opening a new chapter in 2007 brought similar thoughts and emotions to Bulgarians as they did to Miranda when she saw the drunken sailors staggering off their wrecked ship.
The poverty of Bulgaria both financial and political, the naivety, lack of world or business experience all added up to a wave of euphoria that has carried us through the last 10 years. The building of Bansko as a ski resort  and the huge wealth that generated, our entry into that exclusive club of European nations, added to the massive up swell of optimism, a crashing tsunami of blind hope. As the wave pulls back we start to see the detritus that has been left on the beach, the flotsam and jetsam of a flawed society.
Bulgaria has never had a revolution, the clans that ran the country under Stalin are still around their children are still in power, influencing Bulgaria’s journey. Now that Putin is invading the Crimea and his propaganda machine is churning out the lies, smoke and mirrors that all dictators live by it is easier to see the same lies and propaganda being churned out in Bansko.

sf-logo

Snow forecast .com and Banskoski.com are two such propaganda machines, 145cm of snow is supposedly on the top of the mountain at the moment. 135cm at the bottom! Avalanche risk? It’s not very dangerous.  The reality is far from this, there is no chance I would go into the back country today, I am pretty certain I would die! But the propaganda machine rolls out the same lies that had the children of Belarus manifesting their loyalty to the party with out door parades under a shower of atomic fallout.  145cm have these idiots even seen a ruler, 145cm is over my moobs the (generous) reality is snow up to my crotch(75cm) at the deepest point and more like to the top of my boot on average (40cm) o.k in some wind blown gully you might just about see 145cm of snow built up but really….!

Ulen AD recently published a press release of such a magnificent nature that it is hard to believe that it was written by anyone other than Goebbels himself. A fountain of tripe would be the best description, deviations from the truth that would be considered delusional if you were feeling kind, mad if you were feeling honest. So why in the 21st century in Europe  would anyone bother to employ people like this, why would anyone bother to spout such rubbish?

Well the sad truth is that these guys were brought up in a world where the power of the party was so absolute that it was impossible to doubt it. If the party said day was night people would stumble around at night trying to work. Putin’s guff about there being no russian troops in the Crimea is the same as Ulens guff about there being no avalanche risk. Conditions today were “fair” according to Ulen, you couldn’t see your feet but conditions were fair!

This childish approach might have worked 60 years ago when loyal party members would have stood in a grassy field skis and goggles on chatting about how great it was to ski under communism but I would like to think our average tourist would not be so stupid.

 

Daddy and Dylan

Father-and-Son-skiing

 

What a great week, Dylan has had 6 full days of ski lessons, going up the hill with daddy skiing with George from skimania  and then coming down the ski road hand in hand with daddy. 6 very happy days for both of us. Olympic gold medalist 2022?

We had a little bit of snow yesterday and last night and loads more is coming!

Extreme Parenting

Flying-Babies1

 

I’m pretty sure in the U.K. you would call it bad parenting but then most things in the UK are considered bad parenting. The tut tutting of disapproval follows me around every time I visit. Dylan doing laps of the plane climbing onto other passengers laps to play on their i pads and  racing from one end of the cabin to the other to see how fast he can go normally incur a fair amount of  disapproval. I normally manage to ignore the shaken newspapers and scowls of hatred and the unsaid   scream of “control that child” .

I like the Bulgarian way, we share  child care, in the park we (and by we I mean everyone who is in the park not just other parents) keep an eye out for the children playing. Someone falls over and grazes a knee the closest adult will get up and dust him or her off. Bags of sweets are shared with strangers and all in all it feels like the community I grew up in our village back in the U.K. The spectre of fear that hangs over British parents isn’t really apparent in Bulgaristan, I’m sure there are the same problems here with wierdos and murders but it just doesn’t feel like it. I look around when Dylan is playing in the park and there will be 10 other adults I sort of know keeping and eye.

On the mountain skiing this week it felt great, in the crowded mess that is Bunderitsa Polyana 2 dozen ski instructors would stop to pat him on the head and have a chat, people would be pulling him out of puddles and generally making sure he was safe and happy.

On the ski road back to Bansko   it was a bit of a different story, Daddy was the only person really concentrating on The Little Man and The Little Man was only concentrating on going as fast as possible. eventually I caught up with him and suggested in the most gentle manner possible that he might be inclined to slow down or stop. The Little Man slammed on the racing snowplough  swerved hard left, hit the kicker that is the edge of the ski road, took off and flew into a small spruce where he ended up hanging 6 foot off the ground by his skis. Fortunately the tree was there as the other options in the boulder field that is the edge of the ski road are not worth contemplating.

The Little Man can have the last word on yesterday, “not a good day Daddy, not a good day”

Klang

ShaneSaucerBoy

 

N.B. updated since originally posted

The Picture is of Shane McConkey playing the part of saucer boy in one of his films, he is a bit of a hero of mine! Saucer Boy is pretty much the embodiment of Klang. This strange phenomenon where by men feel they can buy tallent, the thinking goes “I look the part therefore I am” You see it in every sport whether it is   MAMIL’s (middle aged men in lycra) pretending they are Bradley Wiggins on a Sunday ride or ramblers going for a stroll in the countryside with enough goretex and high spec gear to equip an expedition to the north pole.

When it comes to skiing I call it Klang, enough metal work, ropes and harnesses to keep your average bondage freak happy for weeks. All with the intention of making the wearer look extreme.

Grandad (my name for him as he has been on walking sticks for the last year) was caught red handed waving an avalanche transceiver around at Bunderitsa Polyana  before the last dump of snow. Avalanche risk = zero, “Look how extreme I am” factor = 11 !

Sofia Boy, down in Bansko for the weekend, everything but the harness! Skis so fat they could be two snowboards, transceiver on the outside of the jacket, ABS rucksack, probe, shovel carabiners attached to everything. Chances of him going anywhere more extreme than for a pee in the woods = zero.

Klang doesn’t always have to involve equipment, if you can’t afford the gear positioning works just as well. Hanging out next to the park with a reefa holding your bits talking about how sick your back flip would be if you didn’t have that injury caused by some uber extreme  trick you tried last time. Is totally acceptable Klang. Chilling (again with reefa) on the corner of an exit route of some badass gullies as if you have just ripped some sick lines is pure Klang.

So next time you are in a ski resort be it on the lift, in a bar or in the back country look out for Saucer Boy, Shane McConkey might be dead but he lives on in every resort in the world as Saucer Boy strutting his Klang .   

 

N.B. Update below  Ref:- Anti-Klang

Since this was originally posted it has been brought to my attention that both The Polak and I are guilty of another sort of Klang or Anti Klang. Still shouting from the roof tops how extreme we are but not buy buying the best kit, but by not buying anything! Gaffa tape on the ski trousers, dirty old jackets, more gaffa on the gloves, scratched skis boots held together with tooth picks, a water bottle so dented and worn that it must have seen enough extreme S**t to fill a book! Wow we must be hard core, we don’t even have time to buy stuff, we are soooooo good we can ride with f****d gear, all those battle scars can’t be from drunken night in the pub they must be from when we were wrestling polar bears in the arctic! Anti Klang is not unique to the two of us, Chamonix has its own breed of specialist in this strange genre. I remember my neighbour there sitting on the bench outside his chalet solemnly sandpapering his brand new ice axe to make it look old, jackets are hung up in the sun all summer to give them that bleached look that can only be got from years of hanging “Bond like” off some ice wall. Suncream?! but how will I look like a walnut by the time I an 30 if I use sun cream…..

 

Weather

snow_cloud

 

 

Most winters I will be checking the weather at least 3 or 4 times each morning. Normally it is the first thing I do as I wake up. Roll over, kill the alarm, activate the WiFi and have a quick look to see if anything has changed while I was asleep.  Drive to work picking up the bread and Lilly make a coffee and check the weather again. Do the emails, confirm any new bookings, chat to Victor about what went on the night before, check the boilers, check the weather.  Vania normally comes in about 9ish so there will be one last check before I go out skiing which can be any time from 09:15 if there is powder or 10:45 if it is a piste day. This year with the stupidity with the season passes I’m still going out but now it is a mixture between skiing, biking and ski touring. All of which to a greater or lesser extent need a weather report.

If the year is going well or we are in the middle of a bit of a storm most of the afternoon will be spent checking out satellite images and barometric forecasts. I’m not as much of a geek or obsessive as it sounds in my group of friends I am one of the more dissinterested skiers. The polak will regularly check the forecasts while on chair lifts some even go as far as to install weather rock systems in their houses.

So who to listen to well for the truly obsessive there are 3 main options:-

Snow-forecast.com I have been using these guys for years, I even used to advertise with them in the past, nice layout easy to understand always wrong. They tend to underestimate the snow falls massively or over estimate. Either way they tend to get it wrong! However they do always predict precipitation correctly and have very good live weather maps that are great for checking out pressure and cloud patterns. I have probably spent more time looking at their site than any other!

J2Ski.com  Always right! A rubbish site impossible to easily understand and hard to navigate I don’t like it at all but and this is a pretty big but, they are normally right!

Accuweather.com  Lovely layout and easy to navigate and understand. I love their totally outrageous attempt at a monthly forecast, shameless! Historical data charts are fun and again easy to understand. Normally their predictions are not too far off the mark.

WOM   Word of mouth is the best sort of weather report of you are going on holiday and there are a few sources for Bansko that really add to the comedy value. Lance from The Bansko Blog adds a certain something to the mix with his live web based reviews of conditions now reporting for the bansko blog from piste No5 in Bansko right now….. lovely guy, slightly manic! Snow-Forecast.com has an Eyeball reporter  service that publishes reports from locals in each resort supposedly saying it how it is. Most resorts have a PR team and website constantly updating live info on conditions.

As I have mentioned in a previous posts  a lot of the people who are giving you wom info about any resort are not all that impartial, ski pass bookings, apartment rentals and the need to encourage guests onto the hill are all pressures that come to bear on the integrity of any reporter. I have even noticed a trend on one of the websites mentioned above for them to fluff up their reports at key moments.

So what to do? Do we believe our man on the ground reporting to you live from Bansko? Do we believe any of the sites? The answer is a big fat NO, but like some sort of drug crazed lab rat back we must go and check through each site again and again. In the words of  Alexander Dumas we can only wait and hope!

 

 

Steak house Lazur

steak

 

I don’t often go out in Bansko and I normally only go to places I know and love. My OCD is getting a bit embarrassing on this subject as not only do I tend to only go to the same places but we also tend to eat the same things there. At the log house we have to have the pork knuckle, Motikata the cornflake chicken with a side of spinach with sirenay, Mazata in Razlog? What would you order anything other than the ribs and green salad!

2014 is a new year and the start of a new decade for the Avalon. I have made some pretty rash resolutions, one of which is to go out more. So far this year the rarely spotted Aheneus Barba has been seen “out” in Hadji Georgi , Amvrosia, the chicken restaurant and even Pirin  75! Shocking I know, OUT, in the winter?! In new places!!! (I don’t think it will last) but in a fit of rash, wild unfettered hedonism WE, yes WE a group of friends not just Vania, Dylan and I, not just The Old Man and I but a whole group of people and I went OUT to somewhere NEW!

I’m a little confused about reviewing last nights adventure into “The New” as I am beginning to realise that restaurant reviews are about so much more than the food and the service. Last night is a perfect example, on one side we have the food and service described below but on the other we have our company. The Dearly Beloved, The Polak, The Northern Miner and the Bulgarian Babes, a lovely crowd liberally lubricated with some good Bulgarian red, you could have served us almost anything and we would have merrily chatted away into the wee small hours and then raved about the place the next day. I think the trick of a good review might be to go to the same place many times with every different combination of guests, as a group, on your own, with family, on business and on different days of the week but considering you can count the number of times I go out in a winter you are just going to have to risk our experience of a one night stand.

Lazur Steak house

5/5 Great steaks and Mexican food

Price 35lv a head for plenty of food and wine.

Service 5/5 friendly quick and unobtrusive staff. Felt like we were in a British restaurant with non of the “aww right mate” rubbishthat has infected Bansko. and lost of smiley attentive service

Atmosphere 5/5 Very busy place all the tables were full all night (on a monday) most tables were turned round once through the evening.

Food 5/5 “probably the best steak I have had outside Buenos Aires” (The Polak)  was the quote of the night. Salads were interesting,the  DB and I shared one with caramelised pears wrapped in Parma ham, if I was looking for fault it was a little over dressed but next time I will just ask for the dressing on the side. The Northern Miner had something mexican that looked and tasted great and one of the Babes had a chicken dish that again proved popular. The steakswere the main highlight, great beef, aged well cooked well and served with great classic sauces and chips!   The Bulgarian Babes, The Polak and I shared a couple of chocolate soufflé which were more like chocolate fondant but lovely all the same. Brandies, coffees, lots of wine and beer. We were still drinking at midnight and spent less than a normal night at a Mexhana!

This one night stand might turn into something more meaningful!

 

 

Dragon Alliance

dragon alliance

 

 

Respect to Dragon Alliance click here for their website I bought a pair of goggles from them last season and due to some unlucky defect with the pair I bought all the film came off the lens. After a disappointing experience with their agent in BG I pretty much gave up on them and decided to write off the 150 euros they cost as an expensive lesson. Last month a friend suggested that I should get in touch with head office.

Well Dragon are not the sort of company to leave a client in the lurch. Amazing customer service, polite, friendly, fast and helpful and a replacement pair of goggles in the post within a month!

Great gear made by great people, THANK YOU DRAGON!

A black and white world

vihrenroadwintervihrenroadwinter1 bunderishkigullies

It has finally snowed and snowed and snowed! I went up the hill to have a proper look today and found a black and white winter wonderland. It’s not much maybe 15 or 20 centimetres and it is really wet and heavy but it is snow and with a bit of work it should keep the pistes open for weeks!

I’m planning to get fit enough to be able to ski tour to the top of Kutelo by the end of the winter. today I managed to get as far as the Bunderitsa car park which is not very far.  To put it into perspective I am now fit enough to walk to the bottom of the hill! I need to get fit enough to walk to the top of the hill! It’s going to be a struggle!

If you believe all the hype on the snow-forecast sites it looks like the mother of all storms is on its way! 54cm of snow was forecast for Sunday, training might have to go on the back burner, if it turns out to be true I will mostly be ripping it up in the pow for the next week!

It’s all amazing

smile

 

 

As I am getting grief from all sides for my brutal honesty about the conditions on the slopes in Bansko I have decided to turn over a new leaf and start talking Bansko up like the fluff monkeys! It’s amazing! The skiing is great the snow conditions in reality are sooo much better than any reposts you are hearing. Woo Hoo this is turning out to be an awesome season!

I know I am much younger than most of the other people reporting on the ski conditions here in Bansko and thus much less experienced in the world of business and marketing but I have spent most of my life living in ski resorts and all my working life in hospitality. This sort of behaviour, lying to your clients to try and make that extra sale, talking up the conditions in the hope of getting one extra booking, is totally unacceptable in my world.

I think it is much better to under sell, down play, even to err on the side of negativity than to lie to our guests and get their hopes up to be dashed on the rocks of reality. I describe our hotel as a simple family hotel, but in reality we are one of the most highly recommended businesses in Bulgaria. Why do so many of our guests rave about us? I would say it has a lot more to do with what they get when they are here is more than they were expecting, than us being amazing. It’s all about expectations, if you are gong to claim that you are the best you better be sure you really are the best because your guests are going to be expecting perfection.

The reality of Bansko now? Enough runs are open to allow for a fun week, the crowds have gone home and snow is falling but really don’t expect too much and bring your swimmers as you might want to spend a day or two in one of the fantastic spas scattered round the valley.

So when everyone has become disillusioned by the fluff monkeys I will still be keeping it real.