THIS was the club’s third visit to the Koolski House, Samokov, the Rila Mountains of Bulgaria but it was a new experience to most of those that took part.

Rush hour in Samokov is when the shepherds and goatherds took their flocks out on the hills for grazing in the morning and brought them back in the evening.

The first day’s walk was one of acclimatisation taking in the foothills and offering good views overlooking Samokov and across the plains to the higher mountains beyond.

Day two offered a cultural interlude to the ancient city of Plovdiv, a former capital of Bulgaria.

Among the highlights were excavations of a huge Roman amphitheatre and many different architectural styles reflecting previous occupiers such as the Turkish Ottoman Empire alongside Bulgaria’s own designs.

For the next three days the group used gondolas and chair lifts to gain access to higher places.

These included the Seven Lakes of Rila, which as well as being scenically beautiful, hold spiritual significance to a group called the Danovites who celebrate their new year there in August.

Mount Musala at 2,925 metres (9,600 feet) was climbed. This is the highest peak in Bulgaria and the whole Balkan peninsula.

Some of the group had never previously been higher than about 2,000 ft so adjusting their breathing rates to the thinner air was quite a challenge.

The grand finale was a linear walk over Mount Mechit, 2,568 metres (8,425 feet). The weather was glorious and the views spectacular. Tired walkers were soon refreshed at a local bar after taking in the spectacular Rila Monastery.

All in all the holiday was a great success, due in no small measure to our hosts Gerry and Sandra but also to the group of members who were so enthusiastic and knew how to enjoy themselves.