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Situated along the newly paved road between Tvarditsa and Elena is the Bukovets mountain hut. A place to relax and enjoy the dense forests of the Stara Planina mountain range. I arrived on a rainy autumn day and it started getting colder as I was driving through the mountains. I was up for a cup of tea and decided to follow the sign pointing to the hut. Easy to reach by car, about 500 metres off the main road, over a gravel road. The tall trees surrounding the hut were hugged by a thick layer of fog and the hut looked mystical, sitting on top of a small hill. I was welcomed by a loudly barking dog, a sign of people nearby.

As I walked the path upto the hut, I noticed the flower beds well taken care of and the dog eventually happy to see a visitor. At the entrance the man of the house, seen in the pictures below, was smoking a cigarette. He tried to make the dog calm down and we went inside. I got some tea and he explained that he was firing up the heating system, the first day of the year. The heating apparently needs to be on 9 months a year as the winter up in the mountains gets pretty cold. I met the man's wife Stefka as well, she was preparing food and invited me to join for lunch. Krasimir, the man of the house, was still ripping up cardboard boxes to fill up the large stove and eventually joined the table.

The couple explained they are pensioners from the town of Tvarditsa, down in the valley. There is little to do for a pensioner there so this was at least more exciting - they regularly get tourists over whom are crossing the mountains. Besides, they said to enjoy the peace and quiet up in the forest. They spend their days maintaining the hut, reading, watching wildlife and taking long walks. Even though this sounds romantic, there's a huge workload. Especially around the time I came - all the wood for winter had already been chopped, which is backbreaking work. Apart from that, all groceries would have to be in place as snow can easily reach up to a metre and a half in the depth of winter.

The lunch was great - vegetables from the garden and well garnished meat. The couple definitely had many stories, about foreigners visiting from all over the world, hiking (part of) the Kom - Emine trail, Europe's longest uninterrupted high mountain trial. "We don't know other languages very well", said Stefka. "With most foreigners, we manage to communicate, though. They like what I cook and it gives me pleasure. Sometimes it is unclear what they want to eat but as soon as I make them eggs Bulgarian style or a good dish of meat, the next day they ask for more of the same. Other times, I just invite them to look in the fridge and point out what they want. In summer it's very busy with tourists in all age groups. Now it's quiet and people sometimes just come and go." Krasimir explained that these forests are very wild. "There are bears and many forms of unique wildlife. These are untouched areas where you can really get lost Sometimes, when it's quiet, animals come by the porch and we watch them pass by."

As lunch was finished, I thanked the lovely couple for their hospitality and companionship. Also, I asked whether I could take their picture for my website. Stefka asked: "Where should we pose?" Next to the heating system, I recommended. It keeps the whole hut warm and such systems are vital for the people living in harsh climate conditions. They loved to pose; below you can see their picture. As you can see, they are dressed for the cold days and have dealt with harsh winters many times before. I always find meeting such people very intriguing as their lives are completely different of my own. I always receive a lot of wisdom and knowledge from them, as they depend on nature and are very much in tune with their surroundings. The couple warm-heartedly receives any guest, also offering a place to sleep and of course hearty meals. I can highly recommend a visit, even just passing by. Stefka and Krasimir had a whole lot of work to do so I let them continue, whilst I was about to go cross the mountains north. To the town of Elena to be precise.

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