The end of summer came to the Eastern Rhodope Mountains last weekend, in sync with England but without the English grey drizzle that follows the change in temperature. The evenings had gradually been getting cooler but I was still wearing a bikini during the day. Bulgarian summer 2010 has been much hotter than the last few years and there was a long stretch of hot & dry weather in August and Greece, just 50km due south, recorded a high of 46º. Luckily for us there is a lovely breeze in the mountains and plenty of shelter provided by the trees. Failing that there’s always a siesta!
Being on top of a mountain gives a clear view for miles in every direction, which is handy as the weather is very changeable. There are rain-bursts and dramatic storms all year round due to the 1,000 metres altitude but they start to get more frequent in September. In the morning it can be a glorious blue sky with bright sunshine and by mid afternoon, wispy cotton wool clusters have nudged up the mountainsides and suddenly you’re in the middle of a cloud. The rumbles of thunder are heard well before the storm arrives at Melanya mountain retreat and forks of lightening illuminate mountain crests far off in the distance. The rains are always short lived but can be heavy and cause the river to swell becoming very fast flowing and only for experienced kayakers!
As the temperature drops quite quickly in the evening you need to be prepared for the unpredictability and always carry a waterproof when walking in the mountains. Good strong walking boots are preferable as the tracks are a mixture of sand and stones and if you venture off the main path the mountainsides can be very steep in places, or covered in fallen leaves on wet grasses.
I think it is the most beautiful time of year in the Rhodope Mountains. The green mountainsides are becoming dotted with red, gold and brown and the stags start calling across the valleys. The villagers join in to help harvest the walnuts from our huge tree in the driveway and I remove them from their green pods to dry in the sun. Our apples arrived very early in August but the blackberries are still red and only just beginning to turn. Sweet peaches are turned into rakia and red and white grapes into wine. Quinces are next and my favourite activity making jam begins!