I couldn’t grasp why these old men were so angry. Granted, I couldn’t do much beyond make inferences because they were screaming in Bulgarian, but given the circumstances – a few of us hanging out, shoveling snow around, not yet riding – I was surprised they were this upset. Later on, after giving some thought to how prevalent snowboard crews had been here in small, commonly placid, towns like Smolyan over the last two years, I realised why there might have been a heightened level of concern in respect to potential property damage. But in this contentious moment, I was lost.
Niko Plakov, a no-bullshit Bulgarian snowboard legend, was our guide for this leg of the trip and the de facto negotiator in these sort of tense situations. It’s worth noting that Niko is not necessarily the 'diffuse-at-all-costs' sort. How that helped or hurt our negotiations, these American ears will never know. After placating the the ornery elders, in addition to the largely-indifferent police officers who’d arrived and served chiefly as officiators of the squabble, Niko instructed us to sit tight and not build or shovel for a bit while he worked on a solution. The affronted parties turned and left, but to the best of our understanding, were going to return with the super of the property. It marked the beginning of a reoccurring theme in Bulgaria, where private citizens seemed far more concerned about snowboarding in (semi) public spaces than the police.
Watch the Bulgaria session in the video below:
"Method Movie 2": Bulgaria
Before long, a third man arrived, presumably the superintendent, followed closely by the gang from earlier. He was considerably younger than the pair we met first, 40 or so, and built like a god-damn fridge. He appeared to care even less about the matter than the police, but also eager to satisfy all parties without delay and resume whatever it is he does when he doesn’t have to deal with arguments over yard furniture. When Niko returned, we learned that his postponed activity is likely lifting. Shocker. Apparently, he is a champion weightlifter, and had represented Bulgaria at the Games. We also learned that Niko was able to obtain the mayor’s signature on a document stating that we had permission to ride in any public space in the city. At least that’s what Niko told us it said...
Special thanks to everyone who helped us in any way during our stay in Bulgaria, notably, Niko Plakov, Dimo Petkov, Stan Semov, Ivo Kostov, Rosen Sinabov, Evgeni Dimitrov and Angela Angelova.