Written on: 07/02/2008 by NiciJ (7 reviews written)
1. Hotel is in a central location
2. Hotel is across the road from the Gondola Station
3. Large hotel with plenty of amenities
4. Extremely warm rooms!
1. The bathroom is dark and gloomy
2. There are packs of wild dogs howling outside
3. Hotel staff not smiling until you tip them
4. Extremely warm rooms!
I recently stayed at the Hotel Samokov for a week (20th-27th Jan 2008) in Borovetz, Bulgaria for a skiing holiday, and I had a great time!!
I booked with Balkan Holidays and while the price was fairly competitive, our "direct flight" from Edinburgh, Scotland to Plovdiv, was altered shortly after booking, and we were advised that our outward flight was to "touch down" in East Humberside. In the actual event, our flight from Edinburgh was delayed by over three hours, and when we landed at Humberside we were all herded off the plane and had to wait for over an hour in a crowded departure lounge whilst the plane was cleaned.
Being a seasoned traveller, I took the opportunity to pay around £13.00 per person to wait in one of Edinburgh's "lounges" where we played Scrabble and cards, drank as much wine as we could (we had a good choice of any soft or alcoholic drink you could wish for really) and ate complimentray crisps, peanuts, fruit, croissants and other little treats. We found it was excellant value, despite our not over abusing the facilities!!
Later we left this facility and happened to make friends with the nice "Tallisker" whisky promotional sales lady, and as a result, the actual flight went by in a drunken blur!!
The plane itself, operated by Balkan Holiday Airlines, was fine, the main meal food was complimentry and typical airline standard, but it all helps to pass the time. The drinks were priced around normal sky prices and the staff were Bulgarian and friendly. On our outward journey were we lucky enough to check in first and therefore requested the extra-leg-room exit seats free of charge, however the return journey was really crushed in the standard seats (I am 6 foot tall) and it was torture for the taller customers.
The delays meant we did not reach our chosen resort of Borovetz until after 2am. The coach transfer was two hours long (despite the brochure claiming one and a half hours) and it was easy to find the correct coach. Plovdiv International Airport is VERY small and there were only three coaches outside!
For those who are interested, please note that this airport seems to cater for UK/Irish flights only, and used to be purely a military airport. If you take off or land in daylight, look out the window and you will see in excess of at least 30 military helicopters on the ground - very impressive!
The coach transfer was very warm and we were all melting in the heat. This was a sign of things to come! Eventually after an hour one of our fellow travellers asked the Balkan Holiday rep if the heating could be turned down. After she spoke to the driver the air-con went on for about 15mins before this was turned back off. The return coach leg at the end of the holiday was similar, so perhaps the Bulgarians just like to be very warm!
The hotel itself was a welcome relief at the end of our long journey. We had requested a non-smoking double room and we were allocated a 7th floor, large, clean room where the twin beds had been pushed together. The room was very well heated, even though the previous occupant had turned the radiator off. We spent everynight with the balconey door and/or window open as it was so hot.
The balconey was the length of the room and about two meters in depth. We had nice views of the lower ski slopes. The balconey was unfurnished, and we used it mainly as a refrigirator for our water, coke, wine etc.
The room itself had a small fridge, although this was stocked so there wasn't much room in it for your own purchased items. The TV (once we had plugged in the arial!) had numerous foreign channels, but only a couple in english, this including 24 hour Sky News. There were also two channels of "piped music" in the room which played a variety of old and new music.
We also had a double settee (which no doubt folds down to make an uncomfortable double bed for four in a room!) a coffee table and a stand alone chair as well as a dressing table with stool.
There were two large built-in wardrobes in the hallway along with several hooks and a bench by the door for hanging coats, ski stuff etc.
The toilet was in a separate small room located off the hallway, and had no sink; the next door off the hallway was the main bathroom consisting of shower over bath and sink with mirror.
There was plenty of hot water and the power of the shower was great, we just had to watch that the water didn't hit the wall very much was it merely ran down onto the floor and formed pools on the bathroom floor! There were a couple of foot mats which we used to mop this up though.
The bathroom also had a hairdryer fixed to the wall, and whilst it wasn't as strong as the one I use at home I was pleasantly surprised by its decent force of hot air.
All in all we were very happy with our room and the facilities. The decor looked like it had been fresh fairly recently and thankfully there was no smell of stale smoke! The bedsheets were changed once during our week stay, the beds were made up every day and the towels were changed very day also.
The rest of the hotel was very large and has lots of facilitites. You can view what's on offer on the hotel's own website at "samokov.com". The main dining room is large and tastefully decorated. The food is plentiful but not so tasty!! We always found something palatable, particulary the soup, however don't come here for the food!! For an extra £20 you can dine in the top floor Panoramic Restaurant, however we usually went out to eat to try new places and see the town.
The town that is Borovetz is quite quaint still. The scenary around is breathtaking and the streets are very "mountain-esque" with snow piled up in heaps and horse and cart taxis everywhere. There are cheap and expensive shops weith a range of goods. Particular value I thought were the fake Oakley sunglasses at around £7 (perfect for skiing if you fall alot!) and a whole range of North Face gear at about a quarter of the UK prices. Unfortunately my instructor told us that the North Face gear was all fake, however we couldn't tell and it all looked good!!
There are lots of restaurants, bars and "exotic girl" type clubs. We found that eating and drinking out was cheaper than the UK, but the prices apparently are slowly creeping up. By the time Bulgaria reverts to the Euro in a couple of years time, I would expect the prices to be on par with France or Italy. At that point I would suggest that Bulgaria will lose customers as the infrastructure and services provided here are just not on par with their long-established European competitors, however I hope I am wrong!
We heard stories about the packs of wild dogs that roam the streets in Bulgaria, and last year a British lady was attacked and died after being set upon by a pack of dogs in Bulgaria. We frequently heard and saw several dogs barking and fighting from our balconey, but we didn't see any packs roaming around the streets. At night we often heard them obviously attacking other dogs or maybe rabbits etc which made us wince a little, but also added to that feeling that "you''re not at home anymore!!"
The ski school we used was the Samokov Hotel Ski School. This is located on the ground floor of the hotel and also houses your ski equipment overnight. When you are given your ski pass, this is a non-electronic one so you have to produce this everytime you go up a lift/tow etc. The hotel helpfully sells "holders" which you can clip onto your jacket and it has a stretchy part which allows you to put your pass into the tow machines without unclipping it. We were warned about losing it because a replacement in the resort would cost £110.00!!
This was surprising, as our ski package prepaid at home was only £146.00 and this consisted of six day ski pass, six day ski/boot hire and six day lessons with the Ski School. We spent the week paranoid that we might lose our passes after that!!
As usual, the success of the Ski School was really down to the individual instructor. He was a brilliant skier and very good fun.
My boyfriend also had a instructor and although he was a nice guy, he wasn't so enthousiastic and didn't seem too interested in teaching for most of the week. Towards the end of the week he improved I am told, but it is a shame he took so long as this would have made a big difference to the beginners that were in my boyfriend's class.
If you use this Ski School, please ensure that you are put in the right class for your level!! This was my ninth skiing holiday abroad and I have skiied for years in Scotland. I kept telling them I was a decent skier, and they kept asking me if I was a beginner. It was very frustrating! I like to take the lessons to meet decent skiers as I often holiday with beginner skiers, so I was rather cheesed off to find my first day to be skiing with people on their second or third holiday only. It was 2pm already and we had only been up 2 tows that first day. We stood around listening to the instructor repeat himself again and again and I was frankly bored.
The instructor thankfully offered to put me into a different group at the end of that first day. This group also had different levels of ability, and I don't think he took us down a single black run all week, but at least there was plenty of skiing in this new group.
All in all, the holiday was excellant value, the skiing was great as we were lucky to have a whole day and night's fresh snow mid-week, the hotel catered for all our needs and the resort is beautiful.
Most of the folk we spoke to would go back, and some have already booked!! I like to try different resorts, but I would probably go back to Borovetz given the right deal!!
If you are going to Borovetz, keep an open mind and have a brilliant time!
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