In a fog and largely out of pocket, Bulgarians crowded road and rail routes back to the country’s major cities ahead of the effective start of the 2014 working year.
Those who were heading back from major winter ski resorts left behind slopes covered mainly by artificial snow and unlikely to see much of the real thing in the coming days.
On January 5, weather forecasts for Bulgaria’s Pamporovo, Bansko and Borovets resorts up to January 12 showed daily maximum temperatures ranging from five to nine degrees Celsius, with stretches of sunny or cloudy days – but no snow, consolation perhaps for those having to part with the pistes to go back to work.
However, traffic conditions were bedevilled by thick fog in many parts of the country, making travelling hazardous. Collisions caused by people driving recklessly in spite of the reduced visibility were reported from various areas on January 4, raising concerns about risks on the roads when heavy traffic was expected on the final Sunday of the tail end of the festive season.
To try to reduce difficulties for those travelling, the Road Infrastructure Agency and the traffic police said that there would be restrictions barring vehicles of more than 10 tons using several major roads from noon until 8pm on January 5.
Bulgarian state railways BDZ announced earlier that it was providing additional rolling stock to help people get home after the holidays.
Matching the greyness of the fog covering much of the country were reports that many Bulgarians would face serious financial problems after spending on their holidays.
A report by local television station bTV said that a poll had found that 23 per cent of those polled said that they would not be able to fully cover their bills in the first month of the year.
Of the 1000 people polled, 20 per cent spent about 20 per cent of their monthly income on holiday expenses, while five per cent spent between 100 and 150 per cent of their monthly household income.
According to the poll, on the moitepari website, about 25 per cent of those polled had used various forms of credit to provide part of the costs of their holidays. Sixty per cent said that they would have to tighten their belts in order to be able to pay their bills.
Separately, on January 2 Bulgarian National Radio reported the Institute for Analysis of Tourism as saying that Bulgarians had spent about 45 million euro in the Christmas-New Year holiday period, about eight per cent less than the previous year.
According to the institute, Bulgarians had cut down on celebrations at restaurants and pubs, instead holding parties at home. The overall decline in bookings for celebrations at restaurants and bars was down by about a third, according to the institute.
Meanwhile, soon after the beginning of the New Year, Pamporovo became the first of the major resorts to say that it expected its best season in 10 years, with a 30 per cent year-on-year increase in the number of visitors, just three and a half weeks into the official ski season at the resort, Pamporovo AD executive director Marian Belyakov said on January 2.
(Photo of Pamporovo, January 2014: Clive Leviev-Sawyer)