Photo story: An abandoned, Bulgarian ski lift and the edge of an abyss

I picked this photo to write about some weeks ago. I’ve always loved this photo for its composition and the memory of the peaceful quiet and diffused light from the snow on the side of Mount Vitosha in Bulgaria. After the events of last week, it feels particularly apt.

I was in Sofia for about a week in December several years ago. It was cold and icy and then it snowed and the whole valley was covered in layers of white icing and a thick fog that obscured the tall mountains surrounding the city. Down in the valley, it was grey and damp but as I went up the side of the mountain, it got brighter and brighter until I broke through the clouds. I remember going through a tunnel of evergreens sparkling and heavy with snow and imagined it was too beautiful to be anything but a fantasy. I remember going over a dry stream bed lined with massive rounded stones poking out of the snow like hundreds of islands out of the non-existent river, flowing down the side of the mountain through evergreens caked with snow powder and icicles.

I passed the massive radio tower to explore the hotel at the top of the mountain and where there might sometimes be a panoramic view of the valley and the sprawling city of Sofia far below, there was just cloud. It was absolutely silent. It was like being set adrift and I was viewing some sort of massive sea from a viewing platform on a ship instead of a landlocked Soviet-era hotel.

Exploring around the area, in the quiet, muffled forest with my boots crunching through snow and speaking in whispers so as to not disturb the forest’s peace, there was a rusty old ski lift, painted bright orange and covered in equally colourful graffiti. It looked like a death trap. It looked like it lead off the edge of an abyss. I couldn’t see beyond the last tower holding rusting cables before it dropped off the side of Mount Vitosha and into the fog below; dropping into? It looked like the edge of the world. It looked like what the dark ages imagined was at the end of the Atlantic ocean where the flat Earth just stopped.

It’s funny that I chose this photo to write about weeks ago, as funny as Brexit can be. It’s funny in a sort of ironic, predestined, premonition type way. I was afraid the UK would vote to leave the EU but thought “surely, surely not,” seemingly like most of the political establishment who appear to have no plan beyond “let’s have a cup of tea and talk this through”. I couldn’t vote and as I am not a citizen here, yet, I avoid political discussions. This is not yet my country too and therefore I feel it’s only fair if I keep from influencing debate. However, I feel like the rug has been pulled from under me. I’m scared for the future of this country. It feels like the photo looks, like there’s a leap to be made, but now, there’s not much chance of not taking it. The UK, and Europe and the rest of the world to an extent, have to see what’s beyond the abyss.

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