Address: Vitosha Nature Protection Information Centre, Sofia
Tel: 088/ 851 14 56 (Stanimir), paintball.bg
Open: operates year-round during daylight hours
Cost: 15 leva for the first 100 paintball pellets (this price includes the gear); three leva for each additional 20 pellets
Paintball always sounded like one of those hyper-macho activities, a sort of sport of shoot-and-kill that paraded as a leisure activity or game.
It's not that bad, as we recently discovered.
In planning, friends unknowingly arranged our outing with the oldest paintballing company in Bulgaria - Paintball BG, founded in 1994, the same year that the activity entered the country. Way out on the edges of Dragalevtsi, in the outskirts of Vitosha National Park, Paintball BG has its playing headquarters - a storage room on the side of the Vitosha Nature Protection Information Centre. The only way you'd ever find it is if someone from the company were there to greet you. Which is exactly what they did.
We'd reserved a time - noon - and on arriving with a taxi (yes, they will drive there!), the man and the woman who run the operation (she speaks English) were there, waiting with the black and the army green jumpsuits and matching masks, and gloves. Note that one size is supposed to fit all, and all, in this case, is people about 175cm to 190cm tall. Shorter people look like kids playing dress-up, which is not far from the truth.
My friends, who had gone paintballing many times, were impressed with the cleanliness of all the gear.
We were warned to not touch the lenses of the (made in America, as was imprinted four or so times) masks, because they had been sprayed with an anti-fog product.
Then the dude explained how the whole thing works: play fair, keep your gun pointed down when not playing, you can only hit a person once, and best that not on his back, before he is out of the game, and the first team to have all its members shot loses.
There was more, of course.
And then, decked out like an anti-terror squad, we headed to the forest, to an area that was said to be a former socialist youth camp. This means that there were a number of ramshackle, half-collapsed brick buildings that served as borders. Otherwise, it's you, the thickets and your gun. Pop! Pop! Pop! And another one bites the dust.
And, while we all wore our worst clothing, it turned out that the game was not so messy, after all.
Somehow, two hours passes, and then we were hungry and tired and headed to lunch.
Paintball BG operates on an on-call basis, year-round. They recommend groups of six or more players; if you want to have them come elsewhere - you provide the (legal) playing grounds - in the country, they will do so for groups of 20 or more.