A Little Less Salt
21.07.2011 - 29.07.2011 35 °C
Bulgaria, home of the Black Sea and more weightlifters per capita than any other country (we just made that one up), was border crossing number fourteen. Leaving Turkey would have been confusing for even the smartest of cookies, it was a matter of guessing what the customs officer was really trying to say as he grunted and pointed. However nothing prepared us for the debacle that was Bulgaria’s border crossing. There were about five stages, stage one was driving through a puddle of water after being waved on by not one but three officers which had us believing a water pipe must have burst (?). Stages two and three and even four were stock standard and then we got to stage five which is where the problems began. The officers at stage five wanted our certificate…..what certificate? Apparently it wasn’t a water leak, it was disinfectant and we were supposed to ‘know’ that we had to get out of the car and retrieve this certificate. So we had to backtrack to the disinfectant man sitting in his box and then redo everything over, meaning all in all crossing into Bulgaria took forty minutes longer than necessary.
Sozopol is a beach tourist trap on the coast of the Black Sea and our home for two nights. We checked into our hotel and this is where we met our new best friend (sorry everyone) Mariya. She was gorgeous and we loved her. Mariya is Bulgarian but a true world traveller and was very excited about her arrival because we were Aussies, so we were off to a good start regardless. She helped us with our accent, or tried to, and told us which bar to go to if we wanted to be cool. We were all ears. We sauntered, strolled and wandered the streets of Sozopol which was a refreshingly clean change from the grime and grubbiness we had come to expect of Turkey. The beach was sand, long goldeny stretches of it with a busy little cove as the town beach. The ambience was busy but laid back, if that is possible. After arriving back to our hotel on the very first night we booked ourselves a third night because of the love for Bulgaria that was coursing through our veins. We had great summer weather and shared our time between the hotel pool, cruising the streets or laying on the beach. Lots and lots of boobs at Sozopol, all different shapes and sizes and that goes for the bodies attached to them as well. It’s kind of like a car accident, you don’t want to look but at the same time can’t help yourself. We were both glad for having mirrored glasses, for different reasons though. We spent some quality time at Mariya’s haunt, Tequila bar, after dinner and indulged in four cocktails and three large vodkas for the bargain basement price of $21(Australian). Needless to say we were a bit fragile the next day and luckily enough had the warm sunshine and cool water to freshen us up. Interesting fact….the Black Sea has 50% less salt than any other ocean/sea in the world so you didn’t quite get that crusty feeling on you like you do from normal ocean swimming.
After three nights by the coast it was time to head inland again and off to the town of Plovdiv. It had ottoman houses, cobblestones and six hills. Apparently it used to be seven but they blew one up during construction (or something like that). A decent walk into town and the Cyrillic alphabet on street signs ensured we worked up a sweat plodding up and down the biggest cobblestones to date. Our hotel had an in house beauty salon and so we decided to treat ourselves to a massage. Months of walking and lugging bags are taking their toll. Bitterly disappointed is probably the best way to describe the effort produced by our young wannabe masseuse. After the hour we walked away oiled up and unsatisfied…..from the massage that is.
Veliko Tarnovo was stop number three in Bulgaria and is a small university town with a castle (surprise, surprise) and apparently a damn good light and audio show. Based on Lonely Planet and Mariya’s recommendation we booked a room at a very stylish hotel for one night. A quaint atmosphere made up for the fact that the super spectacular light show was a no go for the one night that we were there…typical. Never mind, doesn’t matter. Final stop on the itinerary was Varna…beach town number two.
Varna is like Sozopol but multiplied by 100….bigger and busier. The beach wasn’t as long but still golden sand and cool, clean, refreshing water. The Europeans build cafes, bars, souvenir stalls and fast food outlets right up to the beach, which in some ways ruins the beach atmosphere but amps up the party atmosphere. Varna is also home to the Guinness World Record Holder for biggest cocktail list and at $4 a pop, what choice did we have? They were very tasty and refreshing. One of the restaurants also had a sushi bar which was the first one we had seen since leaving Australia so because I love sushi we ate there for three meals in two days….yum yum. Whoever said variety is the spice of life is wrong.
Our hotel in Varna was a five starrer which was great and so we squeezed in a sauna and a dip in the rooftop pool. Varna was full of international tourists as well as local tourists unlike Sozopol which seemed to just attract the local tourists. This made Sozopol a bit more fun because we were more special there and we liked feeling special.
Bulgaria was beautiful, friendly and clean and we enjoyed all the towns we visited. By the time we left the morons at the border were nothing more than a distant memory and meeting Mariya was a great way to start Bulgaria. Romania is our next destination and we are looking forward to Dracula territory….I feel a tacky souvenir spree coming on.