Black sea coast, beach bars and too many flies...
Trip Start May 29, 2005
25Trip End Dec 17, 2005
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Varna city tour
04 Sept, Sunday
Start point: 2 Mai
End point: Galata, Varna
Total Ascent(m): 1066
Max Altitude(m) 233
Max Speed(Km/h): 53.7
No sign of Mark in the morning, my guess is the football celebrations went on well into the night.
Crossed the Romanian Bulgaria border with a 45 minute delay, which is good practice for future crossings on my journey ahead. It wasn't as if they were busy as in the whole time I was there, only 4 other cars arrived.
Then without any effort I was blown for 90Km by a 28Km/hr tail wind. Soon I hit the major beach resorts. I snacked on the beach at Albena, just south of Balchic. There was the usual mix of high rise hotels, fast food and pizza places - although the size of my breakfast this morning fended off temptation. Now not satisfied with a whole mess tin of porridge I supplement it with a loaf of bread.
As I have no map of Bulgaria I can only follow the major coast road. This is on the whole quiet until the beach resorts at which point I took a branch that ran behind the hotels. I gave up asking the petrol stations for maps. "This is a petrol station, we sell petrol". How can you argue with logic like that; although had to refrain from pointing out the fluffy toys as it would in no way help me find a map.
My goal was Varna, a large city with many different attractions. The place was alive and buzzing with people when I arrived and this is 18.00 on a Sunday evening. A large park provides a green route straight to the heart of the city and once there I got lost in the extensive network of pedestrianised streets. Cafes, restaurants and fast food. I found a great hole in the wall that dispensed large deep fried flat breads with fillings such as chocolate and cheese for the reasonable price of 10p, they were a meal for any normal person - or is that a heart attack?
Found a book store that sold a superb map of the country for touring. Using this I will explore some of the villages and countryside over the next few days rather than just eating up miles on the only roads I know of. At the current rate in 2 days I will be in Turkey, so I can take my time to discover the rural way of life.
My first impressions are a country that is more prosperous than Romania and the folk certainly do enjoy sitting in the cafes watching the world go by while sipping cappuccinos.
Camped on a site over run by aggressive dogs. After being bitten and we are not talking a friendly nip either, I now take a stick with me when I go to the bathroom or to fetch water. Its not as if they are wild, they all belong to the site owner. If I get bitten again, it's going to receive such a wallop, (the dog, not the owner)
It is a place with many parts to explore and I felt it deserves a day visit, but daylight was running out so I pressed on.
Big resort hotels
Albena, just south of Balchic - Small town tourist strip, fried breakfasts, jacket potatos... not good!
More approved art
Green route into town
History and Maccy Ds are the order of the day
Exit out the city over the bridge
Cross country to the beach bars
05 Sept, Monday
Start point: Galata, Varna
End point: Svet Vlas, Near Nesbar
Total Ascent(m): 1508
Max Altitude(m) 435
Max Speed(Km/h): 46.9
Now with use of a suitably detailed map I can finally explore the countryside, rather than just cover ground. What I saw had many similarities with Romania - but more developed. As I cycled past a well, I noticed someone had installed an electric pump and a reservoir. The wells in Romania used buckets. In a glance, this sums up the typical differences. BMWs and Mercs speed down the well made country lanes and seeing a trabbant is a bit of a novelty.
The horse and trap are still in use, but it is clear the farmers prefer to use their car and trailer to transport goods. The landscape near the coast is a mix of rolling hills and limestone plateaus, often giving the beaches an interesting backdrop. I found myself passing through tinder dry forests, waiting for that one spark to ignite the whole lot.
Outside the villages and towns there are remarkably few inhabitants, probably due to the low population density. As I carried on the journey to Nesbar, I was aware it would take a long time to get there and progress was slow.
An unpleasant result of forested areas are the flies. On a number of occasions I had 200-300 of them swarming around me as I peddled. Dousing myself in repellent stops them landing but no amount of repellent stops them trying to crawl up your nose, into your inner ear, into your eyes or into your mouth. I tried breathing through gritted teeth and spitting out all the trapped flies with each breath, but this soon left me breathless, so I stopped and put my face warmer on to filter the air I breathed through my mouth and nose. This and eye protection made the situation bearable, but something I could do without.
Arrived in the costal resort of Nesebar where the jacket potato is the snack food of choice over pancetta. It was lively, lots to see and do. Beach bars beckoned and Brits everywhere - something I do miss when out is the countryside for prolonged periods of time. Firstly, locate the campsite. There were three listed on the map, but unfortunately due to commercial development, they no longer existed. All my plans to pitch and go to the beach bar and then clubbing fell apart. Two hours later and in a fruitless search for the third campsite, I asked a guesthouse owner if I could have a room for the night. "We don't let rooms out for one night; it is a minimum of 4 nights". "Would you let me pitch my tent in the garden?". A compromise was reached. I could have use of a room that had been used as a utility room, and I would provide the bedding. Perfect. Ensuite, shower, bed and rather funny looks... again!
The open road
and the flies - The most unpleasent thing about Bulgaria
wild horses grazing on lavender
And what an excursion it will be...
Salt water and mud bath - glad I tried it once!
06 Sept, Tuesday
Start point: Svet Vlas, Near Nesbar
End point: Gradina, Near Sozopol
Via: Nesbar, Pomorie and Burgas
Total Ascent(m): 552
Max Altitude(m) 123
Max Speed(Km/h): 46.2
I was up before anyone else and crept out the hotel at 6.30. Next town along is Slanchev bryag - according to my map, although most people there would know it as Golden Sands Beach. Cycling down the promenade at that time was quite a surreal experience. Those out at that time are a mix of joggers, clubbed out clubbers, cleaning squad and of course, nutter cyclists.
For those who are worried about security of all my things - the bike, my stuff and me, wandering down the street I could not help but notice the number of fully stocked bars and restaurants that were just left empty. Where on a UK high street would you find bottles of spirits, bottled beers and wines there for the taking? Nowhere, because they wouldn't last 5 minutes. Here things are different as there is more respect for other peoples property than in the UK.
Joined to the beach resort and situated on a promontory is the interesting ancient town of Nesbar. At the time I got there the streets were empty so I has breakfast next to one of the many 6th Century Byzantium church ruins and waited for the town to kick into action. First stop was the museum and it actually told me something about the place as well as the usual collection of archaeological finds.
There is much to see in the town in the way of early Christian church ruins. One Basilica in particular was giant in size - see photos.
From the town I exited down busy roads to the city of Burgas. Following a costal track into town I got chatting to a group who saw me taking photos of salt extraction and took it upon themselves to tell me what the place was for. Yes, the extraction of salt was one of the reasons the site existed but the reason people were there was for the mud and salt lakes. I was given clear instruction on what to do. Cover myself in a thin layer of mud - or just the joints if I preferred, wait 20 minutes and wash it off in the sea. I could also bathe in the salt lake. With such treatments in the UK costing hundreds of pounds and here I could do it for nothing, I decided it was an experience I must have. The mud was just the sort of stuff you usually steer clear of when on or near the beach. It was black and stank like a mixture of drains and stagnant water. As it dried it shrank and cracked. A swim in the warm sea washed it off and then I went for a soak in the salt lake. My first swim in water saturated with salt was very weird indeed. When floating on my back I could lift me legs and arms out of the water and into the air without getting my chest wet. If you get a bit of sea water in your mouth it tastes bad, yes? Well, it is nothing compared to the taste of this! A small drop in the eyes stings. I had to come out because I got my hair wet and it ran down my face in into my eyes. Luckily a fellow bather saw my distress and produced a bottle of tap water and sprinkled it over the affected area. Saved. After bathing in such water I felt like a shower. I asked around. No, you must not wash it off. So I dried off, brushed away the salt crystals that clung to my skin and continued on my way. In conclusion, I'm glad I tried it once.
Into the city of Burgas, although not much to see the place has the usual buzz of the Bulgarian cafe culture - and this was a Tuesday afternoon! Much shopping and street snacks to be enjoyed. Exited along more busy roads towards Sozopol and stopped at a campsite near Chernomorets.
So far my experience of Bulgarian campsites is not good. Facilities are squalid, rubbish is everywhere, dogs ruin the peace with continuous barking, the ground is covered in dog sh*it and this site costs more than my stay in the guest house last night - they asked for a whopping 13 Euros. The reason is that one adult costs 40 cent, the rest of the cost is the placement. I've learned a lesson. Don't camp on a campsite in Bulgaria. I only agreed to pay because after my salt bath experience I needed a shower - which I did - in tepid water surrounded by mould and scum.
Early morning sunrise on Slanchev bryag (Golden Sands Beach)
Nesbar harbour activity
Nesbar monuments - a Byzantium church
mud in your eye - mud bath treatment...
Salt saturated water with "healing" properties, not pollution. Near Burgas
Burgas town centre
Sozople town tour
07 Sept, Wednesday
Start point: Gradina, Near Sozopol
End point: Tsarevo
Via: Sozopol, Primorsko, Tsarevo
Total Ascent(m): 490
Max Altitude(m) 47
Max Speed(Km/h): 41.7
Having passed over the Carpathian mountains in Romania the weather has been perfectly fine. Not cold, no persistent rain, not too hot, wind in the right direction and when I wake up in the morning everything is dry. Southern Bulgaria has that scorched earth look. The grass is brown, no puddles or mud. Since I cleared the Danube Delta there has been a significant reduction in the number of mozzies and other biting insects. I no longer feel as though I am battling with nature and the elements. The flies can be a nuisance, but that's all they are and I have devised methods to stop them crawling into my ears, up my nose and into my eyes.
Breakfasted overlooking the beach in Sozople, a pleasant town with a similar geography to Nesebar. The big difference is the pace of life due to the lack of major resorts on its door step. The town is favoured as a local day trip / holiday destination and the prices and quality and choice of local foods reflect this. Toured the cobbled back streets looking for photo opportunities and found snack shops. The speciality is moist warm bread with feta cheese or chocolate fillings. I don't know what they are called as I am unable to read the alphabet.
I am trying to make the most of the coast and the facilities it offers as tomorrow I'm back in the mountains to travel to the nearest Bulgaria / Turkey border crossing which is 60 Km inland.
After Sozople I followed a busy road to the town of Primorsko. On the way I came across a road accident where a boy racer had lost control coming too fast round a corner and turned his car. If you want to enter the debate on if women or men are better drivers, women get my vote every time. The number of accidents or near misses is invariably caused by reckless male drivers often gambling their lives and the lives of other road users - including my own. This is far less forgivable than driving with fog lights on or poor parking.
In Primorsk I found a more snack shops and a pancake seller, as well as a host of shops and a beach. Followed the coast on a delightful road that ran parallel to the main road past small restaurant / hotel / guest houses, beaches, bays and pine woods. Through Kiten and on to Tsarevo where I founds a place that did not offer camping but they said I could put my tent up for no charge!
Performed a number of jobs on the bike ready for the mountains tomorrow. The road is not a dust track so I want it in fine working order. Adjusted the back break for better performance. Then my usual routine of meal followed by beer in the bar 30p for ½ litre, route planning for tomorrow, edit photos and update journal.
Sozople town beach
Sozople - views of the town
Sozople - views of the town
Busker on the street
When not cycling, this is what I do...
Small resorts that are scattered on the south most coast
FIRST SIGN TO ISTANBUL - I,M NOT GOING IN THE WRONG DIRECTION AFTER ALL!
Town tour of Malko Tarnovo - wired on sugar
08 Sept, Thursday
Start point: Tsarevo
End point: Aziziyez, Near the Bulgaria / Turkey border
Via: Malko Tarnovo
Total Ascent(m): 1428
Max Altitude(m) 683
Max Speed(Km/h): 44.8
Set off into the hills following the road to Malko Tarnovo. There was little traffic and lots of flies. A novel use of my florescent top stopped them and made progress possible again. The road cuts through the largest national park in Bulgaria, the Strandzha. Heavily wooded there is little to see from the road apart from trees and more trees. I pressed on to the border town, Malko Tarnovo. Visited the museum which presented finds of the Neolithic sites in the surrounding area. Then a hunt for food - in a town with a few thousand people there was no restaurant, only one cake shop and numerous cafes that did not sell food.
Wired with all the sugar I had just consumed, I crossed the border. It was a confusing jumble of checkpoints, buros and shops. My impression is the whole thing has evolved into this mess. For all the confusion I didn't have to wait long at each stage and soon I crossed into Turkey. Camped in woods 4 km away from the crossing and cooked my evening meal on a camp fire.
Sunrise worth getting up for, would you not agree?
And the masked man - to keep away the flies
Museum in Malko Tarnovo