At times I feel Unwelcome

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Europe » Bulgaria » East
August 21st 2011
Published: September 16th 2011EDIT THIS ENTRY

It isn’t the Bulgarians but the tourists that come here that made me feel unwanted. Arriving on the 2nd week of August, the summer crowds along the Black Sea was at its peak. An eclectic mix of race coming from all over Europe but it was the tourists from the Russian area that continued my stories of them verbally assaulting me.

My first night out at Sunny Beach I was told to “F**k off foreigner! Don’t look at me.” I wasn’t looking at him, in fact I was looking the other way and standing outside a shop with others. So I replied back “Than why are you speaking English?”

The next day as I was casually walking along the shore of the beach when some tough guy with two of his friends didn’t like my tan, my long hair, my beard and/or my day pack on my back yell out, “PUSSY!” to me.

20 minutes south I was in Nesebarr, an old fort town with old wooden buildings down tight streets. At the top floor of one of these homes a dog 4 levels up barks viciously at something below. I look up and he’s having a go at me. There was a whole bunch of tourists around but he spotted me out.

Later in Varna (Bulgaria’s northern big city) I was walking again along the shore and this kid sprints through the water and a giant splash as if a 4wd just passed me - saturating my pants. The next day a little kid picks up some wet sand and throws with all his mite at my board shorts and looks up at me, as I look down and he gives me a look of. “Yeah! Well what are you going to do about it?”

In the end Bulgaria was a weird place. I liked it but at the same time didn’t feel welcome. Sofia (the capital) was quite, cold and provided a great opportunity to get a church overload.

Starting from the Sveta Nedelya church to the captivating (I’m not using that word lightly) Alexander Nevski Cathedral. The long stretch along Tsar Osvoboditel Street includes the white Presidency building, the national art gallery but 5 churches of the orthodox variety.

Sofia’s Orthodox churches are mostly busy in comparison to other churches I’ve been to around the world. After this day I gave up on the whole doing the cross upon entry. It just wasn’t doing it for me.

Photos can be taken in most churches but for a fee so I didn’t end up taking any. At Sveta Nedelya it is a rebuilt church after it was bombed in a 1925 failed attempt to assassinate Tsar Boris III of Bulgaria.

A bit further on is St George Rotunda, which is Sofia’s oldest, preserved building. The red brick building has been around since 4th century. In 1998 it was reopened to the public after 70 years.

I passed the art gallery, which was the former Tsar’s Palace and headed to the Russian church where out the back they had the big silver looking bowl that is used for dumping babies into holy water for Christenings. Next to that was a bunch of 500ml bottles of mineral water…

So things where interesting watching a proper service and seeing a church actually doing what they are meant to be doing. Instead of just a religious statement on the city landscape. But in truth it was a bit monotonous.

Little quirky facts made the walk a bit more interesting - Good signage helped too. Like at the Russian church being built from 1912-14 to satisfy a Russian diplomat who refused to go to church at any Bulgarian one. Wishes are written on a piece of paper and put into a wooden box next to the white marble sarcophagus where Bishop Serafim lies and believed to be a saint in Bulgarian quarters.

Saint Sophia church was getting ready for a wedding and is a dwarf compared to the main church of the city. Sophia is the church that gave name to the city in the 15th century. Pretty much the city of Sophia would not have been mentioned in this blog if it weren’t for what came up next.

Most churches have been re-gilded in gold leaf, the Russian church is one and the other is Alexander Nevski Cathedral. Even with the clouds covering the sky the gold domes shine on what was once the largest Eastern European Orthodox church. 45m high domes it can hold up to 5000 worshippers inside. The cathedral only recently was taken over by Belgrade’s St Sava which is now the biggest and once complete will house up to 10 000 worshippers.

A walk inside and it shocked me with how impressed I was. Light had been dimmed down to the candles and the suns rays that not only managed to penetrate the clouds outside but the minimal gaps in the churches foundations.

It had an olden days type feel to it where you can imagine what all those other relic churches may have looked like back in the day. The limited lighting meant the mosaics paintings on the wall have kept their full colour. Even Jesus’ head glows of an angelic white. Whilst God is depicted in the middle alter ceiling.

Despite being in such a holy place for the past half a day I started to wonder where my head is at. I saw this good-looking girl sitting on a bench inside Alexander Nevski Cathedral. I thought I am almost at the age where I could get with a religious women and wouldn’t have to hold out that long for sex.

So as I saw this hot young Bulgarian girl sitting there in this spiritual place I came up with that thought and of chatting up a hot religious girl. She then started moving her lips in prayer (probably, “Dear God please get this guy who is subtly looking at me in this holiest of places to go away and not be attracted to me”) Her preys were answered as I quickly erased that thought from my mind.

Parks are a big thing here too and watching old guys go at it on the chessboard or backgammon is a great way to kill 5 to 10 minutes when over walking. The main clash I saw was an old guy with a sailor’s hat punishing middle-aged man with black umbrella between his legs. All chess matches in the park (in front of the Art museum) are played with a timer.

‘Black umbrella between his legs’ would take a minute or two to make his move and before he could hit the time off button, ‘sailor hat’ made his move. “Click, click!” goes the counter and the tension rose. The game was going too long to hang around. I always have wanted to take one of these guys on in the park and see if they can break or even the Romanian carpenter that beat me in 3 moves back in 2003. I still see his smirk after my first move.

The reason why Sophia was empty was like with most European cities the people leave for the closest mass of water. In Bulgaria it’s the beaches of the Black Sea. My first stop was Sunny Beach. I probably should have stopped off at Plovdiv just because of the name but I took the 7 and half hour bus to the coast.

Roads are improving in Bulgaria and within a few years the link from the capital to the coast should be complete. What it is now is a whole day experience passing dried out sunflower fields and billboards that exposed the best of what Bulgaria has to offer. Like the arse that’s poking out for the camera of this hot brunette selling Air conditioners. Or the suds-on breasts advertising the local car wash.

Sunny Beach is real touristy and is more suited to the European tourist than the Bulgarians. The prices are higher for drink, accommodation and food. It was the first week of the Premier League and other European football leagues and holiday goers would deck themselves out in team attire to watch them on TV on the other side of the continent. The best was a Celtic family where the dad and 2 kids where in full kit. Shirt, shorts and socks rolled up.

The beach is surprisingly smooth and an attractive clean white. The only problem was it’s overcrowded by hotels claiming beach frontage with deck chairs and umbrellas but at the back they are general public areas. Sleeping is difficult at times with music thumping and the scorching sun prevents sleep of any depth.

At night you bar hop and drink until the wee hours of the morning. Interestingly Bulgaria have captured a Thailand trait of serving you alcohol and then charging you to go to the bathroom. At a nightclub after paying entry I had to pay to go to the toilet so I say “Whoat? I just paid to enter.” The guy said, “If you don’t pay you don’t go.” and points to leave but toward the bin. I joke, “Ah the bin okay thanks!” Turn around and fake unzipping my fly to relieve myself. A security guard comes along and I make my point with him and he lets me go and I pay.

Had I come here years ago maybe I would have found the easy targets here attractive but you know only the best for me. I could have got with this Aussie girl who said whilst discussing a former Neighbours soap star in Australia that “Oh if I was as hot as her man. I would just walk these streets of Bulgaria and let everyone rape me.” Classy gal!! But not classy enough for me and Sunny Beach provides those opportunities one, which I didn’t take. (I know I haven’t elaborated on the erotic part of this Milan to Minsk and I don’t think I will on my blog, sorry for the tease.)

I left and headed north to Varna which is the Bulgarian resort town. Transport once on the coast is good but the beach was not as good as Golden Sands or Sunny Beach. I was lucky enough to meet some nice people to go out drinking so the nights out were pretty good.

Varna is the cheapest place to party and get beach time on the coast that I went to. I remember I bought a round of drink (5 in total) and it cost me less than $10. Bulgarians are nice people too from what I gathered so this is a good stop over on the coast as it gives a better opportunity to meet locals.

Further north is Golden Sands one of two names I got confused with (Golden Beach, Sunny Sands who knows?) I met up with some Germans I met previously and I was pre-warned that there is a German invasion here. Sunny Beach has Germans too but has Finnish, Norwegian, and English. But Golden Sands just had this massive German scene.

In their embarrassment we had to go into some of the German bars to take the piss. The first night I remember I was dancing to German music but not until the next night I realised I went to two German bars.

The second night was option 1 go to some club and listen to the same shitty music you hear at nearly any club or 2 go and see Markus Becker at 2300 hours… LIVE! Some unknown guy who will sing the most hilarious drinking songs ever to a riotous German holiday goer.

I had no idea what was being sung at the time but joined in to try and fit in. I would attempt to act like I know the words to songs like “Inz fines steins evin lickter” (that doesn’t mean anything in German) But then there was the classic “Heli-heli-heli helicopter. Hey-hey-hey-hey-hey (and repeat whilst your shirt is off and swinging it around like a propeller).

But the clear standout for me was a song about some red horse and a fly who keeps on escaping the wagging red tail of the horse. These are not songs that Germans learn as kids but when they start drinking. It’s hard to try and define whether it is lame, awful or a standout classic night of drinking. But for its uniqueness I’d take it as a standout for nights out on the Black Sea.

I left Bulgaria for Romania in what would be a fruitless attempt to get a Ukraine VISA which readers will be lucky enough to read about over the next 3 or so blogs. I left via the Ruse border for Bucharest. Bus schedules are not the best here. Only 2 hours away but only a few buses run a day and they are not scheduled to link with buses from Varna. I was left to negotiate a taxi to get across for 40 euro since there is no budget accommodation in Ruse. The guy couldn’t speak English but asked “Tu hablar Espanol?” Amazing how learning one extra language (badly) can help. As we crossed I noticed that some Romanian words looked like Spanish too.

Bulgaria in summer is really only a Black Sea destination. I would like to return one day but at another time of year when most of the population is back home living a normal life. I managed to see Bulgaria in holiday mode and it provides a great budget based beach scene for around $35 a day in Europe.

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20th September 2011

You got it all wrong
It wasn't your shirt that you were supposed to swing around like a propeller... Plus Romanian is a Romanic language, hence the similarities with Spanish. It is close to Italian, though.

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