Published: July 13th 2012July 11th 2012
These pillars are at the entry to the Sea Garden Park
Wednesday 11th July 2012
We were off at 0830, our bus to Varna leaving the terminal at 0915. We ordered a taxi through the hotel and to our surprise, they paid the fare. We have nothing but praise for the Arena Tarnovo Hotel, clean rooms, friendly staff, and they try to be as helpful as they can.
The bus trip took about 30 mins longer than the expected 3 hour trip but this was because there seemed to be something wrong with the bus at one stage, which the driver quickly repaired after a short stop, and the number of semi-trailers that had to be passed. Good driver though, never seemed to take any risks - Rags is not a good passenger and he was happy.
On checking into the Plaza Hotel we were pleased to go into a studio room with 2 double beds plus a sitting area with 2 large couches, table and TV. We may even extend our stay if we need to. The hotel is on a large pedestrian mall, with cafes lining it, running down through a park to the beach. One cafe, Happy's, is the same chain we came across
The Black Sea
Narrow beach, coarse sand, rows of umbrellas and lots of people.
in Ruse, and here we had lunch.
After lunch it was down to the beach to check it out. The beach itself is cut off from the park by buildings and high walls, many in a state of disrepair. We entered the beach through an entrance and walked along the coarse sand beach packed with umbrellas and people. We dipped our toes in the Black Sea which is very warm (about 25 degrees Rags read somewhere) neither of us are very keen to go for a swim. Clouds had started to move in, this making the water look quite grey, maybe when its sunny it would be better.
By the time we had walked the length of the beach we had reached the groyne fronting the port and we walked along this back to the edge of the park. There was one funny incident, thunder and a few drops of rain started falling and many cars were trying to leave. A couple of ladies driving in opposite directions met and neither wanted to back out. When one finally did the two drivers started hitting and yelling at each other as they drew alongside. Road rage happens here too!
The Black Sea
Effluent pipe and sign advising no swimming. Is ignored but not by us!
The rain and thunder increased as we reached the hotel, after having a refreshing shower we settlled into our lounge to research where we go from here. We probably won't make any firm decisions until we have experienced a bit more of Varna.
We set out for dinner at about 1800 but after walking down the mall found most catered only for drinks. We returned to the cafe opposite our hotel, the Bistro Europe, where we are to have our breakfast included in the room cost. They had a so-called 'Happy Hour' for several hours, half price for very inflated prices. There was nothing on the menu that we fancied and the service was poor, so after a drink, we left, crossing the road to our old favourite “Happy”. Here we had a plate of succulent pork shank on mashed potato, a plate of marinated chicken and silverbeet sauce on mashed potato, plate of wedges, plate of mushrooms, plus a carafe of merlot all for under A$20. Maybe not what the doctor would order but a good meal all the same.
Thursday 12th July 2012
This morning we had our breakfast of croissants and
This is just around the corner from the swimming beaches and doesn't help in keeping the water clear.
coffee/tea at the cafe over the way from the hotel, the hotel having this arrangement with them. Sufficient, but nothing to write home about. It was quite pleasant though eating it al fresco rather than in a hotel breakfast room.
Today we decided to go on the Free Varna Tour, an initiative approved by the Varna City Municipality. This is run by volunteers. We met our guide at 1100 at the front of the Cathedral and as there were no other takers, left 10 minutes later on our private tour. We spent the next 2 hours walking to various sites with the history and political facts of Varna over the last 4 or 5 centuries being explained. We learned of the battles between Turkey, Greece and Romania over the years, the borders and rulers changing regularly. It was an interesting tour, the young guy, Galin, walked us around showing us places the average tourist wouldn't see and giving us some idea of the history of the country.
As Judy had an online discussion group timetabled for 1400 our time, we hurried back to the hotel after the tour, having a scare when the internet was down but Rags
Very majestic. The walking tour commenced here.
soon sorted this out, ringing reception who then did a router restart and all was well! Judy settled in for her meeting for the next hour or so before checking her discussion boards and doing some marking. Dinner was at a cafe recommended by our tour guide. It was only about 2 blocks away from our hotel but also away from the hustle and bustle. The food was more authentic Bulgarian, the serves large, and the cost much less than closer in. After this we walked down some of the side streets and looked at some of the sttalls, making a couple of small purchases. We also strolled down through one part of the Sea Garden to a rock garden that was lit up as our guide told us it would be. It was interesting watching people and buskers, everyone seemed to be out at this time.
Friday 13th July 2012
It may be a black day for some but wasn't for us. Had a late start after breakfast and caught the bus to the Grand Mall shopping centre. The bus was crowded and we ended sitting in seats away from each other until we were
A bit of trivia from our guide - if the front legs of horse are off the ground, the rider died in battle. If all on ground, lived a normal life. One leg raised, who knows?
almost at the mall. When the person next to Judy moved Rags moved to sit next to her and as he did so he felt someone fiddling with his back pocket where his wallet was. He grabbed back and the hand was gone, a young woman moving across to another seat. Couldn't prove anything but the wallet was duly moved to a pocket in the front with a zip closing it.
The mall is allegedly the largest in Bulgaria. We walked around the 3 floors and saw nothing of great interest (in Rags' opinion) so we arranged for Judy to go off for an hour or so, Rags finding a seat and a coffee where he could read his book.
Lunch followed at a cafe in the centre, both of us opting for salads as we are afraid all the food we are eating is not doing our waistlines much good. After lunch we eventually found the shop where Judy had found a pair of the most comfortable shoes which she then purchased. By then shopping was getting a little tedious, but we still managed to walk the almost 1km to the Varna Mall where a quick walk
Pyramid developers flourished. This hole in ground was meant to be the basement of a large shopping/living complex. Now an exclusive carpark.
around found nothing worth buying.
The local bus took us back to the hotel, where we managed to connect with Judy's son, Ryan and his partner Sabrina on Skype. This was fun, Ryan only recently joining. They were jealous of the fact that we were obviously in a warm climate being lightly dressed, while they suffered the cold in Perth. Another 2 weeks and we'll be in the cold too, not looking forward to that!
There are more photos below