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Published: July 10th 2010
Since last leaving you there has been no possible way for me to make contact with the internet, hence posting these two entries at once. I have even added some more to the previous entry, which I was rushing to write before my battery expired in our restaurant in Sofia. Wednesday morning, arriving in Varna on the roughest zombie train I have ever endured in my life, was our cue to finally leave the theme of heavy civilisation, trains, wifi cafés and even places where we could charge our devices well behind. We were looking forward to three days of sunbathing, swimming, living off bread and white cheese, and sleeping under the stars.
I, for sure, hoped that the stars would provide better protection than the compartment on the zombie train, which despite having a route across the entire country, stopped absolutely everywhere and was the noisiest piece of metal I have ever tried to sleep on. Sleep was easy at first thanks to some very nice rakija we had taken before we began the journey, but made impossible by two guys who joined our compartment (thus forcing us to sit up) at about 2am in the middle of fucking
nowhere. I slept very on and off for the remainder of the darkness, and woke up at the arrival of a fifth girl who joined us in a town not far from Varna. This gave us time to change clothes and freshen up quickly before leaving the train.
We stayed briefly in Varna, enjoying a breakfast of Red Bull and a Croissant (for me - Jitka just had water) under a large Societé Generale logo, which really made me feel like I was back home and going to work - my usual breakfast under the gaze of the group of companies in which I teach most of my classes. We soon got the hell out of here when we finally found someone who understood our slavic guesswork attempt at asking where the beach was. On the way I bought a cheap pair of flip flops from a woman in a street market, and then, finally, we were able to jump into the water and go for a swim. I would not recommend doing that Sofia - Varna zombie train to ANYONE in seating carriages (it's definitely worth paying for the couchette or sleeper) but if you really have to,
go for a swim in the sea as soon as possible and everything will be okay.
We swam, rested and ate some bread and white cheese, and then needed to leave Varna pretty soon after our swim, on a bus to a nearby seaside town called Balchik, where we were going to pick up a car for three days. We had a mad rush trying to find the bus station which ended with us going the wrong way, then fortunately stumbling on a bus garage and a nice driver within, who was willing to take us from the garage on his route which would eventually pass the bus station anyway. Our bus to Balchik was basically a large people carrier, and we both slept the whole journey. We had a snack outside the church before going to pick up our little hatchback from the bus station as arranged.
We drove straightaway to the nearby Kavarna (whose name in Czech, but presumably not in Bulgarian, means "coffee shop"), the base town for our travelling around the Black Sea area, for some essentials. We went to a supermarket for moar bread and white cheese and water, and while Jitka bought
fruit and vegetables from the local market, realising I needed a plain white t-shirt to wear on the beach, I haggled with an extremely irritable shopkeeper who was trying to sell me expensive sportswear - after finally getting that I was just looking for a white t-shirt, he found one offering it to me for 5 leva, then tried to raise the price from 5 to 7 right at the end saying it was worth more money because "it's Bulgarian" and yet I could see a clearly Turkish logo under the packaging. In the moment I pointed this out he took my 5 leva and shooed me away like a spider.
After stocking up we went to check the route we would need to cross over to Romania in 3 days time. The internet had spoken of a bus from outside a hotel which went straight from Kavarna to Constanta, however upon asking at this hotel it was quite clear this bus didn't exist. At the bus station we were told we would have to take a bus to the border crossing (which left twice per day) and then continue our journey on the other side. After this we
finally left for the one place which would mark the halfway point of our journey - Nos Kaliakra. As Czech speakers, we understand the word "nos" to mean "nose", but in Bulgarian it works in at least one other context, "cape".
8 years ago, Jitka and three other friends (one of whose parents used to frequently visit this place) hitchhiked to this exact cape, and stayed in a very well concealed cave underneath it for two weeks. I don't have any previous experience of this place, but Jitka swore that in this 8 years it could not have changed more. Most noticeably, a colossal windfarm swept over the neverending flat and lifeless fields which surrounded the cape, which had been built within the last 8 years. Also, when we arrived at Kaliakra, we found ourselves faced by a gate guarded by a man taking money from cars to enter, so we turned around and parked in a stopping point about 200 metres back. When we asked him if we could get down to the beach, he told us that there was no beach here, and that the nearest beach was 2 kilometers around the cape. When Jitka explained that
Descending towards the ruined house
she had been here 8 years before and knew that there was a beach, he said there was no way of getting down to the sea from behind his gate as there were no paths. Finally when Jitka asked him where the fresh water spring was, knowing that there was one near this gate, he pointed to a small fountain in a corner but told us the water wasn't drinkable.
Putting two and two together it became clear this guy had no idea what he was talking about. And lo and behold, 5 minutes further down the road on our right hand side we came to a path, leading precisely towards the sea. The path wasn't exactly perfect - overgrown bushes exteded almost concealing it in some places, but we found ourselves descending exactly as we expected, towards a ruined brick house and from thereon, down towards the sparse, rocky coast. A short walk over some rocks along the coast and we were there - at this cave. From the outside it was nothing special, but I really felt in this moment that, like me with No-Snakes Hill in Stara Novalja, Petrov in Brno or the tree in Black
Park, we had come to a place which Jitka deeply valued within her soul.
Knowing no one could see us at all (the closest vaguely visible thing from the top of the hill being the house) we took all our clothes off and bathed in the rock pools for a while - it was deeply relaxing and liberating and I can understand that staying here for 14 days must have left the four born new human beings at the end. We walked up realising we had left our suncream in the car, and that the layer we had applied after arriving in Balchik was starting to wear off. We passed back over the gate and Jitka took note to explain to the man there that there was indeed a path down to the beach - he defended himself this time by saying that there were snakes there.
Next we drove around to the beach on the other side of the cape which we'd been told about, and after a swim and a lie down, went to have a look for a place to sleep. After scrambling up a few hills and finding nothing except holes full of mosquitos
The other beach
Which even the guy on the gate in Kaliakra agreed was accessible
and plastic bottles left there by previous revellers. Eventually we found one in easy reach of the beach which seemed to have been used as a sleeping place by others before (there was even a ring of stones all neatly set out for a campfire), so we decided to wait until sunset eating moar bread and cheese (with tuna, tomatoes and cucumber this time) and drinking white wine, waiting for anyone who might be occupying the cave at the moment. After sunset, we waited by the car, fussing over a couple of presumably stray kittens who had nested themselves under our car, and taken our rubbish bag from dinner while we weren't looking, resulting in one of them managing to get its head stuck in the tuna tin. Freeing the poor thing, we poured out the rest of the contents of the tin for them and then took our bag away, as well as some clothes which needed washing.
While washing the clothes (by this time the first stars were beginning to appear), we were distracted by an apparently wolf-sized dog prowling the beach area where people had been sunbathing previously. This dog clearly belonged to the family who
were running the bar at the beach, which still had some lights on around it, and my feeling was that it was simply their dog and that they had let it out because it would be unwise to let a dog among sunbathing potential customers during business hours. Jitka, however, was more cynical and indeed, after she threw our bag away, the dog spotted us and started trotting towards us, silently, but quickly enough to shoo us back to the car. Jitka called for help on the way and the owner of the bar came out and began to look first for the dog, who had wandered up the very path to the cave we planned to sleep in, and then having retrieved his pet, came to look for us with a flashlight. We were now safely back in our car drinking the remainder of the wine to overcome these inexplicably surreal events, and he hadn't noticed us. We retired to sleeping in the car incase disturbed or, indeed, incase we simply weren't supposed to still be in this area. But it was okay. For me, the fact that we were in a place from which one could see Rho Cassiopeiae with the naked eye made everything okay.
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