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Published: July 10th 2010
Buying food from the market
In Balgarevo, the nearest village to Kaliakra
We woke up on thursday morning having slept surprisingly well, considering the wonkiness of our masterpiece couchettes constructed from fully reclined seats and our backpacks. It was 9am, and we were expecting that some earlybird tourists might have started to arrive by now, however, the sky just happened to be covered by a pale but gloomy layer of stratus, and stepping out of the car, we realised it was infact very windy. We pondered what we would do in conditions which made swimming and sunbathing impractical over our breakfast of moar bread and white cheese. We decided to go to the next beach up, Rusalka, which we knew was a resort, so would at least have some kind of bars and such if the beach were empty. When we arrived however, the stratus had started clearing and some blue and occasional sun was poking through the sky.
I would not recommend Rusalka to anyone, mind. The 16% grade hill down to the resort had a cash desk and gate like the one at Kaliakra sneakily placed at the very foot of it, at a place where turning back would be very difficult, so despite the fact that we already had
Bread and white cheese
the feeling that Rusalka wasn't for us, we went in, paying the 5 leva parking fee. Whats more, the only thing available to us since we weren't staying at the resort hotel was a small beach, way out of sight from the rest, with a sole stand selling cans of beer and coke for 3 leva apiece. Everything else was cordonned off for the rich people staying at the hotel, and even when asking inside the hotel where we could go, the impatience of the receptionist made it clear that 2 backpackers living off a Czech salary with an Opel Corsa for a home were not particularly welcome here.
However, we had paid the parking, so we stayed. Behind the small beach with the bar, we found another even smaller beach over some rocks, which we pretty much had to ourselves all day, aside from a quick visit from some rather exhibitionist 40-something German tourists later on in the afternoon. The sun had been cutting and covering behind clouds all afternoon, but the departure of the Germans was right on cue with a huge looming storm cloud bearing over us, and just as we made a decision to go
and find a restaurant in a nearby village to recharge our camera battery, it started to rain on us. It was about time - we had been sunbathing (and not applying enough cream) all day, and needed to move. What seemed to be a light shower continued until we hit the main road north, so on the way we decided to check out some possible places to sleep that night. We found a place tucked away down a few tracks in a forest, where it would be possible to park and not disturb any tractors passing us to get to the vast roadside sunflower fields in the morning.
After this, we found a restaurant in the neighbouring village Kamen Bryag, where we enjoyed a ridiculously cheap 3 course meal while the generous host family of the restaurant left the battery plugged in. When we stepped out, it became clear that what we had been in before was a bit more than just a passing shower. We therefore abandoned our plan to sleep in the forest and moved further north. On this stretch, shower turned rain turned into thunderstorm, which eventually turned into flood. Our search became a perilous sprint
We needed it after that death chase.
to find somewhere far from anywhere on the road where water might gather. Our feelings of being on a summer holiday buried themselves far under the soil. We were now in the same mood as the thousands of drooping sunflowers we rushed past. Jitka's knuckles were turning white on the steering wheel as she tried and managed very well to avoid as many pot holes as possible while following my directions and not falling into any water.
I directed her up a hill away from the sea, which led us away from floodable areas, gaining about 30 metres on the climb, and towards the small town Shabla, where we felt we should look for somewhere quiet, unfloodable, not too close to trees and within town limits, and preferably not too far from a restaurant as we both (especially Jitka) felt like we needed some heavy rakija before sleep, wherever we would sleep. Such a place came to us just on the northern edge of the town not too far from the main road, an old basketball court about 200 metres from a restaurant, which was completely flat and full of pot holes. We found a place away from the
Our home for the night
Old basketball court in Shabla
holes and away from trees to park, and then dashed through the storm to the restaurant. It took a while for the manager to understand that we had just dashed for our lives away from a flood and just needed a huge shot of rakija - we eventually compromised by ordering plates of cheese and vegetables as well, which turned out to be a good idea. The extra food was very welcome as we came away.
That night's sleep was the worst I have ever had. The sunburn on the back of my leg coupled with the fact that I was sleeping on a car seat made moving extremely painful, and in any case, after waking up once at about 4am, I could manage only occasional shuteye as from then the storm began to roar once more. We both woke up at 7 and, realising the storm had restarted during the night and continued for three hours straight, decided we would return the car to Kavarna a day earlier than planned and cross over to Romania today. There was no point staying here - the sea was closed to us. We would spend all day in the car for
Jitka with our bags at Kavarna bus station
the sole reason that we had paid for it. We cleaned up the chaotic but homely bordel
* we had created over the two days under cover of a petrol station, and then gave back the car in Kavarna. The car company (who I would recommend to anyone, by the way, so message me for details) refunded us the extra day which we had paid for but never used, which was a lovely welcome surprise. We spent our last remaining leva on bus tickets to the Romanian border, and waited an hour in the bus station.
After arriving (alone) to the border station, we had to walk across to the other side and show our passports, where another bus was waiting to take us to the nearby seaside town Mangalia. There, a third bus waited to take us to Constanța. Two hours later having alighted at Romania's Black Sea capital, we started to walk towards the town centre from the train station and on our first crossing, we were welcomed to our next country by a truly weird sight - a one legged man hopping with one crutch in the middle of the main road asking people in cars speeding
Crow on a bench
past for money, and then, should this not have been enough, one such passing car being recklessly pursued by a pack of four or five stray dogs, which seemed to be trying to "attack" the car from all sides, even the front.
We should have acted on our first impressions of Constanța. I would advise backpackers not to come here - our search even for somewhere to eat was long, but eventually we managed to sit down and enjoy a nice spaghetti bolognese and a return to the wi-fi world in a sports bar on the road connecting the centre to the station. The people there, however, who could speak English (our slavic guesswork now being somewhat redundant in a romance language speaking country), told us plainly that to their knowledge there was no tourist information centre, nor any hostels in Constanța, and if there were hostels, they would be cautious of whoever was running them. They just simply did not expect tourists there. The best advice they could give us was to find a motel in a "safe" suburb of the city. However, I had another idea. I phoned my friend with whom we were supposed to be staying with in Bucharest the next night, and we got back on the iron road as quickly as we could before it was too late to make the 4 hour journey. I write this now, sitting on a rather luxurious (for former eastern bloc standards) train with plug sockets and air conditioning, feeling as ever having nearly completed one of those all day journeys with more changes than you usually make in a week, unable to believe that we woke up in that basketball court in Shabla this morning, and even less able to believe that we were sitting on that beach yesterday, as summer really seems to have ended now. However, on a nicer reflection, after four days, we are going to have a place to sleep tonight which isn't on wheels.
*bordel = a Czech word I have made part of my regular vocabulary because of its sheer linguistic brilliance. It literally means "brothel", but when said about someone's bedroom or house or any kind of personal space, it means that that space is a mess.
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