Varna, Bulgaria

Varna, Bulgaria
July 19th 2010

It was supposed to be the place where I could go and get my tan on. I have severe farmer’s tan and I needed to even it all out. I was supposed to be at a hostel located a minute from the beach. I would get up, walk outside, see the beautiful waters. The sun would be shining, the sand would be so soft and fine, I would walk barefoot toward the waters, sit down, and just enjoy everything around me. Wishful thinking.

I got to Varna very late at night. I had to take the train from Brasov to Bucharest. After trying to talk to the most unfriendly international ticket staff in the world, I went to an ATM machine. Surprise surprise, DENIED. I was in a pickle but luckily, although my credit card was also DENIED, I could pay using my debit card. What’s up with Romania? Never had this issue anywhere else in Europe.

So I took the train from Bucharest to Ruse (Bulgaria), on the border. Bought a bus ticket from Ruse to Varna but had some down time. So I spent it eating terrible terrible terrible food (I hadn’t had anything to eat all day, so a plate of God knows what which had been sitting behind the counter for God knows how long, was actually something I scarfed quickly, knowing I might die the next day. See picture above).

After that, I went to buy a bottle of water from a vendor next door. She proceeds to sneeze in her hand, then grab my bottle on the head. I don’t know why but I took it, disgusted, but I took it. I should have tried to sign-language my way into another bottle but these Bulgarians, they couldn’t give a rat’s ass. Nobody in Europe believes “The customer is always right”. They don’t work on tips here, it is automatically added on in each bill already. Yes, 20% of what you’re paying, is tip already included. But it is the way it is. BTW, I proceeded to take out my alcohol wipes, then wipe down my bottle. After drinking the water, I did not fall onto the ground convulsing. Long term brain damage? We’ll just have to see. I took one Pepto-Bismol tablet just to be safe.

I do have to say, the highlight of my road trip to Varna was seeing so endless fields of beautiful sunflowers. I think there were millions and millions.

I arrived at the bus station, then proceeded to look for bus #409 or #148 (guide book said it’d take me to the city center). Droves of taxi drivers came up to me, asking me if I wanted a taxi ride. BTW, this is common in Eastern Europe, you will be hassled (and hustled) by every taxi driver, street vendor. They are like hungry wolves, and I’m a juicy piece of tourist meat getting off the bus. Anyway, one taxi driver tries to get my attention and without looking, I say “No thanks, I am riding the bus” but the guy runs to me and starts asking me which bus. So I told him, and surprisingly, he tells me I’m on the wrong side of the street. I need to get on the bus stop across. So I thank him, and it was then I realized, although some people are trying to make a living, there are those who really do want to be nice and helpful. Shame on me sometimes, the way I think…I cannot stereotype these people, even if most couldn’t give a crap about me. It is just my paranoia I think. It is better to be cautious and skeptical of people because I am by myself in a foreign land. I have lied about where I come from, I have lied about my name, about where I’m going to a number of people, just to preserve my anonymity. But there are times I have been truthful as well to complete strangers, and have come out unscathed. It is all about having faith and belief that some strangers out there are truly interested in a foreign person, not trying to find ways to scam them.

Ok, enough about all that. I take the bus, not sure where I got to get off, and the conductor couldn’t understand me. Luckily, a young youth helps me out. I get off, then wonder…”Where am I sleeping tonight???” That’s right, I didn’t book any hostels in advance because I didn’t know if I was going to make all the connections on time the entire day. I walk and walk around those strange streets, trying to find some hostels from my guide book. The first one, wasn’t even there. I got lost, eventually having people guide me to another hostel. It was full. I got sent over to a budget hotel nearby. Luckily, there was a room available. I was far away from beaches, no internet, a hot stuffy room, but I had a bed. OK, works for me.

Next day, fresh from a sleepless night, I buy a small cup of coffee in the cafe next door, and milk their free wifi. I walked around Varna, exploring. The beach was about 10-15 mins walk, not too bad, but again, not what I had in mind when I first decided to come here. The weather was ok for the first part of the day. I discovered a beach filled with Bulgarians and tourists a like. Old, young, men, women, kids, people who shouldn’t wear Speedos, and some topless sunbathers (the good kind). I rolled up my pants, took off my sandals, and took a stroll on the sandy shore. The waves splashing on my feet felt good. I didn’t get in the water. Just took in the views. Not quite the beach I hoped for but a beach nonetheless, probably the “goto” beach for most Eastern Europeaners.

A little self-serve cafeteria food, a stroll along the streets. Nothing eventful. Street money changers constantly come up to me asking if I want a good exchange rate.

Next day, I pack up my crap, prepare to check out and catch the late bus to Istanbul. I get some ice-cream, it is hot, the sun is shining hard. A few minutes later, the rain comes down hard. Everyone runs for cover. I find shelter outside a local bookstore, along with a bunch of locals. When the downpour softened up somewhat, some people make a dash for it to get on buses/taxis/whereever. A few minutes later, the window closes and the rain comes down hard again. I was unfortunate and stupid enough to go scouting for the place where I’m supposed to be waiting for my bus. So I navigated my way back to the bookstore. I stayed put until 20-30 minutes after the rain stopped. The wait for the bus later was an eternity.