On the same day, around noon, my beautician, her face tight and tanned to a T, tore herself from her focused silence and told me: ‘I went to the Bulgarian seaside. They’re light-years away from us. The hotel room was very spacious! It was actually huge. They changed our towels daily. Food and drinks non-stop and plus, for the money we paid (200 Euros for the entire stay), we could bring our twelve-year old child for free! Now tell me: where can you find this in Romania?’
Exactly. Where DO you find it?
Having had our curiosity piqued, we got into our Dacia Logan and cheerfully set off for Albena, this Mecca of taxi drivers and beauticians. However, the semi-deserted, cliffy beaches, the nauseating heat, a few archaeological sites that will cost you a pretty penny and an oyster farm highly recommended by my gourmand friends which turned out to be rubbish, will wear you down until you reach your destination.
I have to admit that I am quite familiar with the Bulgarian seaside. A few years ago, I drove along the shore line until I reached the Turkish border. No strict or clear-cut schedule or route, only boisterous curiosity. That’s when I happened to drive on every strip of land leading towards the sea and on every roundabout seaside village roads. Last time it was much more fun. After the last experience, I’ve learned to tone down this curiosity of testing beaten roads that randomly open from the main road. Honestly, they don’t lead anywhere. Despite their discreet charm of paths that might be hiding something, at the end there’s nothing more than cliffs, dry grass, wasps and a gluey heat which is magically ‘washed’ by the breeze in Turkey, but not by the one in Bulgaria.
The Bulgarian seaside is truly awesome when you enter and exit it. The shore line begins at Durankulak, a village only ten kilometres from Vama Veche and ends at Sinemorets, only ten kilometres from Turkey. Durankulak boasts of a wonderful beach, with fine sand and very few people, a shaded place where you can have coffee and cold beer and a restaurant where, the word goes, the food is great. I haven’t tried it, so I actually cannot tell you, but just the sight of it made me want to sunbathe. As far as Sinemorets goes, the place the Petruț and Ștefan mistook for Chernomorets in spring, where they ‘got served’ with an out-of-season, very expensive and odd-looking dish – so, Sinemorets is a nice exit: a strip of beach between the lake and the sea, with cliffs and sea as far as the eye can see.
Ask a Bulgarian what’s there to visit at the seaside and he’ll proudly tell you (this has been checked several times) you mustn’t miss the inhabited caves of Kamen Bryag, the cliffy region between Shabla and Kavarna, that gives onto the sea. If you ask me, I’d say you can avoid them altogether. The Bulgarians’ version of it: ‘primitive Aeneolithic establishments, Thracian graves and remains of Roman and Byzantine civilization’; my version: boulders rising out of the sea and a bunch of small rock caves where, from time to time, hippies who communicate with their ancestors sleep under the stars. Anyway, visiting these sights costs five leva per person (the fee paid to visit an archaeological site). A few years ago, when I reached this place under the guidance of some Bulgarians, you didn’t have to pay a fee to visit it and you could camp anywhere you wanted. From those tall cliffs you could see here and there metallic crosses erected for very young people. As Bulgarians don’t speak a word of English, they told us (in a few words and a lot of gestures) that this is a place ‘beloved’ by youngsters who commit suicide out of love. The truth, however, is another: these cliffs attract extreme sports fans who jump into the water from 32-40 feet.
Starving and with high expectations, we finally reached Dalboka. The place is obviously to the liking of Romanian since the menu also provides a Romanian translation of the dishes. For four years I have been hearing about this oyster farm. Each summer, my gourmand friends go to Dalboka. Why? For the resemblance with Greece and for the fresh oysters cooked so well they make your mouth water...NOT. The place does have a picturesque look and it’s good to have a cold spritzer, but food-wise, my experience in Dalboka was beyond lamentable: cheap hypermarket caviar in HORECA buckets, where you can barely fish two grains and oysters swamped in synthetic dressings with several flavours, probably purchased in huge quantities from the same hypermarkets. Nothing more than a cheap and awful fast-food, but with a seaside view.
Only a few rutted roads (lacking any signs whatsoever) and a depressing wandering through the city of Burgas, which engulfs you like a black hole (without any drains). But about this and much more, next time.