Down by the sea
Trip Start Apr 16, 2012
34Trip End May 18, 2012
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Where I stayed
I head back to the Sea Garden, on this windy and grey morning past the sun dial where a statue of Stalin used to stand until shortly after Khrushchev's Secret Speech (Varna was briefly known as Stalingrad from 1949 to 1956), and follow a path down to a derelict bath house. I peer in through the open doors of the changing rooms. Stray clothing and blankets and bottles are scattered on the floor. The graffitied concrete hallways reek of urine. But at the end of the pier the Black Sea glistens a silver green against the yellow sand.
Beach bars line the road along the shore
The sun comes out as I continue past the bars and restaurants to the beach that runs beneath the bluffs. Seafaring swans ply the waters off a mineral bath where corpulent older men in Speedos soak their red bodies in a steaming pool. Out on the breakwater I cans see four tankers standing off the point to the south of town. Empty frames of beach umbrellas are stacked on the sand.
Not many are out on the beaches today. A few cars are parked here and there on the sidewalks, the occasional bicyclist swoops by sans helmet, a handful of fishermen sit on the edge of the breakwaters and I have the shore mostly to my self.
I walk for about two hours before I come to the place where the beach road turns inland and climbs the hill. I'm well past the park and for some time I tread hp and down paved and dirt roads that lead to dead ends or the drives of the homes with manicured lawns and security cameras belonging to whoever it is that's rich in Varna
An online search revealed no existing evidence of the Crimean War camp occupied by English and French troops in 1854 as the jumping off point for their abortive invasion of Russia at Balaclava and Sevastopol. Not entirely surprising, as they were fighting on the side of the Turks who were still occupying Bulgaria at the time. Apparently, a town nearby erected a monument to commemorate the 700 or so Brits who died of cholera in Varna. You can read about it here: http://www.novinite.com/view_news.php?id=132181
And as long as we're linking, there are some great old photos of Varna here:
Just past the torpedo boat Drazki, I run into Denislava with a guy from Guldford, UK in tow, the only taker for the 11 am tour.
I buy a ticket and spend a half hour in the Roman baths, or what's left of them. The scale of the facilities is amazing, complete with a grand basilica and entryway, changing rooms, cold, lukewarm and hot baths, shops and antechamber; an ancient YMCA, really. It's also one of the hopefully few Roman ruins accessible to taggers. A fallen column has been sprayed with a Cyrillic signature in purple. But then the Romans had their own graffiti, too. To tag is human.
It's gone two by the time I reach the hotel and I have a Monte Cristo and a glass of wine in the cafe
Before I finish my glass, it begins to rain and I spend a couple of hours in the room reading Ambler and then off to a splendid dinner at Di Wine, a restaurant in a beautifully restored early 20th-C. house, oddly with some sort of steam punk security cameras in each room and a large screen playing a soundless video of two chefs preparing food. Guess it must be the kind of place to see and be seen. I have a bowl of creamy soup of pureed vegetables with octopus ravioli and shrimp, followed by a small plate of prawns in a citrus dressing and a wonderful rack of lamb in a mustard sauce with couscous and pumpkin seeds. I order a half bottle of Bulgarian Syrah that is very good and polish off a decadent dessert of chocolate and raspberry sorbet and marzipan and god knows what else.
Like Douglas MacArthur, I shall return.