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Bulgaria, Nov 2019

Sofia, and the Black Sea coast.

Contains 999 photos, the last of which were added 4 years, 7 months, 10 days, 16 hours, and 11 minutes ago.

Two days in Sofia, cafe working. Visited some places I'd been to a year ago, and some new ones. Made a new friend. Took the night train to Varna.

A weekend in Varna, enjoying some solitude. Also writing! And working a bit. And exploring the locale. The beach and the Sea Garden are close by, and I have about a 30 minute walk to the city center. So far t-shirt weather, so long as you don't stand still for too long.

I had a day out exploring the coast north of Varna. I tried to take the bus to Golden Sands, but the conductor on the 409 somewhat aggressively told me to get off and take the 9 (good job I know enough Serbo-Croatian to understand some Bulgarian in context!!) but before the 9 came a taxi full of people pulled up and offered to take me for the same price as the bus (3bgn). So that was handy.

The taxi dropped the other people off at different points on the route, and then offered to take me all the way to the top of the hill for Aladzha monastery. Saved me a climb! The monastery is closed on Mondays in winter obviously so I didn't get to check out the cool place carved into the side of the rock or its catacombs.

I did go for a walk through the woods though, which was very serene, and had nice views through the trees over Golden Sands.

I walked down and from the woods entered a slightly dystopian ghost town. Golden Sands is a resort, so at this time of year, no surprise. The hotels were empty, the supermarkets boarded up and the cafes deserted. Plenty of stray dogs, and occasional people sweeping leaves into piles.

The beach truly was golden, and pretty enormous. I imagine in the summer it's packed. There are bars and restaurants lining it, and some tacky fairground stuff. I wanted to walk along the beach all the way to Sv Konstantin & Elena, but some of the more immediately beachfront hotels fenced off their bits of the beach and I had to take the road for long stretches.

Sveti Konstantin & Elena was much nicer than Golden Sands. It felt less tacky (though still had a hotel with a giant pirate ship on the roof) and a bit more alive. I guess people other than holiday makers actually live there. The beaches were still almost deserted and very beautiful.

I had some time before the next bus back to Varna, so I popped into the Botanical Gardens near the bus stop. Also tranquil and beautiful! And full of lovely autumnal colours.

I walked ten miles, mostly along beaches, and was pretty exhausted by the end. Unfortunately RunKeeper seems to have lost the evidence.

Unable to resist the the lure of the headland I can see across the bay from my balcony, I took the bus to the nearby town of Galata. The route isn't really walkable, as it involves a giant highway roadbridge across the bay. I had the impression Galata was kind of fancy, but the parts of it I saw seemed run down. I walked to the tip of the headland, which had a completely abandoned concrete viewing platform that was falling into the sea, and an old lighthouse. It was very cool. Then I headed around to the nearest beach, climbing down a thousand steps through a hillside wooded park. The autumn colours are in full swing, and the sun was hot. There were only a few other people around. I sat on a rock by the sea to write.

A wee jaunt into the town center for cake at Food For Love, then enjoying the sunset from Varna pier.

On a hill near where I'm staying is an enormous concrete monument to Soviet and Bulgarian Friendship. The views from the top are good. I sat up there to write for a bit, and I caught a nice sunset. Then I went into town for curry at Vege Joy.

A day out in Varna. I walked into town through the Sea Garden, and went to the Archaelogical Museum. It's big, and covers the area from prehistoric times to the arrival of the Ottomans, then stops abruptly. Varna has a cool history as Odessos though, home to Thracians, Greeks and Byzantines(?) before the arrival of the 'barbarian' Slavs and Avars.

Burger at Vege Joy. Then a swung by the Roman thermal bath ruins, which was also bigger than expected, and full of cats.

I took the bus back to Chaika so I could walk to the beach at Sveti Nikola in time for a beautiful sunset.

Moved down the coast from Varna to Obzor, and settled into a cosy apartment with an excellent chair, 2 minutes from the sea. From my balcony I can hear the sea, and not traffic, but sometimes construction. But not hearing traffic is important and nice. Obzor is a resort town with nobody in it at this time of year. Only a couple of very small grocery stores are open, but I'll survive. The bus links both north and south down the coast are pretty good if I need to go emergency vegan cheese shopping in Varna or Burgas.

My hosts kindly dropped me in Byala, the next town over, at the top of the track that leads to Kara Dere beach. Kara Dere is wild. There's only a dirt track from the outskirts of town, and there's no infrastructure of any kind. Not even phone signal. It's backed by dunes and behind those are vinyards and other farmland. As soon as I set off I felt the tranquility. There were a few locals fishing from the beach, but nobody else for miles. I found an empty spot, and sat in the sun to write for an hour.

Then I started to walk south. My hosts had told me that it was possible to walk all the way back to Obzor along the beaches.. maybe I'd have to get my feet wet, they said, but definitely doable. Most of the route was easy actually. The tide was far enough out that there were a lot of beaches. Along the base of the great white cliffs that give Byala its name (probably) were beautiful stretches of different kinds of rocks, pebbles, sand. Some places had epic slanting stretches of stone. In only a few places did I need to squeeze between the sea and the cliff.

Until I reached the headland south of Byala with the fort Sveti Atanas. It seemed like it might be possible to get around, and I waded into the sea to reach the next rocks. But they were pretty slippery. The kicker was not knowing what was around the other side. If I knew for sure I'd reach accessible land again soon I would have gone for it, but I had no idea. So I backed up, and climbed approximately ten million steps to reach the top of the cliff. Then I passed through a suburb of Byala, stopping at the Information Center to use the wifi to tell my host I would not in fact be back in time for the internet-fixing people. There is a fort on the headland but it was gated; worth investigating another time.

I descended back to the seafront as soon as possible, through a small district called Chaika, and found a pier and a fishing port. I carried on along the beach, then, all the way to Obzor. There were some truly beautiful deserted spots there too. By this point I just wanted to get back before dark, otherwise I would have hung around for longer.

On the outskirts of Obzor is a large resort hotel. They paved over a chunk of the beach in front of that, but it was kind of a relief after miles of walking on sand. They'd also unearthed an ancient kiln, and put it in a glass room with some signs about the history of the area, so that was cool.

It took three hours from Kara Dere to Obzor.

Walks on the beach and around Obzor. I borrowed Archie, my hosts' doggo, to help. He is so smol but so strong!

A full day walk with Archie through Kaleto and the hills near Obzor. It was beautiful and foresty. There was a clearing with swings. bbq area and a natural spring. I found a big decrepit tower and Archie was a good sport and waited while I climbed to the top.

Last days with Archie, bopping around Obzor.

I took the bus from Obzor to not-so-Sunny Beach, then walked along the dunes to the ancient town of Nessebar. It was a grey cloudy day, but the deserted resort of Sunny Beach was beautiful without any people, and Nessebar is super cool and full of rambling alleys and Byzantine ruins. If you count the number of submerged churches, it has the most per capita in Europe (or something). I had an unexpectedly good lunch at one of the three open restaurants (all in a row), and went to the Archaelogical museum, which is very small.

The part of Nessebar on the mainland is a functioning town, so I also managed to pick up some decent groceries before heading back.

An afternoon trip to Varna for vegan cheese and pizza. Sunny days in Obzor.

A lazy weekend in Pomorie. Beautiful sea views, salt pans, black mineral sand, salt water jacuzzi time, some unsurprisingly mediocre food and some surprisingly good food (at 24 Restaurant), and an ancient Thracian 'beehive' tomb (closed in winter).

Ice on the beach and fireworks in Obzor. Then down the coast to Burgas. Black sand, walks through the sea garden, a lovely town center, and run to Sarafovo.

A day out in the ancient town of Sozopol (Apollonia). A really nice rugged coast with lots of ruins, and cat-guides. Not a whole lot to do at this time of year but eat fried potatoes and watch the sea.