It got a little cloudy today so we went for an explore: beyond the beach bar, beyond the end of the resort, beyond the nudie beach (didn’t realise there was one before today). We headed down the coast path, flanked by rotting blue wooden benches and fruit-laden fig trees until we came upon a bar on the top of the cliff. Two large beers for about £1.90. Om-nom-nom.
But on top of the cliff we could certainly feel the breeze on our backs, so moving swiftly on we carried on down the road before we came to a large private apartments complex. Time to leave the beaten path.
This plunged us into the midst of building site Bulgaria. Ever since we’ve been here we’ve seen uncompleted block after uncompleted block. We were thinking that this was a sign of the global credit crunch, but it seems that all building is forbidden during the holiday season, so Wayne from Wolverhampton or Heinrich from Hamburg doesn’t have his hangover bothered by early morning pile-driving. The downside is that everywhere looks post-apocalyptic.
The “village” of Sveti Vlas is one such landscape. You could easily film a zombie movie there (not now Delores!). Acre after acre of half-completed real estate, and the standard of workmanship is second to none (i.e. no workmanship). And we were wandering through this creaking, windswept vista, looking like a pair of lost tourists. I kept listening out for the words: “Brains! Brains!” It certainly was a perfect place for an ambush.
Thing is, as all the guidebooks do say, there isn’t much of that sort of thing in Bulgaria. It is, generally, a safe place to be a tourist.
The most you’ll get is people asking you if you want a taxi the minute you step off a bus, or pointing to the bar they’re standing outside telling you (probably in German) that this particular establishment offers the best food in all Bulgaria, or at least on this particular street.
But if there’s one tip I can offer the visitor to Sunny Beach, it’s to patronise establishments which don’t have people outside touting for business. One such fine example is Rosa and Demir’s Marina restaurant on the beach front opposite the Globus Hotel. It was the only one without a tout that day we first walked past, tired and hungry. Moving through the dark modern bar we arrived at the canopy-covered terrace and ordered from the traditional Bulgarian menu including “Cheese Shopski-style” and Sache meat.
And we’ve been back several times more, not least to sample the Bulgarian Whisky, somewhat reminiscent of a reasonably priced Irish (where reasonable means £5 a bottle) and always Mama’s Bread, the nicest garlic-free garlic bread you could ever taste.
But getting back to Sveti Vlas, and I know we won’t be in a hurry. What a dive. Every second building half completed and the rest for sale, including someone with a UK phone number. We almost felt like ringing it and asking: “What were you thinking!?”. It looked like Pontins on steroids.
We’d been told that Sveti Vlas — or is it Sweaty Lass? — is a town “owned” by the Russian Mafia, it even has a “border post” at the Marina where The Donksis can sail in their mega yachts and drive off to their Bulgarian hideout. It certainly was no episode from the Sopranos.
Desperate for the loo, we stopped off at the Cold and Hott bar and fast food restaurant beside the aforesaid marina where we had chicken burgers and chips and a single Sprite — certainly the worst meal we’ve had all holiday — whilst being battered by the gusty wind and perched on shaky, tattered barstools under a glowering sky.
Your reporter made his excuses and left and we walked quickly — well, trudged — up to the bus stand past more half completed monstrosities to make a speedy getaway, just as the rain came down (actually, this wasn’t rain, just a threat of precipitation).
Sveti Vlas might be nice when it’s finished, but it doesn’t look like that’ll be any time soon.
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