Tuesday, September 1, 2015


In my last post I talked about my trip to Bulgaria, mainly Sofia. One of the other things I wanted to do was go to the Black Sea. It turned out, due to the planning of my trip, that I would be there on the Fourth of July. Had you told me 10 or even 15 years ago that I would one day spend the Fourth of July on the Black Sea I would have told you that you were a liar. 
The Black Sea isn't really a place many Americans think about, even fewer visit. As an experienced American, I think I am qualified to make this statement. 
I didn't want to go to a super-touristy town. Which ruled out a few Black Sea resorts like the area know as "Golden Sands." I chose a city called Burgas. I was happy I did.
While Burgas may not be the most picturesque or romantic looking town in the world it is still beautiful and relaxing to see. It isn't very "old world" because there is a working port there and it is one of the largest cities in Bulgaria. As a friend of mine put it, "It's a city, people work there."
The idea of something like this was attractive to me. I didn't really want to try and spend five days roaming around streets. I wanted to chill on a beach and contemplate the deeper meaning of Fresh Price lyrics and other important philosophical pursuits. I was also thoroughly disinterested in trying to navigate a resort crowded with British tourists who had purchased all-inclusive vacations. The all-inclusive holiday allows you to pay for all your alcohol in advance. Brits love this and feel the need to get their money's worth, therefore they spend their holiday virtually immobilized on a beach somewhere drinking themselves into comas from what they consider their entitled, unlimited, free-flowing booze fountain. I didn't want any part of that.
The beach at Burgas is essentially a city beach and the city did something very smart in the late 1800s. They built the Sea Garden. Technically it was officially started in 1905, but read the wiki and find out more. This park is about 500 meters wide and several kilometers long and it separates the city from the beach. This brilliant idea makes it impossible, for now, for anyone to build a resort hotel on the beach. Just this greatly reduces the number of tourists. I applaud Burgas for it.  

Above you can see the Burgas pier. It's not the most amazing pier in the world, but it does the job and it has a cool observation deck on the right side. There isn't a ton of stuff to see from it; there is a distant lighthouse and you can see the port but that is about it. You'll notice from the photo that there is an oil-drilling platform in the distance and a tanker. Like I said, it's a working town, so what would you expect. Under the pier there were lots of jellyfish.

They are harmless, but still no one wants to get stung by a jellyfish. This made the most popular activity on the pier even more crazy. Local kids were jumping off the far end. Some of them even jumped from the observation deck. 

As you can see there was is an ad hoc diving platform for the kids to jump from. There were kids jumping from the pier a little closer to the beach too. I don't think this was particularly legal, but the police made a trip out to the end of the pier, spoke with the kids who all walked back to the beach. About 30 minutes later a parade of kids headed back out to the end of the pier. You should be able to see kids jumping off the pier closer to the beach in the first photo. 
I was in Burgas to lie on the beach and didn't take too many photos. I did however, take a trip to the local resort town of Sozopol to see what it was about. I took more photos there.
There is an old town and a new town in Sozopol. The new town is a tourist/resort place. I didn't like it. There were arcades and a big boardwalk and it was not appealing to me. Old town Sozopol was a different story. 
Much of old town Sozopol is built on the top of the sea wall. The town is on a small point into the Black Sea. The views are cool, but there isn't much room for sandy beaches since there are so many cliff-like formations. 

You can see a little bit about how the old town is from the photo above. There is an interesting mix of old and new buildings in the town too. For example there were what I assumed to be hotel rooms opening onto a path of the top of the cliffs, next to some shack that maybe someone was living in. I'm not positive, but there was laundry drying on the line in front of it. 

Like I said there were many rocky and cliffy beaches around this part of the town. It made it an easy to defend position and there was a sign stuck on an old gate explaining that this part of the town was once a fortification. There was also a sea gull on a rock that I just had to take a photo of. I'm not really a wildlife photographer, but this one is not bad. Cameron Carver can tell me if it's any good or not. 

As you get further into the old town the architecture starts to become more evident. Many of the buildings are made of wood. I don't know why. Perhaps it is because the local population was more familiar with using it on boats. Maybe it was easier to find. Maybe it's difficult to make bricks near the sea. Other than those explanations i don't have much.
Buildings were made of brick and stone too. Those buildings looked to be newer than the old stone ones.

As you can see, there is a mix of wood and stone. I don't know why these houses are like this, but I'm also not an architect.

These houses look a little more modern. I think one of the oldest in tact building I saw was the Church of the Assumption of Mary from the fifteenth century.

From the street it looks a bit short. This is not the case. It is simple and wooden inside and much more inviting than an orthodox church. There were some ruins of churches in Sozopol, like the rest of Bulgaria. I think this might have been the warmest church I went into during my trip. Warm in terms of welcoming; the temperature was pleasant.
I walked down Pelican street mainly because my grandmother had an incredible fondness for pelicans. She named her house Villa Pelican if that tells you anything.

There I found this quaint little chapel. The name escapes me at the moment. I'm fairly certain it is written on the side of the building, but I don't read Bulgarian so I can not be sure.

Further down Pelican was this exquisite example of soviet-era automotive manufacturing, the Lada 4x4. I saw many of these in Sofia. For a short time I thought I kept seeing the same one. Many of the ones I saw had the same paint, dents and other marks. It was truly awe inspiring to see a production run of cars where the paint all faded the exact same way on all cars. I'm not sure the one above has moved much in the last year or so, but it is difficult to tell with a Lada.

Wandering down Pelican St. eventually lead me to the sea and some docks. The boats here looked a lot like the ones I saw on Crete. I'll make a Crete blog post soon. There were even some boats being repaired and maintained.

Keeping with what I expect is a long tradition of being a city of mariners there is a museum near the sea wall cliffs. It was closed, but there were some old mooring points there. Rusty iron and old anchors always make for fun photography.

I'm not sure if the black and white treatment helped or hurt this photo. I stuck it in anyway.
Then there is the obligatory church ruin. I forget what this church was, but I think it was from the fourth century or so. Bulgaria has a lot of churches from the fourth century.

Then I was on the bus back to Burgas. The trip between Burgas and Sozopol takes about 30 minutes and costs 5 Levas each way. That is something like 2.5 Euros. It's sooooo cheap.

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