A Travellerspoint blog

Back to Black

Amy Winehouse ... what can you say? She passed away early on during this trip, which was shocking in a way but sadly, was almost expected, given her lifestyle and history. Her death, and the manner in which it transpired, surprised no one. "Back to Black" was an instant classic, rocketing her to stardom - it's truly tragic that she never made more music, and never had the opportunity to further deliver on the promise she exhibited. So here's a tip of the hat to her - love or hate her, and whether you are a fan of her music or not, her time came much too soon.

My time on the Black Sea has also ended, much too soon - Balchik is one of those places that can be experienced in a single night, but is perfect for lounging around a few more. It's a sharp contrast to the overdeveloped resorts on the Black Sea and while I couldn't wait to escape those as soon as stepping off the bus, I wish I could stay longer in Balchik. The first few days on the Black Sea were just plain bad but arriving in Balchik, I felt as if I had returned to something good - Back to Black ...

Sadly, time just won't permit another night in Balchik - if this had been earlier in the trip there would be, but only four Bulgarian nights are left, with one being an obligatory stop in Sofia to catch a flight to Frankfurt. The other three nights are slated for Veliko Tarnovo, which from most accounts, is the minimum required to do the city and surrounding area justice.

Bulgarians say that if you don't come to Veliko Tarnovo, you haven't really seen Bulgaria. Given the great times so far, I was really looking forward to this place, as it seems to be the crown jewel of Bulgaria. But after a long day of travel, first impressions were severely lacking. It's quite the hike to the hostel from the bus station, a good 25-30 minutes. Hostel Mostel offers free pick-ups from the bus or train stations, but I'm never able to take advantage of it since I'm not carrying a cell phone, and payphones only take pre-paid cards, which I haven't purchased. Still, I didn't mind because it's nice to stretch the legs after a long bus ride, and the ride was about 30 minutes shorter than expected, giving a nice excuse to walk and find the place. Without a doubt, my best memories of Bulgaria so far are the friendliness of the people, with even touts being kind and helpful. Here in Veliko Tarnovo, the touts are quite aggressive, bordering rude ... the hostel provided clear directions on how to get close to the fortress, which is close to the hostel, but the actual layout is a bit confusing in comparison to the map I had. While in the newer part of town, you can't see the town's sprawling fortress and use it as a reference point. One tout was extra rude when I kindly told her I already have a place to stay, but when I inquired about the direction of the fortress, she refused to answer and brusquely turned and walked away, like a bratty child, while muttering something under her breath. Ok ...

Ended up closer to the old town, but again was a bit turned around ... a sign directed me uphill, which didn't seem right, but who am I to argue with an official sign? An old man came up and asked if I was looking for the hostel and I replied yes, and he also directed me up the hill - figuring the local and the sign must be right, I headed up the hill to find ... the wrong hostel. On the descent, I came across the old man making his way up hill, and he started animatedly pointing me back uphill "Hostel! Hostel!!! HOSTEL!!!!!" I said no, wrong one, and he started complaining loudly in Bulgarian - perhaps he was on his way up to try and get a commission? Sigh ...

Finally, I was inching closer to the fortress but still unsure of the direction and stopped to ask a couple which way it was. They told me sorry, they weren't from here and couldn't help - uh ... if you're a tourist and not from here, how could you not know where the fortress is, the single most famous sight in town? Especially when you obviously know where you're going, and aren't hauling around your luggage with a map in hand, looking confused? Sigh ...

But finally, I saw somebody who looked like a backpacker - yes! Take the left fork in the road? Perfect! So an hour after arriving in Veliko Tarnovo, and 30 minutes later than I should have gotten to the hostel, I still ... wasn't there. Sigh ... again, the layout in the old town is tricky, and sometimes you just don't know if the little alleyways you see are actually what look like streets on the map. Finally, standing lost on a corner, a van pulls up to me - it was the Hostel Mostel shuttle! "Are you looking for the hostel?" Yes!!! "It's just over the there." as the driver pointed to a place no more than 30 metres away. Sigh ... just my luck, help finally arrives as I almost stumbled upon it myself.

So I walk about ten feet and the van pulls alongside again, with the driver joking "Would you like a pick-up?", driving away as we both chuckled. As frustrated and pissed off I was at that point, a good laugh was perfect to lighten my mood. The hostel itself - the other two Hostel Mostels were good but not great, with the Sofia location being a bit too big and the Plovdiv one being a bit too small. This one is perfectly-sized, with solid wooden bunks and airy rooms that make for a cool night's sleep. A huge garden with comfy areas for lounging around, a large dining room, a common room stuffed full of plush pillows, super clean bathrooms, friendly and helpful staff, it's got all the makings of a perfect place for a backpacker to sleep for a few nights - I think I'm going to like it here ...

Veliko Tarnovo's Monument of the Asens ...

Veliko Tarnovo's Monument of the Asens ...


Footbridge near the Monument of the Asens ...

Footbridge near the Monument of the Asens ...


Balchik's Beach

Balchik's Beach


Beautiful Location Below the Cliffs

Beautiful Location Below the Cliffs


Balchik Beach's Shower ...

Balchik Beach's Shower ...


Breakfast at Cafe Vienna ...

Breakfast at Cafe Vienna ...


Should've Gone Here Instead ...

Should've Gone Here Instead ...


Super-Convenient Pitstop in Varna ...

Super-Convenient Pitstop in Varna ...


Meatballs, Or Rice Balls? ...

Meatballs, Or Rice Balls? ...


Buddha Doesn't Believe in Bloodshed ...

Buddha Doesn't Believe in Bloodshed ...


On Purpose???!!?  The Sign Clearly ...

On Purpose???!!? The Sign Clearly ...


Samovodska Charshiya ...

Samovodska Charshiya ...


Possibly the Worst Name EVER ...

Possibly the Worst Name EVER ...


Second Dinner at a Mehana ...

Second Dinner at a Mehana ...

Posted by vagabondvoyager 17:00 Archived in Bulgaria

Email this entryFacebookStumbleUpon

Table of contents

Be the first to comment on this entry.

This blog requires you to be a logged in member of Travellerspoint to place comments.

Login