No Monday Blues Here
[Sveti Vlas, Bulgaria]
I was just six years old the last time I visited the Bulgarian seaside in 1987. I don’t remember much of that time, but my parents do. Going to the beach back then was not as easy. There wasn’t a highway connecting Sofia and the major coastal cities, so travel by car was slow and long. Back then, there weren’t many hotels, and the ones that were there were government-owned.
The coastline was pristine and pretty.Two of the main resorts, Sunny Beach and Golden Sands, were cash cows for the communist government. They were super expensive (for Bulgarians, at least), which effectively made them accessible to foreigners only – some of them from Western Europe. It was the only time most Bulgarians had contact with Western Europeans, since travel to Western Europe was forbidden.
Today, the highways connecting Sofia to Varna and Burgas make the trip only 3 to 4 hours along. Varna and Burgas are the biggest cities along the coast – Varna is to the North, and Burgas is to the South. The resort my parents have been going to for the last 11 years is called Sveti Vlas and it’s just North of Burgas. On Sunday morning, that’s where we headed.
The trip was pleasant, albeit boring at times. The highway was nice enough for the most part – the last stretch of it had just been completed in 2011. We stopped at a few gas srations along the way to rest, drinks some coffee and eat. Gas srations here are a bit different. Paying at the pump is not a option, and there is always a patio on the side for people to drink coffee and take a smoke break. Come to think of it, there is hardly any activity in Bulgaria that’s not conducive to drinking coffee or smoking a cigarette – hence, a trip to the gas station or a stop in the park always comes with facilities to engage in these activities. 🙂
The highway ended in Burgas, so from there we took a local road that sneaked along the coast. Since there was only one lane in each direction, traffic was worse, especially in the opposite lane due to Sunday traffic back to Sofia. The infrastructure hasn’t kept up with the growth in the resorts, so this road, which goes about 100 miles North to Varna, is notorious for its traffic jams. I kept wondering how the two biggest cities along the coast were still not linked with a proper four-lane road.
After a stop in Sunny Beach ro visit friends of my parents’, we got to Vlas in the late afternoon. We walked down the the beach to reserve 3 lounge chairs and two umbrellas. Beaches here work a little different here. Although public and free to access, they have been leased to private companies, who then make their money renting chairs and umbrellas to the public. These companies are required to maintain a certain portion of the beach free of chairs and umbrellas for people who don’t want to pay to be able to use their own stuff on the beach. Another difference is the presence of beach cafes. They are literally on the sand, and you can order a drink (including acohol) and food from your beach chair. Alas, we didn’t have time to partake in any of this on Sunday, but we did reserve our chairs and umbrellas so we were set for our first beach day on Monday.
And it was the most leisurely of beach days. We got to the beach around 11 and left around 5. Mom and I enjoyed a beer at the beach cafe around noon, and I added a plate of fries with feta cheese – one of the best food and drink combos on this planet. In the eve, my parents’ friends from Sunny Beach walked to Sveti Vlas and we had dinner at another place overlooking the central square. My dad joked, “How did the first working day of the week go?” No Monday blues here. 🙂