Date: August 2019 Duration: 2 days Distance: 293km
After passing (and mostly jumping) through the long queue for Bulgarian Customs, I quickly change all my Turkish Lira for Bulgarian Lev, adding in a few Euro for good measure. Petrol is replenished and I head straight for the Black Sea coast along a heavily pot-holed forest road.
I am about the only vehicle on this 50km section of road. Once or twice I pass an oncoming car and the only people I overtake are a group of youngsters changing a wheel.
I am aiming for the small coastal holiday town of Царево (Tsarevo). It’s quite a contrast to the previous night’s stay in Istanbul. This is what could be best described as Bulgaria’s Lahinch, for anyone familiar with holidaying in the west of Ireland.
While I am still not far from Turkey, the border crossing forced me to detour a good bit west as there are no crossings along the Black Sea coast.
My plan is to follow the coastline north into Romania and then eventually to Оде́са (Odessa) via Transnistria, the only country to still have a hammer and sickle on its flag.
Along my coastal route are numerous scenic towns that are either resorts or places of historic interest, or often both. I stop for lunch in one of these, the town of Несебър (Nesebar), whose old town is located on a peninsula accessed via a small man-made concourse.
The day’s goal however is the big coastal city of Варна (Varna). I have shortlisted a couple of hotels near the seafront. I pull over on the outskirts of Варна and program my SatNav for my preferred accommodation and quickly find myself negotiating the tight inner city streets.
I take the last available room in the hotel, just a few minutes before a group of American soldiers come in to also make enquiries. I apologise for taking the last room.
The hotel parking is accessed using a very steep ramp into what I swear is a converted bunking underneath the hotel.
Варна itself is an interesting very old city, an important trading port and a tourist destination. The centre has all the hallmarks of old wealth, the long sandy beach is lined with bars and restaurants, of which a couple I patronise, and the area inbetween is home to a military museum.
My SatNav is used primarily for a few purposes; locating sights of interests, finding shortlisted hotels and getting out of a city. Stuck in the middle of an unfamiliar city, it’s often hard to place oneself on the correct road to get out, which is why the SatNav is so very useful for this purpose.
Unfortunately for myself but very fortunate for Bulgaria as the need is great, there are many new roads and the data in my SatNav is often out of date. Rather than lead me out on a major highway 1½km from my hotel, the SatNav takes me on rural roads through the mountains northwards.
This would normally be fine and adventurous but in my rush to get to Transnistria for Independence Day, my plan for the day is ambitious as I want to be in Romania and only a stone’s throw from Moldova by evening or maybe inside Moldova itself. This is combined with one and possibly two border crossings.
The queue for the border crossing is only 1km long, which as usual I skip. Despite both Bulgaria and Romania being EU members, neither are in the Schengen area and they still maintain border controls.