I've returned from a week in Sunny Beach, Bulgaria. My parents were fond of taking holidays in very quiet areas of Portugal. Very quiet areas where a passing horse and cart is big news. OK I may exaggerate but I've rarely been to a big resort location such as Spain. Bulgaria was suggested to us by the travel agents and I heard it was reasonably cheap. Of course that looks like it is about to change because Bulgaria joined the EU at the beginning of this year.
One day Him Indoors and I decided to take a tour to the cities of Nessebar and Burgas. Both places were an experience. Burgas made me feel like I was in a production of 'The Third Man' and I kept expecting to see Orson Welles strutting around the square and muttering something about cuckoo clocks. The experience of that city made me feel like a fat and reasonably wealthy European. There was a small family of beggars wandering about. One little girl tried to take a tourist's ice cream cone headed for the bin and was loudly told to 'Fuck off' by the six foot English inbred idiot who possessed it. Myself I was pissed off by the kids coming up to me whilst I was trying to read my book but I ignored them. I had used up all my energy glaring at someone on the tour bus who used the word 'Pikey' to describe the Gypsy population.
Our tour guide was a charming Bulgarian girl who Anglicised her name to Daisy. This was a common occurrence amongst the Bulgarians I encountered in hotels and restaurants. On the transport between Burgas and Nessebar she offered up a Q& A session and answered some rather interesting questions. One was about the EU and she remarked that it was becoming more expensive to live in Bulgaria. The average Bulgarian takes home around 300 levs a month which is approximately £100. I'm sure Mr West could explain the ins and outs of requirements countries need to fill before being allowed EU membership better than I can. According to Daisy the cost of living and essentials such as water and electricity are going up but the wages are not rising to cope with this. She commented that most of the farm land in Bulgaria is going to waste due to the ghost of the Communist regime. Very little of the younger population has any interest in farming so most of the land is being sold for property development. Our hotel was across the road from a very busy building site so I can testify to that. To give you an idea of the development, our hotel was near the back end of Sunny Beach. Here are some photos taken from our balcony and the restaurant:
Please note this is only a small sample but there are literally hotels as far as the eye can see. Of course, tourists bring money with them. There were hundreds of restaurants and bars yet most of them seemed to tout one USP.
Nearly every bloody bar we went to had sodding karaoke. One night we were having a meal in a local restaurant and, halfway through our dinner, a musician (I use that term loosely) struck up his guitar and started belted out classics such as 'Alice? Who the fuck is Alice?' and 'Stairway to Heaven'. The drunken English party sitting beside him were lapping this up and screeching along with him. Him Indoors reported one half of the restaurant was loving every minute of this 'entertainment' whilst the other half look horrified they had ordered desserts and had to prolong this agony. The food was very nice but I am an old fashioned fart in that I like to have conversations with the person I am having a meal with. I do not want to have to raise my voice over 20 drunkards and 1 very bad musician.
Rant over. Having said that Bulgaria is a rather charming country and tipping is not expected. In a country where a good cup of coffee costs 60p I felt rather guilty if I didn't tip the waitress the extra few levs from my change. A decent three course meal with wine can be bought for under £20, again in the more expensive areas. The bar and restaurant staff seem genuinely grateful for any tips, no matter how small. One waitress seem positively puzzled when I handed back my 2lev change. I hope to return to Bulgaria in a few years to see how much, or how little, it has changed.