Bed and Breakfast in Bulgaria
by Phyllis Weston
When I stepped off the plane in Varna, Bulgaria, on the Black Sea, I had made up my mind to stay there. The taxi driver pointed out the shortage of hotel rooms, all occupied by tours, and that I should be much better off in Golden Sands. The Tourist Bureau, more helpful, directed me to an apartment downtown where I rented a room. At least I thought I did.
The room was extremely large: it contained two double beds and two clothing racks with hangers. I asked what the price would be -- $1.25 a night for bed and breakfast - and requested to be shown the bathroom. Then, having unpacked my suitcase and appropriated one of the beds, off I went to see Varna.
That late afternoon and early evening I walked to see the fine beaches of the Black Sea and the beautiful park which bordered it, saving the famous Roman Baths for the next day.
After eating an early supper, I returned to my B and B. Imagine my consternation when I found a woman sitting on the second bed and vigorously brushing her hair. We exchanged information as best we could: she was a doctor from Poland who spoke excellent French whereas I spoke very bad French. Nevertheless, our communication had to be in French She had been attending a medical conference in Sofia and was now prepared to enjoy a short holiday on the Black Sea. We accepted each other, and, at her suggestion, sallied forth to see the city under the stars. Presently we sat down at a sidewalk café where she ordered a dish of plain yoghurt which she assured me is the best in the world! (Incidentally, the Bulgarians attribute the quality of their yoghurt and of their attar of roses to the climate.) I followed her example and really liked its tart, fresh flavor. I was certainly surprised to see her, a doctor, stir several spoonfuls of sugar into her serving. So there we sat, companionably eating and chatting. Every once in a while I lapsed into English, whereupon she cried, "Parlez Francais! Parlez Francais" This outing set the pattern for the finish to each day of my holiday in Varna.
The next day I was very happy to join a guided tour of the city during which I could turn a deaf ear to the French. And Varna was well worth such a tour. First of all there was the Black Sea which is no more black than the Danube is Blue but is a very beautiful inland sea with ships of many registries at anchor on its rippling waters. The beaches are as inviting as you can find anywhere. The Roman baths are still in fine shape with their original thin Roman bricks. And so are the clay pipes which two thousand years ago conducted warm mineral water to the bath as efficiently as do metal pipes today.
Near Varna is a petrified forest whose age and origins are obscure. Its uniform stone color and angular arms seen from a distance look more like a grove of Tin Woodsmen than like trees. And they make an interesting addition to Varna's attractions...
The following day I devoted to a visit to the resort town, Golden Sands, reached by an 18 kilometer bus ride. It is a desirable holiday spot from its wooded areas to its literally golden beach with serried ranks of gaily striped umbrellas sprouting from the sand like toadstools.
A small nut-brown man wearing a tall astrakhan hat and driving a donkey cart gave me a grand tour so that I enjoyed seascape and landscape in comfort. He had lived and worked in America but had returned here to pass his leisure years in more congenial surroundings. He spoke English!
When I wanted more than a lunchtime rest, I sought a beauty parlor in one of the numerous tourist hotels. A brisk young girl did me very well after I got over the surprise of having to bend over a stone trough for the shampoo. My friend the Polish doctor and I agreed that we had enjoyed Varna and that the pleasure of the holiday had been enhanced by our acquaintance. However, for me there was an unexpected sequel: I developed ringworm on one foot as a result of stepping on the far-from-clean carpet in our shared bedroom. But, after all, you can expect a surprise or two at $1.25 a night.
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