By templedf on Aug 29, 2005
First, let me say that I love Bulgaria. I had no idea what to expect going into it, but it was awesome. I can't say that it's for everyone, but it is absolutely perfect for cultural tourists. Bulgaria has a very rich cultural heritage and history.
Our friend Maria has an apartment in Varna. Varna is in the middle of a European beach resort destination, but completely fails to be part of it. On either side of Varna, there are big, expensive resorts consuming the beaches, but Varna itself sees very little of that tourism. It actually reminded me quite a lot of where I grew up on the Mississippi gulf coast (before the casinos). We spent three days with Maria exploring Varna and the little villages around it. Then we drove down the coast to visit her parents.
Maria's parents live in a tiny little town called Malko Tarnovo. It's a bit south of Burgas and about 7km north of the Turkish border. Maria's parents have a large garden just outside of town and grow the most delicious vegetables I've ever had. The cucumbers were so sweet, they tasted like watermelon! We spent a day and a half there, crawling around the little villages in the neighborhood. Quaint doesn't even begin to describe the place.
At about midnight on Thursday we boarded a tour bus in Malko Tarnovo to take us to Istanbul. That was an interesting bus trip. We were on a bus filled with Slovaks, Czechs, Russians, Hungarians, Bulgarians, and two Americans: us. We reached the Turkish border at about 1:00 in the morning and spent an eternity standing in long lines (Yes, at 1am!) to get our visas and entry stamps. At around 6am we finally rolled into Instanbul and began our Turkey tour. We had two days in Instanbul, the first of which was lead by the tour guide. Istanbul is a beautiful city. It was far more "western" than I expected. It has more in common with Budapest than with Tangier. Istanbul is also very photogenic.