We spent most of this week on the Black Sea coast where we were staying in Varna, Bulgaria’s third biggest city.
Our friends Dave and Carol were flying in from Inverness to join us so it was time to leave Palamartsa….
…which we did with a bang.
Thankfully it wasn’t from our van. It was from Paul’s motor which is, well, have a look….
Paul is from the UK but has been living in the village for several years. He stopped by Wild Thyme Farm and showed us his car which is fuelled by gas made from wood. He built it himself mostly from scrap and although it looks like something from ‘Back to the Future’ it is does actually work (sometimes) though the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang noises were just a bit alarming.
We were agog at his inventiveness but he assured us that these cars are much more common then we’d realised. Looking into it, it seems that there were over half a million wood gas powered vehicles in use in the 1940s. http://www.lowtechmagazine.com/2010/01/wood-gas-cars.html
But going a tad more high tech than Paul, our first stop in Varna was the VW main dealership for Northern Bulgaria.
Van Service time:
After 12,000 miles driving, it was time to give Molly the full once over. We also needed two new tyres, new oil, petrol and filters, two new rubber gaiters on the steering rods and the brake fluid needed to be changed.
We’d also been having problems with the hand brake so asked for that to be adjusted. Labour costs are a lot cheaper in Bulgaria than in the UK but there’s no real difference in price when it comes to parts.
Here she is – our home for the last seven months – up on the ramp ready for her close up under supervision from Teodar.
A short break in Varna:
When Dave and Carol arrived, first it was beer time….
….then 0ver the next couple of days, we set about sight seeing in earnest.
We had a leisurely stroll along the sea front…..past some traditional sculpture…
.. and some not so traditional.
In the distance, we could see part of the colossal sculpture commemorating the Bulgaria-Soviet friendship…
..and we got up close to The Pantheon, commemorating those fallen in wartime.
We had a leisurely walk through the Sea Garden, an enormous park which runs along the coastline. It’s a wonderful park and a great space beside the city to relax…
…and have more beer.
We met this brave soul ploughing a solitary furrow in trying to promote craft beers in the land where fizzy Zagorka reigns. He’s got a shop called The Beers in the Black Sea town of Burgas.
And we couldn’t have planned this better – next day in Varna, the city was staging a carnival to celebrate the arrival of Spring. So we hung around for the afternoon….
…watching the different groups participating in the parade arrive and sort out their traditional costumes…
…which they were happy to show off to us..
With the vibrant colours….
…and the jangling noise of the bells as the different groups danced in competition with each other….
…it was a fantastically joyous afternoon.
And when the smartly dressed navy band arrived…
….we braced ourselves for some sombre military tunes…
….but were delighted instead with blasts of Glen Miller.
We finished the tourist trail with a trip to the Retro Museum where there were some familiar faces from Bulgaria’s Communist comrades …
The museum was a car buff”s dream. On display was the very smart car used by the Politburo in Moscow….
….and something more modest for the proletariat.
Then it was time for Carol and Dave to head home so for our last day in Varna, we had another leisurely stroll round the Sea Garden and back through the town where we followed the sound of Bulgarian folk music and joined the audience…
…watching the locals, young and old, folk dancing.
Then it was a tour around the Farmer’s Market…
…before heading back to our hotel beside the symbol of Varna, the Dormition of the Theotokos Cathedral.
When we were trying to work out a good place to meet up with Carol and Dave, we decided on Varna only because it was the closest destination to Romania – the next country in our trip – and the flights were (sort of) convenient for them.
By lucky chance, the place we plumped for turned out to be perfect for a short break. The Sea Garden, in particular, is a wonderful place to hang out and the town has plenty of good restaurants and a few good pubs. Our favourite for food and beer was The Black Sheep Pub and it’s clearly popular with the locals too.
We couldn’t get in one night because all tables were reserved to watch these guys in action….
Local boy Kubrat Pulev was taking on Kevin Johnson and the live screening of the match taking place in Sofia packed the restaurant. (His name might already be very familiar as winning means he now takes on Joshua, a match everyone back home seemed to have been watching the other night).
Of course, our plans have changed a bit since we picked Varna. So tomorrow we are not heading north to Romania. Instead we are returning to Palamartsa.
That house bug, it’s hard to shake.