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Friday, August 22, 2008

Up, up and almost in Romania

This summer we ventured further north than ever before on the Bulgarian coast and stayed for a week in the Russalka resort (north of Balchik and Kavarna, close to Romanian border). Although I remain a staunch fan of the Adriatic and pretty sceptical to whatever Black Sea has to offer, I have to admit that I actually liked Russalka a lot, primarily because it is so green and the sea is clear (and clean) and beautiful.

In fact, now that I've seen quite a few places on the Black Sea coast, my vote definitely goes to the north over the south. Through luck or wisdom, the north managed to avoid over-construction, and the natural beauty has been preserved. You get this feeling of space that you absolutely don't have (anymore) any place south of Varna. I hope they manage to preserve it as it is, although Ruslan thinks it is just a matter of time before they ruin it, too. Let's hope they learn from their own mistakes, since the results of chaotic, unbridled building are already hurting tourism big time.

And speaking of north, I have now seen the last remaining corner of Bulgaria that I hadn't visited before--the northwest. We decided to experiment this time and rather than travel through Sofia and on to Serbia we took the road going from Veliko Tarnovo through Mezdra, Vraca, Montana and Kula. This was the closest I ever came to Vidin but there was no time to stop and see it. I know it is not famous for its sightseeing attractions, but it reminds me of my friend Vlado, who used to live there before moving to New York (via Blagoevgrad). I would have liked to see the place he grew up.

Instead, we had to stop in the village of Dimkovo because we were getting pretty hungry and hadn't passed a single restaurant in miles. We had lunch in a zakusvalnya (small restaurant) on the central square, the kind of place which has plastic tables and chairs and probably questionable hygienic practice in the kitchen. The prices were unbelievable: 1.5 lev (70 euro cents) for a soup, 2.5 lev (1.25 euro cents) for a meal and the food was actually tasty. If you ever pass through the village of Dimkovo and you're starving, might be worth a stop--if not for the food, at least for the feeling that you've traveled back in time and landed in the '80s.

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