Updated: Oct 6, 2019
Zdraveyte! какво става?! What's up peeps?!
I just recently got back from a week long vacay to Varna, Bulgaria and I'm totally stoked to tell you all about it. As per usual, this one was a solo trip and if you read my last post you won't make the mistake of overestimating the level of planning that went into this trip (i.e none at all).
To summarise my last post, I'd met new friends, peed on the streets and slept on a stranger's sofa all within the first 24 hours. What would the rest of the week look like for me? You're about to find out!
There's always One!
So I suppose I should start with my hostel. That is, when I finally made it in mid afternoon after my whole kerfuffle at 3am. Hostel Musala, right in the center of the city and conveniently close to the beach, was a comfy little place to set up camp for the week. The reception doubled up as a cafe serving all kinds of drinks from fresh juice to coffee. You can opt for the winding staircase to get upstairs or you can use the suuper retro lift that gave me all the 50's vibes as I dragged across the wooden gate that was between me and the actual shaft wall.
For less than £40 for the week, I was pretty delighted at the state of the place. I was expecting some seriously run down rooms but instead was met with this bright and airy cool room with modern decor including a chair that I desperately wanted to steal and ship back to the UK for my own home. The bunks didn't have curtains, so don't expect privacy even though it is a mixed room (there was an option for a female only room for a little more $$$), but there were nice large lockers supplied with keys.
So like, I've stayed in mixed dorms before (even one in Laos where there were 7 guys and just me) and I've never had a problem. But if you're a seasoned traveller, you'll know there's always one! One weird, or creepy dude who just won't put a decent amount of clothes on despite everyone giving him a wide birth. And this time was no different.
With his stuff strewn everywhere, I was already annoyed at his inconsiderate mess before I even met him. I needed somewhere to sit, his clothes were all over the (beautiful) chair and so I shifted them slightly and sat as I waited for my bed to be made by the receptionist.
He walked in shirtless and with bright green trunks and introduced himself, acknowledging that his clothes were, in fact, in my way. It took less than 5 minutes for me to realise that we weren't going to get on as he spoke to the receptionist explaining that he spoke to "another beautiful girl" to ask to extend his stay and followed up with "but you're all beautiful girls". I could tell she felt uncomfortable, and the sleazy way he'd said it standing there topless made me feel uncomfortable too. But nevertheless I tried to get to know my roommate and promptly gave up after he tried to joke about me being on the bottom bunk with, "so I'll be on top then" followed by a wink. I didn't even smile. "Oh so you can't take a joke" he kept prodding. He didn't help himself.
If you're a guy and you travel a lot staying in mixed dorms, let me tell you why you shouldn't say things like that. If a girl's travelling solo and you're sharing a room with her, she wants to know that you aren't some creepy pervert. Full stop. So just don't even joke about it.
But me, I'm a seasoned traveller, I'm not fazed by these things. The following days revealed that I really, really did not get on with him as not only did it appear that he forgot all his clothes bar those green trunks but he hardly ever left the room and he did all the things people dread. I'm going to list those things so you all know what not to do when sharing a dorm.
1. Constantly topless
2. Playing loud music
3. Being generally obnoxious
4. Belching really loudly continuously
5. Opening all the windows without asking anyone
6. Leaving stuff everywhere
7. Trying to chat up every female in sight
8. Doing press-ups in the middle of the room
9. Saying "the girls like that" when they really don't care
10. Going on about what a big deal you are and always trying to one-up all other males
So my only complaint about the hostel was this one guy, but as I say, there's always one and sometimes you just have to suck it up and deal with it! He was harmless after all.
What your Mama told you not to do!
With this trip, I was totally winging it which ended up leading me into some... dodgy situations... to say the least. But I always say, dodgy situations leads to awesome people. Actually I never say that, but I might start now.
That time I posed as a Student
This moment gave me all the feels of "Never Been Kissed", you know, the Drew Barrymore movie where she had to go back to High School and pose as a student for a newspaper story? Yeah that was me for one night!
So, last post I mentioned I'd met a med student on the plane (and crashed on his sofa when I ended up homeless the first night). He and his girlfriend invited me to a student party that they had going on in one of the clubs. Despite realising that I'm significantly older, I said "heck yes!" and then found myself wandering with a bottle of wine late at night in the middle of this park.
I'd never done the whole uni thing before, so this was a first for me. Pre-drinking in the park was a foreign concept to me - like why didn't we just go to a bar? But I followed my instructions; step one, choose your alcohol in a cheap local store, step two, meet by this obscure statue deep in the middle of this humongous park (let me put it into perspective, the Sea Garden is a total of 6km long).
As I attempted to follow directions on google maps, I realised this had all the ingredients for a horror movie. "Girl goes wandering in the woods late at night to pre-drink with strangers."
But then I ended up meeting these super awesome medical students who were all so fun and also didn't have a clue that I wasn't one of them! Being my first time pre-drinking in a park, I made the one rookie error of buying a bottle of wine with a cork! #n00b haha! But thanks to the help of all the boys, who tried everything from fire to the shoe trick, we eventually managed to push the cork into the bottle. Classy!
We played latin music, chat, played games, drank and laughed - a lot! By the time we made our way to the club, called Horizont, it was already well past midnight and the party was just beginning. I got into the club no problem and it was soon obvious I was probably the oldest person there. It was also obvious why people pre-drink because buying something at the bar took FOREVER! I danced a lot and met loads of new people, the first question people asked, "so are you a first year student?" - I still can't believe at 28, people can think I'm a first year but I was taking the compliment.
I realised it was time to go home at 4am when an 18 year old German boy came up to me and tried to chat me up in a shy way, "erm, I know you're older but I like England and I like English and you are super confident and..." Me: "What do you want?" Him: "Will you come back with me?"
This was a legit "does your mother know that you're out" moment. Nope, sorry kid.
That time when I hitch-hiked... twice
There comes a time in a travellers life where you have to get the thumb out and put your trust in a complete stranger. I hesitate to add that this is not actually the first time I've done this; the first being on home soil when I'd left my car at work and realised that the buses weren't working, the second being when I went to Vegas.
Backpacking is about saving as much money as you can, at least it is for me. So when my new friend that I'd met on a free walking tour and I heard of this trip that would take us to two really cool places in Varna, the Cave Monastery & the Rock Desert (read about them below), we thought we could get there cheaper by local bus.
After a slight kerfuffle where I totally got on the wrong bus in the wrong direction, we eventually got to our destination using a a combo of bus and taxi. En route back, we both were far too stubborn to spend money on another taxi, so we decided to walk... which would have taken us ages if Angelus hadn't stuck out his thumb and got a guy in a van to pick us up. The guy was great! We only asked to be dropped at the main road, but when he found out we were going to Varna (in his very limited English), he took us right to the bus pick up point which would take us straight back.
The following day, now travelling alone, I decided on attempting the local bus to the Rock Desert. Slightly more complex as I had to take two buses but this time, I was going in the right direction. I'd underestimated just how long the bus would take, but I could see on google maps that I was edging closer to my destination when suddenly, the bus turned in the opposite direction! I was like, nooo! So I showed my map to the bus lady and she shook her head chattering to me in Bulgarian. I figured out that I needed to get off and walk the rest of the way... it'd be 45 minutes in the hot sun, in the middle of nowhere, with less than half a 500ml bottle of water left.
I started walking and made a live video to my insta followers, because I'm like dramatic and thought I might never see you guys again! But shortly into my walk, a man in a white van pulled up ahead of me and I thought, "great, maybe he'll take me!". Because that's what you're supposed to do when a man in a van pulls up and asks you to get into his car right? Wrong! Kids, please don't ever do this. But on this oneee occasion, he literally dropped me exactly where I wanted to be! Thank you white van man! (And thank you God for keeping me safe!)
The time I got mistaken for a Prostitute
Okay, so I'm not going to have a heap of luck without a few small hiccups too, though I'd argue this is kinda a big hiccup.
I was feeling so stoked after getting a super cheap bus all the way here and then hitchhiking with a good Samaritan to the amazing Rock Desert that perhaps I had started to get a bit cocky. I looked at how much a taxi would be all the way back to Varna (turns out, same cost as if I'd done the tour to both the Rock Desert & the Cave Monastery - 25 lev) and then I enquired of a taxi driver, who was patiently waiting for his tourists, how much to just drop me at that bus stop.
He did the whole, "how much would you pay me to take you there?". So I did the whole, "I paid 1 lev to get all the way here from Varna, so I'm not paying more than 5 lev for a 5 min journey". Then he did the, "well I think you should walk then". And I was stubborn, so I did.
I didn't get far before a man in a red car pulled up and I felt smug. "I'll show that taxi driver how it's done!". Well I was this close to getting into his car when I suddenly realised that this was no good Samaritan. He was saying something to me in Bulgarian, and I couldn't figure it out. Eventually he made a humping gesture and said, "Sex?". Omg! I was like, "no freaking way Joe!"
Thankfully, he took no for an answer and drove off but I suddenly felt very unsafe. In hindsight, I realised I should have offered the taxi driver a little more. But, guys, not all heroes wear capes and lo and behold, my hero came in the form of the very same taxi driver pulling up beside me and saying "Get in, I'll take you for 5lev!"
Who is this hero? None other than Stefan Georgiev! So, please do me a favour and if you decide to visit Varna, save this number for your local taxi service; +359 888478887!
Stefan explained to me that the road I'd been walking alone on is a road famous for prostitutes. There are Romanian travellers who often use this road for exactly that. It's also known as a place where girls can get trafficked - so my suggestion is, don't go alone or if you must - go by taxi (you have Stefan's number now).
That time I met 3 guys in a bar and followed them to a basement
Later that night when I was avoiding the weird creepy guy at my hostel, I decided to grab a drink at a local bar by myself. It was the kind of bar where someone on their own stands out quite a bit and I couldn't help looking over at a table of guys playing jenga wondering whether to invite myself over. Well it wasn't long before one of them came over to invite me to join in and I was all about that!
Before we had a chance to start playing our game, one of them received a call. Following his short conversation, all in Bulgarian of course, the guys had a quick discussion and then turned to me to explain the situation. They were supposed to be at this fancy bar but they couldn't get in as they hadn't booked in advance so they ended up playing jenga at my local bar. However, they just received a call saying a table's free... would I like to join them?
It seemed like fun, but here was they catch, they said, "It's kind of in a basement... So it doesn't look like a bar but once you go into the basement and do a secret knock, they let you into the fancy bar."
I thought for all of about 3 and a half seconds, after all - I had nearly been trafficked earlier, and then I agreed to join them! I suppose if something had have happened to me, I wouldn't be writing this, but I feel the need to tell you that it was an awesome speakeasy jazz bar and the guys were nothing but gentlemen.
Again, this is not the norm, do as I say and not as I do! But I'm a fairly good judge of character so I knew they would be a fun bunch.
Overall, it was one eventful week! If I haven't scared you yet, keep an eye out for my next blog post for details of where to go and what to do in this awesome city.
Ciao peeps (and yes, they do say Ciao in Bulgaria!).
Love, hugs and adventures,