South Bulgaria and Black Sea Coast
21st – 27th June 2010
This week has been interesting to say the least. After a quiet night free camping at Borovets Ski Station we headed to our first Bulgarian city of Plovdiv. Well, huum, not much to report there. Yes, it had a super looking roman amphitheatre and cobbled streets in the old town but unfortunately not too much to write home about apart from the town having a serious amount of shoe shops. After cursing lonely planets over zealous write up’s that have come somewhat of a regularity we took a two night respite at Saka Hills Campsite.
Feeling rejuvenated we drove into Rodopi Mountains which were A-mazing. Steep sweeping valleys rolling as far as the eye can see. Dense giant forests untouched, it is vast and beautiful.
We drove literally around the whole Rodopi mountain range, oops! But this may have been due to the lack of sign posting or poor map reading skills on my part, I’m not sure! It was fascinating to find that the countryside is so untouched apart from small farm holdings with small crops and freshly cut grass meadows making huge hay stack mounds. I can hardly think where I saw a telegraph pole let alone those steel mass electricity pylons.
The countryside just goes on and on. And so did we. We drove for over six hours due to the main road not providing any fee camping spots so Mark literally veered off down a random single track road and kept driving till we found a whole host of wild camp spots! We ended up stopping in the mountains with spectacular views and no doubt a shock to the locals of the nearby hamlet of a motorhome with kabooming orange beacons for kayaks outside their hamlet.
The next day we took a short walk around Garbishte (nice name!) that was untouched and totally peaceful. When the dogs barked it echoed around the whole valley! I’ve noticed as the week has progressed that Melnik must have been a hidden treasure as houses in Bulgaria on the whole are not the prettiest. They actually remind me of good old 60s council housing, which makes sense, as Bulgaria was under communist control. Every town has the same style red tiled roof, crumbling pebble dashed concrete exposing prettish red brick underneath. Everyone has a small plot for vegetables and animals all stemming from the mass movement of peasants from the countryside to town and the need for additional grown food due to communist rationing. The eastern bloc certainly had it tough.
As Mark continues his hunt for the perfect Bulgarian property he was a little disappointed to find that 99% of properties are in towns, villages or hamlets. You’d be hard pressed to find many properties standing alone in the countryside. Again stemming back from communist days of mass movement from the countryside to urban jungle living. This led to a conversation where we were told that most villages/towns had inside local KGB informants keeping an eye on everyone’s business. Sounds like scary stuff to me, but then I realised big brother is watching us all the time anyway!
To the coast we go! After venturing off the day before on to the maps white roads and finding that we still had suspension and wheels on the vehicle we took the smallest white roads that our map had to offer all the way to the coast. That way we would definitely be seeing the nooks and crannies of the country that you miss on the big burther roads. The countryside again was just so unspoilt, no heavy agriculture only vast fields of yellow wheat and barley and my favourite so far, sunflower fields. Millions and trillions of sunflowers all doing the vitalite neck swaying dance….Sing it people. Wake up in the morning wantin me breakfast…oh ohh vitalite. Totally brilliant!
Feeling refreshed by our countryside sights we headed for Sozopol in the hope of finding somewhere along the coast to free camp as we have done in pretty much every country…Hell bells. It’s a developers dream out here. Its just so sad, as we drove out of sozpol we were taken along a speedy bypass road that takes you down the coast of what I shall call hell! There are apartments, hotels, houses of every shape size and colour, in any and every position! There has been no thought of road system. I think Bulgarians skipped town planning at GCSE geography. Literally, someone has bought a plot of land and built what they fancy! It is hideous, its like benidorm on acid! After a long drive we found the one 4km strip of coast line that hasn’t been built on and stopped for the night.
Venturing further down the coast with some dodgy information from a news paper article about wild beaches and past conversations with other travellers about “hippy” beaches we set off for something more rural and authentic.
First night we found Irakli beach, which apparently had eco warriors permanently camping on the beach to stop the developers, strangely a British ex MPs “eco complex”. However, when we arrived there was little warrior activity going on and a big metal fence with Eco Complex sign above. Oh dear, the developers have got here too. After exploring, we found loads of little clearings above the beach where Bulgarians go and camp out for the whole summer. The track being a little inaccessible for 3.1 tons we asked the local beach shack owner if we could stop on some scrub land for the night. Yes, he proclaimed camping here, no problem after us deliberately asking how much. Next day we head up the road and the owner stops us,“Ten pounds”. “WHAT” we say “camping is 20levs” he says, this then changes to 30 levs. After getting a little annoyed and me telling him he’s dishonest we scrape all the change we have, hiding the notes of course and offer him about 8levs which equates to about 3.50 and tell him we have no euros and no other cash. He must have been little offended or disappointed that we wouldn’t so easily pay up and so proceeded to snub our offering of pennies and waved us away!
We ventured forth to Byala, another supposedly hippy ish nude wild beach, we have read. We drove past all the beach resort and centre signs and headed outwards when we spied a little lane. Mark took the turning but by accident went up onto a dirt track.
After practising some Bulgarian he went off and asked a local farmer checking his vineyards where the Karadere beach was and luck had it we were on the field that took you there! After some deliberating about which track to take as there are hundreds and doing a swift reverse up hill and managing to turn around we found an amazing little bay attached to the bigger Karadere. No houses, no apartments, no café beach bar or shack. Just vineyards, rolling fields as far as the eye can see. Just a wild beach. Excellent.