Thursday, August 26, 2010

Varna, Bulgaria

10 a.m., we negotiated the maneuvers to the dock as pilot boats drift nearby. Nice job, again. The group is touring today with a new guide named Kossy [a lady]. Passing shaded streets and avenues lined with apartment buildings, you begin to notice the design is sever/utilitarian. First stop, the Cathedral of the Assumption is a very austere design. Actually, it was built with the stones that had been the wall around the city. Even that profound reverence I always feel walking into a church, wasn't there. Odd... Icons everywhere. After our instructional speaker, everyone flocked to the gift shop to peruse the Icons for purchase. Later, outside vendors were selling trinkets and I found a carved wooden fan for a belated birthday gift for T.C. Back on the bus.

As we rolled through the streets, Kossy pointed out all the buildings the Queen had built before communism. Unfortunately, repairing didn't seem high on anyone's priority list. All the same, we were informed as to the wealth of the country. She was quick to point out that their major export was PECTIN. Wow, pectin, that is used to make jelly. Must ship a mountain of the stuff for it to be your primary export. I have checked and she could have mentioned grain and wine. Shame the revenue wasn't used on the infrastructure: water drainage, building repair, stuff. When pressed on these points, she told us antidotes.

1) Coca-Cola was able to make a deal with the regime. No one is certain what "they" thought the REAL THING meant, but apparently there was the anticipation of "a kick". However, after much perplexing consumption, it was finally mixed with a fortified wine. Voila! "the kick" they had been expecting was achieved. True story!!

2) Sometime in the early 1910's, Henry Ford made a contract with the Bulgarians to create a factory and build cars. They did until The Party took over; factory closed. They, then, made Soviet cars [Muskovas] that were rather like personal tanks. It was explained that once they were rolling, they were very slow to stop.

3) THE train line to the capital [Sophia] was built by the British following WWII. The trip is 7 hours AND it is the only rail system. She concluded this with "There are improvements but it will take 50 years". No matter what personal politics we have, we [USA] are so fortunate!!

Ah, Kossy pointed toward an unattractive group of high rise boxes. "These are the ugly CRACKER BOX apartment buildings we were given." Some are built so that a conversation on the first floor is heard on the top floor. Each family has 1 to 3 bedrooms, sitting room, tiny kitchen, dining room and bath; plus one acre of land outside of town for your SUMMER HOUSE. The individuality seemed to exert itself in the garden designs. As we passed these fenced plots, some were very organized tall arbored vineyards with tables and chairs beneath for shade. For the most part there were sprinklings of vegetable gardens. Everyone had fig bushes and some fruit trees. It is so sad when creativity is squelched.

Our next stop was designed to provide us with "good" toilet facilities. Lo and behold a pottery studio. We can spend money. Wonder if there was a "kickback". Unusual glazing technique but the pieces looked poured not thrown. Wish I could get back with a teapot without it ending up in pieces. Better not. While standing at the bus door, I got the duality of where we were. A donkey pulling a cart and 2 occupants was on the opposite side of the road.

We left the paved street onto a rutted dirt road. It was strange to see a sign APARTMENTS for SALE and then the concrete skeletons of future buildings. Oh, you know, the floors and pilings were poured and the reinforcing rods were visibly ravaged by vines and time. Great views of the Black Sea, just no walls, windows etc. Told Ed he could get a real deal but he scoffed at the idea. Spoil sport.

My word, I'm in trouble, looks to be a very long walk along the beach where bathers soak in the mineral waters. Onward to the entrance to the Queens Botanical Gardens. After multiple rest stops, there ahead is an arbor lushly festooned with Virginia Creeper over a rill of water continued from a huge water wheel. Oh, yes, IT IS HOT!! and quite a climb. So, T.C. and I find a shaded table and order cooling icy drinks from the little cafe and a chat. Not much time passed before many members of our group were returning. Even Ed, and eventually Richard joined us. That's telling.

Shortly, we were called to lunch and serenaded with an accordionist. The stone building's interior felt Bavarian to me; heavy dark beams and mantles against thick white plaster walls with deeply recessed windows. Lunch began with good black bread and a huge salad of tomatoes and cucumbers, followed by Roasted Guinna Hen with Imperial Rice and Roasted Root Vegetables [no one could figure what they were], and concluded with Yogurt with Honey and Walnuts, all served with the House Wine ... red or white. Then the rain came with avengence during the wine tasting. Ahhh, it's stopped and back to the bus just in time for the next deluge. Slipping into a nap during our return, I awoke to torrents of water running down driveways into the street creating a river. A shame there's no drainage system. We pass a large lovely park as we head straight for the boat, sorry, ship.

6 p.m. and we are off and heading south. Call me for dinner, I need to write before I forget. O.K.? What a way to begin a week.

Remembering is work even with notes. I need a fresh cup of tea; join me?

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