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Phespirit goes to Bulgaria
Nesebâr     May/June 2001

Bulgaria has always been noted for the quality of its Black Sea beaches. During the nineteen seventies and eighties its coastline was the holiday destination of choice during workers' playtime behind the Iron Curtain. Large, functional resort towns were constructed to make basic vacation amenities available for the masses. Now Phespirit has added his weight to the mass and found there is more to these ancient shores than just sand and concrete.

Phespirit stayed in the historic peninsula town of Nesebâr. In two and half millennia of recorded history the town has seen many civilisations pass through. Now it is protected as a living museum wherein the prize exhibits are the outstanding Byzantine / Bulgarian churches. Where once there was in excess of forty of these churches, today there remain just nine, all with exteriors in good condition, plus the ruins of one basilica, plus a single not-so-nice nineteenth century effort.

To further enhance the experience of visiting these churches many now serve as galleries to showcase the work of local artists. In the Church of St John the Baptist, an exhibition by Stavri Kalinov included a fabulous mermaid sculpture made from bronze, coral and crystal rock. It was - quite rightly - fabulously expensive, so Phespirit spent his Leva at the Church of Sveta Paraskeva on a mysterious watercolour by Kiril Kirov, entitled "So near, So far" ..... a cat, four arms, two fish, a window, the shape of a face ..... ?

Bulgarian art may be sophisticated but their food is not. Breakfast at the Hotel Victoria is an allocation of apples, tomatoes, sliced sausage and white bread, every day, without fail, plus one bonus foodstuff such as a pancake, omelette or fried slice, brought forth from the kitchens without notice. At the other end of the scale, the Restaurant Perla could always be relied upon for an excellent chicken and chips, washed down with an equally commendable bottle of Traminer Khan Krum white wine.

Phespirit dined at a few restaurants outside Nesebâr. The Hotel Primorets in Burgas served up chicken, chips and rice, followed by pancakes and jam and a pint. The question is: which of those items had the food poisoning in it?

Studying road signs and trying to recognise place names while travelling around Bulgaria is a good way to gain familiarity with the Bulgarian Cyrillic alphabet. This can be quite rewarding since it turns out that Bulgarian and English spoken words are often almost identical, just coded differently. Fancy that.

There are plenty of reasons for Phespirit to return to this country some day. It would be nice to visit the capital, Sofia, for a start. And then go up into the mountains, perhaps. And then take a look at some of the old monasteries. And then visit Plovdiv. And the Plain of Thrace. And the Valley of the Roses .....

.... or just luxuriate amid sand and concrete.

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