At dinner on a cruise ship, there is often talk of who has “done” what country—and much associated bragging about having “done” this region of the world or that.
We spent today in Bulgaria, but it would be the grossest stretch of the word to claim that we in any possible sense of the word have “done” Bulgaria.
The biggest drawback of cruising is this dropping in like an extraterrestrial for a short visit and promptly leaving. You see very little, don’t meet anyone, don’t really get any sense at all of where you are or who lives there. You couldn’t learn less about the country if you stayed on the ship with a telescope.
Our ship docked in Nessebur, a resort city. After a 50 yard stroll, we instantly boarded busses and headed out to the boonies, to visit some tiny burg where we theoretically saw how the people live here.
The drive was most interesting. The buildings here show a clear differentiation—before the end of communism, and after. The older places are simple brick blocks with tile roofs; the newer are the same modern architecture you see all over Europe, all done in bright pastels. Even the older homes all have two satellite dishes.
We passed many fields, of course. They grow a lot of sunflowers here, for the oil. Apparently, they are even making sunflower oil fuel. There are vineyards here; this is big wine country. Due to the economic situation, we saw a number of them which clearly had been left unattended for quite some time. It’s quite a sight, accustomed as we are to the perfectly manicured grape vines of Napa.
As in many places in the world, the young people are leaving the small villages here and moving to the big city for opportunity and adventure—the village we visited was down from a population of 1000 to just 200. On the other hand, now that Bulgaria is part of the common market it is convenient for people from the rest of Europe to come here to retire cheaply or buy second homes.
So we get to this little burg, and they show us a house. The old guy who lives there has a table full of chachis and souvenirs for sale right in front, of course. For some reason he shows us an ancient carding machine (to prepare the wool for spinning), then we troop into his house to see the room his ancient mother lives in. She sits there shaking a can trying to solicit tips until the guide tells her to knock it off. Across the street, four other women are selling handmade homespun socks.
Another hundred yards down the street is the restaurant where we are to have our lunch. They put out a spread of some kind of local pancake, rolls, the local yogurt, fruit and cheese. Hardly gourmet, but I liked it.
After we ate, it was back to the bus for the ride to the ship. There were a few minutes available for shopping in the port, but the same old tourist junk doesn’t interest me, so we got on the tender and motored back home.
Serenity sailed at 2, and the bridge game started at 2:30. The usual shipboard level of play left me pondering the heretical thought that I don’t really need to play every day—I could be taking piano lessons or decorating eggs or learning the rhumba.
Dinner tonight was at Silk Road, the ship’s Japanese restaurant. It was spectacular—by far the best food on the ship. We’ll be eating there at least one more time, and I’m looking forward to it.
The show tonight doesn’t look interesting, so we’re staying in, watching a movie on the TV and doing laundry. Just another domestic evening on the Black Sea.