Why are we back in Bulgaria?
Don has probably played over 450 golf courses around the world. A stat he is quite proud of and one he intends to expand on whenever possible.
So far this trip, he has added several South African courses, a couple in Belek, Turkey and now in his sights is Thracian Cliffs, Bulgaria. This course is appealing to Don on a number of levels. It was designed by Gary Player (any golfer will know who he is); it’s in a spectacular setting, hugging the rugged cliffs along the coast of the black sea. It also hosted a European Matchplay in 2013, more importantly; who else does he know will ever be able to say they’ve played Thracian Cliffs?
Now I enjoy my golf, resort golf in particular; the word resort should be the give-away. This generally means on holidays, in some exotic location. I could get used to having a caddy carry my clubs, or use a golf cart to whip around 18.
At home, four hours of chasing a little white ball around the ground is not my preferred way to spend a Saturday. I’m tempted to make some humorous remark about simple minds entertained by simple things, but I have to spend the rest of my life in close proximity with this man!
Thracian Cliffs is about 700km from our drop off point in Turkey. I should say it’s out of our way by a considerable distance, but that is only partly true. Our plan is to head to Montenegro and follow the Adriatic coast up into Croatia, but the car lease does not permit us to drive through Albania or Kosovo which would shorten our trip considerably, but we decide its not worth the risk of voiding our insurance. We have to go through Bulgaria and detouring up to Balchik, where the golf resort is, will only add 4 or 5 hours. In the scheme of things this is nothing; it’s not like we have anywhere we need to be in a hurry!
We’ve booked into the resort for two nights, starting Saturday. Therefore we have two nights to fill in. We decide to cover as many kilometers in day one and see where we land. The trip is pretty uneventful, well, until we get to the Bulgarian border that is.
It’s drizzling with rain and we are on a windy regional road, taking the shorter route through the mountains. We stop to exit Turkey, drive a little further and start the entry into Bulgaria, handing over passports and car documents. We pay €3 for something; road toll, tax, who knows. We drive a little further; you are never sure how many checks you will go through.
Nothing is written in English, Don misinterprets the directions at the next check point and a not so happy Bulgarian border guard has come out of his little booth, into the rain, to wave us back. He is clearly not amused, or charmed, by our claims to be Australian and not understand!
He already thinks we (well at least Don) are idiots. Don adds to this by reversing into a park bench. Not sure why there is a park bench there in the first place, not about to ask.
Holding our breath, our grumpy guard takes several long minutes to consider our passports, enter some details into his computer and then another considerable pause, before gruffly stamping and handing them back. Phew, for a moment we thought he might refuse us entry!
Burgas is the first major town we had considered stopping in, until we view the endless industrial smoke stacks, shipping containers and highrise apartment blocks, built to minimum specifications during communist dominance and now decaying. We decide to push through.
The next town to consider is Varna. At first sight it looks unappealing, rows of decaying apartment blocks, roads in desperate need of repair. It looks only a little less bleak and miserable than Burgas, but we’ve done enough driving. If it’s really bad we can stay one night and move on tomorrow.
Well, we stayed two nights in Varna and the town surprised us. We stumbled upon our accommodation around 8pm. Having driven past a few options Modus looked reasonable, even with sandbags stacked at the doorway, a result of the recent rain. Inside is a slick, modern styled boutique hotel. After 5 weeks of island hopping, with varying degrees of comfort in our accommodation, it was total luxury to us.
The hotel restaurant was also first rate and we discovered that Bulgarians know how to make wine; good wine. The hotel staff were more than happy to share their local knowledge on what reds to drink! I splurged and took myself off for a spa treatment: 90 minutes of pampering bliss for A$50. I would have spent all day there for that price!
We knew there had been a bit of rain around, we had moved our golf booking to avoid the rain. In fact the area had received over a months worth of rain the day before we arrived. This had resulted in flash flooding and 12 people being washed away at a gypsy camp close to Varna. On Saturday, the rain is moving on, but the roads are worse for wear from the flash flooding. At the entry into Thracian Cliffs, the road has collapsed and is just barely passable.