Week 37: Lazing About

   Posted by: Rhona   in Bulgaria, Ukraine

This week has been uncharacteristically lazy. We’ve spent quite a few days lazing about in hotel rooms, sleeping late and not achieving much at all. It’s been really nice! Sometimes you need those days and we haven’t taken many yet this trip, the weather has been so fantastic and there’s been so much to see that we haven’t slowed down. When we got to Nesebar the weather had changed to winter and to be honest there wasn’t much to see once we’d done the short wander around the small old town. The isthmus that the old town is on was almost deserted in the winter season, pretty much all the churches, shops, restaurants and even Tourist Information were closed. All that remained of the summer tan-seeking throng was a few chilly postcard sellers, construction workers preparing for next year’s rush and a taxi driver who was so desperate for business that he promised to take us anywhere we wanted to go for bus fare prices. We ended up paying him a bit more than bus fare price for the trip to Varna (1.5 hours) and he was the most excited and happy taxi driver I think I’ve ever met. Our measly 30 leva (USD25) fare won’t go far toward the 1,000 leva he pays monthly to rent the car but it’ll help.

Varna is also on the coast but being a big city (3rd largest in Bulgaria) most sun seekers head to one of the smaller resorts nearby (when they come in summer). We got in on a Saturday and the next bus up to Odessa, Ukraine, wasn’t until Tuesday afternoon. Once we’d wandered the beachfront, been to the cathedral, seen the Roman baths and wandered the streets a bit we spent the rest of the time hanging out and doing mundane life stuff like laundry, catching up on emails and watching lots of interesting shows on the History Channel. Did you know that in WW2 homing pigeons were actually a really important means of communication for both the Allies and the Axis? So important that both sides trained peregrine falcons to take out enemy pigeons. The British actually trained their falcons to retrieve the Nazi pigeons instead of just killing them, with messages and markings intact, thereby enabling them to plant double agent pigeons behind Nazi lines. When the Nazis released these devious birds they returned to their roosts in the UK carrying important enemy intelligence. The things you learn when you can’t be bothered to leave the hotel room…

We didn’t end up going to Sozopol either, with another reading of the Lonely Planet it sounded a lot like Nesebar. Some people would say it’s a bad thing when you read about cobblestone streets and quaint wooden houses and decide not to go to a place but there’s only so many cute old towns a person needs to see and we’d seen that many. Next up was Odessa in the Ukraine, with no mention of quaint or cobblestones.The bus ride was 18 hours and it was very nearly the end of me. We’d had a kebab before we left and I can only assume that it decided that it wanted to stay in Bulgaria when we got on the bus to the Ukraine. My entry into Romania was nothing if not dramatic, as I stumbled out of the bus with the world spinning around me and collapsed onto the ground. Thankfully once the kebab had asserted its rights of non travel all was peachy with the world and the rest of the bus trip passed without incident. Unless of course you count 4 hours of border crossings as an incident. We went from Bulgaria to Romania then seemed to do one long Romania-Moldova-Ukraine crossing. We can’t have been in Moldova more than about 10 minutes but the border crossing was painful.

Anyway we got into Odessa this morning, found a place to stay and spent the day exploring a new city and the start of a new country. Some of the buildings around Odessa are beautiful, some really stunning art nouveau facades and the most amazing indoor shopping mall, built in 1898. It has all the flourishes and decoration its designers could possibly fit on the pastel coloured walls. The national opera house, nearby, is justifiably one of the most famous buildings in town and we bought a ticket to the opera tomorrow so we can see it being put to its intended use. I don’t think I’ve ever been to an opera before and I’m sure we’ll be underdressed but at US$10 per ticket how can you refuse? Besides, it’s indoor sightseeing and with a daytime temperature of 3-4 degrees Celsius plus wind chill I’m all for indoor activities. Even Brett admits to being chilled every now and again which makes me feel better as I shiver under my 2 wool layers, fleece, down jacket, long johns, beanie, scarf and gloves. Mountain man on the other hand wears thin trousers, a t-shirt, a flannel shirt and a thin windstopper shell. Some people’s kids…

We’ll hang out here for a few days then head into Transdniestria, an area of Moldova that declared independence in 1990 but isn’t recognised as such by anyone. Back in 1905 when it was still part of Russia, Brett’s grandfather and great grandfather left what was then called Glukstal for the United States and we’re going to see how the town (now called Glinnoye) looks today. We’ll then spend some time in Moldova proper and move on to Romania to spend Christmas in Transylvania. We’ll then cross back in to the Ukraine to spend the Orthodox Christmas (Jan 7th) somewhere here.

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, December 9th, 2009 at 2:46 pm and is filed under Bulgaria, Ukraine. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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