Here are some of my thoughts and observations from my latest 2 week visit to Varna from 27thmay-10th june.
I hadnt been to Varna since july 2010, but have been making frequent summer visits there for about the last 8 years.
I'm not ashamed to admit I stay predominantly around the tourist areas and rarely venture inland.
The weather was great 90% of the time. Averaging between 25-28 in the day time.
Not too cold to go on the beach, and not too hot to walk around the shops or sea gardens.
I noticed a few familiar faces from previous visits, like the women sat in the street with their weighing scales. The chap who plays the accordion with the singing dog and the poor disabled chap who lies down begging outside the 1 storey shops.
I may even have noticed a familiar poster on here. Hoowster, does your son wear a Liverpool strip? If he does, then I saw you. You were heading for McDonalds but I wasnt 100% sure if it was you (Thanks for the 6 points btw.
Wasnt quite enough to keep us in the Prem though).
I noticed again this year, that there were quite a few pet dogs, but not as many strays (has there been a cull?), though there were still quite a few stray cats.
The Varnians seem to prefer the smaller cute-type looking dogs over the pitbull/rottweiler types that seem to be in vogue in the UK.
The day time consisted lagely of visits to the beach, but we also found a good spot to sit above the beach with a splendid view of the bay. This was at the excellent open air swimming baths, nearish to the docks. They take their swimming seriously, and many children were taking well organised diving and synchronised swimming lessons.
Walking down slivinitza, to and from the seafront is a unique experience. Around 5-8pm it gets extremely busy as locals leave their homes and go for a stroll.
You just would not see this happening in a city in England, especially in midweek. Is this normal in other Bulgarian cities?
What is it with the fascination with popcorn and especially from the machine outside Happy Grill?
The guy must be making a small fortune.
I noticed that the busy Costa Coffee seemed to be winning the coffee war over the sparsely populated Ginger Club.
I hadnt been to the bowling alley next to the Cherno More Hotel before, but was pleasantly surprised when I went in.
I have never been a big fan of walking, but found the sea gardens to be a pleasant walking experience and I ended up strolling for miles. Many women with babies or children in the Sea Gardens, and I thought, what a really good environment to raise a child.
Whilst still in the sea gardens, I stumbled across the zoo and walked through the gates without paying (well, there didnt seem to be anyone collecting). Anyway, this zoo is cruel and I expect it will not have a long shell life, now Bulgaria are members of the EU.
At night time we ventured to the strip (1st alley), alongside the beach, but being very early season it wasnt too busy in midweek although some of the restaurants were doing good trade. Very reasonable prices too, especially considering the view across the bay.
After being refused entry by an over-officous bouncer at Extravaganza (who didnt like my footwear
),we moved on to Jokers bar on both friday and saturday nights. This is located on the 1st floor of Cherno More Hotel. I am told the band play cover versions 7 nights a week, 52 weeks a year, but dont go early as they dont start playing until after midnight. Friday night is `rock' night with all the music from soft and heavy rock bands being appreciated by the local rock fans. On saturday night, the music was more diversified. Busy both friday and saturday nights (after midnight).
Jokers is worth a visit, but prices are a bit on the expensive side and they charge 3 or 4 lev to your bill for cover charge. Midweek in there was very quiet, but that might change as the season gets busy.
I had asked on this forum a few weeks ago, where the expats hang out, now that O'Neills bar has closed, and Hoowster kindly informed me that `Sundogs' was probably the place.
We went there on the tuesday night and sure enough there were about 6 or 7 `well oiled' retired Brits drinking outside. Some of them said they spend half a year in Varna and then go to warmer climates when the winter sets in.
They were friendly enough though, and informed us that there is a quiz night every other sunday in there.
Found a popular busy bar on the beach away from the more popular 1st alley, called Ceba bar. This was situated near to the open air swimming baths. Got quite busy in midweek there, too.
I'm pleased to report I didnt notice any of the yob culture we have in the UK, or notice any gangs, though I suppose they do have the infamous mafia in the background.
The only crime I witnessed, was a seagull drowning a poor pigeon in the fountain as young kids tried in vain to frighten the seagull away.
I wasnt hassled to buy anything on the beach or in the shops/street, which is a pleasant change from other tourist resorts.
Of course, Varna isnt perfect. It is a bit rough around the edges. There are small improvements needed. Little things like the entrance to the beach needs modifying for instance, some of the beautiful architecture needs attention, the zoo needs re-building, and some of the restaurants need to train their waitresses to give service with a smile (it will reap rewards).
But maybe this non-conforming to the european mould is part of the Bulgarian appeal, and what, to me, makes it far more interesting than other run of the mill european resorts.
Its won me over, for now anyway. I will be back again on friday. This time for 3 weeks