In my mind, I pictured a quaint Eastern European country thriving with culture and history.
Then, Abby and I went to Sunny Beach.
On the bus from Istanbul to Bulgaria,where they served ice cream(!), I conjured up images of the country in my head … cobblestone streets, little villages tucked into mountains, historical cities boasting pre- and post-Communist architecture, little bars with terraces covered in branded umbrellas.
It seemed as if we were going to get just that.
Then, we arrived to Sunny Beach.
It took a while for us to notice, but as soon as Abby and I ventured from 415 Hostel (a great find, by the way, complete with pool), we were smacked in the face with it.
At first, I was struck by its small-town beach vibe.
Little restaurants lining the main road. Men, burnt by the Black Sea sun, with opened shirts, women gallivanting around in little bikini tops and short shorts.
Then, we got to the main pedestrian drag.
It was Ocean City, Maryland on crack. Actually, it reminded us more of MTVs “The Jersey Shore.”
The carnival-like atmospheere permeated the air. Hot, young thangs passing flyers to laser parties, foam parties, parties, parties, parties.
Chinese Food. Pizza. McDonalds.
Girls clad in too-tight dresses with five-inch heels (how the stumbled around after being drunk, I don’t know. I would have bit it, easy). Men, in muscle-bearing T-shirts, cuffed jeans, spiky hair, on the prowl for their night’s conquest.
We heard Bulgarian, but more often, we heard Russian, Swedish, Danish.
We walked down the street, eyes-wide, smiles on our faces.
What the hell did we stumble into?
Then, there was the beach.
Lounge chairs and umbrellas lined the sand as far as the eye could see, giving way to the bluish waters of the Black Sea a few meters from the restaurants.
When we arrived in Sunny Beach, I had been traveling for nearly five months and was getting burnt out. But Abby … she had just arrived and had lived in a small town of 3,000. She instantly loved Sunny Beach and the very alive scene.
Each night, a group from the hostel would go out. I went out twice. Both times calling it a night before the alcohol could even produce a buzz in my bloodstream.
I would retreat to our private room, write, read and enjoy a little solitude and knowing the only person who would walk through the door and wake me up would be my friend, versus a stranger.
My time there was relaxing. While Abby went out, I stayed in. Thinking. Sometimes too much. By day, we would hit the beach or the pool, armed with books, and soak up the sun.
In total, Abby and I stayed four nights in Sunny Beach. By the fourth night, we were both beat, opting for a delicious dinner at an Indian restaurant, and then a night of reading, internet-ing and sleep.
The next day, we boarded another bus and headed to Varna, another beach city.
As we got on the bus, I said a silent prayer, hoping that Varna would be a little less Jersey Shore, and a little more Bethany Beach.