“Hello, girls, hello,” Dave, the owner of Flag Varna Hostel said, ushering us into the property.
“Hi,” Abby and I chimed in unison. We were happy to have arrived to Varna.
Immediately, I liked the city.
It was a real city, not a town sprung up around an 8 km stretch of beach with the sole purpose to provide a debacherous holiday.
Not so much.
We climbed four flights of stairs to get to Flag and were greeted with a blast of heat, causing the sweat to drip even more ferociously down my face, my back, my legs, my neck.
“Girls, I am getting inspected today, quickly, leave your bags and go to the beach.”
We dropped our bags and grabbed our laptops.
“Quickly, girls. Quickly. Yes. Please. Quickly.”
“OK,” Dave said, shoving a map in Abby’s hands. “Here is the beach. Walk that way and you will get there. The others are at the beach. Come back at 5 and I will check you in. OK. Now, girls, quickly.”
We smiled, slightly charmed at his anxiety and exited towards the beach.
We had no suits, so instead we landed at Happy, a restaurant near the water with free wifi, and ate sushi, drank some beer and took in the scenery.
Unlike Sunny Beach, Varna had nice shops and restaurants lining the main drag.
Normal people glided by.
Gone were the flyer-pushers (most of them).
Gone was the circus.
Varna greeted us with calm streets, sunny skies and blue water.
After we had our fill of internet (trust, it can be done), we headed towards the shops and then back to Flag.
When we were back inside, I finally got my first good glimpse of the hostel.
And of Dave.
On the door into the hostel, there were two clear signs displayed.
We got inside.
“Hello, girls, hello,” Dave said, opening the door and ushering us in.
I looked at him.
He was a character — an ex-Pat from the UK.
Blonde hair dyed blonder from the sun set against a red face. He wore a plaid button down shirt, not buttoned, exposing his sunburned belly, and red and white flowered shorts. On his feet, socks with holes in the heels and sandals.
“Girls,” he began. “I am overbooked. I am putting you in an apartment down the street. You can come here for wireless, breakfast and to hang out.”
I looked around. Where, exactly, would we hang out? The common room was merely a kitchen area with one circular table and a few chairs. There was a fan, which was nice.
Dave poured Abby and I each a beer, having two for himself, and conversed with us, asking us where we were from, what we did, and then made fun of us (in a playful way) for being American girls. He dubbed us the “Spice Girls.”
A few minutes later, he led us to the apartment, about five minutes from the hostel.
Thoughts of relaxation and privacy sprung to my mind.
We were getting a deal.
Then, we entered.
“OK, girls,” Dave directed. “This way.”
I looked up. Stairs. Lots and lots of stairs. Suddenly, I felt the weight of my backpack. The aching between my shoulders from the paragliding incident a few weeks earlier.
“Is there an elevator?” I asked, hopeful.
“No, this is Bulgaria,” Dave chuckled at my question.
We climbed, and climbed and climbed.
Finally, we arrived to the apartment. In front of us, in the main room, were four mattresses laid across the floor.
“This way,” he directed.
Huffing and puffing (at least I was), we entered in, stepping over the mattresses and sleep sofa to a ladder.
You’ve got to be kidding me.
We hauled our bags upstairs and were blasted with heat.
This was not what I imagined.
He left us and I stood there. Sweating.
Oh my god. There is no way I can ever sleep in here.
The heat was stifling.
The windows Dave swore created a nice breeze was really only one window. Downstairs.
Up in the loft, there were three tiny little windows, capable of producing no sort of cooling.
This isn’t going to work.
“We’ll just have to drink so we can sleep tonight,” Abby suggested. A fine idea.
Only, I had started to feel sick again.
My mind crept back to my final days with Chris. He had, as he described it, “felt crook.” And now, I too felt “crook.” My throat felt thick, my head heavy.
Shit. Sick. Again.
At 7, we went back to Flag to meet the group for dinner at a restaurant.
We weaved through the old roads, passing Roman ruins and ending up at a very traditional Bulgarian restaurant where they served one of our table’s meals first, and then the others.
I had one beer.
By my second beer, Sick was back, taking over. I passed my remaining beer (alcohol kills Sick germs, right?) and food to the hungry English guys who were watching their budget, like a good momma hen.
After dinner, our group went to the beach and a game of “I Never” broke out.
Well, at least with the boys. As soon as they turned it into a game of sexual conquests, the girls fell quiet.
Finally, the people in our apartment — the English guys, the Czech girl, Abby and I, decided to end the night and walked back to our place.
It was hot.
Abby had to run a cold shower to cool off.
Me? I felt like crap so I closed my eyes quickly.
The next day, we were up early.
“I can’t stay here more,” I announced.
We went to another Happy location where I found a hostel nearby and then went there to talk to them. Yo-Ho Hostel. No air-con. But, up less flights of stairs. And, a hostel. With big windows to circulate air. Not an apartment.
We reserved a dorm, went to break Dave the bad news that our last night in the inferno apartment would be tonight, and headed to the beach.
For three days, Abby and I had a routine. Work in the morning, head to the beach and read, rest, dinner. She was a trooper, powering through my feeling like crap the entire time we were together. I felt awful, but unlike the other times I was sick during my travels, I moved. I sunned. I tried my best to feel OK.
It didn’t always work and unfortunately Abby didn’t get to have a Healthy D on the majority of her trip.
Until we headed to our next stop, Veliko Tarnovo, a quiet and beautiful mountain town in Bulgaria.