Hot hot hostels

“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.

The hostel?

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.”

We rushed.

“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.

“No guns.”

“No prostitutes.”

Right.

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.

An apartment.

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.

“Up here.”

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.

Gross 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.

Blog Bulgaria Travel

The Jersey – Sunny Beach – Shore

Bulgaria.

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.

The anti-Bulgaria.

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.

Beachy.

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.

Rides.

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.

Blog Bulgaria Travel

The Jungle Princess joins the Adventure

The first time I met Abby was in Las Vegas about four years ago. She was an editor and I was a publicist, so we had a few lunches and swam in some of the same circles of the Las Vegas social scene.

I never imagined the next time I would see her would be in Istanbul.

But, it was.

She and I had stayed in close contact the past year … sharing our thoughts about travel, our mutual support of the travel blogging world, and had talked about possibly doing a meet-up somewhere in my adventures.

When she found out her time living in Costa Rica was coming to a close, she messaged me asking where I was.

And, then everything came together.

Three weeks later, she was jetting from her pueblo to the bustling city of Istanbul.

The night Abby arrived in Istanbul also happened to be Chris’ last night of his travels.

“We’ve got to celebrate your last night,” I announced to Chris.

So, Claire, Chris and I headed to Sultanahmed to find a shisha bar and get some drinks. Our first stop was The Sultan Hostel, where Claire was staying, for some large Effes, and then on to Top Deck to enjoy some shisha.

I didn’t think we would be out late.

But, we were.

As we sipped on way too sugar-y alcoholic concoctions, the three of us laughed the night away.

“I think Abby’s hotel is nearby …” I said, and then asked Sasha, the owner of the bar, where her hotel was.

“It’s right there,” he said, pointing around the corner. He grabbed me and guided me to the hotel, where I quickly penned a note to Abby, telling her to drop her bags and come and meet me … even if it meant she had to jump from three flights to a cab to a hotel at 1 a.m.

We sat on the outdoor cushions for another hour, each time a cab pulled up I would crane my neck to see if it was Abby arriving.

Then, a white van pulled up on the street and a girl with long, wavy light hair got out, I immediately knew.

Abby!

I jumped the rail and bounded to her.

“Hi!!” I squealed, grabbing her, so happy to see a familiar face and to have a friend from home in Turkey.

We ran to her room, dropped her bags, and then went back to Top Deck for a few more cocktails, closing the place down early in the morning.

For the next few days, Abby and I would grab our laptops, do some writing and then tour the city, hitting the Grand Bazaar and wandering, eating and drinking wine.

I had been in Istanbul nearly two weeks total by the time we headed to Bulgaria … I was ready to go and be somewhere new and to create new (and happy) memories.

We teetered on where we would go after Istanbul, deciding on Sunny Beach, which was rated as one of Bulgaria’s top beach destinations.

At 7 a.m. on a Friday morning, after two days of wandering Istanbul together, we met in the rug shop below Harmony, loaded our belongings into a cab and headed to the bus station (a massive cluster unlike anything I had ever seen before), and boarded a bus to Sunny Beach, Bulgaria.

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