Let’s start with a bit of geography if, like us, you had never heard of Varna before. Varna is a very popular destination in Bulgaria, it is a beautiful small town on the edge of the Black Sea, offering the visitors beautiful beaches, pedestrian streets, plenty of bars, cafes and restaurants. Unlike other seaside cities we have visited in the past, Varna is a lot less “Americanized” and is very affordable. It’s hot, sunny, the sand is soft and the water is warm and clear. A real dream, right ?
Well it didn’t exactly happened like that, not for us anyway. Let’s start with a small beginner mistake that caused us a bit of unnecessary stress. If we have learned one thing from this part of our trip, it’s that it is usually very easy to get to a small town in Europe from a big city using public transport. As an example, it was very easy to get to Brasov from Budapest. Unfortunately, going from a small town to another small town across a border is a very different story.
After several hours of research on Romanian and Bulgarian untranslated websites, we resigned ourselves to leave it to the care of the train company clerk to book our train tickets. Good news, we have an itinerary that feels a little tight for one of the transfers, but we should trust the professionals – no? Second learning: do not assume that the train will necessarily be on time. We should have known that, especially since our previous train got us in Brasov with an hour and a half delay. Let’s just say that we missed the clean trains, on time and with an Internet connection that we were taking at the beginning of the trip. To make a long story short, the train was stopped at the border of Bulgaria to change the locomotive, but the other locomotive had not arrived yet, no problem we were half an hour early. Time passed and passed and there was now a delay of over half an hour. Since we only had 15 minutes for our transfer, we quickly realized we were going to miss it. To add fuel to the fire, when we asked the train personnel what we should do for our transfer they responded rudely in Romanian or Bulgarian and were waving us off to leave them alone. We did not know what to do… By chance a little later, another agent who spoke a little bit of English came in and told us that we had to take a train, a bit farther away, that would bring us to Varna. A slight detour that was adding three hours to our journey. Anyway, we’ll save you some of the details since we already talked too much about it. At the end, we managed to get at 11:15 PM in Varna to get to our Airbnb and meet our wonderful host, who had been very patient and flexible to come to meet us at midnight.
The next day, finally we were out of our troubles and we could go to the beach! Well, not for everyone, Karine fell ill and had to stay in bed. A boys day, we can live with that. Since we did not want to explore without Karine, we spent a day at the beach. What is more exciting than swimming in a sea where you never swam before? We had fun. We spent the day in the water and the boys did not want to get out of the water despite their dad who was pressing them to get out to make sure that Mom was ok. Pure serendipity, a young topless woman swam near the boys and they rapidly got out of the water, laughing nervously. To conclude day 1, we had an intimate diner between boys in an Italian restaurant believing that the next day Karine would feel better for sure. But that’s really not how it happened… in the middle of the night, Kolya woke up and ran upstair to throw up. Not only did he thrown up, but he was confused and was babbling. The poor little guy certainly got food poisoning since he no longer wants to eat seafood. Back to bed, it will be better tomorrow. But the next day, Karine is still sick. Boys day #2. Beach, restaurant, sleep. Day three, same thing.
Day 4, Karine could finally come down to the sea. Unfortunately, we had not walked 100 meters that Hugo started to puke. Back at the apartment. Simon and Kolya got out to explore the city and the Port and enjoyed a nice beach-side supper together. Despite feeling bad for Hugo and Karine, Simon and Kolya enjoyed this special moment between a father and his son where you can talk frankly about life and make some confidences.
Finally, on the last day, Karine was able to get out to explore with Kolya while Simon was taking care of Hugo and she finally was able to dip a toe in the Black Sea. Mission accomplished, we didn’t go to Varna for nothing. Simon has been exempted from gastric problems since the beginning of the trip. He attributes this to the fact that he has consumed every day some delicious local beers. As it is brewed with local water, this probably acts as an elixir that protects from local diseases. Another learning in the great book of travels.
To conclude this quite personal article, we can say that Varna is an exceptional city where we would revisit with great pleasure in the future. The beautiful beaches, the charming little town, the small bakery where Simon was going to get breakfast every morning really charmed us. We also offered ourselves the luxury of time in Varna and we have spent several hours, for some on the beach and for other convalescing in bed, reading whole novels on our ebook readers. With so many exotic destinations in the upcoming weeks, we are not overly disappointed with the fact that not everyone was able to enjoy the sea for this part of the trip.