Reunited and it feels so good! After spending the day visiting the ruins of Perperikon, I hop back on the bus to continue my journey to Varna. Maggie and her mom are waiting for me at the bus station, and it’s nice to be able to easily speak to people again. As an introvert, I enjoy going long periods without speaking, but when you’ve just spent several days struggling to communicate, it’s nice to not have to think about it for awhile.
As soon as I arrive, Maggie informs me that we’re leaving in the morning to visit her other grandma in the town of Silistra, on the Romanian border. While Bulgaria has a train system, buses are a much more comfortable and efficient way to get around. Many have free wifi aboard, and some even have food service.
Silistra is a tiny little town with not much to do. When I mention to other Bulgarians that we are visiting, they all ask “Why would you go there?” But the point of this stop isn’t touristing, though on our second day, Maggie and I get out and walk around a bit. There’s a nice little park with flowers everywhere.
And I bet in the summer, this cafe would be a nice place to spend an evening drinking wine with friends. That’s Romania on the other side of the river.
After our walk, we stop at a little cafe for coffee and cake, and Maggie teaches me the Crylic alphabet, which was actually invented by the Bulgarians and adopted through eastern Europe and Russia.
But most of the time we’re here, we sit around Maggie’s grandma’s kitchen table. She doesn’t speak any English and I speak about 4 words of Bulgarian (da – yes, ney – no, nasdravey – cheers and banitsa – a delicious phyllo dough and Bulgarian feta dish) so the conversation is a bit stilted for me. But it’s an enjoyable look at every day Bulgarian life.
Part of the custom of having house guests in Bulgaria is giving gifts. As we’re leaving, Maggie’s grandma gives me a pair of knitted house socks and a beautiful lace doily that she made herself. They are lovely!
Back in Varna, Maggie takes me into town and shows me to the beach to hang out while she visits her grandfather. He’s sick and not wanting many visitors, so I walk down the beach, exploring the coast line.
It’s a windy day and the waves crash high on the sea walls.
This guy looks like he’s getting too close! But he stays just out of reach.
Varna is a major port on the Black Sea therefore there is a lot of shipping coming through this area.
I spend a couple hours here before heading back to meet Maggie. She takes me through the main part of Varna and shows me its charms before we meet up with one of her school friends for coffee. I love how getting a coffee is a thing here, such a part of the culture. Being from Seattle, coffee is also a part of our culture (ok, it IS our culture), but more in a ‘Starbucks on every corner with a line out the door, jolting us into consciousness and warming us from the dark, rainy days’ kind of way. In Europe, it’s about meeting with friends at a sunny cafe and enjoying a latte while you take a break from the crazy day and enjoy life.
We also pay a visit to the Formation of the Mother of God Cathedral (it has quite a name!) so Maggie can light candles for her family.
Upon my return to Varna in a few days (I visit Nessebar and Istanbul next!), I again walk down to the beach again, but this time head the other direction, finding this lovely stroll through the park known as the Maritime Gardens, with a enormous statue at the end.
The statue is called The Pantheon of the Fallen of the Wars and was built in 1959 to commemorate the fallen soldiers from 1923-1944.
While I didn’t do as much sightseeing in Varna as other cities, I got to experience something way more valuable, Maggie’s family. Even though we don’t speak the same language, it’s such a unique look into a fading life – the aging of the former Communist era, and I feel so honored to get to be a part of it.