Varna, Bulgaria: Soaking up the energy of a vibrant city

Photo: Varna, Bulgaria on the Black Sea. Credit: Lisa Borre.
Local yachts moored inside the seawall at the Varna Yacht Club on the Black Sea in Bulgaria. Photo by Lisa Borre.

Black Sea Logbook Entry

Date: 9/5/2010
Distance: 21nm
Sailed from: Balchik, Bulgaria
Lat: 43°11.4’N
Long: 27°55.3’E

We departed Balchik after lunch with a brief stop to see the marina in the Golden Sands beach resort before arriving at the Varna Yacht Club. Except for freshly painted bright graffiti on the seawall, the harbor doesn’t seem to have changed much in the 10 years since our guidebook was published. Volen, the son of the same Bulgarian sailor who helped us in Balchik, helped us when we arrived in Varna even though his parents had rushed to the hospital because his mother had injured her hand. He and his grandfather moved their smaller yacht into a tight space to make room for us alongside the wall in the inner basin where we had protection from the wash of passing pilot boats and freighters in this busy commercial port. We expressed our appreciation with a Gyatso t-shirt, and he returned awhile later with a gift of some delicious homemade quince jam — what a treat!

Among the locally owned sail and power boats at the yacht club, we found a Swiss couple who had left their yacht here for two months after transiting the Danube and were now busy at work preparing to continue their voyage to the Med. We also found Solarwave, the same German-flagged, solar-powered catamaran we had seen in Mangalia and Balchik. As before, they seemed to have a busy agenda, so we did not speak, but we learned from their website that they are planning to “sail” around the world on solar power alone. We were wondering how they found the persistent swell on the Black Sea without a sail to stabilize them and learned from another sailor later on that they were experiencing some difficulties since emerging from the Danube River.

Varna is a large, European-style city with a pedestrian street lined with fancy shops, restaurants and cafes. Street performers work their magic while tourists and locals alike sip coffee and engage in a favorite European past-time: people watching. We joined in by ordering a cappuccino and finding an empty table at a trendy cafe. Although it was September, we arrived at the end of a national holiday weekend. At a nearby table, a group of Bulgarian men who looked like they might have mafia connections talked business and worked their cell phones.

One of the street performers took-up a table behind us, drawing much attention with her outlandish looks and colorful costume. McDonald’s must make a fortune on their soft-serve ice cream, judging by the number of people downing dishes and cones at their outdoor tables. Old women dressed in somewhat official-looking uniforms, swept the streets and picked-through trash bins looking for treasures left behind by the wealthy summer tourists. Fashionable women walked in the hot sunshine weighted down with shopping bags on both arms.

We spent part of both days in Varna wandering around and soaking up the energy of the vibrant city before continuing south along the Black Sea coast. Unfortunately, we had to move on before we could meet with the Black Sea Commission contact from the maritime administration because their offices were closed for the national holiday.

Since the beginning of September, we’ve been keeping an extra close watch on the weather because we’ve been warned that the first gales of the season arrive like clockwork in the first week of September. Not wanting to play chicken with the wisdom of the ancient Egyptians and their Coptic calendar, we set sail for Burgas Bay where we could be in close range of the protected harbor and best marina facility in Bulgaria at Sozopol.