Oh dear, we are sad souls who count every country we visit, and for us, Bulgaria was a new one. As we set foot on land, we looked one another in the eye and simultaneously uttered that magic word “Ker-ching!” Another one for the count.
This was one of those ports to be visited by tender. Anyone who’s been on a cruise will know what I mean when I say that. It’s the added fun of climbing down a staircase attached to the side of a ship, boarding a “tender”, aka a lifeboat, and being taken ashore by someone driving this small boat who rather enjoys the fun. For the first time, today we were allowed to sit on the roof of the tender, which added to the excitement. Yes, this is one of those times when we are easily excitable.
Nessebur is a resort town which also happens to be a World Heritage Site. We culture vultures were there for the latter, of course, but it was clear that, for many, that was a mere accidental. The old town is situated in a peninsula across a narrow causeway from the beach, and half way across there’s the old windmill which, we’re told, is the symbol of the town.
The first sight to strike us was this amazing brickwork, on a ruined church. Running the gauntlet of various elderly women who were desperate to sell us some ghastly beadwork or other, we managed to get closer to it and see the huge variety of pattern.
Further into the town, we saw churches in a better state of repair with complete arches and solid walls.
We wandered down the main street, bemused by the contrast between the old, World Heritage buildings and the tacky souvenir stalls, this one one of several bearing the sign “Sorry we’re open”. Tourism has arrived with a vengeance here but perhaps we were not the target audience.
Turning the corner and finding ourselves in front of the St Stephen’s Basilica, we heard music. Listening more carefully, we realised it was coming from the front, under that arch. Moving towards the front, it was clear that those people standing under the arch were members of a choir and as more members joined them, the sound became more magical and we stood for several minutes, entranced by the sound. I pulled out my Flip video and recorded their song – I can’t upload it here but will do so later, once I’m home. I think you’ll be as entranced by it as we were.
They came to the end of their song and the chap in the white cap came over to speak to us. He explained that they were a choir from Minsk in Belarus, here on a small concert tour and offered us a CD of their music. Eager to support their work, we gave them the 5 Euros in return for a CD and, because we had only a 10 Euro note, accepted 10 Lev change.
Now, what would we buy with 10 Lev?
There was plenty to choose from!
We chose to spend it on entrance fees and one camera permit in St Spa’s church, to see and photograph the frescos.
Seldom can 10 Lev have been better spent, for these were magnificent paintings and the dark and dreary church suddenly became light at the flick of a switch, once the magical 10 Lev had been paid!
We decided that Nessebur had been the perfect destination. Small enough to explore independently on foot. Interesting enough to hold the attention and to reward those who took the time to do that. But ultimately, not so large as to take all day, meaning there was time to return to the ship and enjoy a couple of hours by the pool in the afternoon sunshine.
Incidentally the choir remarked on how expensive it is to travel to Bulgaria from Belarus.
“It’s so cheap to go to London” they said. “We fly with Ryanair, no problem. But Ryanair don’t fly from Minsk to Nessebur, sadly”.
Perhaps a new route for them? It sounded as though half of Minsk was on holiday here!