Sunday, October 14, 2012

Nessebar, Bulgaria – October 10, 2012

Nessebar, Bulgaria – October 10, 2012

The ship arrived in Nessebar at noon, and after the long delay in Yalta leaving the ship, it was important to be on the first tender leaving the ship in Nessebar.  I went to the third deck to be first in line for a tender, and the staff told me (and others who followed me) to go to the casino lounge to wait for a tender.  They said that the tour groups had first priority for the tenders.  We refused to leave, telling the staff that we had as much right to be on the first tender as tour groups.  A line formed on the third deck, waiting for the tender boarding process to begin, and we were admitted first to board the first tender. 

When we arrived on shore, our guide in Nessebar, Victoria, was waiting for us.  We agreed that we should do “out of town” touring first, and then come back to Nessebar for our walking tour, so that we would be near the ship when it was time to return to the ship.  We did not want to be far away from the ship and then have to worry about driving back in time for the last tender returning to the ship.  We walked a short distance where our driver was waiting for us, and off we went. 

As we began our drive, we noticed immediately how much better the economic situation was in Bulgaria than in Romania and Ukraine.  Bulgaria is a member of the European Union, and the economy in Bulgaria is much better than in neighboring countries.  We saw new cars, many of which were expensive cars; the roads were much better.  We saw supermarkets and other modern stores.  And we saw new buildings everywhere.  Although Victoria told us that many people were struggling financially, clearly the overall economy in Bulgaria is far better than that of its neighbors.

We drove first to Burgas, a town about half an hour south of Nessebar.  Burgas is a town of about 200,000; its economy is based on a large gasoline refining plant, a textile mill, and lots of tourism.  Although many “communist apartment buildings” were everywhere, and clearly where most people lived, they seemed to be in better condition than in Romania and Ukraine, and many new apartment buildings had also been constructed.  Victoria told us that the mayor of Burgas had done much to improve the economy of Burgas and the living conditions of the people in Burgas. 

We went for a walk in a wonderful pedestrian area that had just been opened.  It was filled with pedestrians, open shops and outdoor restaurants.  We noticed a large number of young women pushing baby carriages.  It was as if a baby boom was underway with all the young mothers and babies.  Perhaps the new pedestrian walkway was a good place for them to walk their babies.  Victoria told us that women who worked were permitted paid time off work from 45 days before a baby is born until the child’s second birthday.  We got gelato from a street vendor, and walked all the way to the shore, into a beautiful shoreline park that stretched along the shore for six kilometers. 

After our visit to Burgas, we returned to the van and went to Promorie.  We first visited a Thrachian tomb, dating from the third century.  The tomb was interesting, and I took photos.  We then visited the St. George Monastery; it was pretty small and rundown, but it was interesting to visit.  The feature of the monastery was a spring whose water was supposedly healing water.  We tasted the water just in case it did indeed have healing powers.  Just outside Promorie, we stopped at a salt processing operation, where salt water was spread in large flats to evaporate, leaving the salt to be collected.  Large piles of salt were waiting to be shipped out. 

We then returned to Nessebar for a walking tour of the UNESCO site.  Nessebar is a small island with only a few streets filled with souvenir shops among the ancient churches that make up the UNESCO site.  We visited numerous of the old churches, including the most highly developed ones, Christ the Pantocrator Church, St. John the Baptist Church, and St. Stefan Church.

We took the next to last tender back to the ship, saying goodbye to Victoria and thanking her for a wonderful day.  Victoria is a professional tour guide, and she was wonderful – extremely nice and considerate, and also extremely knowledgeable.  We appreciated her very much.

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