Dubbed Europe’s hottest new vacation destination, Bulgaria has a gorgeous coastline, delicious food and friendly people, but if you’re looking to find unspoilt beaches there’s no better way to do it than by rowboat. Ten days ago we crossed the border from Romania, trading a coastline that all of Romania vacations on for one with infinitely more breathing room. We rowed past expansive sandy beaches tucked between jagged cliffs of limestone and small fishing villages fronted with grizzled men in wooden boats.
That’s not to say Bulgaria isn’t a party place. Deep bass rhythms often reverberate across the water from crowded beach resorts. In the vacation hotspot of Varna carnival rides and high-rise casinos dominate the skyline.
Pitching a tent in crowded places is impossible, even beaching our boats amidst throngs of swimmers is challenging so we gravitate towards quiet isolated beaches which are surprisingly easy to find. We’ve camped on fine sand that squeaks beneath your feet and on shores of crushed seashells.
Periodic swims provide rejuvenation from the blazing heat, and wildlife viewings provide a distraction from the monotony of rowing. Pods of dolphins occasionally pass nearby, and thousands of jellyfish ply the waters below. Small sharks are rumoured to cruise these waters, but we are yet to see one.
Now we are the in the modest seaside town of Tsarevo. It has a golden beach, marina, and abundance of restaurants but has very few foreign tourists. Absent from our guidebook, we learned of it from a Bulgarian family that listed it as their favourite vacation spot. Here we’re working on the logistics of rowing across the Bulgarian Turkish border, which is proving to be more difficult than all previous border crossings. After several phone calls to consulates and embassies we are no further ahead. The consensus is that no one paddles across the border. Last year 30 fishing boats were confiscated for slipping across it and with the conflict raging across the sea in Georgia we’ve been told the security will be higher than ever.
Nonetheless, we’ll keep working on the issue. Turkey lies a mere 30 km south of us and one way or another we’ll soon be rowing along the coastline of a new country.