Seaside magic at Sozopol

Author SofiaEcho, Lucy Cooper
Date 04 August 2005

SOZOPOL or Nesebar? That was the question we had in mind when we set off for the southern Black Sea coast. Both are within easy reach of the port of Bourgas (which is about seven hours by train from Sofia), and both had been variously recommended. It was the usual chit-chat and exchanging of travelling tales with people along the journey that swung it in the end. Some fellow travellers description of being greeted at Nesebar by a giant Union Jack sign with fish n chips emblazoned across it set our sights south to Sozopol. The general consensus was that while Nesebar may have more to offer in terms of archaeological remains, Sozopol was less tacky, more charming and not as expensive, which sounded like a good combination. So, when we arrived in Bourgas we jumped into a taxi for Sozopol. There are also mini-buses that leave from in front of the station every half-hour (2.80 leva, 40 mins), but being on a tight timetable and not wanting to miss out on time soaking up the sun, we couldnt wait any longer to hit the beach. Driving at breakneck speed, the meter racing even faster to reach the agreed fare of 20 leva, the Rapotamo Nature Reserve whizzes past the window. Now, its a well-established and much lamented fact that Bulgarias Black Sea coast is being subjected to more than its fair share of development, but with the nature reserve and campsites in close proximity to the town, Sozopol area has been lucky enough to largely escape the hand of developers. So far, at least. The road hugs the coast, revealing tempting flashes of bright blue water as it curves along its contours. Arriving in the town itself, the taxi manoeuvres around skips and building equipment, evidence that developers are moving in. Sozopol is split into two main parts: the old town and new town - known as Harmanite. The old town, once an island, lies on a headland to the north, while the new town occupies a smaller headland and bay to the south. After a false start where we booked into a hotel that on first impression looked great: sea views, swimming pool, only find that the balcony was in full view of a load of builders working noisily on some scaffolding - so much for secluded topless sunbathing and quiet evening drinks - we found a hotel that was ideal. Hotel Paradise is the last one the new town headland, affording beautiful views both of the old town and Town beach to the north and Harmanite bay and beach to the south. The clink of builders could still be heard (I defy you to find anywhere to stay out of earshot of the incessant builders clanging on the Black Sea), but wasnt quite so on top of us. After relaxing in the sun with a couple of beers, it was time for an evening stroll through the narrow cobbled streets of the old town. Unlike museum towns such as Koprivishtitsa, Sozopol has the feel of a real place where people actually live. Babas beat rugs on the porches of old wooden houses, while their daughters chat, selling homemade goods, and grandchildren play. Walking from Town beach round the headland, exploring the winding streets just before sunset, its obvious why the place is a magnet for artists. Everything glows with a special vivid lazy evening light. From the tip of the headland you are treated to a view of more unblemished promontories dotted along the coast. Following the road around to the other side of the headland brings you to the naval base and harbour. Along the way are bars and restaurants ideal for a sunset drink in the soft sea breeze. From the harbour, its quick to cut across the headlands narrow neck back to the beach. Its difficult to drag yourself away from this relaxed, seaside town, and lots of scenarios for pulling sickies were dreamt up and discarded before we reluctantly piled onto the mini-bus (which leaves from Han Krum Street between the old and new town) homeward bound, but we were resolute to come back and revisit this charming seaside town before the developers move in permanently.

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