where the ground comes to an end

We spend our first night in Bulgaria by the Vidin – Lom road. A mowed grassy spot right by the fence of something that looks like a summer house. I help with pitching the tent with a heavy heart – we’re surrounded by dogs’ barking, echoing in the night. I literally shiver with fear as I take Juley out of his car seat and move him into the tent. Suddenly our uncomfortable car feels like the warmest and cosiest place on Earth.

The entire night I try to sleep but two thoughts keep taking their turns in my mind: one about the incessant dogs’ barking – damn, don’t these dogs have anything better to do? – and another about how badly I want us to have a big van with a roof tent or a campervan so that we could sleep undisturbed everywhere. The entire night my heart is beating so hard I have the feeling Lukaš could hear it. In the morning he confirms he couldn’t sleep well either, because of me. Not well is still better than not at all, though.

In the early morning, a car passes by the tent. Another wave of terror makes my heart numb. Thoughts about local gangsters, about men with guns, about things one cannot believe in the light of day. Thank God, no one comes. As the day rises up, fear melts down.

I take a look around – the Danube shimmers in orange hues on the other side of the road, the opposite bank half-hidden by a light mist. A ship passes by. Lukaš takes a photo of us by the road over which trees have shaped an interesting tunnel. Cars and trucks pass from time to time (seemingly less in number than during the night, I think). The air is humid, familiar – a typical Bulgarian summer dawn which is going to turn into a hot day.

My idea is that we follow the Danube until we reach Ruse. Here, though, my ideas clash with the slightly disappointing reality – there isn’t a road that follows the river exactly. Lukaš is looking at the map on his phone, nervous. He snaps at me, saying such a road does not exist and that I am “living in the clouds” again, wanting things that are not possible. This time I agree with him. Besides, I’m too sleep-deprived to react to his snapping in any way. And then, it is nothing other than his impossibility to get me exactly what I said I wanted.

Anyway. We set off, stop in Lom, drink coffee in the centre. We meet two Germans traveling around Bulgaria on bikes. They wonder what the heck they’re doing in this part of the country and are not enamoured at all. We tell them to go to Pleven, wishing them to take a liking to my homeland.

The town slowly comes to life as the sun rises up in the sky. I must admit Lom is better than what I thought it would be. Actually, part of my wish to follow the Danube in Bulgaria and not in Romania was because I wanted to see with my own eyes towns I had only heard of in geography classes. I’m fascinated by the fact Lom is, in fact, an ancient city, that it has a cute square and a park by the river. It has a beer brewery and its own beer brand. It has a market that gets Lukaš immediately excited. I walk in its periphery while he’s taking photos of the stalls for fear not to be overwhelmed with the feeling Moldova Noua left me with.

We set off again. We lose sight of the Danube as we ride towards Kozloduy. Lukaš swears all the time and I feel guilty for no reason. Well, actually, there is a reason: he’s blaming me for the fact we’re not driving through Romania. The dorky, apologising part of me tries to convince him there will be at least something for him to take a liking to as well.

In the end, it turns out he’s much more fascinated than I am. This part of Bulgaria fits his aesthetic ideas of what counts as impressive much more than it does mine. We pull over a few times for him to take photos of socialist buildings and monuments. This will become his main mission on our way to the sea.

And although he sometimes behaves like a jerk, I have to admit: I envy his enthusiasm. His urges to shoot. My camera remains tucked in its bag just like it’s been for the past few years. I have the feeling his camera is a flashlight he uses to illuminate his way at each new place. With which he discovers new and interesting things everywhere, anywhere. And I? I seem to step into each new place with a question, a longing, a quick test in which I compare the face of that place with my foggy idea of Home – the birthplace of my soul. And I only photograph those moments when light reflects in the face of the unknown place in such a way that it takes a resemblance of that soul home of mine. Wow, I can never ever make a photo reporter.

But I’m okay with that.

Here’s something I do like. The long Radetski Street which is soaked in… water. Yes, I could feel it even with the car windows shut. Even taken out of its context, this street can only be located near a big body of water. Quiet, long and empty. Somehow… fresh-aired by the wind. It’s like houses don’t have heavy curtains here to keep the stories inside. Here stories are riddles, not because they’re hidden but because they’re uncatchable, tossed and turned by the wind which – at this place – has the slight scent of change and freedom. It’s like you feel you’re at the end of something.

I’ve always loved that feeling, to be at the end of something, not at its centre. It’s easier to breathe there, although it’s lonelier.

We get to the famous Radetski ship. Of course, I’m in that slightly numb state of mine which, for a long time now, has been hindering me from realising the historical importance of the places I visit. I usually realise it in retrospect, when I’m already far away from them. This time I have an excuse though. I’m one of those who would concentratedly read each sign or each inscription on monuments and in museums. With a one-year-old around, though, that’s impossible. There’s no way I can go into the depths of things when half of my brain constantly thinks about feeding, putting babies to sleep or changing nappies. I’ve promised myself that – if all goes well – when I’m old, all I’ll do will be going to museums and famous sights and reading history books. All other book genres will give me pain anyway.

We walk by the ship but decide not to go in. Instead, we lie down on the huge lawn near the monument and take turns getting a twenty-minute nap. Fortunately, Juley isn’t overtired. He’s digging into the fallen leaves with his little spade and seems pleased. Next to us, there are two women lying on the grass like us who look like they’re a couple and have a baby sleeping in a stroller. I really feel like talking with them about what it’s like to be a gay couple in Kozloduy but instead, we’re talking about our kids.

We decide to give up on my romantic idea of following the Danube and go south to Pleven. We only leave Oryahovo as our last stop by the Danube where we’re going to see the ferry boats. Lukaš even suggests we could enter Romania and exchange our remaining lei to euro at a better rate than we could find in Bulgaria. We see the huge Kozloduy atomic plant complex to the left of the road. Another name from the geography textbook. I send a silent prayer that there will never be a failure at this plant and relax in my seat. I’m tired.

It’s scorching hot in Oryahovo and because of road construction works the town has turned into a maze. We barely find the ferry boat port where we learn we need to cross the border first in order to see it. It’s hardly worth it. Lukaš tries to at least exchange the lei at the border crossing point but that fails too. Then we struggle for at least an hour until we get out of the town. We both decide it’s a horrible place. Juley must be thinking it’s us who’s horrible while sweating in his dreaded seat. In the end, Lukaš sees a huge socialist monument – his only reward in that unworthy divergence from our route.

We get out of the town and I begin to feel sick. I try to get some sleep but I can’t. When we stop for another socialist monument photo near Pleven, I open the door and lean over outside, hoping I’ll throw up. It doesn’t happen. I can only sit with my head resting on my knees, telling myself over and over again to breathe. Breathe. Breathe.

In Pleven, Lukaš is looking for a place to park and I beg him to let me out. I cannot imagine even a minute more inside the car. My legs feel like jelly. I sit on a curb, wondering how I can keep on being a mother today in this condition.

I begin to feel slightly better so we strap Juley in the stroller and head to the centre. I sit on every possible place on our way there. I drink ayran but it doesn’t help immediately.

Pleven, by the way, is beautiful. It reminds me of Plovdiv. It’s late afternoon – the time when, in summer, every Bulgarian town comes alive, even if it’s far from the sea. There are plenty of fountains and beautiful buildings in the centre. Too bad it will be dusk soon and we have to go looking for a place to sleep again. (No barking dogs this time please!)

There are people measuring your blood pressure for free, sitting at a table near the square. I decide to take advantage of that. I’m fine. I have the perfect readings. What the hell is the matter with me then?

On our way back to the car Lukaš buys savoury pastries and I try not to look at them because just thinking about them makes me feel sick. Juley gets tired and stops “behaving”. He runs away from the stroller and crawls over dirty stairs. We somehow manage to get to the car and head to the exit of the city.

I remember I have relatives living near Pleven. I went there once when I was little. I remember the village and even the street connecting my two grandmas’ houses. I suggest that we drive through there, say hi and sleep somewhere in the village. I somehow expect we’ll sleep at their place but we have no intention to intrude. The only thing I really want is to sleep somewhere where there are no barking dogs.

We pull over by one of my grandmas’ house – it turns out the other one isn’t among the living anymore… and I didn’t even know! We call her again and again, her dog’s barking at us and finally she comes out. We both recognise each other in an instant. And of course, she offers that we stay there. She even insists we do.

To be honest, that’s the greatest thing I can hear right now! We take a shower, I put Juley to sleep in my second cousins’ room which looks exactly like I remember it and then we go downstairs to keep her company. She offers us dinner but, to her huge disappointment, I still cannot take a bite. I feel better but the only thing I need is sleep. Like me, Lukaš almost falls asleep at the table while trying to follow the conversation. In the end, we apologise, promise that we’ll talk more at breakfast and then go to bed.

Lying on a bed… in a room… in the home of people close to you… with no dogs barking in the night… That’s what I call bliss.

When we wake up, my grandma has made yellow cheese princess toasts for us. That’s so sweet! We drink coffee, this time accompanied by Juley, and resume our conversation from last night. Uncle M. arrives too. He’s actually the one who gave us the directions to the house on the phone yesterday. We retell a few years of life in half an hour.

I wonder when I will ever see these people again… I wish that next time there will only be nice things to retell.

The road quickly takes us to Ruse – our next destination. We’re there to see T. It’s noon and the heat is scorching. We take a walk, hoping Juley will sleep more than half an hour in the stroller (he doesn’t) and then have lunch at a restaurant where all he does is running away, crawling between the tables and, as a whole, making the impression having a little kid is horrible. In reality, it’s not only horrible. 😛

Time goes by fast. I wonder if life will keep being like this in the future; if I’ll only have a few hours a year to spend with my friends. And I wonder how many hours/years it will take before I realise we’ve grown apart from one another too much…

That’s what I told another friend of mine last night (on Skype): having the best friends in the world is sometimes a curse…

We head on to Shumen where we decide to stay to avoid night overtaking us somewhere in the middle of nowhere again. Lukaš is over-thrilled. Could there ever be a town that can capture his heart more firmly than the home of the Founders of the Bulgarian State Monument?

While he’s taking photos of the monument, standing in the middle of another socialist memorial complex in the centre, I’m booking a room in the cheapest hotel in town. We’re sleeping in clean bedsheets again – yippee!

Then we get in the car and go up the hill. By the time we reach the monument itself, night has already fallen. And… my goodness, it’s beautiful! In the night the town isn’t made of panel blocks but of myriad lights. And the monument… yes, it might be a symbol of a detested era but I’ll lie if I say I’m not impressed.

We’re the only people in the area. The security guy lets us wander as much as we please as long as we don’t shoot videos (?). It’s cool and slightly windy on top of the hill but Juley is warm, cuddled next to me in the Manduca carrier. We watch the huge orange moon together. I’m trying to make out the eyes of the gigantic figures in the shadows and I am filled with awe. In the meantime, Lukaš is taking photo after photo. Only after I start whining does he put his tripod back in its bag and we head to the car. Poor Juley, I don’t think he remembers what the phrase “bedtime” means anymore.

We go to the hotel and I hurry to put him to sleep but the nightlights are too bright. I decide to use a towel to cover one of them. It does the trick for a while and then we smell something burning.

And yes… that towel belongs to the hotel.

We take a shower, plug the cooler to get charging and sleep like babies, that is, we wake up several times during the night.

In the morning we take a walk in the centre of Shumen, have coffee in a crowded cafe on the main street, check out some second-hand shops and eat svaoury pastries (I think I do that, too). Then we drive up to the monument again. It’s the last Monday of the month today, or something… I don’t remember… but it’s free to enter. I leave Lukaš to his taking photos and put Juley to sleep in the stroller, desperately begging Khan Asparuch (one of the Founders) to watch over his nap and make it at least an hour long so that I can read my book undisturbed. Well, it’s half an hour long nevertheless.

I’ve read almost nothing and here I am – alone, in the hottest time of the day with a sleep-deprived child. We go and look for Lukaš, finding him after some wandering. We take a selfie and I let Juley hang around in the shade of the monument where it’s nicely cool.

And he takes his first steps!

Right here, at this epic place.

For the last few weeks he’d been managing to take a few steps but after the inevitable fall he would always give up on subsequent attempts. But here he is today… falling, getting up, walking again. Falling, getting up, walking again.

Man, our baby is walking!

I cannot describe the joy and pride I feel although what I see is something entirely natural. And no, what I feel is not relief for finally being able to tell the neighbour: “Yes, he’s walking now!” It’s the feeling that our child begins a completely new stage of his life. It’s a moment combining the sadness of parting with something that will never come back with the joy of the new adventures awaiting us. I think it is the same sad kind of joy I will feel when he weans himself, when he starts kindergarten, then first grade, at his prom, at the graduation ceremony, at his wedding, at the birth of his children…

All right, all right, I got carried away.

After our emotions calm down, we have the usual shopska salad for lunch sitting on the benches of a “school in the woods” – a cute little place near the monument parking lot.

Then we say goodbye to Shumen, resolved to finally drive straight to the sea. However, we quickly change our minds. The map shows me we’re very close to Madara and I feel like it will be a sin to go past another place from the “geography textbook” I haven’t been to yet. So we go.

I expect a little piece of rock with the horseman engraved in it. And although the rider isn’t big indeed, my expectations are absolutely exceeded. That’s one of Bulgaria’s best-maintained tourist sites I’ve ever visited. I’m ashamed to admit I didn’t even have an idea it’s part of UNESCO. Nor did I know Madara is a whole complex with caves dating from Thracian times and remains of a fortress on the top.

The entire plateau looks magical. It’s like someone just tossed it down from the sky to break the monotony of the flat landscape. The view from the top is incredible. One can see the entire Shumen Plateau – another wonderful landform – with the monument where we just were.

A deep abyss gapes at us from the Shumen’s side and on the other side, there is only flat terrain with fields in the distance. I wonder how it is even possible for the ground to just come to an end. To dive hundreds of metres down with no warning. Geographers may call that “a plateau” but to me, that’s just magic.

Juley slept through the ascend towards the fortress, leaning on Lukaš’s back. It’s been a long time since he last napped twice a day. Exhaustion and new abilities are taking their toll.

We say goodbye to this beautiful place and spur on the car towards Varna. We only pull over at the turning to Pliska for a monument photo. We have no time for it or for Preslav. We’ll have to come back one day.

In Varna, we only stop at Decathlon to buy Juley a pool. Somehow we didn’t think to take ours. The air is soaked with moist. I can feel it at last… with all my senses – the sea.

And yet I will only see it in a couple of hours. Night overtakes us on the road again. This time we’re driving to Shablenskata Tuzla where we’re planning to stay. Again, we arrive too late and it takes us at least forty minutes to decide on which campsite we’re staying at.

In the end, we pitch our tent in the free zone which is designated by a low fence. There’s the perfect spot for us amidst the small windblown trees. I can hear the roar of the sea below. I can’t wait to see it but first, we need to make a bed for Juley to sleep on.

When I finally go out of the tent, the wind blows harder. There’s so much moisture in the air you can cut into it with a knife. I take a few steps towards the end of the slope – another spot where the ground just comes to an end. Below are the dark beach and the endless, fierce but welcoming, foaming, singing sea.

That’s it. In those few minutes when I’m standing on top of the slope, blown by the wind, I know I’m at the right place. I know I’m home.

Then I go to my other home – the tent – and I lay down next to my son’s little warm body. I don’t need beds or clean sheets here. I’m not afraid of anything. I fall asleep, lulled by the sea, that most soothing, most sweetly rocking, closest to how a mother’s womb feels lullaby.

Of course, nothing is completely romantic…

…where there are mosquitoes.

*

Juley wakes up for milk at around six. I’m all bitten by mosquitoes and I don’t think I’ll be able to fall asleep again.

I go outside. Everyone around us is sleeping. I take a few steps towards the end of the ground. And my heart skips a beat.

I’ve woken up exactly at sunrise. The sun is just coming up over the sea and the clouds threaten to swallow it any minute. I run back to the tent. What a materialist… I just need to capture the moment.

I return with my camera, sit on the bench next to the little table – both made of planks skillfully hammered together – and take a photograph. And only then do I watch. The cool wind scatters my hair. I’m all alone with the sunrise and I feel blessed.

Then I go back to the tent and, soothed, manage to fall asleep again.

When I wake up, there’s no sun to be seen. It’s gloomy and windy.

I love mornings like this by the sea!

I’ve always liked the need to put on warmer clothes in summer. It adds a pinch of cosiness to a season when people voluntarily give up on cosiness and go out of their comfort zone.

We have breakfast and drink coffee. Juley can’t get enough of his new abilities. We’ve left him to hang around only in a blouse and leather moccasins. He plays with shells, takes a few steps, falls down, gets up and repeats it over and over again. We take him to the almost empty beach. The sea is stormy and roaring but at first, he doesn’t show he’s afraid. Then, however, he snuggles in me and looks for his tranquilizer.

When we go back up to the tent he’s already tired. I put his warm pajamas on him and push him in the stroller around the free campsite. The wind and the roar of the sea beneath put him to sleep in no time. And keep him asleep! I sit and read Jesper Juul and he sleeps and sleeps. A military plane cracks above us. Every time it comes back, I mentally growl at it but it never manages to wake him up.

Ah, sea, I love you.

After he wakes up we jump into the car and go to the Shabla Lighthouse.

I love this spot and, damn, the gloomy sky suits it so well. It so enhances its painfully beautiful nostalgia. If anyone ever spoils this little seaside spot as they’ve spoiled most of the others, a part of my heart will die forever.

We go to the little restaurant and order fish soup. It’s as tasty as it was the last time we were here. Juley loves all kinds of soups so he’s good too.

After lunch, we go and check whether the free mineral spring bath is still there. It is there! No one has taken advantage of its worth; they’ve only equipped it with new walls. Just like last time you need to wait before you can enter and have a shower. New people are coming all the time.

We stay there for at least two hours. It would be great if we could fill Juley’s pool with warm water since there will be no sea today, but we’re afraid to bathe him in water that is so potent. Besides, he has other important things to do – he hangs around, crawls where it’s the dirtiest and generally there’s no one in the world feeling better than him right now.

A woman picks figs from the big tree next to the bath. I join her too and come back with a few figs, not completely ripe but good nevertheless. Juley tastes them for the first time and he’s in love. Mama’s boy!

Clouds begin to break when we leave the little cape for the town of Shabla. It is pretty ordinary, a typical seaside town although it stands a few kilometres from the shore. A bit forlorn. We buy food from the local store and go back to the free campsite.

We decide to move to one of the paid ones. We can use electricity there to charge our cooler and phones and the kind owner told us she’ll wash our clothes because we have a baby.

This is where the beach season in Bulgaria ends first so there’s just one group of people in the campsite apart from us. Even better – we have the whole space for us. We pitch the tent, have dinner and make a new batch of homemade anti-mosquito serum, resolved to give it a second and final chance.

On the next morning, we wake up with rash all over our bodies and there’s only one word spinning in my head: lotion! Horrible, toxic, skin and environment-unfriendly lotion. But one that repels mosquitoes!

It’s sunny but just as windy as yesterday. After breakfast, we go to the beach but again we’re out of luck. You simply can’t go into the sea.

Using all his boy scout skills, Lukaš secures the beach tent in a way that prevents the wind from carrying it away. He adds a parasol which sways threateningly above our heads as well as a big bedsheet for added shade. Juley falls asleep and sleeps for a long time – the sea, guys! – although the wind tosses sand in his face. After waking up he plays in the pool for a short while but doesn’t seem to like it a lot.

We have another fish soup for lunch at the campsite restaurant where the cook comes to chat with us. I love places where cooks have the time and desire to come and chat with you.

Then we drive to Kamen Bryag. The car is going down a wild, broken road. There are only sun-burned fields around. In the afternoon, the sea far to our left is deep blue and so beautiful it hurts.

We leave the car at an even spot overgrown by yellow grass and walk towards where the ground comes to an end – yet again. The shore here is tall and steep. There’s no sand, only rocks.

Under us, a girl is going down an invisible path in the rocks and then disappears. Where is she going? We follow her. The path is steep and at certain spots I’m really scared that I could slip and fall down along with Juley. It takes us to a little cove covered with rocks. The girl is gone. Perhaps the mysterious path goes on behind the cove.

We decide to stay. The tall shore casts a deep shadow. The sea is not so stormy here but the waves break into the rocks and scare Juley. At least he likes the rocks. He tries to climb on top of them and manages with some help from us. He finds a place, covered with some sort of red clay. We press his hand into it and make an imprint on a piece of paper.

I take off his clothes, get naked myself and try to go into the water with him. A wave hits us and his terrified cry puts an end to my attempts. So we just stand on the rocks naked and Lukaš takes pictures of us.

Then a Romanian guy appears from somewhere, leaves his clothes on the rocks and gets lost in the sea.

This rocky cove must be beautiful at sunrise. Perhaps one day, when the sea is calmer, we’ll stay there for a night. In the morning we’ll have breakfast naked while the sun warms our goose-flesh salty bodies.

Now though we’re going back to Shabla.

We buy plums on the way and stop in the town for fish. We make sure not to forget the repellent! Then we go back to the campsite and make dinner. I completely ruin the fish by taking its spine off (how can I know I am not supposed to?) so in the end, I have grilled fish chunks for dinner. Juley and Lukaš share a sausage. That isn’t the plan but, once Juley’s tried it, he keeps asking for more.

I put Juley to sleep and Lukaš and I sit in the darkness together. In my ideas about this holiday I envisaged how we were going to use these moments to catch up on all the conversations we had missed in daily life. To make some plans for the future. Alas, again it doesn’t happen. The conversation turns into an argument. We’ve either forgotten it or we’ve never spoken the same language.

I recall how, a month after our wedding, I had checked whether the moon on that day had been favourable. Just the opposite. “On this day newlyweds only marry their dark sides.”

Damn, why does it sound so true?

*

On the next morning, we’re woken up by combines, cutting corn in the field opposite the campsite.

I don’t remember what we did anymore; after arguments with Lukaš my days always feel like black holes. The only difference is that I eventually walk out of them.

Today we’re finally slowly heading south. We drive along almost empty roads. Our next destination is Bolata – a beach a boy we met at the Madara fortress told us about. He was dressed in motorcycling clothes, was obviously hot after the ascent but also so warm and friendly. He even took a selfie with us. 😛

Ever since I moved abroad, all new people I meet in Bulgaria seem to me if not happy, then at least free to look for their happiness. Somehow more positive than I remember people used to be back when I lived there. I may be deceived. It’s always been deceiving to judge the personality and mentality of someone you met for the first time in summer.

Summer simply undresses us, within and without. It makes us more authentic, rawer. It’s like it allows us to be children again. Children, that’s right. Summer is a child, a barefoot one, with hair burnt by the sun. Firmly believing in himself. Spring is a pregnant woman; autumn is a wise woman of 35 at least, while winter is an old woman. And summer – summer’s a child; it’s neuter just like the Bulgarian word for “summer”.

(I don’t care about parallel analysis with the season names in other languages, thank you. :))

On our way to Kavarna, we stop by at a roadside market. We buy nothing but see a group of women at the foot of a pepper mountain. All of them chuckling, squinting curiously under their headcloths, asking who we are, where we’re going. Finally, they suggest we place Juley on top of the pepper mountain and take him a photo. Lukaš doesn’t want to but I do. He knows nothing about Balkan sense of humour.

In Kavarna, we go shopping and have a coffee. The town is quite nice. Again, we’re lucky to have arrived at its coming-alive hour. Giant murals of rock musicians are watching at us from the blocks of flats. We’re once again hurrying to get to the camping spot before night has fallen so we don’t pay the town the attention it deserves. We should come back here as well.

The road to Bolata goes past a wind farm. Juley is enchanted and learns a new word: “rotor blade”. Then, hills appear on both its sides, sprinkled with rocks and holes that look like caves. And here we are.

The silence astonishes us – here, the sea is calm as a lake. Fishing boats are lining the shore. Apart from us, there are two other people camping here. One of them works somewhere in the area and sleeps on the beach every night. Or so I understand from our short conversation.

“Tomorrow morning, get out of your tent at sunrise. You won’t regret it,” he says.

We make dinner under a camping light. Juley doesn’t want to fall asleep in the tent so I put him in the carrier and sing songs to him under the stars.

There’s a lot of them here. And they’re huge.

*

We wake up before sunrise. The cove is still in shadow but the huge rock at its southern end is beginning to redden.

So that’s what the guy meant. A sunrise not over the sea but on the faces of the rocks.

Although it’s early, the beach is full of people. There are fishermen, arriving in their cars and preparing their boats. I watch the increasingly lighter and redder rock and realise the sun is already up but we can’t see it because of the tall shore on the other side.

I place Juley in the carrier and we go “looking for” it. We pass by the boats, walk up the concrete wharf and finally see the huge red ball of fire, rising over the waves behind the cove. The entire space behind us is glowing. If the rocks surrounding Bolata weren’t red, the little cove would surely have suffered from the fact it has no direct view of the sunrise. But they are. And so it doesn’t.

The sea is calm and shallow. We can’t believe it but we’ll finally be able to go for a swim!

After a while, people are beginning to fill up the cove. Only now, after some researching, do I realise why – that’s the only sand beach nearby. While writing this post, I am browsing the map of my own country, noticing dozens of well-hidden beaches like this one which we’ve passed by and which are so much to the north that most of the people don’t bother going all the way there.

And that’s great!

Really, considering what’s happening in Bulgaria now, my only hope is that people will keep not bothering going all that way to the north. That they’ll keep wanting to have all conveniences in one place such as even roads, cold beer, loud music on the beach (because the noise of the sea is so annoying…), monitored parking lots, ice cream and so on. With all my being I hope it will be so.

And there are more spots like this one than we suspect. Earlier that last summer my sister took me to one such hidden spot reachable only by a narrow zig-zagging trail. All the time I was wondering if we were going to come across a poisonous snake. I was carrying an umbrella to avoid that Juley got burned under the scorching sun. But it was worth it.

Nothing compares with the last section of trails when you finally see the cove you’ve been looking for. I believe this fleeting feeling is the same a person has when a temporary touch of death reveals to him the beauty of Paradise. I also believe sea water is most rejuvenating after a long walk under the sun. 🙂

Anyway. We’re not there now. We’re at Bolata – a beach that, as it looks like, many people know about. There’s even ice cream here – enterprising people sell it from a truck, parked on the wharf.

The beach is also perfect for toddlers and young children. It’s shallow and warm at the beginning (only becoming suddenly cold at the northern end where a stream flows into the sea) and even Juley, amidst his water-hating period, is enjoying it. He also finds friends to exchange sand toys with.

Our neighbours are a family from Sofia with two perky boys who attach themselves to Lukaš. They seem to like his accent and the fact he plays sharks with them.

We stay on the beach until late in the afternoon and then head on to Byala – a must-stop on our summer trips. And also the town we got married in.

Again, we stay in our friends’ guesthouse. We take walks in the town; we come upon a friend of Lukaš’s from Prague and have dinner together.

We don’t miss Kara Dere either although Juley learns all the Czech swearwords while we’re making our way there with our car. We take a spot that’s mere metres from the place we got married.

It’s a bit sad.

I remember how Lukaš and I had gone back to the beach after all the guests had left. How happy we were it was over because it hadn’t been easy at all. How we went into the water and hugged each other and didn’t need anyone or anything else.

And today I have the feeling we’re completely different people…

Do marriage and having a child really change so many things? I believe they don’t. Then what is it? Just a bad moon? Or something inside us?

Whatever it is, it leaves its mark on the remainder of our sea holiday.

We fight because I want to go to Irakli and see I. and he doesn’t want to risk damaging the car yet again. Or he doesn’t care about my friends, as I take it.

We fight in the car, while we walk, in the evening, when Juley goes to sleep… We fight so much that, in a moment of desperation, I grab a cucumber from the car trunk and smash it furiously on the concrete of a Burgas hotel parking lot. I’m better after it but I feel like an idiot.

We drive.

We drive ourselves mad.

And then the storm ends.

And, as always, the forecast is good for the next couple of days, even weeks. Until a new storm comes.

*

I think about what our love is.

Where it is.

Isn’t it, too, at that spot where the ground comes to an end? Always on the edge. It’s secure, safe and warm on one of its sides. But on the other, it’s deep, tall, dangerous, life-threatening.

When it gets too close to the edge something pulls it back in the last minute.

The moment it resolves to grow roots into the ground, the wind carries it towards the edge.

Lately, it’s been most often hanging at the very end of the abyss. It seems to be making its mind about whether to jump or turn against the wind and fight it on its way back.

When a person is on the edge, it doesn’t help that others have been there too.

What can help, though, is his own nature.

In that nature I trust.

_________________________________________________

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Near Lom. That’s what a woman looks like when she hasn’t slept all night. Juley, though, is beautiful like always.

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The Radetzky Ship in Kozloduy.

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Beautiful Pleven and horribly feeling me.

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The Founders of the Bulgarian State Monument at night.

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Downtown Shumen, baby!

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Juley at the Founders of the Bulgarian State Monument.

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On the top of Madara.

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At the Madara Fortress.

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A view to the south. The thing in the distance must be the beginning of the Balkan Mountains.

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Wind at Shablenskata Tuzla.

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Kamen Bryag, meaning “Rocky Shore” in Bulgarian

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Sunrise at Bolata.

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An orange sunrise over fig trees in Byala.

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Our little traveller!

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Kara Dere

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The view from Park Hotel in Burgas – that hotel deserves its own post but not now 🙂

All photos above except for the ones where Lukaš is in and the one where Juley is sitting in a suitcase, are Lukaš’s.

A few exposed film photos:

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The Danube close to Lom.

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The Madara Rider.

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In the distance – the Shumen Plateau. On the top – the rim of my hat 🙂

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Sunrise at Shablenskata Tuzla.

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