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June 30, 2002

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Our first day and we jumped into the groove by going from the airport to the bus station and boarding the first bus to Bulgaria. This bus headed for the Black Sea coast and a town called Varna. We don’t know a thing about Varna. We decided to go there because the first bus to Bulgaria went there. The world’s slowest border crossing kept us for hours sitting on the bus. Rain fell and beat on the windows. At this point, without sleep, at 10:00 pm, we realized we weren’t going to arrive until 1:00 am at a bus station a few kilometers out of town, without any idea about where to sleep and in pouring rain. We shrugged our shoulders and slept. The bus driver helped by taking us to the center of town near a hotel and ATM. We ignored cabdrivers who met us with lies – “All hotels here are too expensive or closed, come with me for a cheaper place.” We withdrew enough leva, Bulgarian currency, for a few days (our hotel cost 22 leva or $11 per night). The hotel favored Communist military décor right down to a lobby that looked like a command center. The beds, wardrobe, and footlocker in our room came straight from a military barracks.
The hotel lobby's command center.
Bulgarian buildings show stern style.