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Nessebur, Bulgaria, on the Black Sea Coast

When I was a small boy, I became interested in short wave radios. I had a large National Geographic map of the world on my bedroom wall, and each time I picked up a new station, I would put a colored pin in place on the map. One night I picked up an English language program on Radio Sophia, and placed a pin on the map. More than 50 years later, we got to Bulgaria.

Nancy and I had traveled to some of the Eastern Block countries back in the '90's, following the breakdown of the former USSR. Everywhere we went, there were potholes and poverty. In East Berlin, the sidewalks were in such a sad state of disrepair that we had to walk in the street to avoid getting hurt.We were expecting the same sort of thing when we visited Bulgaria recently. Boy, were we surprised!

We were on a cruise of the Black Sea , and docked in Nessebur, Bulgaria. Bulgaria is one of six countries with borders touching the Sea (Ukraine, Russia, Georgia, Turkey, Bulgaria, and Romania).

Nessebur is one of the oldest towns in Bulgaria, dating back to the 6th century, B.C. It has suffered the familiar pattern of being conquered and re-conquered over the centuries, and in 1452, it fell to the Ottoman Empire. Much of the original city was destroyed, but sections of the fortified wall, some of the towers, a gate, and four of the sanctuaries still remain.

Original walls, centuries old, in Nessebur, Bulgaria

Bulgaria has a long coastline along the Black Sea. As is the case in many of the central and east European countries, there is tremendous amount of real estate development going on, cranes and condominiums everywhere. And everywhere, in the eastern countries at least, selling at prices that make you want to pawn everything you own so you can buy and speculate. Three bedroom 2 ½ bathroom condos on the water for under $75,000.00.

The new areas of development sparkle and vibrate with an enticing quality of life. But then, the restoration of some of the older cities and towns is impressive, too. We spent a day in Nessebur, enjoying spectacular weather and shopping in some very nice boutiques. A few of these were at a level you would find in the heart of Paris or the upscale neighborhoods of New York, but much cozier!

Great shopping in Nessebur, Bulgaria. Eastern charm, Western prices!

We were looking for a restaurant to have lunch, and came upon a place near town center. As we started to turn up the lane to enter the place, a fellow came up to us and, speaking a very passable English, introduced himself. He was the owner of the restaurant just ahead, but told us his place was not really suitable for someone in a wheelchair. He had a friend not much further up the road who had a restaurant where he thought we would be much more comfortable. He offered to guide us to it.

It was a beautiful, sunny afternoon, the streets were full of sightseers and vacationers, and we felt no threat in accepting his offer. Walking and chatting like old friends, we soon found ourselves at the restaurant. He introduced us to the owner, who spoke no English, but who joined us and the four of us sat down at a table. Our new friend told the owner something to the effect that we should be well cared for, and asked me if he might take the liberty of ordering for us, since the menu was in Bulgarian. We told him that would be fine- only if he would join us for lunch- which he did. The owner stayed and had a glass of beer with us as well.

We sat outside, overlooking the harbor, in no hurry to get anywhere or do anything other than to completely relax and have a wonderful time. It was a glorious meal of fresh calamari and local vegetables. When it came time to pay the bill, it was less than $18.00 for three of us!

Delightful cafe overlooking Nessebur Harbor, Bulgaria

Our Bulgarian friend gave us his card. in addition to running his restaurant, he also builds houses and small condominiums. We said our goodbyes, thankful for the opportunity to interact with a “local” in a manner too seldom enjoyed by travelers who are in any given place for too little time.

We are often "befriended" by strangers who can see our obvious needs and who are appreciative of our courage to travel to their country. Some of our most memorable experiences have been given to us by kind and well- intentioned people, whose only price was the pleasure of being able to help us.

Please also go to our Disabled Travelers Guide to the World for many additional tips on arranging tours, transport and other details. See, especially, Chapter 8- About Tour Guides.. And don't miss valuable information in Chapter 12- About Bargaining and Negotiating .

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Have you checked the most important parts of our website? We urge you to go to the Chapter on Essential Plans. Then, whether they apply to you or not, read the Chapters Airlines, Cruises, Hotels, Taxis, Tours. Finally, be sure you read the Chapter Items to Take. The information in these chapters will make all the difference in the success of your trip.