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Shopska-less

The mini-fridge in my room makes a lot of noise, especially when it cycles on. It woke me up at 3:00 a.m. when my brain interpreted the "on" sound as something crashing through my window.

Breakfast was pretty simple: meats, cheeses, breads, and that's about it. No juice even, but at least there was tea.

It was just starting to rain a bit when we started out this morning, and it was very windy too. Just our luck to be at a beach resort and to have unsuitable weather. Still, I likely wouldn't have gone down to the beach anyway, so I can't complain (although the wind is giving me wild gypsy hair).

Our walking tour started just feet from our hotel at St. John church, a cruciform church with a chimney-like dome built … erm, absolutely eons ago. It's now used as an art gallery and was never actually consecrated. We then stopped in front of the similar-looking medieval church of Christ Pantokrator. It has very decorative blind arches and another chimney-ish dome, as well as a frieze of swastikas. These are always startling to see but they are symbols of good and light; Hitler perverted the symbol to one of evil and darkness. Christ Pantokrator is also used as an art gallery.

The Archaeological Museum near the town gates has a pretty good collection of Greek and Roman pottery — including some unbelievably well-preserved vases — and some Thracian jewelry. The basement holds medieval icons recovered from the various former churches in Nesebar. (Dear Spellcheck: Yes, "Nesebar." If I had meant nosebag, I would have typed nosebag. ) Stefan showed us two icons in particular, one showing Christ Pantokrator and the other showing Christ the Judge. "They look identical," we said. Stefan smiled. "Ah, but look at the cover of the book he is holding." One of the books had a cross, and the other didn't. This was the only way to tell the difference between the two (and, no, I don't recall if it was Pantokrator or Judge that had the cross).

Nesebar looks a lot like any other seaside town in that every other shop is selling souvenirs or beach equipment that is the same as the souvenirs and beach equipment being sold two shops down the road, four shops down the road, etc. Every now and then there's an appealing little shop selling art or jewelry or clothing (there's also a lot of fur being sold here). Every street seems to be a shopping street, and if a space turns out not to be a shop, then it's most certainly a restaurant with a tout standing outside trying to entice people to enter.

We went back to St. Stephen's (which we passed last night). It's Stefan's favorite church not just because it's named for him (or vice versa) but because the interior is covered in frescos. It hasn't been terribly well-looked-after until recently, so a great many of the frescos have faded or been damaged. Some still have remarkable color. It's very popular with visitors, but I wonder how long that will last. It's not very big inside, and I can't help thinking of all the breathing and humid bodies potentially further ruining the paint.

Our next church was Sveti Spas, "sveti" meaning saint and "spas" being the first few letters of the Greek word for savior; so, St. Savior's. It's tiny, with more frescos, some of which are in remarkable condition. The most interesting fresco depicts the first icon. Similar to the story behind the Shroud of Turin, in the Orthodox tradition a sick man sent a servant to draw a picture of Jesus and bring it back to him in the hope that the picture would cure him. Jesus didn't have time to sit for a portrait, so he took a piece of cloth and wiped his face on it, thus transferring his visage to the cloth. So one of the frescos in Sveti Spas is of this cloth, and it is thought that that's how the icon tradition began.

Stefan took a few of us who wanted to see to the Sveta Sofia church, a ruin of a 9th-century basilica, and it's basically three walls and a horseshoe-shaped altar. It's surrounded by artists' stalls, souvenir shops, and restaurants.

Rosemary and I decided to find the supermarket and started walking to the New Town. Crossing the isthmus was super-windy; I worried whether I'd ever be able to comb my hair again! We followed Stefan's directions—or so we thought—but managed to get lost anyhow. We had to ask three separate people for directions, including a kind restaurant tout. We finally found it but we couldn't figure out how Stefan's super-simple directions were actually supposed to get us there. Perhaps there's another supermarket and we just missed it. Anyway, we both were buying stuff for tonight's happy hour: I bought a container of olives stuffed with something (might be almonds) and a package of almond biscuits. I also got a Kinder Surprise, as this is the first time I've seen them this trip. (Hi, Yvonne!)

We were both hungry and dying for a bathroom by that time, so we went back to the restaurant with the kind tout and ate there, right on the Black Sea. I had tagliatelle with blue cheese (average) and Rosemary had trout, which took rather a long time coming out. Judging by the waitress's mimed explanation, the kitchen may have been gutting it while I was already elbow deep in my pasta. Rosemary said it ended up being really, really good. I appreciated being able to see the horizon more than I would have appreciated a freshly caught fish.

We made our way back to the Old Town and nearly got blown off the isthmus. I had seen some stalls selling foodstuffs, and I wanted to have a look. I bought some honey in a traditional Bulgarian pottery jar, and Rosemary bought three little jars of honey as a gift for her mother. And then it was finally back to the hotel. I sat out on my balcony in the sun to read for a while. I got more reading done in 30 minutes than I have over the entire trip!

Happy hour was at 5:00, and everyone brought either wine or food. Someone brought rose-flavored Turkish Delight. I tried one, and it was kind of like eating hand cream (the taste, not the texture). I had to clear my palate with a chocolate petit four. I had the chance to talk for a while to Mark, Carl and Peggy; Marcella, John and Peggy tried to convince me that my next tour needs to be to Croatia.

Afterward, a group of about ten of us decided to walk around the promenade that surrounds the Old Town. Sunset started 15 minutes or so into the walk, and it got dark pretty quickly after that. There was a huge black cloud hanging over the sea that somehow created all sorts of different colors in the water: deep blue, black, green, and silver. I tried taking a photo, but it came out as a dark thing over another dark thing.

The walk took an hour or so; the last 20 minutes were spent walking directly into the wind. I wish I had brought an Alice band.

Oh! I just realized that I didn't have any shopska salad today!

View from my room

View from my room


Christ Pantokrator

Christ Pantokrator


Archaeological Museum

Archaeological Museum


Old Town Nesebar gates

Old Town Nesebar gates


Fresco of the first icon

Fresco of the first icon


Nesebar

Nesebar


Black Sea

Black Sea


Heading into Old Town

Heading into Old Town


Kinder Surprise!

Kinder Surprise!


Sunset over Sunny Beach

Sunset over Sunny Beach

Posted by londonpenguin 17:00 Archived in Bulgaria

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