Once upon a time there were two friends in their early twenties going to Bulgaria for a week of party harty… But, despite the fairytale beginning of this story, it wasn’t exactly a castle of a hotel that met us and the receptionist was certainly not a prince. In other words, not the most luxurious of holidays, but certainly one to remember.
This is a while ago (let’s just say more years than I care to admit), before Gardermoen became the main Norwegian airport, so we embarked from good ol’ Fornebu with the magnificent Balkan Air, with wobbly seats and pissed off flight attendants that did not speak a word English. I tried to order a diet coke like 3 times and ended up with lukewarm pineapple juice.. When we finally could place our feet on Bulgarian soil, we were stuffed into a bus and driven by a suicidal bus driver along both narrow streets and steep hills and of course the bus did not have any seat belts. It’s a miracle we did not run anyone over along the way and when we finally reached the hotel, most of were still glued to our seats from fear.
To call it a hotel is kind of an over statement. Fair enough, it did have both a roof and four walls, but other than that the place was a wreck with tiny rooms, dirty bathrooms a grumpy old owner and all of the inventory was yellow from major smoking activity. But, we were not in Bulgaria to hang out in the room, so we basically did not care about the facilities and fell asleep instantly in the hard and uncomfortable bed (fully clothed of course, did not want to expose any skin to the dirty linen). Next day we demanded some clean sheets, and at least we got that for the remainder of the stay. During our stay we also quickly learned that they did not put out spare toilet paper rolls in the room and we did not get a new roll of toilet paper unless we produced the old one in an empty state. So, a couple of times we just stashed away the paper for a safety stock and traded the empty roll for a full one.
On our first day in Bulgaria, we woke up starving and crossed the street to where breakfast was served. And let’s just say, that was the only day we bothered to get up for breakfast. It seems like the establishment looked at all their customers as potentially thieves, because we were all searched upon exit to make sure we did not smuggle out any food. Why someone would bother with stealing warm cheese, mystery soup and green eggs, I don’t know, but after being yelled at in a foreign language sounding like Russian for asking for more rolls (which in our opinion was the only eatable food at the whole breakfast) we decided that this was our first and last breakfast adventure.
I know that the start of this story has been a tad negative, but we actually had a great time in Golden Sands, playing beach volley all day and partying all night.The summer back home in Norway was pretty crappy that year, so we really enjoyed our days in the sun. Ordering drinks could, however, sometimes be a challenge, since the bartenders were not always up to speed on drinking habits of Norwegians. For instance, when we tried to order Turkish shots (crushed Turkish pepper candy mixed with vodka), we ended up with plain vodka and a pepper shaker.
This was the year of the Macarena (as if I hadn’t given away my age before..)and one night we thought it to be an excellent idea to ask every boy we met if they would like to come with us and learn the Macarena. I still want to knock my head against the wall just reminiscing, but we ended up with trying to teach 15-20 boys the Macarena, after first really considering just to sneak out the backdoor of the disco. Just to top that evening we ended up with a (pretty amazing,I am sure) karaoke version of the “Lemon Tree”, applauded by our new-found Macarena buddies.
One night (I would guess late), we were walking back to our hotel all singing and giggling (charmingly giddy of course) and found the door to the hotel locked. We started to panic of the idea of spending the rest of the night outdoors, so we started to pound on the door, first kind of calmly, and then more frantic, until the door was opened by a half a sleep receptionist. We politely thanked him and stormed in, just to not finding our room. We had managed to walk into the wrong hotel (#woops!). After a real humble apology to the receptionist we then walked a bit shamefully one block further to where our hotel in fact was. When we reached the correct hotel, we had reverted back to our giggly state and our receptionist was in a party mood and invited us in to the backroom for some champagne. We did not quite fancy neither more alcohol, nor spending time with a really old guy (I would guess mid-thirties but bear in mind that this is the perspective of a 20-year-old), so we politely declined and went to our room for some welcoming sleep. Then, later that night, I woke up when someone was opening our door and entering the room. I lay still as a mouse and hardly breathed while the person was hovering over our bed for a while before exiting. I briskly woke up my friend and we barricaded the door for the rest of our vacation.
On the last night we stuck to only drinking soda and since our flight was early we ordered a wake-up call in the reception (again, revealing my age…). The next morning at 07:00, we woke up by 1 pcs furious tour guide almost knocking the door off its hinges. Turned out the reception had forgotten to wake us up at 06:00 as agreed. The tour guide gave us 5 minutes to pack up before the bus left and luckily we had completed the packing the previous evening, so we were more or less ready. Despite us making it to the bus on time, the tour guide continued to yell at us and bad mouthing us the whole trip to the airport, assuming we had been partying all night.
So, even if the hotel was not at all as promised in the advertising, the receptionist tried to get us drunk, someone entered our room during the night,green eggs for breakfast, pissed off tour guide and an awful airline (where, at the return someone had thrown up in the seat behind us, so it stank all over the cabin…), we did not utter one word of complaint towards the travel agency. Even though I am still kind calm and patient, now many years later, I am not THAT calm and at least I would have wrangled the neck of that brat of a tour guide.
So, vacation on a budget did deliver, if not that luxurious feeling, so at least plenty of stories that are still amusing to think about, so sometimes the cheapest holiday turn out to be the most memorable.