I've just returned from a holiday spent in the lovely Bulgarian town called Obzor. At least other people say it's lovely, I thought it was full of them (people, I mean) which would explain both their assessment and mine. Anyway, my wife and I stayed at this hotel called The Cliff and spent 8 days together celebrating her birthday and 10 years of marriage. Happy birthday, love! These are my impressions of the journey.
First we had to get there and there are two major routes from Bucharest to Obzor: through Ruse and across Bulgaria and through Durankulak, after driving on the newly constructed A2 highway in Romania (the digit two coming from the fact that we only have two highways at the moment and this is the second). We went via Ruse and returned on the highway, with similar time results and positive feelings. The GPS did it again and chose a more scenic route running through small villages like, for example, Sindel. I shouted "Fatality!" when we exited the village, to my wife's dismay. Even so, it was a good quality road, which in Romania you rarely see in small rural areas and we enjoyed the wilderness.
Ok, we got there. The Cliff hotel is located just outside Obzor and is a four star hotel. That means... at the moment I have no idea what it means, I just assumed it would be way better than a three star hotel, but it appears it is about the same, only with a pool and a lot more expensive. Actually, I want to spend some time discussing The Cliff. It is one of those hotels that have so much potential and yet the experience is being spoiled by little details which I suspect are the fault of greedy little owners not understanding that they are serving people, that's their job, not just owning stuff and getting richer.
Getting back. A few hundred meters below The Cliff there is the yooBulgaria resort. One could probably go over the Net, find this hotel and choose it, just like we did with The Cliff, to spend their holidays. We went there. It looked nice, but the entire hotel was surrounded by abandoned buildings, victims of the economic crisis in times of great investment in the tourism business in Bulgaria. Seriously, it looked like the hotel was the lucky building that survived a full aerial bombardment of the entire zone. I am talking about empty concrete scaffolds with graffiti on them. Horror movies and parkour videos could be made there.
The town of Obzor was actually a village till 1984. Then it was promoted and then the Communist era ended and the tourism took hold. As a result it is a combination of greedy tourist corporations, small family owned businesses and a tourism oriented management.
We searched the Internet on the best restaurants there and we found: "Starata Kushta", recommended by three different sites that had the same text in them. We couldn't find this restaurant and so we went to recommendation number two: the Tania restaurant. It is a nice little thing, but rather expensive. The guy recommended the pizza there; he probably never went to Romania. Their pizza is mediocre at best. Try the fish things, but do not, under any circumstances, ask for sauces. They are horrible. Then we tried our luck with what was there (and this is my recommendation for anyone visiting Obzor: try your luck, eventually you will find something you will like) and found Morska Perla, or the Sea Pearl. There was this deliciously looking waitress there. We were, of course, served by the old ugly one that didn't know English. The fish was OK, the prices reasonable, but they had this apricot brandy that was really something. We also tried Dionisi, right next to Tania. The pizza in Tania was about 14 leva and rather small. The one at Dionisi was the same size and 4.5 leva. Unfortunately you paid for what you got: pizza from supermarket dough and some cheap stuff sprinkled over. The spaghetti were floating in oil.
The last restaurant I want to mention was almost great: it's called Rai (Heaven) and it is also located around Tania, about 500 meters from it. They have this Rai Calamari dish that has 500 grams and costs 27 leva. I thought it sounded OK, but I really expected some piece of fried cephalopod and instead got a squid filled with a mix of onions, oyster and small shrimp and served with four jumbo shrimps. So, even if the menu didn't advertise it (bad for them) the dish was actually a seafood plateau, something I had been searching for unsuccessfully in Obzor and went up to Balchik to have at Regina Maria (did I mention the hotel and the restaurant are great? They have sushi!)
The only problem with Obzor restaurants and bars is that they don't have dark beer. None of them! I also asked for lemonade and none of them had any! It's water with lemon and something sweet, for crying out loud... I drank a lot of Grozdova Rakia (grape brandy), a Bulgarian speciality, and Kamenitsa, their beer.
That's about it. We visited close by Nesebar, which is nice, but filled with tourists. There was a cool restaurant there, called Hemingway. Not in any way connected to the writer, but good food. We never got to Burgas and we only passed through Varna a few times. Bottom line: Obzor is a nice see side town, but I wouldn't want to be housed in that cacophony of noises, music and smells. The Cliff was a good option, remote as it was, although the sounds from Obzor occasionally made their way there, as well, but it had its flaws.