Tuesday, September 17, 2002

Day 3 - Started the day with breakfast in an elegant dining room in the Arbanazi Palace. It's supposed to be a hotel, but we seem to be the only guests. Beautiful tapestries on the wall. Tai chi on the deck. There's an ancient fortress nearby and we took a quick look but didn't climb the road to it because it was raining. Headed off on the drive to Varna. Near Varna, we stopped at a little-known site where there are huge stone pillar-shapes, covered with fossils. It is reputed to be a "power spot" and there was one circle that someone had marked with stone. I felt more of a "vibe" at another spot facing the pillar known as "fertility". No one has been able to figure out how they were formed but it all fits with the theory that this is the area that was under the sea and that suddenly the sea dropped (maybe at the time of the Great Flood?) and they were left standing. Some archeologists are actually searching for the remains of Noah's Ark in the Black Sea. Others Claim the remains of Atlantis are down there somewhere.

At 5pm, we arrive at a government-owned estate by the sea called Evksinograd that is reserved for the exclusive use of diplomats and visiting dignitaries. Military guards at the gate and patrolling throughout. Even the attractive young woman who greeted us at the entrance to our guest house looked like she had some martial arts training. Strict instructions to stay within our designated area - which includes a huge private beach. I found out later that we had been bumped out of the house we were origially going to have because a delegation from France had arrived - and I guess they were more important than a bunch of festival organizers.

That young woman in the lime green suit/uniform was stationed at a small desk at the entrance and everytime I came around the corner, she would snap to attention. I must have driven her crazy when I would start down the stairs, then in my inimitable fashion, remember that I forgot something, go back up, then back down, etc...

We are staying in one of many guest houses on the estate - this place must have been the ultimate in Eastern Block luxury - but sometimes the plumbing is still a bit of a challenge. There doesn't seem to be too much in the way of industry standards for plumbing and it's always hit-or miss which will be hot water (if at all) and trying to figure out where to push to get a toilet to flush is a new game we've developed. Doors open weird and sometimes don't seem to fit right, in some cases because they've been hanging there for hundreds of years but in other cases because somebody just didn't care that's not the case in this place - where shoddy worksmanship would have been grounds for the firing squad if you incurred the wrath of the czar. Our place must have about 8-10 suites plus the large suite for the head of the delegation which included a living room big enough to have a party (a communist party, ha. ha). We were invited to have a guided tour of the estate on our second day there. It includes more guest houses than I can count, a 25m indoor swimming pool with salt water, filtered and heated, a bowling alley (yes, we see a lot of them in Bulgaria - but not usually private ones) and one of the most complete and beautifully designed garden/greenhouse/ecological centres you could imagine. All kinds of species were planted throughout the park and they are very developed because they started doing it 140 years ago. The gardens are spectacular, one done in the english style another designed bu Louis 14th's gardener.A shame this place isn't open to the public. Thene there's a winery (they produced 120,000 bottles a year of white, red and cognac) which has been let go a bit in recent years but they's just brought back the master winemaker who was there for 30 years but has just returned to get it back in shape. He led us through a wine tasting - what an education that was! more later