Pearl of the Black Sea
Nessebar is an ancient Bulgarian town situated very close to the well-known Sunny Beach. Nessebar, which is essentially a small island, has the highest number of churches per capita in the world. In fact, a few of the forty churches date all the way back to 5th century AD! Consequently, Nessebar is listed as a UNESCO world heritage site and is often termed the ‘Pearl of the Black Sea.’
We started the first evening of our Bulgarian trip in Burgas. For dinner, we wanted to order something quintessentially Bulgarian. So we enquired about this item in the drink section called “Ayran.” Our wonderful waitress struggled to explain what it was. So we let it go and didn’t order this exotic sounding drink. To our surprise, our host got a cup of Ayran for us and very generously said that it would be on the hotel. I took a sip and I knew what it was, instantly.
Ayran is basically a savoury buttermilk – a cooling drink made from yoghurt and diluted with ice water and salt. It is, also, often garnished with mint. This drink originated in Persia and made it’s way to Bulgaria through their influential neighbour – Turkey. And why was this taste familiar to me? Because this buttermilk also travelled to India and is now known as ‘Chaach’ or ‘Chaas’. Cool, huh?
For The Love of Zucchini
One thing is for certain: Bulgarians love eating and feeding crispy / fried / roasted / grilled / marinated / unsalted / let-your-imagination-run-wild Zucchini. Well, lucky for us, Divya & I loved our Zucchini portions during this Bulgarian weekend. And the Best Bulgarian Zucchini Dish Award goes to? The sinfully fried paper-thin Zucchini crisps served with a garlic yoghurt sauce…. yummm…!
The Black Sea?
Consider me ignorant, but I was expecting, perhaps sub-consciously, the Bulgarian black sea to appear black in colour or at the very least darker and more mysterious compared to it’s numerous frivolous and docile blue cousins. But to my mild-ish disappointment, I learnt that the Black Sea gets its name from its reputation of being hostile to sea vessels and navigators back in the days. Well, at least, I learnt something new.
The French Excuse
In Nessebar, we wandered into a local store with beautiful Bulgarian / Turkish ceramic plates, bowls and vases on display. While we were looking around the store, the shop-owner walked over to us and started chatting about where we were from etcetera – the usual chit-chat. Also, he handed us each a cup of the most delicious fruit-infused warm tea. We chatted, looked around and even considered purchasing some coasters. Eventually, though, we decided against the purchase. The owner approached once again, surely hoping to secure a sale. Before he could begin his pitch, I asked, “what time are you open until?”
He let out a light chuckle and replied, “That’s the French excuse. When tourists from France want to decline politely, they ask that question.” Busted. Situation beyond salvation. Run! Fumbling and attempting to close the conversation now, I blurted, “No, no no, just that we are waiting for our friends who are yet to arrive from Sozopol. We will all come back together as soon as they arrive. Thank you.” Needless to say, we never went back.
And I’m sure he believed my fluff as much he believes those poor French tourists.