Bulging in Bulgaria

Now that the warm weather is upon us (at least in much of the Northern Hemisphere; actually, consistent with the name of this blog, I’m mostly talking about Europe), are you on the lookout for the latest “in” beach partying-spot? Stern, the German newsmagazine which has always chosen a rather more risqué tack than its more establishment competitor Der Spiegel, has your answer.

Party-Urlaub am bulgarischen Sonnenstrand: Auf allen Vieren nach Hause: Sonne satt, billiges Bier und Party bis… http://bit.ly/h2Tft1less than a minute ago via stern.de Favorite Retweet Reply

It’s about Bulgaria, specifically a seven-kilometer stretch of coastline on the Black Sea, south of the coastal city Burgas, that’s apparently quite the rage. At least until you look at the name of the article’s author, Milena Mileva*, and realize that the piece – entitled Heading home on all fours – was likely written in Bulgaria and pressed onto the popular magazine’s pages through some sort of non-disclosed commercial arrangement.

That sort of thing wouldn’t raise an eyebrow in Bulgaria – though you’d think it would in Germany – but beyond the endemic corruption the place clearly has much else to offer the vacationer: beaches of pure white sand and clear water, sunny days, picturesque mountains in the background, and cheap, cheap prices (e.g. €1.20 for a large beer). This has been true for decades, nay centuries, and in Communist times many East Bloc comrades, especially from the DDR, would regularly troop down in their Trabants to this bit of coast for much the same reason.

Ah, but we know that it takes Western society to truly party in a decadent capitalist way, and that is what Ms. Mileva informs us is going on there now, starting over this past warm Easter weekend. So-called Abi-tours are particularly popular – Abi or Abitur designating the German school-leaving, college-qualification exam, meaning that many youths of around 17 or 18 are taking advantage of the low €400 transport/accommodation prices available to come down here and work off all that exam-stress. The beer and other alcoholic libations are cheap, the temperature and milieu both conducive to wearing as little as possible. (Indeed, for the ladies & others interested there’s a photo of not one but two electric-green and occupied mankinis at the top of the piece that might justify a click-through.) No surprise, then, that things frequently get rather out-of-hand, with prostitutes lurking and people indeed crawling back early-mornings to their hotel rooms in a drunken stupor. The local authorities have even had to step in to limit the size of pub-crawl participants – to a max of 195!

Inevitably, those same authorities – well past their own Abiturs – have started to get worried about the place acquiring a raunchy reputation, so that the second half of Mileva’s piece details the efforts they have undertaken to steer the fun in a more constructive direction. There are plenty of golf courses around, for one thing. Ditto for healing mineral waters and therefore spas. And there’s even John the Baptist! In a church on the local St. Ivan island remains have been discovered of a corpse that – “experts” say – could very well be that of the forerunner of Christ.

So could mankinis soon give way to cassocks and hair-shirts worn by a swell of pilgrims soon heading this way? Give Ms. Mileva, if not those responsible for placing her article, points for candor:

But honestly: It’s a long way until piles of books will be spotted on this sun-kissed beach. So far it’s been dominated by drinking-straws. Whoever is young and ready to party will find things here just right. The others won’t.

* A great name! How many of us – non-Chinese, I mean – can claim to have first and last names that deviate even by just one letter? Paging Humbert Humbert!

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