Introduction
The sea breeze is salty and cooling. The operatic calls of the young men
selling corn on the cob accompany the gru√ hums of jet skis and the
percussive gushing and smashing of the Black Sea. Topless Western Euro-
pean girls lounge beside portly Russian grandmothers. Wild gangs of
preteen boys overrun the shoreline, dribbling soccer balls through the
sand castles built by naked squealing toddlers. There are more than five
thousand people enjoying the glorious day on the narrow band of beach
in the resort of Albena.
The fine sands on the shore are similar to the soft, pale grains in Koh
Samui or Antigua. But compared to the lush, tropical ambience of Thai-
land or the Caribbean, Bulgaria feels distinctly European. There are no
palm trees, no thatched huts, and the local peddlers threading their way
through the sun-worshipping tourists are paler-skinned and carefully
covered with thick, white smears of waterproof sunscreen. Looking out
toward the sea, you see the usual array of water-sport equipment found at
any major beach resort—paragliders, water skis, and paddle boats. This
could be Greece, Italy, or France, but a glance inland at the towering,
cement hotels—monolithic pillars of totalitarian architecture—betrays
the landscape’s communist past.
Few people outside of Europe think of Bulgaria as a tourist destina-
tion, but German, British, French, and Scandinavian visitors have been
descending on the country en masse since the mid-1960s. In addition to
its pristine beaches, Bulgaria is blessed with four mountain ranges, in-
cluding the Balkan Mountains after which the entire peninsula is named.
The other three ranges are home to international ski resorts that attract
winter holidaymakers from across the continent. Bulgaria is also well
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