Finally I can breathe. I feel the tension escaping from my shoulders. My feet are finally free of socks and feel unrestricted in their nakedness. My 5-year-old daughter is swimming in the cool blue pool, while my 4-year-old son is sunbaking on the ground. “This is nice,” he says. And it is. It is very nice.
After 2 days in Sofia we caught a 7-hour bus to Sunny Beach, Bulgaria, a popular holiday town along the Black Sea coast. The ride was comfortable, but long. We pulled in just after midnight, not knowing much about the place except the address of our new apartment.
How excited we were. After a month of rapid nomadic travel, not settling anywhere for more then a few nights, we had our own apartment for 6 weeks. Somewhere to catch up on our writing, carry out work and unwind.
We gave the taxi driver the name of the apartment complex (which we have chosen not to name here), which he proceeded to look up on a hotel directory map. There are over 800 hotels and apartment complexes in Sunny Beach so I guess one could not expect him to know them all.
When we arrived it turned out to be the wrong location, however a resident heard us ringing the bell and kindly came out to give us directions to the right place.
The on-site property manager awaited us at the complex. The darkness hid the roads and surroundings and all we wanted was to put our two very sleepy children to bed. We paid the overpriced cab fare and entered through a security gate into the complex.
We passed by a swimming pool, reflecting the moonlight, before using another key to get into Block A. “The lift will not work until the 1st of June,” said the property manager. Well that was inconvenient since our apartment was on the 5th floor, but somehow we clambered up the stairs with the sleeping children and all our luggage.
On the 5th floor she opened the door for us. There were no lights so she left momentarily to find the electricity box. When the room flooded with light we looked around. One… one. “Um, is this the right apartment? It’s supposed to have two bedrooms.”
“Yes, yes, 2 rooms,” and she pointed to the one bedroom and the living room that had a couch.
The one bedroom had a double bed, which was not made. The living room/kitchen was crammed with furniture that the property manager pushed out of the way to reveal a sofa bed, of course, also not made. My son was crying that he wanted to go to bed and I made him stand while I hunted for sheets, blankets and pillows. Finally I half-hazardly made his “bed” and the pair fell into it about 1am, emotional and exhausted.
Emotional and exhausted. My husband reassured me that things always look better in the morning and so we made our own bed, tumbled in and fell quickly asleep.
The next morning things were not better. Our 2-bedroom apartment was indeed a 1-bedroom apartment. On top of that a glance out our window showed the lovely pool we walked past last night in the dim light was not so lovely.
“We can’t swim in that!” my 5 year old exclaimed.
“No, you certainly can’t.” I agreed as we looked together at the pool filled with dirty, slimy green water, floating black plastic pots and rubbish bobbing on the surface.
There was no wifi in the apartment. It was apparently being connected the next day so we walked down the 5 floors to borrow the office wifi, which they kindly offered. The place was deserted. We wandered around looking for the promised playground and there was none. The pool was unusable. The lift was ineffectual. But more importantly, we were missing a bedroom.
I immediately emailed the apartment owner whom we booked through, exasperated. And while waiting for an answer my husband and I started the hunt for a new apartment. We walked around, visited some hotels and other nearby complexes before deciding on the Royal Sun.
In the space of one afternoon I managed to email the new owner of a Royal Sun apartment, who reassured us there is actually 2 bedrooms plus a living/kitchen in his apartment. There is a pool, which is clean and ready to be used. And there is wifi. He promptly organised us to move in the next day.
Our current apartment owner reassured us her place was actually 2 “rooms”, as supposedly confirmed by local real estate agents who had seen the property in the past. They must clearly have a different definition of “bedrooms” than most other countries. She also mentioned she has no control over the pool and the on-site property manager would most likely have it all ready for the summer season at the end of May. Considering that was still over 3 weeks away and that we had been promised and paid for a pool, we told her that unfortunately we had to leave.
Understandably the owner was frustrated, but kindly she offered us a refund minus the two nights that we stayed. The total cost would have been £700 + utilities (AUD$1260) for 5 weeks.
At 10am the next morning we met our new property manager in the reception of a grand holiday resort. He immediately organised our sign-in at the resort front desk who explained the wifi options, the restaurant, the pool and more. We walked through the lobby out into the central courtyard, which housed 3 spectacular swimming pools, sparkly and clean. A colourful playground with swings and a slide called like a siren song to the children.
Our new home was now mere steps from the pool in a secured building with an electronic key. Wincing, we opened the door slightly apprehensively, recalling our recent disappointments. Holy Moly! We were so pleased and relieved. There were 2 bedrooms, one with a queen-size bed, and the other with 2 single beds. There was a living room with a kitchen, dining table and washing machine. There were even 2 bathrooms, one with a shower and one with a bath.
The property manager left his business card and told us if there were any issues at all to call him. He handed us the keys, explained that we were his first visitors for the season and he hoped we would have an enjoyable stay.
The total cost was €1000 (AUD$1470) including all utilities for 5 weeks. Wifi cost an extra 40 Lev for the month (AUD$30). The linen and towels are changed weekly. There are 3 gorgeous pools and 2 playgrounds to keep the kids amused. In addition, there is a restaurant, gym, and minimart on the premises - $40 per night for all this.
We headed to the minimart and quickly realised that restaurant food would probably be cheaper, so we just grabbed a few snacks and emergency meals just in case.
Most of the restaurants around the area are currently still closed, as the summer season hasn’t kicked off. The month of May will prove very quiet until the season picks up in June, something which we were delighted for. I am excited to witness the transformation of Sunny Beach from sleepy town to party central.
When choosing your accommodation in Sunny Beach, Bulgaria buyer-beware for the 2 bedroom apartments may not be quite what you’re expecting and just because it includes a pool, doesn’t mean it has to be usable. We learned our lesson and have been more vigilant in asking the questions that may seem obvious, but it will surely avoid apartment disaster next time.