On our left flank we pass two dusty hotels: the Atlantic and the Atlantic Hotel, both incongruously named with their vista across the Black Sea. Perhaps absurdity is the essence of the Bulgarian soul.
Bourgas unpreposing, dusty and crumbling, two dark men in bare feet working on the sidewalk, the removed paving stranding parked cars. The desolation of Bourgas buildings alleviated by huge billboards advertising time share apartments. Decaying apartment blocks, devoid of gardens or other ornamentation, between them weed encrusted vacant lots serving as parking lots for soviet era cars and modern Audis.
Lowlands, reeds, a patchwork of shallow lakes. Scattered flocks of water birds, a solitary swan.
The speed of modern travel gives for some interesting observations: a 2 hour bus transfer to a hotel resort gives an oddly detached view of life around us, like the tableaux of a model raileay landscape we observe workers in the field, a woman burdened with shopping, a family outing...seemingly frozen in time through the bus window.
Sozopol, an ancient city, the very name conjures images of Bulgarian history, of battles won and lost - how strange to see this venerable name adorning a huge McDonalds billboard.
The trademark of eastern europe, a horse pulls a rusty car, amputated such that the rear seat and trunk function as loading areas, the driver sits comfortably in the missing rear window, the horse seemingly untroubled by the painful incongruity.
The Roma elicit caution, young eyes hard as obsidian and mirroring a desperation which reflects their harsh reality. Demands for money are made in a desperate, fierce whisper born of a thousand years of mistrust.
A fat-bellied mare and foal framed by pylons and power lines - horses are still a relevant form of transport in modern Bulgaria.
A largish town seemingly consisting entirely of holiday flats under construction, in the forground an ancient cemetary, in the distance the sea, grey and brooding.
Bulgaria has one of the lowest population densities in Europe. A solitary house on a scrub covered hill, no apparent road or path leads to it, painted a defiant red.
The bus rolls through a heavily wooded forest. The monotony of the dusty foliage is broken for a split second by the sight of an elk placidly grazing - we look at each other in disbelief.
The only decoration in our local shop is a large Marlboro advertisement. Asking for a pack is fruitless - no cigarettes sold here. Welcome to Bulgaria.