Price is right on this mudlark

Sunset at Pomorie

Sunset at Pomorie

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THEY looked like creatures from the black lagooon.

But menace was absent from the three figures, above, strolling at the water’s edge.

They were merely holiday-makers covered from head to foot in black mud which is said to have curative properties.

The slimy stuff from a nearby lake is sold in plastic containers by a few enterprising locals near the beach in Pomorie.

But don’t think that is the main attraction of a holiday in this Bulgarian resort on the Black Sea.

Cheap food and drink?

Great beaches?

A laid-back atmosphere?

Something different?

Pomerie ticks those four boxes. After years of going to Greece and its islands, and giving Turkey a try, my wife and I thought Bulgaria would make an interesting change.

We’d heard of the tourist hotspot of Sunny Beach – and a pal of mine had loved it there – but we wanted a base that was smaller, had character and was not too quiet or too lively.

Simliarly we picked accommodation that was not too large and not too small: the Hotel St George, which also came recommended by a friend of a friend, and is a seafront property with a spa and health centre, a 20-minute drive from Bourgas arport.

Cocktails in the open-air rooftop bar on our first evening were against the backdrop of a seaview and stunning sunset – nearly as stunning as the cheap prices.

An average price for a cocktail was seven lev – around £3.50.

It was to be the main story of our seven-day stay.

It was so cheap wherever we ate or drank that we were constantly in wonderment.

Examples: a one-litre beer at a beach bar, two lev (£1); dinner for two plus a litre of local wine in a restaurant, 25 lev (£12.50), lunch for two of shrimp salad, a mushroom omelette, two coffees and a coke, 16.40 lev (£8.20).

A three-course dinner with drinks for a family of four would work out at around £30.

The single fare for a 50-minute, picturesque bus ride to Sunny Beach was three lev (£1.50), and prices there were just as ridiculously inexpensive.

We ended up bringing home to Sheffield a large chunk of our budget; we came back with some fond memories, too.

Our hotel balcony overlooked a tree-fringed square where local families relaxed in the evenings, serenaded by an old fella with an accordion.

The Hotel St George’s restaurant, with a large outdoor section, was right below us and seemed to be one of the most popular in town.

Eateries in general offered large menus, with Slavonic, Greek and Turkish influence, chicken, meat and many different types of fish prominent, plus cosmopolitan stuff such as pizza, kebabs and salads, and the specialities of local stews.

From our experiences none of it was Michelin Star cooking, but it was adequate.

We found the atmosphere refreshingly foreign throughout the town: no English Sunday dinners here, and some of the menus had a bewildering choice. Chips seem to be regarded as a starter in some places rather than an accompaniment to a main meal.

There was a curiosity one day on our hotel buffet breakfast menu: sprouts! Some people were choosing them so maybe it wasn’t so strange in this part of the world.

Next door to our hotel was a restaurant where the locals enjoyed Bulgarian music and dancing every evening.

The beach was a 15-minute stroll away, on the other side of the peninsula. It has earned European Blue Flag status for six successive years.

Around a mile long, and broken into sections by rocky groynes, it was where we saw quite a few people who did not mind looking ridiculous, caked in mud, because they thought it was doing them some good.

Health-conscious folk of more orthodox persuasion can take a walk or a bike ride or a bird-watch alongside Lake Pomorie, which is separated from the sea by a narrow spit of land.

The lake, a narrow, saline lagoon, is around five miles long and is inhabited by or visited by more than 200 species of birds – though not all at the same time.

There is a visitor centre with an observation balcony and helpful staff at this protected site. Without venturing more than 50 yards from the building, I saw black-winged stilts, terns, a marsh sandpiper and a red-backed shrike.

Right next door are salt pans where evaporating saline water is used to produce salt commercially in a traditional way – a one-man operation, by the look of it. There is also a salt museum.

Incongruously, the lake is overlooked by the modern little stadium of Pomorie FC, which has artificial turf. Judging by the run-of-the-mill cars parked outside while the team were training, Bulgarian football lacks the riches of the English game!

It was hot work for the players, in the September sunshine, but for us the weather was perfect for sunbathing on our rooftop terrace or for swimming in a clear sea.

It was a chill-out holiday, with a bit of sight-seeing thrown in.

Sunny Beach was a seafront of endless hotels, bars, restaurants and shops behind a gigantic beach.

Nessabar, in between Sunny Beach and Pomorie, has an old town with many ancient buildings, dating back to the fifth century – an interesting place, despite the throngs of day-trippers.

The whole area has a good bus service.

At Sunny Beach bus station after dark, we were advised that, yes, this one went to Pomorie. It did – but it only skirted the margins instead of heading into town, and after a right turn instead of a left we found ourselves heading for the airport.

The driver kindly dropped us off a little way down the unlit main road; we soon found a taxi and there was no harm done. What’s a holiday without a bit of adventure?

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