Sunny Beach in Bulgaria is one of the most exciting party resorts in the world, with only 500 local inhabitants and thousands of tourists arriving every summer. But beside the action – where are all the geocaches?
The first thing I did when I learned that I was going to Sunny Beach to work as a guide was to check geocaching.com. How many caches were there in the area? Where could I find them? Was geocaching big in Bulgaria? I was sad to learn that there were only two caches in the nearby town of Nessebar, a couple in the closest major city of Burgas, and not a single one in all of Sunny Beach itself! Thiss was in the summer of 2011.
Not a problem, I thought to myself. I’ll do something about it. After all, I’m going to live there for a while, so this is a perfect opportunity to expand the hobby. And during my free time, taking the bus to Burgas or Nessebar wouldn’t take long.
Needless to say, geocaching is not a big thing in Bulgaria. Since then, I have been to two events in the country. One was hosted by two locals: svetlo_pivo and mazoratti. I was the only participant, but we had a great time discussing the development of geocaching and how we imagine it to be in Bulgaria in a few years. Most likely, it will grow to beyond IT enthusiasts just as it has in other countries.
“Vacation caches are not allowed, and in Sunny Beach 99% of the yearly population are on vacation.”
The caches in Burgas and Nessebar were quickly turned into smiley faces on my map. And when I published my first cache in the country the reviewer doing it was not even from Bulgaria. He had three adjacent countries as his area of responsibility. That says a lot about how things work in this part of the world, and how few people have even heard about geocaching. I was even afraid that the cache would lie untouched in the heart of the major tourist resort for quite some time before an FTF was logged.
I was wrong.
The first log appeared only a few days later. Back home, it would only have taken a couple of hours, but still, two days was much less than I had expected. The FTF log was in English – a tourist of course. His country of origin remains a mystery to me. The STF was in Bulgarian, as was the log after that, and the log after that. Perhaps, I thought, geocaching wasn’t so unknown here. Perhaps the problem was just that no caches had been placed here. After all, vacation caches are not allowed, and in Sunny Beach 99% of the yearly population are on vacation.
But why, then, was Burgas so empty of caches? When I visited the city for the first time, I was met by tall, gray buildings. I’ve since discovered the beauty of the city, but back then, I thought it was a poor city with little left for geocaching. When I visited the city of Varna, the second largest in Bulgaria after the capital Sofia, it was something entirely different. In Varna, geocaching was much more common, and finding several hides within an hour was not a problem. Placed by tourists or locals I don’t know, but there were caches none the less. Perhaps it’s a pure coincidence that there are more active geocachers there.
I have one hope: that Sunny Beach is put on the geocaching map. There are tons of geocaching tourists coming here, both from other parts of Bulgaria and from the rest of Europe. And I know that the caches appearing here in the future won’t lie untouched the way I first feared they would. They will be found and enjoyed, loved and appreciated, and I will know that I’m the one who helped the visitors discover places they wouldn’t have found in any tourist brochure. So who knows, perhaps Sunny Beach will be the new favorite place to go for geocachers around the world? I doubt it, but it sure would be fun.