Saturday, September 10, 2011
The RS:X European Championship is held this week in Burgas, Bulgaria, a place where most competitors have never visited. Going to a new place is always a bit tricky, but when I arrived I was happily surprised to find the Bulgarian town a paradise for windsurfers.
Bulgaria, like most East European countries formerly under the burden of communism, is in the midst of a rebirth. New buildings, roads, and parks are everywhere. Burgas is a summer resort town with a very local flavor, an affordable and accessible place for Europeans on a sunshine break. Summer is hot, sunny, and breezy, and with a few miles of sandy beach adjoining a grassy park, a perfect launch for windsurfers. Not wearing a thick wetsuit every day is a welcome change from most of the European events!
Training here has been easy and because the conditions are similar every day, it's a perfect opportunity to test fins, masts, and sails. I participated in a training camp with the Polish team, and have also been tuning up with the sailors who showed up early. We competed in the Bulgarian Championship Regatta, which saw some big wind stirring up big swell, making launching from the beach challenging. However, the scary launch was worth it - it's been a while since I've had so much fun surfing and jibing down big waves in warm weather!
The European Championships is well-publicized and reporters wander the venue and interview sailors daily. They are most interested in hearing how foreigners find their city to be, and a frequent question is "Are you considering making an investment in property in Burgas?" Foreign real estate offices are prevalent downtown, and property prices haven't risen to the extent of other countries, making Burgas attractive to investors. Indeed, a Polish friend of mine has been meeting with agents already! Burgas is a bit too far away for an American, but living here for three weeks has been very pleasant.
Living here has increased my appreciation for friendly people and community - as a rather introverted person, I don't normally get forced to interact at a local market buying the daily veggies, or hang out with my local travel agent and landlord's family. However, I've made friends with a lot of the people I've had to ask for help, in the market, in the park, and at the windsurfing club, proving that making friends isn't as difficult as I think it is....and I'm not starving, either! I'm enjoying the shift, enjoying the weather and training, and looking forward to a great week of racing.