St. Anastasia Island

July 27, 2022

We decided to venture to St. Anastasia Island for the night. It was definitely worth the $124.00 for transportation, accommodation and food. The island's long history left behind the scars of raids, sacrifices and imprisonment. Called the Alcatraz of the Black Sea, we jumped at the chance of staying overnight on a volcanic island charred with melted magnetic rock, fabled ghost stories, almost alone in the middle of nowhere.

Not sure what to expect, we booked the $75 monastery double bunk room, breakfast included. Paid our $8 on the bus from Sunny Beach to Burgas. (1.5 hours) From the bus station to Burgas, we walked to Magazine (Pier) 1, less than a mile. Around 1:00 we paid the $16 roundtrip ferry ride, for a 1:30 departure. We rode on the upper deck cooling off and watching sailboats cruise around us.

After the third Kate Winslet wannabe stepped up to the front of the boat and combed her fingers through her "Titanic moment" hair, I hoped it wasn't a long ride, that's just too much hair to brush off my face and stubble head. Thankfully, 30 minutes later we were docking and exploring. 

We walked the perimeter knowing we would have time to check out the museum, church and other buildings later. The loud, crowded restaurant became quiet as we walked through, jingling key in hand, up the stairs to our closed off room. The room was lined with weather battered wood, a small fireplace, a bathroom and a mini fridge. A king size bed was centered under a dimly lit ornate glass light. Two screen-less windows opened to the sea and "Dragon"s Ship," a rock formation, supposedly formed when monks held an icon of St. Anastasia up to invading pirates causing their ship to wreck and sealing their fate eternally.

As the last ferry left for the day at 4:30, we found ourselves on a quiet island with only six other guests, all family, with a dog and a quiet infant. Alone, we toured the museum, free for overnighters, taking our time to really learn about the history and the stories. The Island was constantly invaded by pirates, became a monastery, became a prison where 43 inmates started a riot and escaped. The name changed after the Bolsheviks reign and it was actually named Bolshevik Island. It has been abandoned and left to the elements and then finally renamed and became a tourist destination under the ministry of tourism of Burgas.

Only one other person spoke English. Plevin, the island boss. He was helpful but wore a lot of hats and was rarely available. We were back to hand signs and grunts.

We were given the freedom to do as we pleased. We walked around admiring the breathtaking views, strolled through the museum and church and it felt like we were alone. Except for the happy island pup, aptly named Anastasia, who gave the visiting dog a quick lesson in manners while on the island - right in front of Alisa's feet.

Dinner was served around sevenish. We tried the monk bean soup, cool sea tarator soup, pork neck fillet steak, crispy squid and fresh lemonade. It was filling.

At sunset we admired the Bay of Burgas and the beauty of the night sky quickly filling up with stars. We slept with a light sheet, windows open, lulled to sleep by a cool breeze and the sound of the sea directly beneath our room.

The wind stopped. Centuries of creation and erosion stopped. There were no birds, insects or anything alive making a sound, the sea was still. The room became insanely warm. Then the alarm clock went off.

Time to see the sunrise.
Sunrises are stupid.
Get up you lazy ass.
Too tired.
You kinda have to piss don't ya? Damnit!

We woke before dawn to enjoy a beautiful sunrise down the cliff that was off limits to day trippers. Blurry eyed, we stumbled down to the "Thracian Sun Gate." It was a perfect, peaceful, serene lava flow frozen in time. The rocks were surprisingly not slippery. We walked out to the furthest edge, seeing the water lift the green moss with each silent wave. As the sun rose, the name was justified. It was breathtaking. The sun felt welcoming, life began again.

We eventually crawled back up the rocks and went to bed for a few more hours before breakfast. The wind had picked up and blew a light breeze through the room again. I was almost asleep when I noticed brown marks all over my right forearm. I rubbed them, still there. I smelled them. Not sure why. Confirmation of seagull poop. I hauled myself out of bed to wash it off and saw a huge pile of it on my hand. My palm actually, the same one that was against my cheek only minutes ago.

After a breakfast of sour milk and cheese bread, we walked down to the beach for the return ferry's departure at 12:30.  Under the shelter of our palapa, lounging on old adirondack chairs the day visitors arrived around 10:30 and transformed the picture perfect island into a booming, crowded, chaotic clusterfuck.

We still hadn't paid for the room. I lost at rock, paper, scissors and walked back up and waited in line with tourists buying museum tickets. Last night's squid wasn't happy in confined areas and wanted to be released, like, immediately. I finally paid and penguin walked to the bathroom. Turns out the toilet wasn't actually attached to the ground in this case. So when the 'ol lean and clean came around, I'm sitting at a 45° angle, half holding up the toilet, a quarter squeezing it so it doesn't slip and another quarter trying not to faceplant into the garbage can. Then the motion sensor decides, "No one is in here, so I'll just go ahead and shut the lights off." The toilet finally level again, I now wonder where the squid is destined, hoping it's not next to my sandals. I take a chance and ring the bell, luckily my feet stayed dry and the release was a success, somewhere..

Back down at the beach the party pirate ship came into the dock, blasting music and shooting off fake cannon explosions. The peaceful beach soon became center stage for the island's daily contest of who can yell the loudest. I'm pretty sure the "Man who loves his voice singing baritone" beat out "Fake tattoo woman sporting Sexy Mama", but we didn't hang out long enough for the crowning ceremony.

I am so thankful we were able to experience this peaceful paradise as overnight guests, removed from the crowds and with all the freedoms of our new favorite island dog. We'll miss you Anastasia, give those visiting dogs hell. 


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