BULGARIA'S VERSION OF CANNERY ROW IS IN CHENGENE SKELE

BULGARIA'S VERSION OF CANNERY ROW IS IN CHENGENE SKELE

Sat, 10/29/2022 - 13:19

Nondescript fishermen's settlement gains notoriety as 'alternative' Black Sea makeout spot

fishermen settlement bulgaria sunset
Chengene Skele from air

Any chance visitor who has detoured midway from the Burgas-Sozopol highway, on the southern Bulgarian Black Sea coast, will end up in an odd location. As you drive up the bad road to the infamous maritime oil terminal, now the property of Russian giant LUKoil, you will inevitably take in an assortment of buildings – some of them makeshift, others with a more stable construction, but none appearing as if designed by a professional architect. Then you are in for the first big hit, a road sign announcing "Everything away from sea is provincial," according to Ernest Hemingway. A little further up the road a stone relief will reveal... US writer John Steinbeck, the 1962 Nobel Prize winner, who penned such masterpieces as The Grapes of Wrath, East of Eden and Of Mice and Men.

steinbeck memorial bulgaria

Probably the only place outside Salinas, California, where you can see a monument to John Steinbeck (1902-1968)

Rub your eyes. You are not in Salinas, California, but in Chengene Skele, 10 miles south of Burgas. And yes, the street you just stepped on is called Cannery Row! And yes, generations of Bulgarians grew up with Steinbeck's Tortilla Flat and Sweet Thursday, often identifying themselves with the characters and trying to emulate their way of "peaceful wine drinking" and not being in a hurry for anything.

To understand how John Steinbeck ended in Bulgaria you need a bit of local history.

Chengene Skele is a Bulgarianised Turkish name which in translation means "Gypsy Harbour." The name is self-explanatory: at the turn of the 20th century the area was used as a fishermen's settlement, and many of the small-time fish catchers were local Gypsies. They would go out to sea in the early hours of the morning and by 10 o'clock they would already be drinking their wine: the working day had ended for them.

abandoned boat bulgaria

A river boat permanently docked at Chengene Skele was used as a training ground for divers. It has now been abandoned for years

Through the 20th century Chengene Skele had an uneasy relationship with the authorities of Burgas. In the 1970s, as the Port of Burgas expanded, the fishermen were ordered to move their boats elsewhere. Chengene Skele was a convenient location. However, the official promises of the City Council it would undertake to supply water and electricity to Chengene Skele never materialised. The locals simply had to take matters in their own hands.

Later, Chengene Skele was threatened with extinction because, understandably, none of its residents conformed to any urban planning, rubbish processing and so on. Most of the shacks erected there had no building permits. While some fishermen did live their fulltime year round, others just used the huts only occasionally, when they went out with their dinghies.

fishermen settlement bulgaria

Fishermen's Settlement likes Hemingway: "Everything that's far away from sea is provincial."

Things started to change in the 2010s when some EU funds were channelled into Chengene Skele to improve infrastructure. In recent years the fishermen's settlement has gained a somewhat cult status as visitors not only from Burgas but from elsewhere stop by to try the local fish soup and the catch of the day – never in short supply. In addition to Black Sea scad, goby, and seasonally bonito and turbot the local eatery always has mussels, shrimps and roe – at very affordable prices. Both Steinbeck and Hemingway would have loved it.

But be warned. If you visit in any time outside the cold months you will have to negotiate your way with the swarms of mosquitoes which locals claim can reach the size of sparrows. Unless you take all reasonable precautions you risk being eaten alive before you ever get yourselves to the fish soup. 


us4bg-logo-reversal.pngVibrant Communities: Spotlight on Bulgaria's Living Heritage is a series of articles, initiated by Vagabond Magazine and realised by the Free Speech Foundation, with the generous support of the America for Bulgaria Foundation, that aims to provide details and background of places, cultural entities, events, personalities and facts of life that are sometimes difficult to understand for the outsider in the Balkans. The ultimate aim is the preservation of Bulgaria's cultural heritage – including but not limited to archaeological, cultural and ethnic diversity. The statements and opinions expressed herein are solely those of the FSI and do not necessarily reflect the views of the America for Bulgaria Foundation or its affiliates.

Подкрепата за Фондация "Фрий спийч интернешънъл" е осигурена от Фондация "Америка за България". Изявленията и мненията, изразени тук, принадлежат единствено на ФСИ и не отразяват непременно вижданията на Фондация Америка за България или нейните партньори.


Issue 193 The Black Sea PostCommunism

Commenting on www.vagabond.bg

Vagabond Media Ltd requires you to submit a valid email to comment on www.vagabond.bg to secure that you are not a bot or a spammer. Learn more on how the company manages your personal information on our Privacy Policy. By filling the comment form you declare that you will not use www.vagabond.bg for the purpose of violating the laws of the Republic of Bulgaria. When commenting on www.vagabond.bg please observe some simple rules. You must avoid sexually explicit language and racist, vulgar, religiously intolerant or obscene comments aiming to insult Vagabond Media Ltd, other companies, countries, nationalities, confessions or authors of postings and/or other comments. Do not post spam. Write in English. Unsolicited commercial messages, obscene postings and personal attacks will be removed without notice. The comments will be moderated and may take some time to appear on www.vagabond.bg.

0 comments

Add new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.

Restricted HTML

  • Allowed HTML tags: <a href hreflang> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote cite> <code> <ul type> <ol start type> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd> <h2 id> <h3 id> <h4 id> <h5 id> <h6 id>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Web page addresses and email addresses turn into links automatically.

Discover More

sboryanovo tomb entrance.jpg
SILENCE OF THE CARYATIDS
No matter how diverse and interesting Thracian heritage is, time, destruction and rebuilding in war and peace, continual habitation and treasure-hunting have wiped out a lot of it – reducing it to a tomb here, a treasure there, and a shrine in what today ap

tryavna old bridge
WINTER TALES IN TRYAVNA
Wood-beamed houses, cobbled streets, mystic religious art and even some snow... you do not need to travel to France or Germany to immerse in the atmosphere of Christmas in a cosy town that has changed little over the centuries. 

musicians bulgaria
ST NICHOLAS DAY, SOZOPOL STYLE
In Western Europe, the 6th of December, or St Nicholas Day, is a time where the first whiff of Christmas gets felt. After all, the saint with his white beard and penchant for bringing gifts to good children is the draft of the modern Santa Claus. 

thracian gold wreath
FIRST KINGS OF EUROPE
Who were the first kings of Europe? Homer heroes such as Agamemnon are the first to pop up in the minds of educated Westerners, but hierarchical societies on the continent predate the ancient Greeks.

industrial ruins bulgaria
SURPRISE, SURPRISE IN... PERNIK
When you plan a trip in Bulgaria, Pernik is rarely on the list (except for one event, more on this below).

Monument to Aleksandar Stamboliyski in front of the Sofia Opera and Ballet house
WHO WAS ALEKSANDAR STAMBOLIYSKI?
When you visit the Sofia Opera and Ballet House you will see an imposing bronze statue of a heavy-set man beside the grand entrance.

Kardzhali Dam is a preferred spot for picnic, photos and some water fun
ALL AROUND KARDZHALI
When you have a long weekend ahead and the weather looks good for a trip, heading to Kardzhali is a great option.

veliko tarnovo fortress.jpg
(RE)BUILDING BULGARIA'S PAST
When Bulgaria joined the EU in 2007, the expectation was that membership would bring the struggling former Communist country closer to the more developed economies in Europe.

uzundzhovo church mosque gate
SILENCED FAIR EN ROUTE TO STAMBOUL
Notwithstanding online shopping, it is hard to imagine what the experience of purchasing goods from far and wide in a highly cosmopolitan society was like in pre-industrial times. A quiet village in southern Bulgaria offers some illumination.

gorge bulgaria mystic
WESTERN RHODOPE WONDERS
Bulgaria's most stunning caves and gorges, along with thick forests and sites to discover and explore: the Western Rhodope is one of the best places in Bulgaria for a summer escape for both dedicated hikers and chance travellers.

russian church bulgaria
FAIRYTALE CHURCH
When travelling near Kazanlak in the Valley of Roses (also known as the Valley of Thracian Kings), your attention will be drawn to three monuments on the slopes of the Stara Planina mountain range.

The monument at Petrova Niva area is the focal point of the August commemorations of the 1903 uprising
WHAT HAPPENED AT PETROVA NIVA?
Men dressed in early 20th century military uniforms, patriotic songs and speeches, lots of banners and grilled meat stalls: if you crave attending a mass event after the end of the Covid-19 travel restrictions, consider visiting Petrova Niva in the third we