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Chasing the Summer Sun: From Brussels to Dalboka


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Monday, 8 October 2012, Brussels, 10:00 hrs local time. Here I am, in a sober meeting room somewhere in the Louise neighborhood of Brussels. I throw a quick look at my electronic calendar: two days of difficult meetings ahead… How am I going to resist? It’s been only 75 minutes since we’ve started our work and my mind is already running amok. Where would I like to be right now? Atop the Peak of El Teide, glancing down to a magnificent scenery through my sunglasses? In Sweden, somewhere beyond the Arctic Circle, feeding reindeers in a remote farm? In a Turkish village, eating fresh figs handpicked from trees and listening to the muezzins in nearby greenish-tiled mosques? 50 kilometers south of Cairo, my jaws dropping at the pyramids of Dashur? In Berlin, roaming state of the art museums and going to the philharmonics?

Nah, none of the above. This is where I long to be: 43° 24′ 13″ Latitude North, 28° 23′ 19″ Longitude East:

This is Dalboka, a tiny, well-hidden bay on the Bulgarian Black Sea coast. It’s a great place to visit mid-October, having reasonable temperatures and mild sun. With a fantastic view to the Black Sea, the modest restaurant squeezed on this narrow strip of sand offers tasty seafood dishes. Why have a pot of mussels in white wine sauce in rainy Brussels, when you could enjoy the same tasty treat surrounded by a stunning seascape?

While the meeting goes on in Brussels, my Dalboka scenario is running in a continuous loop in the back of my brains. So it’s gonna be a 3 hour flight to Bucharest, Romania, followed by a 350 km drive. Perfect escape for a few sunny days in the middle of October.

With that being said, welcome to this short trip report covering a 2000 km journey from Belgium to Bulgaria.

Wednesday, 10 October 2912, Brussels Zavantem (BRU/EBBR) - Bucharest Henri Coanda (OTP/LROP)
Distance: 1758 KM/949 NM
Flight: Tarom 372
Block time: 10.20 - 14.00
Flying time: approx. 2h20
Equipment: Boeing 737-700, tagged YR-BGF (built 2001, SkyTeam livery)
Load factor: 60%
Seat: 19F (after top of climb 22F)

Brussels Airport provides a hassle-free experience on this particular morning. I have beaten the check-in qeues by printing my boarding pass at home. In a matter of minutes, I am beyond security, in the sterile area of the non-Schengen terminal with good views to the apron and runways 07 Right/25 Left.

25 Left is the active runway for landings this morning. From my terminal window I get to see all the action going on out there. Around 09.30, a Blueair flight coming all the way from Bucharest touches down and taxies to gate. It’s YR-BAK, first flight in 1992:

A few minutes later, my Tarom ship also lands on Belgian soil and heads to the gate. It’s YR-BGF, built in 2001, proudly displaying her SkyTeam livery and winglets:

Gate to gate, Tarom versus Blueair, both being prepped for the return leg to Bucharest:

To my right side, a mighty Airbus 330 belonging to the Indian carrier Jet Airways, being loaded:

After a 30 minute long turn-around, Blueair is ready to go. She is being towed back and starts her engines. Few minutes later, I see her climbing out of Brussels:

It’s our turn now. At 10.00 sharp I am aboard and seated in the back of my aircraft. Outside, I see a Turkish ship taxiing to a nearby gate (it’s TC-JFV, first flight in 2000):

Craning my neck outside, I manage to shoot another Jet Airways Airbus 330 getting ready for a 8 hour-long leg to New Delhi (6411 KM/3462 NM):

15 minutes past 10 we’re being pushed back from gate. I imagine the pilots runing the pre-departure check-list. Engines ignited, cabin announced. There’s no time to lose today at the end of runway 25Right: it’s a straight-out departure. Whew, what a nice feeling. After a short roll, my adrenaline flows match the fuel flows:

Leaving Brussels behind:

Now it’s time to relax: trailing edge flaps back into their slots and engines reduced to climb thrust. We’re steady climbing and heading towards Frankfurt:

Cabin view:

Bumpy ride for a few minutes:

Great weather conditions today at cruise level:

This is Frankfurt Airport:

The city of Budapest right ahead of us:

Nice window view:

Top of descent, 30 minutes of flight away from Bucharest:

Short clip of the landing, from deploying the trailing edge flaps till wheels down:

While we taxi to a remote stand I see a Polish Airlines Embraer touching down on runway 08 Right at Otopeni:

Friday, 12 October 2012, Bucharest, 18:30 hrs. After a 48 hour layover in Bucharest to fix certain outstanding issues, now it’s high time to continue my journey to Bulgaria. Ahead of me, 225 km of dull motorway, followed by 130 km on a scenic seaside road:

Evening falls over Bucharest and I am still struggling to find my way out from this horrendous traffic jam:

30 minutes later I am leaving Bucharest behind, heading eastwards. As soon as I feel the rough highway tarmac under my wheels, I dim my dashboard lights and let her run.

Saturday, 13 October 2012, Mangalia, 12:30 hrs. It’s been a nice drive last night from Bucharest to Constanta on a deserted motorway. But now it’s even better. We’re in the city of Mangalia, just a few minutes away from the Bulgarian border. The outside air is cool and has a salty flavour. The Black Sea is not far away either. It’s like being on holidays.

Mangalia shipyard:

Deserted border crossing point between Romania and Bulgaria:

Brand new road ahead of us. Balchik is a mere 60 kilometers away. Multiply tenfold and you’ve reached the city of Istanbul:

Short stop in the small fishing village of Krapec:

After another 20 minutes drive on deserted Bulgarian roads we almost reach our destination. This is the Kaliakra peninsula, displaying a spectacular scenery. Dalboka is down there, well hidden under this high cliff:

A narrow and very steep strip of concrete heads down to the tiny beach:

Finally, this is the well hidden restaurant that everyone seems to know about. The industrially-looking platform out at sea is in fact the mussel farm:

Not well hidden enough, it seems. This place is always packed with people, even in winter:

A fantastic seascape unfolds in front of our eyes:

And this brings me to the end of this short trip report. We’ve spent a wonderful afternoon on this thin strip of sand. Indeed, a great place to put an end to my 2000 km journey from Brussels to Dalboka.

Darkness falls over Bulgaria: