Less than 15 kilometers outside of Varna, Bulgaria I was faced with a decision. I could continue going straight and take the shortest route into town on the crowded main highway or I could turn right and take a slightly longer route into town on a desolate country back-road. Because I was more than three hours early and wasn’t scheduled to check in to my apartment in the city until 5 PM, I settled on the scenic route.
After only a kilometer or two of cycling I spotted an attractive young women standing on the side of the road… and to be honest, I didn’t think much of it. I’ve seen a lot of people hitchhiking here in Bulgaria and figured she was just trying to get a ride into town in one of the passing vehicles.
But when I spotted two more young women (one of which was pregnant and the other of which wasn’t a woman at all, but a cross-dressing man) standing about 500 meters down the road from the first woman, I quickly realized that I had stumbled upon the local “Prostitute alley.”
I knew that this was a street frequented by prostitutes because I’ve seen similar places all around the world on my travels. Peru, Albania and even in the United States! But most of the prostitution areas I’ve seen in the past have been quite small (located within just a block or two) inside a major city center. This stretch of road outside Varna, Bulgaria, however, was quite a ways outside the city and wasn’t the typical place you’d expect to see a woman selling her body for cash.
The further down the road I traveled, the stranger things got. More than half the “women” on the road were actually men dressed up as women, and some of the women were just so ugly I thought they might be men.
There are a lot of unknowns about my short experience on Varna’s “prostitute alley,” but I do know that those “girls” were actually getting work. There were cars stopping all over the place. Girls were getting into vehicles, stepping out of vehicles, and even rolling out of the woods. There were prostitutes everywhere!!! The further down the road I went, the more prostitutes (and their customers) I saw.
After cycling about 6-8 kilometers down that strange stretch of road, the pavement took a sharp turn to the left and dipped into town. It was here that my prostitute sightings came to an end.
As I cycled into town, I received a flood of strange looks from the locals. I couldn’t help but wonder how many of them are aware of what goes on out there in the woods outside their coast-side community. Surely they must know! And the police have got to know as well. But it is tolerated, or allowed, or maybe even supported! I don’t know.