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Club Med Roussalka - Bulgaria

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Roussalka 1986

Dave Newnham
2 Posts

Roussalka (June to September 1986)
After Bermuda and Turkoise the good seasons just rolled on. Flight from Paris to Bucharest, where it came as a shock to see Tanks on alert at the Airport and machine gunned posts at every 50 metres around the Airport. Re-took off for Sofia, which immediately seemed a lot more at ease. The soldiers in the tanks were asleep! Had 5 hours to wait for the connecting flight so had a wander into town and immediately managed to change money on the black market. Small plane to Varna that reminded us all of a 2CV with it's bucket seats. North East Bulgaria (the Resort was on the Black Sea coast just south of the Romanian border) was very rural, few cars mainly horse drawn wagons, in a wheat belt area. Typical communist East European construction, concrete and posters and CP billboards every where. The village of Roussalka was quite quaint though old fashioned. Shock to see the electricity box in the shower! And very smelly as there were sulphur showers at the entrance to the village by the Offices. Strange set up in the village as well as everyone had their counterpart who worked for Balkan Tourist. I had a Bulgarian colleague Gestionnaire, as did the CdV, Cashier, Planning and Excursions. However they couldn't have known that Morre was the CdV and did more for Bulgarian/Belgian relations than any politico could have done. Morre (Maurice van Eyck) is a Belgian CdV of the old school, prone to partying at any moment, and fits of delire. "Lets have an election, as they don't have many in the country, and elect a new CdV from amongst the GM's". So we did, five day election campaign that ended up with the GM CdV taking over the village with a GM team while the GO team went off to the local village and spent the day partying in the local bars. Or when the bar receipts were a bit low so he decided to pretend that two GO's got married, not for real of course but only the Chief of Services knew. We persuded the GM's to donate bar beads to their wedding kitty, and a fine wedding party was had by all. We only told the GO's at the end of the season that it wasn't for real, however the two GO's were in couple and actually married a year later!

Or when the Anderlect Football Team came on holiday (many were missing as the postcard from the Belgian National Team in Mexico for the World Cup stated "Sorry we couldn't be there with you Morre, but we didn't know we'd get so far" - Belgium qualified for the semi finals much to everyone's surprise including the Team). As we sang to them "Anderlecht au Zoo, Liberez les Animaux" (The Go Team were kitted out in RWD Molenbeek colours as our GO Uniform) Roussalka didn't know what had hit them. However we organised a football match with the locals in Varna and charged GM's for the Excursion. 8,000 spectators turned up as they thought it was the real Anderlecht Team. The mainly GO Team and Anderlecht Youth Team managed to win 3-1 much to everyone's relief at the deception.
But the "Pièce de Resistance" was when we decided to attack Bellings the CdV in the neighbouring village of Thalassa. Not a problem you may think except that Thalassa was in Romania. Had to spend three weeks organising day visas for the GO's and day visas for up to100 GM's. However we succeeded and equipped with a Jazz Band, flour bombs and 300 rolls of soft toilet paper ( they all had sore arses in Thalassa due to the State paper that was as hard as sand paper!!!), we set off for the border. The border crossing didn't quite go to plan, as Morre had many mad Belgian mates, one of whom decided it would be fun to put flour on his hand and snort it in front of the Romanian border guards, and a mad Belgian friend who decided as she was dying for a piss (much beer on the bus of course), went off into no mans land to squat, only to be faced by two soldiers with a machine gun pointed at her arse!! We all had to be individually searched so the Jazz band climbed on to the top of the bus and gave an impromptu concert. Going South was an endless procession of trabbies as East Germans and Polish queued to get across the border for their summer holidays. It of course became one mass party, before finally getting the OK after 5 hours there, to proceed (minus many soft toilet rolls that oiled the passage!!). When we eventually got to the village past machine gun posts at every 500 metres, the CdV, oblivious of the attack, was asleep on the beach. He was summoned and challenged to a chug-a-lug, the loser having to shave his head (we had brought a long a GO hairdresser from East Berlin for the occasion). Morre won and kept his hair but not his pristine conditioned liver! The return was uneventful except most of the GM's in Thalassa wanted to escape with us as well. The border passage went very fast as we had become the best of friends with the border guards.......

Oh, there were far too many memories to all put down here. Morre was amazing and also met here Armand Chaudhary an Anglo/Pakistani/French man and Michelle from New York who chug-a-lugged better than anyone and therefore I became madly besotted with. Michele was the Choreographer and we had fun with the shows. The accent was on Jazz, Brel and madness. We also did a version of "Cats" as well as "Les Pantoufles" (slippers). This was a show set in a mental asylum, with a wire mesh over the entire front of the stage to keep the loonies apart from the audience. I played the role of the searcher of slippers, the Finale being my playback "ou sont passés, dis-donc, mes pantoufles" (where on earth have me slippers gone), whereupon the cast descended on the public and threw the public's shoes over the fence at me. Never did know if the GM's ever got all their shoes back.

What a season, fuelled by parties, alcohol and nights spent listening to, singing along with and crying to the songs of Jacques Brel. The end of season came too quickly. But it didn't finish there...... All season we had bought petrol, fish and cheese on the black market having smuggled in Lev (Bulgarian currency from Belgium). This saved us alot of money and gave variety to the diet as everything had to be bought via Balkan Tourism. However the Bulgarian authorities knew we had large amounts of Lev in stock and I was summoned to the Party Secretary in Varna to explain ourselves. Jail loomed plus confiscation of all the money. However I managed to prove that the local Human Resources Manager's daughter was very prone to buying goods in Lev from our Boutique (strictly forbidden under Bulgarian law, like buying from tourist shops, which was only in hard currency). After discussion on Marx and Lenin, I managed to pay our Electricity bill in Lev, and came away a free man with a bottle of Bulgarian cognac, still at me Mum's house as a souvenir of a close shave. Our Lev was smuggled in regularly via the Belgian charter in packets of duty free ciggies !!!! Now only problem was I had to smuggle the excess money back out from Bulgaria to Belgium.... Good old Velitchko, the Bulgarian Guide managed to get anything through customs and the security screening by liberal gifts of Russian Vodka and Scottish Whisky that I bought from Balkan Tourist with hard cash, and passed in a special account - VAT!!! - Tax Account - with Paris' blessing of course. Like the constant nicking of French lingerie from GM's balconies. Well nothing we can do about it it's like a tourist tax as such luxuries didn't exist in pre revolution Bulgaria. The GM's were always quite accepting.....

One last fling however was the final party to be had in Brussels, as Molenbeek played at Anderlecht. I was not going to miss this as most of the GO Team, +/- 100 GM's and the Jazz band were to be there, only problem was that I hadn't finished my end of season. No matter, found a charter trip to Brussels and back and took part in the mad weekend in Brussels. Finished my end of season and drove back to Brussels , as Morre had left his car be
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