20 minutes from the Bulgarian border, on the coast of the black sea, lays a small village that grew from absolute anonymity to a place of hedonism and party. Vama Veche, or as it’s translated, Old Customs, was a small residential village until about 20 years ago when it grew into the beast we all know and love today…
I first arrived into Vama Veche at the end of April and we had to set up the whole hostel as it had been closed since the previous summer. We, my co-workers and I, had to turn the water back on, the electricity back on and make all the beds, give a full clean in order to be functional for the 1st of May. That particular weekend in Romania is a public holiday and coming to Vama Veche is a big deal for the citizens. They have massive parties and bonfires on the beach and stay up to the early morning watching the sunrise. I, of course, had to embrace the local scene and join the parties including watching the sun rise up over the black sea. We left the village on the second, and headed back to Cluj for a few weeks.
After spending 3 weeks back in Cluj, I boarded another night train and headed back to Vama Veche to start my summer by the beach. Another receptionist and I landed into Vama on the 25th of May and I was there ever since. After a few days with my co-worker, and the two volunteers, they all abandoned me so I was the sole proprietor for about 10 days and this was kind of a baptism of fire for me because I had to content with all manner of events and learn all about the hostel in this time. Towards the end of June, the new volunteer, and my manager, both arrived within a couple of days so I had some company and I got to spend some time with people again.
The day to day running of the hostel was overseen by my manager, another receptionist, and I self-titled myself, the assistant manager. Apart from looking after the hostel, I also had to socialise with the guests, some of who were solo travellers, solo foreigners and needed a little push to embrace the chaos of this seaside asylum. Therefore the majority of my time was either spent at the hostel, on the beach during the day or drinking myself into oblivion during the night.
In this next section, I will write about some of the bars that I frequented, mainly because apart from this, there isn’t much to write home about.
The closest bar to my abode was a place called The Shot, it was, as you’d expect, a shot bar. They had a number of mixed shots for 5 Lei (£1) and throughout my time, I tried all of them. They usually played rock and metal music so this became somewhere I’d often stop at to start my evening. Speaking of rock and metal music, there was only 1 real metal bar in the village; Arca. This was usually quite desolate as most people that go to Vama now are more into commercial music. It was always very easy to chat with the patrons here as they embraced anyone who visited, plus they were always drunk.
Just up the road from Arca was another bar; Dincolo. I didn’t go here often but it was a fantastic place to watch the chaos unfold as it was high up on a cliff. I even got up there once on a morning to watch the sunrise which was good as most people were still partying further down the beach. Walking from Dincolo, past Arca, and some other smaller daytime bars, would lead you straight into the mouth of the monster, the belly of the beast, Stuf. This was the busiest bar on the beach, always full with people partying themselves through the night. The music there, was this odd mix of commercial, rock, electronic, folk and even jazz. I habitually kept coming back to here night after night, even if they did have the same playlist. Just up the street, and not on the beach, were a couple of bars that I didn’t go to regularly but they were enjoyable nevertheless: 1st Stage and La Canapele Party. 1st Stage was usually playing folk music so I only tended to go for one drink before I moved on, whereas La Canapele quite often had karaoke so of course I had to embrace that, I even became known for my horrendous cover of Barbie Girl. Further up the road from there were another couple of bars; Expirat and Molotov. Neither of these were particularly entertaining for me, they both played electronic music, Molotov had more of a Trance/Drum & Bass scene, whereas Expirat also dabbled with commercial music. Another bar I wasn’t fond of was Amphora. This was mainly due to the music and the crowd there. I found more of an upper class vibe in that joint, the people were clearly used to partying in high end venues and so they were decked out in all the latest brands and fashions, neither of which I’m known to appreciate. At the far end of the strip, was a place called Acolo, which was the final bar before the Bulgarian border and there was a load of hammocks to watch the sunrise and lots of rocking chairs which was calming. The music was similar to Stuf, in that they had a wide range of music.
Laying in the hammocks at Acolo leads me onto my next subject – Sunrises. I saw a lot of sunrises during the four months in Vama, more than I intended to. They had a habit of sneaking up on me as I partied, I would be out for a couple of drinks and the next thing I noticed was that it was getting light and, quite frankly, there’s no point in going back if the sun is rising in about an hour or so.
After spending so long in the village, I decided it was time to leave. Well that, and the fact that the hostel was closing for the season. We locked up shop and all of went our separate ways. I boarded a train towards Baia Mare.