About three hours Southeast of Bucharest lives a tiny hippie fisherman’s village called “Vama Veche”. The Romanian Black Sea spans from the beautiful Danube Delta in the north to resort-ridden areas around Constanta…… and of course Vama Veche in the south near Bulgaria. Local people have mixed feelings about development along the Black Sea, especially those that remember special places like Vama Veche during Communist times. Known for its nude beach and intellectual counterculture, it’s amazing that Vama Veche existed during Nicolae Ceauşescu’s reign. Since 1990, Vama Veche developed quite a bit relative to prior years. A movement called “Save Vama Veche” was created to help preserve the environment and stop mass tourism. Since 2004, the Stufstock Rock Festival has played an integral part in preserving the spirit of this small beach town. It has drawn upwards of 50,000 people each year.
Our dream to visit the Black Sea came true when our friend Calin had the big idea to take us to the 10th annual Stufstock Rock Music Festival. We were worried about booking accomodations, but everyone in Bucharest kept saying that the town is tiny and everything is “close”. The drive to Vama Veche was pretty much uneventful except for a famous bridge crossing the Danube River called “The Anghel Saligny Bridge” (formerly King Carol I Bridge). It was built between 1890 and 1895 and became the longest bridge in Europe and the third longest in the world. Today, it is used for railway trains.
Our Black Sea experience was extraordinary because both of Calin’s children (Mara & Tudor) were participating in the show. And, Calin’s Rock School Romania organization played a roll in developing some of the festival’s talent. I finally had the opportunity to meet Donna (and Mom) who is heavily involved in the project. You could say, “it’s a family affair”! The idea behind Rock School is to provide a venue for young musicians to practice on stage. Kids learn how to play with instruction, form bands and play live to gain confidence and experience. Their tagline is priceless, “For those about to rock”.
We’ve been to the beach hundreds of times and had our share of rock festivals. I can’t say that any event is quite like Stufstock. The environment is like Hedonism at a Phish concert with Metallica as the opening act. We sat at the beach the first night over a bottle of white wine…. watching kids playing around bonfires. The day beach scene consisted of topless women parading around the rocky coastline with drinks in hand. Beach bar after beach bar played the Red Hot Chili Peppers and I wondered if it was because they were about to play in Bucharest the next month. As the day grew older, kids were passed out drunk in the sand…. probably stumbling to find their tent pitched on the beach. Ahhh, the good ol’ days.
Food at the beach was quite good including local trout, sea bream and fried “Hamsii”. Hamsii are little fried fish as a whole, offered with lemon or a ridiculous amount of garlic sauce. This was a new experience for us and surprisingly good. Several pop up convenience stores reside near the beach with countless refrigerators holding beers and water. Everyone walked around with open alcohol and the police were no where in sight. Stufstock captured the free spirit of Woodstock in many ways.
The festival program was loaded with everything from Theatre to Film and Rock Music. For music, rock bands performed from places like England, Moldova & Romania. I spent most of Saturday watching the opening act, Blue Pulse, Trooper and The Subways. Blue Pulse is Calin’s son Tudor’s band. They combine soulful 70′s rock guitar/vocals with experiments in modern psychodelia. I was pleasantly suprised how tight the entire band was for their age. It was like they have been studying old Pink Floyd, Jimi Hendrix, The Doors, Stevie Ray Vaughan and the Allman Brothers for decades.
Calin and I headed sidestage to visit Mara who was helping video the concert. We watched the band Trooper scream like it was 1987. Seriously, the lead singer sounded like Scorpion or something. After Trooper, a popular English trio called The Subways took the stage. Their musical style is high energy alternative rock. I missed the Moldovian headlining band who didn’t appear on stand until like 2:30am.
In the end, we stopped off at gorgeous Cape Kaliakra just south of the border in Bulgaria…… to taste mussels at Dalboka Mussels Farm. This was the perfect introduction to a series of delicious foods throughout Bulgaria.
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The Black Sea, Romania