The Black Sea forms a natural eastern border for Bulgaria and makes it the home of some of the finest seaside resorts in Europe.
The largest of all of them is Varna, the sea capital of Bulgaria also sometimes referred to as Bulgaria’s summer capital. The headquarters of the Bulgarian Navy is situated in this city. Descending from ever so green plateau terraces to the bay that is shaped like a horseshoe Varna is an around-the-year tourist destination. From being rich in natural beauty to being choc-a-bloc with monuments and museums of social and cultural interests, Varna is also a city with much historical significance.
Varna, the historical city
One of the oldest cities in not just Bulgaria but all of Europe, Varna dates back to sometime in the fifth millennium BCE. From being the Greek established city of Odessus, it has been Thracian, Macedonian, and Roman in subsequent years till it became a part of Bulgaria after the Treaty of Berlin.
The earliest settlement here was pre-historic as evident from the Varna Necropolis, one of the most important archeological sites originally belonging to the pre-historic world. The graves found here date back to the Eneolithic era. The excavation of graves has also revealed some of the world’s oldest gold and bronze.
The ruins of old basilicas and monasteries in the city reveal that Varna was a historic Christian center. Marine charts from fourteenth century Italy mention Varna as being the most important sea port on the route from Constantinople to the Danube Delta. The last major recorded battle of the European Crusades is the Battle of Varna in 1444. The fall of Constantinople was inevitable after the Crusade of Varna failed. With such history to boast of, old architecture and magnificent ruins merge everywhere with modern buildings.
Varna, the sea resort
Dotted with beautiful beaches Varna is one of the most popular summer resorts in Bulgaria. In the summer months it is sunny almost eleven hours a day making it ideal for sunbathers. The sea is also very calm with hardly any turbulence. The moderate climate, secure from the coldness of the Baltic wind and the heat of summer Riviera, makes sure that the beach and the water are both always the right temperature.
There are several hot sulfur springs along the beach that are used as spas and mineral baths. The twelve mineral springs in Varna have made sure that it is not only a recreational destination but a region of importance for those seeking healing prophylaxis. Mud from the Firth Lake in Varna also has prophylactic properties.
The Asparuhov Bridge that spans over the canals that crisscross between the Black Sea and Lake Varna is a popular destination for all extreme sports enthusiasts being a great location for bungee jumping. With the sun and beaches providing mental relaxation and the spas and mineral springs taking care of all physical problems, Varna is a complete therapeutic holiday destination if ever there was one. And the charm passes well beyond the beaches to permeate the entire city.
What to see and do in Varna
The Roman Thermae is the largest Roman archeological find in Bulgaria and dates back to the second century. It is, in fact, the third largest Roman ruin in Europe. Very little of the original structure remains today. The Varna Archeological Museum is the largest museum in Varna. It holds displays ranging from the pre-historic period to the Bulgarian National Revival period and includes Thracian, Greek, Roman, and Ottoman artifacts. Probably its most popular exhibit is the oldest gold treasure in the world known as the Gold of Varna.
The Aldazha monastery situated north of central Varna is a Christian Cave Monastery belonging to the medieval period. The grotto is a part of the Golden Sands Natural Park.
The Sea Garden is the largest park in Varna and includes a fabulous aquarium, dolphinarium, planetarium, zoo and the Museum of Natural History among other attractions. Bronze statues of famous Bulgarians decorate the National Revival Alley. There are also two open air theatres which is the venue of several operatic and theatrical performances and of the International Ballet Competition. The Garden has been declared to be a national monument of landscape architecture.
Pobiti Kamani is a natural rock phenomenon just west of Varna which are hollow stone columns filled with sand.
There are several old churches and cathedrals in Varna including the Cathedral of the Assumption of the Virgin which has the Bishop’s throne and an intricately carved iconostasis, and the Archangel Michael chapel which is the site of the first Bulgarian secular school. There is also a Buddhist center and two old mosques belonging to the Ottoman period. Together they reveal the colorful past, and, probably, the more colorful present of Varna, the sea capital of Europe.
Photo of Chaika Beach, Varna, bulgaria, by blu_blue