Varna

Varna is a city and tourist center in northeastern Bulgaria, 470 km east of Sofia, with population of 320.000, situated on the northern and western shore of the Varna Bay and nestled in a deep valley between the Frengen Plateau and the Avren Plateau. Varna is by far the most interesting and cosmopolitan town on the Black Sea coast. South of the strait connecting the bay and lake are only Asparuhovo and Galata districts. Varna is combination of port city, naval base and relaxed seaside resort of Bulgaria. According to official statistics the population of seaside capital is about 360 000 inhabitants, making it the third largest in the country. But this is very unrealistic and outdated information, as Varna today is much greater than the population of Plovdiv and thus it is the second largest city in Bulgaria. It is assumed that the urban agglomeration has a population of over 800 000 people to date and continues to grow more rapidly. Varna is often mentioned as one of the most promising and fast developing cities in Europe. If the city maintain the current pace of development no wonder in the 21st century to be among the leading cities of the continent.

The earliest human presence have been found in the Varna region, of which the Old Stone Age /Paleolithic/ date before 100 000 years. Just a few kilometers from Varna was a Copper Age necropolis /cemetery/ containing the oldest gold objects ever discovered. Between 4600 and 4200 BC, long before Mesopotamia or the Egypt of the pyramids, goldsmiths first began on the shores of the Black Sea, in the land that is today Bulgaria. During the great period of colonization of ancient shores by the Greeks, men from the city-state of Miletus in Asia Minor, set out for the land of the Thracians. There they founded the city of Odessos on the site of the modern-day city of Varna. Odessos is a old name thought to mean Site near water. As the Roman Empire extended all the way to the shores of the Black Sea, in the year 15 Odessos became part of the Roman province of Moesia, just above the province of Thrace. The conquerors endowed the city with new fortifications and superb thermal baths, the fourth largest in the Empire. In 313, the Roman emperor Constantine the Great converted to Christianity, making it the official religion of the entire Empire. The first Bulgarians were very reluctant to abandon their pagan gods. However, it wasn’t until the 9th century that King Boris I finally agreed to convert. By 395 the Empire had become ungovernable, and was divided between West and East—with the Byzantine Empire, centered in Constantinople, which was quick to recognize this First Bulgarian Kingdom, but without giving up its claim to govern it. Varna Necropolis, excavated in 1972 is an ancient necropolis with 280 tombs and 3,010 golden objects weighing over 6 kg altogether, for which experts say that it is the oldest processed gold ever found in Europe. Archaeological Museum in Varna houses over 60,000 exhibits which date from the Paleolithic era /the Old Stone Age/ to the late Middle ages. Visitors of the Archaeological Museum Varna can discover extremely valuable exhibits linked with the ancient Thracian culture, Slav and Proto-Bulgarian pottery, jewelry from the Middle Ages and others of the fabulous past of Bulgaria. The museum has a rich collection of tomb stones that any European museum would be proud to possess. The collection of icons include some masterpieces of icon painting from the National revival period in Northeastern Bulgaria, the oldest of which date back to the 16th century.

In the southeastern part of Varna are Roman baths, covering more than 7 acres and are oriented to the cardinal directions. The Roman baths were built at the end of the 2nd century during the reign of the emperor Antony Pii. Preserved walls  reach 22 m in height. Baths were not only a place for bathing, but also the center of public life. The preserved parts of the building give grounds to believe that the roman Baths were one of the largest buildings in the eastern part of the Empire and a proof for the wealth and importance of the town.

During occupation by Turkish forces in the last decades of the 14th century, Varna preserved its significance as a port and trade center. As Bulgaria fell under the Ottoman yoke, the only bearers of the Bulgarian cultural tradition remained within the folklore, the people’s festivities, and the church paintings. After the liberation in 1881, the mayor of Varna Mihail Koloni brought up the question about establishment of a modern public park. His offer was at first scoffed by the local municipal councilors but project funding was eventually granted. Soon the park enlarged to 26 decares, 130 trees were planted, paths were cleared and ”towards nightfall alleys thronged by a long train of gentlemen and dressed-up ladies”. The 19th century Cathedral of the Assumption of the Virgin is an imposing landmark at the Varna city center, which contains a finely carved iconostasis and bishop’s throne, some interesting murals and stained glass. The cathedral is one of Varna symbols. You can enjoy the splendid view from the bell tower but you have to climb up the narrow and spiral staircase of 133 steps.

The Ethnographic museum Varna was opened in 1974 in a restored house from the National Revival period, built around 1860. Due to the initiative of Maria Nikolova – ethnographer, Assen Stoychev – artist and Kamen Goranov – architect, the creation of the exposition was possible. The museum reflects the rich material and cultural heritage of the local population during the second half of the XIX and the beginning of the XX century – catering, crafts, clothes, jewellery, ritual bread, “survachki” (special color-folded sticks, decorated with pop corns, candies, ribbons, used by children on the first day of the New Year to tap neighbors on the back, wishing them good health, happiness, success in the new year). The national customs – Christmas, Kamili(Camels), Petlyovden (Cock’s day), Lazaruvane, wedding are presented in a rather interesting way. A special corner is preserved for a luxurious city home from the end of the XIX and the beginning of the XX century – a vestibule, living room, bedroom, kitchen. The amazing tour ends with a story about the commercial life of old Varna and a panoramic view of the town.

The Russian Monument is in Primorski park. It was erected in honor to the Russian soldiers who died in Varna in the War of Liberation. The Asparouh Bridge connects the city centre with the residential quarters Asparouhovo and Galata. It is the longest bridge in Bulgaria and works on it are still under way. Here the local club for extreme sports organizes Bunji jumps. To the east of the bridge the Bay of Varna and the Cape Galata could be seen. To the west is the Varna Lake.

Varna is over 11 km long, while its width, including newly erected residential quarters, is nearly 9km. The city’s structure resembles an amphitheater as it follows the curves of the Bay of Varna. It is surrounded by gardens, vineyards and groves. Many cultural events are held in Varna, including the International Theater Festival of “Varna Summer”, International Music Festival “Varna Summer” International Ballet Competition, the International Jazz Festival of “Varna Summer”, Festival “Love is Folly”, the International Puppet Festival, the “Golden dolphin, “August in art”, International Folklore Festival, Sea Week and others.

 

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