The Black Sea

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AHTOPOL

The similarities between the two are not only in their names. Both are located on rocky peninsulas that have provided security for their inhabitants since Antiquity. Both were founded by Greeks well millennia ago. Both were until the early 20th century Greek-populated and both have been fishing communities for centuries. Both have a combination of ancient fortifications and traditional architecture. Intrigued? Find out more.

Wed, 08/03/2016 - 11:20
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HAIL TO THE SUN

Bulgaria, however, is also the home of a feast that is unique to it yet in the best case scenario is no older than 35 years.

On the night of 30 June and 1 July, people gather by the sea. They spend the night drinking and listening to music, and when the sun begins to rise, they play Uriah Heep's song July Morning. Everyone is happy.

Wed, 06/29/2016 - 12:37
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AT LAND'S END

In 1808, a German geographer, August Zeune, erroneously referred to southeastern Europe as "The Balkans" because he thought the Balkan range ran all the way from the Black Sea to the Adriatic. It doesn't. It exists entirely in Bulgarian territory: from the border with Serbia to the Black Sea coast at Cape Emine (Emine being a pretty common female Turkish proper name). The Bulgarians themselves refer to the mountain as "The Balkans" only in a poetic context. In everyday speech, The Balkans is just Stara Planina, or Old Mountain.

Sat, 04/09/2016 - 13:21
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DAYDREAMING OF AHTOPOL

In the past decade, it has become increasing hard to love the cities on the Bulgarian South Black Sea coast, even for those who have many pleasant memories connected with them. Nesebar and Sozopol have lost their erstwhile charm as quiet havens of traditional old houses, meandering lanes, fishermen and bohemians. Under a deluge of cheap alcohol tourism from the West, holidaymakers from Russia and Bulgaria have descended on them in search of luxury in the form of beach-loungers, all-white restaurants and atrocious food at even more atrocious prices.

Wed, 12/23/2015 - 11:25
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POMORIE TOMB: AN ANCIENT MYSTERY BY THE SEA

Pomorie, a seaside town about 20 kilometres north of Burgas, has now become a concrete labyrinth of high-rise hotels and apartment blocks thronged with Russian tourists and holiday-home owners. It does not sound particularly appealing – but that's only on the surface.

Amidst the dust, sun and crowds of Pomorie, there is a place of eternal silence and an unexplained mystery. To find it, you have to take a sign-posted lane off the congested Burgas-Nesebar road. This lane leads to a lush vineyard and there, hidden inside the cold embrace of a huge mound, is a tomb.

Tue, 08/11/2015 - 11:36
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TOP 5 PRISTINE BEACHES

Theoretically, Bulgaria's seaside coast is exclusively state property – beaches are free to visit, and building on them is prohibited. However, as anyone who has happened to visit the Bulgarian Black Sea coast knows, theory and reality often collide. Hotels are built right on the beaches, and the sand is parcelled up into plots dotted with parasols and loungers or patches rent by hotels and taverns. Dunes and forests, which are the habitats of rare species, are being legally registered as agricultural land and hence become suitable for development.

Wed, 07/08/2015 - 12:39
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DEULTUM: ROMAN TOWN ON THE OUTSKIRTS OF BURGAS

The bay on whose shore the city stands today was deeper and surrounded by malaria infested swamps.

Living conditions were at least inhospitable. A few people had made their home there from prehistoric to medieval times, in settlements and fortresses away from the coast, moving location as the coastline itself changed. The continuity of usage of the mineral springs in today's Vetren and Banevo neighbourhoods of Burgas is amazing. The healing waters were prized by the ancient Thracians and Romans, by Bulgarian kings, Byzantine emperors and Ottoman sultans.

Wed, 06/10/2015 - 13:59
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DRAMATIC BULGARIA

Bulgaria never quite caught on to the 19th Century European passion for the sublime, known to us mainly from the paintings of Caspar David Friedrich, but the country has its own share of locations which inspire awe and amazement; inviting you to revel in nature and experience a sense of spirituality. Most are the creation of mighty tectonic forces, or rivers and seas scouring solid rock, while others result from more ephemeral natural phenomena, such as mists and rainbows, rain and clouds.

Chepelarska River

Tue, 04/28/2015 - 11:55
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BULGARIA'S FORTRESSES

Castle-wise, Bulgaria is nothing to compare with Scotland - and most other European countries. There is little reminiscent of Transylvania's menacing fortifications, Bavaria's fairy tale confections, or the Loire Valley's romantic châteaux. Fortresses were built in Bulgaria from Antiquity to the 19th Century and, although many were lost in war-time destruction and postwar turbulence, the country still has several sites combining stunning scenery with relatively well-preserved fortifications.

Wed, 03/25/2015 - 15:13
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SOZOPOL'S FEAST OF ST NICHOLAS

When the summer is over and the last visitors for the year have gone, Sozopol quickly returns to its former life as a quiet fishing town. The hotels are boarded up, the restaurants are closed and the streets are empty. In itself, this is an incredible sight, especially if you've seen what Sozopol looks like in August. In wintertime, salty wind blows along the empty seaside promenades, and the voices echoing between the traditional houses in the old quarter belong not to the guests of the many B&Bs, but to their elderly inhabitants.

Mon, 11/17/2014 - 14:02
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OTTOMAN BULGARIA

As you travel through Bulgaria you will inevitably be confronted by remnants of its Ottoman past: mosques, water fountains, bridges, forts, baths and public buildings. It would be strange if you were not – Bulgaria spent 500 years under Ottoman domination. It began with the invasion at the end of the 14th Century, which brought chaos to the Balkans and destroyed the Second Bulgarian Kingdom, and ended for the different parts of the Balkans inhabited by Bulgarians between the 1878 San Stefano Peace Treaty and the 1912-1913 Balkan Wars.

Fri, 10/17/2014 - 10:45
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PA-LA-MUD!

Eating fish in Bulgaria can be a complicated business. Along the Black Sea, the smell of deep fried sprats is everywhere, and the menus of seaside restaurants offer mussels and jack mackerel, bluefish and turbot. All over the country, expensive establishments attempt to lure you in with frozen salmon and bass, octopus, shrimps and squid – all imported from somewhere, mainly Greece. Sushi is trendy, and most Bulgarians eat carp for St Nikola's feast on 6 December.

Thu, 10/16/2014 - 13:19
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ST ANASTASIA ISLAND

Bulgaria's Black Sea can be calm or full of tourists, pristine or packed with ugly hotels, but one thing it is not: a sea where numerous islands, large and small, are available for exploration.

Only seven islands dot the 354 km of Bulgaria coastline and some of them are so small that they are little more than rocks in the sea. In the summer of 2014, however, one of the islands in the Bulgarian Black Sea became a genuine tourist attraction.

Tue, 09/02/2014 - 08:19
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STILL AT BLACK SEA COAST

As you travel along the Bulgarian Black Sea coast you will inevitably pass through Varna and Burgas, the two biggest Bulgarian seaside towns. As you stroll through them, you will inevitably be confronted with a couple of monstrosities that will make you wonder, who or what are those to celebrate? Do they not belong to a bygone era that few Bulgarians want to remember? Should not they be consigned to the dustbin of history, as Marx put it, which seems to be their rightful last abode?

Wed, 07/02/2014 - 12:37
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YOU SNOOZE, YOU LOOSE

There are moments when time and place merge, creating an overwhelming sentiment which makes you wish the world would stop spinning.

Sunsets, for example, can be glorious and sites like Santorini have made a business out of them. In Bulgaria, a similar experience could be enjoying a cold menta, or mint liquor, with a dash of Sprite in the shade of a beach bar, while the mid-day sun shines in the bleached sky. Or it could be entering the warmth of a tavern, filled with the smell of burning wood, with the anticipation of a hearty dinner after a day skiing.

Wed, 07/02/2014 - 11:45
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