In these photos from 2002, Maimunka explores Bulgaria’s northern Black Sea Coast. From a petrified forest and ancient tombs, to a Romanian princess’s palace, this stretch of coast packs quite a bit of intrigue.
The northern coast of Bulgaria, part of the fertile Dobrudzha steppe region, changed hands between Bulgaria and Romania several times during the 20th Century. After the First World War, the area was under Romania control. On a visit to Balchik, Romania’s Queen Marie was enchanted by the combination of sea and cliffs, and chose the site for a secluded retreat. Marie’s palace was built in a fairytale style, incorporating an Ottoman minaret, Balkan architectural lines, and an extensive botanical garden featuring fountains, waterfalls, grottoes, a Roman bath, and multiple terraces with splendid views over the Black Sea.
When the southern Dobrudzha rejoined Bulgaria in 1940, Marie’s palace at Balchik went with it. Here, the Monkey sits on a stone throne a stone’s throw away from Marie’s lovely Black Sea getaway.
Bulgaria’s Black Sea beaches are famed for combining beautiful seafronts with affordability. Before the fall of the Berlin Wall, East Germans, Poles, Russians and other Iron Curtainites swarmed here during summer months. Nowadays, Bulgaria’s coast (like its ski slopes) remain on the maps for European budget travellers of all stripes. Germans and Britons are particularly keen on Bulgaria—some are calling it “the new Mallorca.” Here the Monkey surveys a beach at Balchik.
The Monkey gears up for his trip to Turkey by inspecting the soaring minaret of Balchik’s mosque. Approximately 10 percent of the Bulgarian population are ethnic Turks, and Islamic—as well as Christian and pre-Christian—monuments abound in the country.
Bulgaria’s northern Black Sea Coast features rocky headlands where the sea abuts cliffs up to 70 meters in height. Near Kamen Briag, a sleepy coastal clifftop village, the Monkey explored Bulgaria’s prehistory at the Yailak reserve. Some 6000 to 8000 years ago, a society of seaside cave-dwellers inhabited the region, leaving behind numerous archaeological relics. At least 20 of the hand-carved, clifftop tombs seen in this shot have been uncovered at Yailak. The tombs cut deep into the cliffs, widening as they descend; some tombs could have held a dozen or more bodies. Nearby, researchers have discovered primitive grape presses cut into the rocks, suggesting this ancient civilization knew the pleasures of wine. It’s a fascinating and little-known area of Bulgaria, but the Monkey has one regret. Perhaps suffering from a bit of acrophobia, he failed to get a shot by the cliffs and sea around Kaliakra.
18 kilometers inland from Varna, the Monkey visited the bizarre landscape of the Pobitite Kamani, a sort of petrified forest consisting of a sandy field of cylindrical stalagmites over 50 million years old! The stone columns, up to 6 meters in height, contain the fossilized remains of small sea creatures like mussels and snails.
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