Europe, Bulgaria, Bulgaria's Black Sea Coast

Balchik, Kamen Briag, and around

No Comments 4 March 2011

Balchik, Kamen Briag, and around

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.


Queen Marie's palace, Balchik, Bulgaria
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.

Beach, Balchik, Bulgaria
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.

Mosque, Balchik, Bulgaria
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.

Tombs, Kamen Briag, Bulgaria
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.

Pobitite Kamani, Bulgaria
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.



This Monkey adventure has been viewed 1267 times since the 2010 website relaunch.

Bulgaria

   FAST FACTS


View Larger Map

Population:

7,262,675 (2008)

Land area:

110,550 sq. km.

Capital:

Sofia (pop. 1,113,674; 2005)

Economy:

In 2006, Bulgaria ranked 55th in the UNDP Human Development Index and 66th in total GDP, with a per capita GDP of $4,089.22. Public debt accounts for 10.5 percent of total GDP, while 14.1 percent of Bulgarians are beneath the poverty line.

Main language(s):

Bulgarian

Monkey's name:

Maimunka (my-moon-ka)

Fun fact:

Bulgarians nod their heads up and down to say “no,” while they shake their heads from side to side to signify “yes.” That is, unless they adjust their head movements to accommodate for visitors accustomed to the more conventional non-verbal cues. Either way, head symbols can be a confusing affair in Bulgaria.



Your Comments

No Comments


Share your view

Post a comment

Submit the word you see below:



Notify me of follow-up comments?

Recommended reading

A Concise History of Bulgaria
R.J. Crampton (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997)
This short book has become the go-to summation of this Balkan country’s long and complex history. A perfect introduction to the country.

Beyond the Frontier: The Politics of a Failed Mission, Bulgaria 1944
E.P. Thompson (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1997)
A fascinating exploration of a British mission to rendez-vous with Bulgarian Partisans and raise a force against the Nazi-allied royalist dictatorship during World War II. Reads like a spy novel at times, but also a memorial to the author’s brother, who was killed in the effort.

Communism and the Remorse of an Innocent Victimizer
Zlatko Anguelov (College Station: Texas A&M Press, 2002)
Part personal memoir, part exploration of the all-encompassing nature of Bulgaria’s Communist government, this book poses uncomfortable questions about the banal, everyday forms of repression and victimization that take root under coercive governments. Anguelov’s observations resonate far beyond Bulgaria’s borders…

The Balkans: A Short History
Mark Mazower (New York: Modern Library Paperback, 2002)
As the title says, a short history of the Balkan region. A helpful intro to this corner of Europe.

The Balkans: Nationalism, War, and the Great Powers, 1804-1999
Misha Glenny (New York: Penguin, 2001)
A rather epic undertaking by a former BBC correspondent for Central Europe, this book traces the tumultuous two centuries of the Balkan states’ struggles for independence from the Ottoman Empire, the emergence of pan-Slavic tendencies and their tribulations, and the reign of various regimes of the right and left during the 20th Century. A worthwhile read—don’t let its dimensions frighten you…

Description of a Struggle: The Vintage Book of Contemporary Eastern European Writing
Editor: Michael March (New York: Vintage Books, 1994: Out of print)
A great anthology of short stories from the former Eastern Bloc, providing an evocative snap shot of the early post-Cold War era. Stories are organized by state, with the Bulgarian Victor Paskov’s tale of “Romanian” exiles in the Paris Metro a particular highlight.

© 2002-2017 Monkeytravel.org