Europe, Bulgaria, Bulgaria's Black Sea Coast

Sozopol and south to the Turkish border

No Comments 21 July 2010

Sozopol and south to the Turkish border

Join the Monkey on a slow meander down Bulgaria’s Black Sea coast toward Turkey, in these photos from 2002.

Sozopol, Bulgaria
Sozopol is one of the prettiest towns in all of Bulgaria. Its old town, on a rocky peninsula extending into the Black Sea, is filled with narrow, cobblestone streets and beautiful Bulgarian National Revival houses featuring the thrusting wooden support beams for upper storeys that the Monkey is seen inspecting in this photo. Sozopol hosts the Apollonia festival, a music and theater extravaganza, at the start of each September. If you find yourself in Bulgaria then, the Monkey recommends heading to Sozopol for the festivities.

Sozopol, Bulgaria
The Monkey rests on a bench on Sozopol’s Kyril i Metodi Street.

Coastline near Sozopol, Bulgaria
South of Sozopol there are innumerable small coves, fjords and rocky beaches where swimming, sunbathing and mussel-gathering are the preferred activities. Here a lone boat awaits its unmooring and the Monkey takes in the serene surroundings.

Arkutino, Bulgaria
Near the Arkutino marshlands along the southern Bulgarian Black Sea coast, the Monkey encountered a bizarre symbol of the end of Communism. Championed by Cultural Minister Lyudmila Zhivkova, daughter of the longtime Bulgarian Communist Premier Todor Zhivkov, this massive, modern complex on the beach was intended to be an international Communist youth camp. But as the Communist regime crumbled in 1991, work on the project came to an abrupt halt.

As far as the Monkey can tell, no one has thought of a new use for the structure or put up the funds to complete the building. And so it stands empty and half-finished, boxes of rusting nails and concrete mix littering the interior. This concrete pile at Arkutino stands as an eerie monument to the unforeseen end of the Communist era.

Arkutino, Bulgaria
Maimunka looks back from Arkutino’s sand dunes at the Communists’ abandoned project. The construction crane left in place is particularly symbolic of the rapidity with which Communist rule evaporated in 1991.

Arkutino, Bulgaria
The Monkey poses from inside Lyudmila Zhivkova’s bizarre beachfront development (seen above). Behind him is the still unspoilt (and always uncrowded) beach at Arkutino. The trees in the distance form part of the Ropotamo nature reserve, a riverine system feeding into the Black Sea.

Rezovo, Bulgaria
Rezovo is the last coastal town in Bulgaria before Turkey. Someone decided to build a small chapel, to which these bells the Monkey is admiring belong, on the seafront cliffs above the crescent-shaped beach that forms the border with Turkey. It’s all a bit of fun, really, as relations between the Turks and the Bulgarians are about the best they’ve ever been. Bulgaria aspires to NATOdom, which the Turks already have, and Turkey aspires to be in the European Union, which Bulgaria has already joined. Belatedly, these Balkan neighbors are realizing how they may be of mutual benefit to each other.

This Monkey adventure has been viewed 1222 times since the 2010 website relaunch.



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7,262,675 (2008)

Land area:

110,550 sq. km.


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


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):


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.

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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.

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