Europe, Bulgaria, Bulgaria's Black Sea Coast

Varna and Nesebur

No Comments 22 July 2010

Varna and Nesebur

Bulgaria’s relatively short coastline packs in some interesting towns and cities, as the Monkey demonstrates in these photos from his travels in 2002.

Roman thermae, Varna, Bulgaria
Varna is Bulgaria’s third largest city and main port. Though the city dates back to Thracian settlers who arrived around 1200 BCE, Varna’s real expansion began under the Romans who conquered it in 15 CE. They fortified the city and built it into one of their most important Black Sea settlements. In this photo, the Monkey explores the ruins of the Roman thermae (bath) , the best-preserved and biggest such ruins on the Black Sea coast. Combined with the city’s relaxed atmosphere and seafront location, the chance to wander through the thermae make a visit to Varna truly worthwhile.

Monument to the Fighters Against Fascism, Varna, Bulgaria
In Varna, the largest Bulgarian city on the Black Sea coast, it was Maimunka’s great pleasure to stop by the Monument to the Fighters Against Fascism, which the Bulgarian Communists erected in honor of the Partisans who vehemently resisted the pro-Nazi monarchy of 1940s Bulgaria.

Soviet helicopter, Varna, Bulgaria
Again in Varna, the Monkey poses by a Soviet chopper on the grounds of the Naval Museum, which also features a “beached” Soviet-era submarine.

Nesebur, Bulgaria
Part package-tour incapsulation of coastal Bulgaria, part vital historical center, Nesebur boasts a plethora of medieval Bulgarian churches in varying states of repair (like the structure in the top-center of this shot). Some sites, like the amphitheater spilling down the incline behind the Monkey, have been dutifully restored. At left, the pinkish building on Ulitsa Ribarska hosts a very pleasant restaurant with a vine-covered terrace where the Monkey whiled away many hours with visiting friends from Germany back in 2002.

Windmill, Nesebur, Bulgaria
The Monkey sits near Nesebur’s famous windmill. Originally a Thracian settlement, Nesebur developed as a Black Sea maritime power under Greek colonists from 510 BCE. The Romans conquered the town in 72 BCE and it passed into Byzantine control some centuries later. As a result, this small, peninsular city possesses a wealth of ancient architecture in addition to the later, medieval Bulgarian additions. Located near the beach resorts of Albena and Golden Sands, Nesebur receives a large influx of tourists each summer eager to explore the history. Maimunka recommends a winter visit for quiet contemplation.

This Monkey adventure has been viewed 1860 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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