Varna is a city in northeastern Bulgaria, situated on the shores of the Black Sea and the lake and is the administrative center of the homonymous municipality and region.
It is the largest city on the Bulgarian Black Sea Coast, third-largest in Bulgaria after Sofia and Plovdiv, and 92nd in the European Union, with a population of 357, 281.
It is commonly referred to as the "Sea Capital of Bulgaria" and it is a major tourist destination. The city's peculiar sea charm is sublime and moving.
Ancient, medieval, renaissance and modern cultures mingle and coexist throughout the city.
Varna lies on the same latitude of the famous Atlantic resorts Bayonne and Biarritz in France, on a large, flat and high terrace on the northwestern curve of the bay of Varna which juts some 7 km inland.
During the holiday season, July and August, the sunshine allows 10-11 hours of sunbathing. There is nothing of the cold Baltic wind or the summer Riviera heat.
Founded in 580 BC as the Greek colony of Odessus, it passed to the Roman Empire in the 1st cent. AD. The Bulgarians defeated Byzantine emperor Constantine IV at Varna in 679. The city passed to the second Bulgarian kingdom in 1201, was captured by the Turks in 1391, and became an active seaport under their rule.
In 1444 the Turks under Murad II won a decisive victory over Crusader forces led by Ladislaus III of Poland and Hungary, who was killed. The battle of Varna was the last major attempt by Christian Europe to stem the Ottoman tide.
Varna was the chief naval base of the British and French forces in the Crimean War. The city was liberated from Turkish rule in 1878 and ceded to newly independent Bulgaria.
Varna is the centre of active cultural life, which, especially in summer, attracts the attention not only of the whole country but also of cultural circles in Europe.
Varna has no rival in Bulgaria as a venue of international cultural events in the summer season. Since 1964 an International Ballet Competition, the first of its kind in the world, has been regularly held there, and has become widely popular.
The international Varna Summer music festival, which first took place in 1967, has since become established and attracts famous musical ensembles: the Bolshoi Theatre, the opera companies of Bolgona, Bucharest, Kiev, Odessa; orchestras from Moscow, Leningrad, Warsaw.
One of the best museums in Varna is the Aquarium and the Black Sea Museum . It exhibits hundreds of molluscs, crabs, fish species, sharks, sea mammals and birds.
Another one is the Ethnographical Museum which reveals the way people in Varna lived during the 19th and the beginning of 20th c. There are various tools, national costumes, which are unique and are characterized by amazing beauty and exquisite details, and adornments.
The Golden treasure of Varna which is 6000 years old and consists of about 3000 golden objects, of overall weight of more than 6 kg. can be seen in the Varna Archaeological Museum . The discovery of the Varna Chalcolitic Necropolis revealed proofs of the oldest European civilizationand the world's oldest gold.
The exposition in the Museum of Bulgarian Revival represents the social life of people during this period. It is housed in the former church and school of Archangel Michael dating from the 1860's.
A short distance further south, the Museum of Varna's History depicts the development of Varna into the city it is today with exhibits and pictures from thе last century.
The Natural History Museum studies and makes popular the variety of species in the Black sea and along the Black Sea Coast.
The museum consists of three sections: Geology, Vegetation and Animal kingdom. The first section deals with the formation and structure of the Earth, the origin and development of life on it. In the second section one can see the basic vegetation groups along the Black Sea coast: sea weeds, plants in the salt soil and sand, dense forest, etc. The animal life is represented by vertebrates and invertebrates - from unicellular to mammals.
Varna Terrarium has one of the most diverse collections in Bulgaria - more than 40 different kinds of exotic animals from all over the world and many interesting rare Bulgarian species. The animals are displayed in an environment similar to their natural one. Every 2 months part of the species are replaced and new ones are brought in.
The Naval Museum was founded in Varna in 1923 by a group of enthusiasts and initially it was housed in the Naval School. In 1956 it was moved to Villa Diana in the Sea Garden. This beautiful house was built in 1890 for the Italian consul Asaretto. Its garden displays a collection of marine guns, the old lighthouse at the sea port of Varna and one of Bulgaria's first mine sweepers. The collection is on show in 12 halls. It traces the maritime history of the region from ancient times to the present day.
The most valuable exhibit is the Drazki torpedo boat which earned fame for its crew by sinking the Turkish cruiser Hamidie during the First Balkan War of 1912. This is the only ship of its kind to be preserved till the present day.
The most famous is The Cathedral Church-Monument of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin, which is an imposing landmark of the city centre and one of Varna symbols. It contains a finely carved iconostasis and a bishop's throne, some interesting murals and stained glass.
St. Paraskeva Petka orthodox church, known to the citizens as Sveta Petka, started in 1901. Till 1945 an extension to it used to serve free warm meals for the poor, orphans and even war refugees.
A very characteristic feature of St. Dimitar orthodox church is the position of the soleum, which rises one step in front of the iconostasis.
Apart from a number of other churches, there are also 2 Muslim mosques in Varna and one Jewish synagogue.
This is the only dolphinarium on the Balkan Peninsula and one of the greatest attractions Varna can offer. The visitors will be amazed at the intelligence and playfulness of the sea mammals. A curious fact is that in 1992 a baby-dolphin was born in the Dolphinarium in Varna. That event was a sign that the animals feel at home in their new surrounding.
Being in Varna in the summer can be a great experience, as this is the time when all the clubs from the city "move" along the beach and you can find all of them in line, tempting you to make a trip to see them all.
Imagine dancing in an open air disco on the beach, the waves rolling on nearby with a refreshing sea breeze while you dance...
In most of them you don't have to bother about closing time - they are open as long as there are people partying, even if it is 7 o'clock in the morning.
Come along and see why so many people fall in love with Bulgaria.
The famous Vinitsa quarter is situated 10 km north-east of Varna. It is a favourite place for the citizens of Varna who often go there for a picnic or for walks, and it is also a wonderful holiday place with lots of small houses and private hotels.
The Cape of Galata attracts a lot of tourists who are keen on having a seclusion with nature. The resort complex of Chernomorec includes several chalets and a lot of bungalows.
There is a Stone Forest 20 km west of the city. It is a curious collection of stone columns up to 7 metres high. Scientist have discovered that it is a geological formation of stalagmites some 50 million years ago. During the Miocene the seawaters rushed into this place and the sea element having shaped them within millennia.
Text and prictures: Mirela - Varna office