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Balchik And The Northern Coast

Balchik is one of the prettiest towns on the Black Sea coast. It has developed from a sleepy port town into a sophisticated yacht port and today offers the perfect location for exploring the northern coast.

You can take in the breathtaking views from virtually anywhere in this town, but if you prefer to get close to the water's edge then take a stroll along the long promenade which stretches from the harbour to the palace. It is lined with good restaurants, cafes and bars and is traffic free during the summer months.

 

 

The Quiet Nest

At the far end of the town, you can visit Romanian Queen Marie's Balchik Palace, officially known as the Quiet Nest Palace. It was built between 1926 and 1937 and consists of a complex of residential villas, a curious smoking hall, an exquisite wine cellar, a private chapel and a spring which flows into an impressive waterfall. The Palace has both Balkan and Oriental influences- much of the architectural design was planned by Marie's Turkish lover. The Palace was the location for the Francis Ford Coppola film "Youth without Youth." Florists from Switzerland were brought in to arrange the stunning Palace gardens and in 1940 the Botanical Garden was established within the park surrounding the palace. Today, the vast garden is home to over 2,000 species of plant life including a striking collection of large cacti surpassed only by the royal collection in Monaco.This summer (2011) the Palace has become popular as a wedding venue with couples from around the world getting married here.

Town Treasures

Within the whimsical town centre, 21 centuries of history stand side-by-side preserving traces of each of the cultures that once dominated here. The Historical Museum contains many of the antiquated treasures found on many of the modern day building sites in the town. Everything from Thracian vases to Roman ceramics as well as numerous exhibits from the Second Bulgarian State and the rule by Romania exists here.

The nearby Ethnographic Museum, located in the home of a former wheat merchant, Atanas Shterev, displays an interesting exhibition of local crafts and a chronology of the townsfolk's lifestyle from days gone by. The layout and design of the museum is in the renowned Revival style.

The town has two notable religious sites - the old 17th century church of St. Nikolay, the patron saint of sailors and fishermen and the legacy of the town's Turkish past, an old mosque. Another notable visit for culture vultures is the town's art gallery, which houses local works as well as a host of famous Bulgarian and international artists. The collection is not limited to painting and includes a significant number of sculptures, caricatures and engravings. Each year the gallery stages a diverse exhibition of much sought after works.

Further Afield

There are many things to see and do on Bulgaria's northern coast. The pretty harbour town of Balchik offers the perfect base away from the hordes of tourists that flock to the beach resorts. It's abundance of hotels from luxury to budget provide plenty of options for accommodation. Many scenic delights, relaxation and a shopper's paradise await those who venture out of Balchik.

South of Balchik

Albena the beach resort is only 10 km away and has reputedly one of the best beaches in Bulgaria. If sunbathing is your thing, then it is worth visiting because Balchik offers little in the way of beaches - the terrain there is too rocky. Albena is a purpose built resort named after a female character from a famous story by Bulgarian writer Yordan Yovkov, many of the hotels here lie directly on the fine, sandy beach within metres from the water. The resort is the proud bearer of the international Blue Flag award for its cleanliness and superb facilities. The resort is ideal for families with its warm, calm clear water, which does not exceed 1.6 metres in depth for the first 150 m. The resort is also unusually green belonging as it does to the Baltata National Reserve. This rare combination of combination of dense forest leading to the seashore have created a mild and pleasant climate with optimal humidity and incredibly clean air, rich in ozone. There are a wide range of activities here to suit all ages including one of the country's largest natural spa and wellness centres.

Often overlooked, the small village of Obrochishte, 15 km southwest of Balchik is home to a well-preserved Ottoman fortress and small monastery. The Beautiful Bulgaria project is currently investing money into making this unusual site more of a public monument dating back to the early Ottoman rule.

The neighbouring cities of Varna and Dobrich, 40 km and 35 km away respectively are home to a wealth of cultural treasures from museums to parks and both cities house a diverse array of shops, bars and restaurants.

 


 

Balchik

Another noteworthy site in this area is the Stone Forest, known in Bulgarian as the "Pobiti Kamani" this unbelievable rock phenomenon is located 18 km westwards from Varna. It is an incredible site, a little like a desert in the height of summer. The stones formed some 50 million years ago. Originally, they were part of the seabed. After the sea receded, the inorganic sediments eroded into the impressive forms, which remain today. The natural stone pillars are porous and contain many fossils; many of the stone columns are between 6 metres high and some up to 12 metres across. This is a great place to let kids run free and indulge in some climbing. Take plenty of water, there is no cafe here.

The Stone Forest, near Varna

The medieval cave monastery is 2 km away from Golden Sands known as the Aladzha Manastir is also worth seeing. In the Middle Ages, it housed monks in caves cut from the limestone rock. The name of the Aladzha Monastery comes from the Turkish word for colourful because it used to display some bright coloured wall paintings. Unfortunately, only few of the frescoes survived, but those that did are in the chapel. The monk's cells, common rooms and sanctuaries are dug directly into the rock and situated on two levels high above the ground. They were connected via an external staircase. The lower floor hosted the monks' private cells, common rooms and a small church, while the upper level was a chapel. It is widely believed that the monastery dates back to the 12th century AD. The monastery houses a small museum and you can take a walk through the gardens to The Catacombs, which share a similar history, though the ruins are less well preserved. This is not a place to visit for people with mobility problems or vertigo; there is no lift into the caves and the rock has worn to a shine making the going somewhat dangerous. Kids will love the place because they are safe to run through the woods and to explore the ancient catacombs. There is a small kiosk selling sweets and drinks. There is a taxi rank outside of the monastery gardens along with numerous souvenir stalls.

Back up North

If you wish to take advantage of the area's healing mud and spa facilities the small town of Tuzlata, 4 km away is famed for its therapeutic mud. The natural environment here has created two lakes, formed by old landslides; the bottom of each lake is covered with black hydrogen sulphide peloid perfect for healing joint disorders. There is also a warm mineral spring where the water reaches temperatures of 31 °C.

Kavarna further up the coast has generated international acclaim for its host of summer rock concerts. Ageing rockers such as Motorhead regularly play here to vast crowds. Whilst the town centre is not appealing, Kavarna is rapidly developing into a sophisticated resort since developers moved in to create a yacht port and variety of luxury, waterside apartments and it is not surprising why this has happened; Kavarna beach is a quiet tranquil inlet - one of the few places on the Northern coast where it is possible to water ski.

Further afield the rocky red cliffs of Cape Kaliakra share its legends of old. The rugged cape stretches 2 km into the sea and is home to the remains of a Thracian fortress named Tirisis. The fortress allegedly guarded the treasure Lyzimah, the successor of Alexander the Great. Today the site houses a museum exhibiting many of the archaeological finds from the area. The Cape became a protected area in 1941 and is one of the few places where a rare species of monk seals bask alongside the areas dolphin population.

Shabla - a small coastal town further north is home to two large lakes, the Shablensko Ezero and the Ezerechko Ezero. They provide ideal conditions for a host of wildlife including lots of herons. Neighbouring Durankaluk is Bulgaria's last town before you cross the border into Romania. The town is 75 km north of Balchik and like Shabla, is also home to a large lake, which is rich in fish.