Nessebar Island

(continuer en français) – Published: March 27, 2022

Nessebar, Bulgaria

After visiting sites associated with the tragic struggles with the Turks or the dark years of communism, arriving on the Black Sea shore gives a more cheerful image of Bulgaria. Tourist resorts have long been bringing in hard currency for the state, but there are also authentic historical sites.

Indeed, the Bulgarian Black Sea coast has a number of ancient settlements that participated in the emergence of European civilisation, mainly around the neighbouring Mediterranean. Nessebar is one of the most representative ones, having gone through 3000 years of history.

Originally it was a small island at a short distance from the shore. This was an ideal position to facilitate its defence. Over time, a sandy isthmus was formed, a practical feature to facilitate the arrival of visitors.

The ancient colony

The Greeks came to found a colony here in search of new trading opportunities. They built walls to protect the city. The Byzantines and Ottomans reinforced them, and today they are open to many visitors.

The walls did not protect against everything. There were many battles for control of the city. Fortunately most of them took place on the mainland, sparing destruction, but the city changed hands several times.

A city of churches

Most of the old churches date back to the Byzantine period. Even under Ottoman rule, Orthodox religious practice was tolerated, which allowed the maintenance of the places of worship. The churches have become tourist attractions and are visited for their interior frescoes, unless they have been transformed into art galleries.

The oldest, the Basilica of Saint Sophia, is reduced to a few sections of wall and a series of arches, but its foundation in the 5th century attests to the antiquity and constancy of Orthodox worship.

The tourist attraction

In addition to the religious buildings, the town has preserved its traditional habitat where wood complements stone in the construction of houses. Along the cobbled streets, a coherent group of houses from the past transports the visitor back in time.

Nessebar has been on the UNESCO World Heritage List since 1983. This has only increased the tourist pressure on a site that is closely bounded by the sea. While the monuments seem to be seriously maintained, it is a pity that the tourist trinket trade has come to hide the most interesting places with invasive stalls.

The sea is still there

If Nessebar was once one of the important trading ports on the Black Sea, the change in the size of ships has put the small port out of the game. There is still a seaside activity, although limited by the configuration of the island, which has only narrow beaches.

In addition to its architectural heritage, the town is trying to enhance its seaside to make it a complementary tourist attraction.

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8 comments

    • Tourism in Bulgaria often flies under the international radar as it is either aimed at domestic visitors and those from neighbouring countries, or is beach-oriented with all-inclusive holidays. You have to slip between the two to discover the rich history and architecture, which are quite typical of the countries in the region. Thank you for reading.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for your interest. Bulgaria is a small country that is fun to travel around in search of historical and architectural sites that are not really promoted for international tourism but rather for local visitors.

      Liked by 1 person

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