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Phespirit goes to Bulgaria
Nesebâr     May/June 2001

AROUND BULGARIA

Map of Bulgaria

1 Nesebâr  [Несебър]

This town has been present on the UNESCO World Heritage List since 1983. UNESCO says:

       Situated on a rocky peninsula of the Black Sea, the 3000 year-old site of Nessebar was originally a Thracian settlement (Menebria). The city then became a Greek colony and one of the most important strongholds of the Byzantine Empire. The city's monuments date mostly from the Hellenistic period and include the acropolis, an Apollo temple and an agora. Other important monuments are the basilica of Stara Mitropolia and wooden houses built in the 19th-century Plovdiv style.

Which is fair comment, although Phespirit never came across an acropolis or an Apollo temple or an agora. Not that he would have recognised, anyway. A beautiful place, nonetheless.

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2 Sunny Beach  [Слънчпм Бряг]

Slânchev Bryag - or 'Sunny Beach' to English speakers - is the largest beach resort in Bulgaria. This is where the Eastern Bloc would decamp to during Communist-era summer holidays.

After a day at the seaside, Phespirit returned to Nesebâr via the so-called water taxi.

For the entire journey, this ancient vehicle spluttered out black smog to the strains of increasingly distressing grinding noises before breaking down entirely just fifty yards from port.

Fortunately, the gentle winds showed favour enough to ease the wreck into a private harbour where Phespirit was put ashore and charged an outrageous seven leva for the service.

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3 Burgas  [Бургас]

The biggest and baddest of the Black Sea towns which Phespirit visited. Burgas, with its oil refinery, shipping fleets and chemical plants, is almost single-handedly responsible for all the pollution around this stretch of coast.

For this it is damned and dismissed.

Still, the centre of town is quite presentable, with its busy shops and pavement cafés. The girls in this part of Burgas have nothing to learn about mini-skirts, transparent hot pants and thongs.

So not all bad, then.

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4 Sozopol  [Созопол]

Sozopol, like Nesebâr, was built upon a small rocky peninsula in the Black Sea. Both towns were founded by Thracian tribes and later settled by the ancient Greeks. The Persians, the Romans, the Byzantines and the Ottomans have all passed through since. Now both towns depend on the tourist invasion for survival.

Despite the similarities, Phespirit favours Nesebâr. It just has an edge with its pretty architecture - both grand and simple - and its richer blend of history and throwaway modern life.

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5 River Ropotamo  [Ропотамо]

The area around the Ropotamo is protected as a nature reserve. The recommended way to see it is by boat along the river itself, although in practice Phespirit found he saw more wildlife whilst waiting forty-five minutes for the boat to show up than he did in the whole of his hour spent afloat. Wildlife such as .....

  • a plethora of turtles basking along the banks;
  • lizards fearlessly scurrying along the paths;
  • dragonflies of all descriptions filling the air.

The star turn, however, .....

  • a 4' long Whip Snake swimming across the river.

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6 Sliven  [Сливен]

Phespirit got the impression that the rest of Bulgaria looks down on Sliven because ninety percent of the townspeople are ethnic Gypsies with a lifestyle and traditions distinct from mainstream Bulgarian culture.

The town itself is dominated by relics of faded industrialisation, but the tree-lined roads and a terraced river running through the centre provide a pleasant enough veneer.

The most famous son of Sliven is Yordan Lechkov, outstanding midfielder from the Bulgarian national football team, and the man who scored the goal to put Germany out of the 1994 World Cup. Phespirit would have liked to shake his hand.

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7 Zheravna  [Жеравна]

A small village of 330 houses located in the middle of the eastern part of the Bulgarian Balkan mountains, a little way north-east of Sliven. Many of the wood and stone buildings are said to be over 300 years old.

The main design requirement for these small dwellings was that "they should be no taller than a man on a horse".

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  1. Nesebâr
  2. Sunny Beach
  3. Burgas
  4. Sozopol
  5. River Ropotamo
  6. Sliven
  7. Zheravna
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Nesebar Sunny Beach Burgas Sozopol River Ropotamo Sliven Zheravna