Balchik – The Black Sea Pearl
The toponym is of an ancient Bulgarian origin, but it was not until the middle of the 16th century that it was officially recognized. In the beginning of the 17th century, by old tradition kept alive over the centuries and accepted by the Ottomans, a town with the new name of Balchik was built on the ruins of Kravuna. It was declared a district centre under a Sultan’s firman. Soon after 1847, the Bulgarian centres of spiritual culture were burnt down. However, those were the times of the Bulgarian National Revival, which had great impact on events, so in 1866-1870 they were restored. In 1872, 7000 subjects of the Sultan – Bulgarians, Turks, Greeks, Jews and Gagauzi, inhabited the place.
The town had already become a ‘cosmopolitan’ centre and conditions were conducive to the formation of a stable Bulgarian community, whose concern was to be opening of schools and building of churches. That became possible under the protection of the eminent patriot of Balchik, granddad Koicho Raichov, born in Tryavna. In the modern history of Bulgaria the town is known as one of the first 66 districts and district centres. Between 1879 and 1959 it was the centre of one of the wealthiest and most prosperous districts.
In the beginning of the 19th century 7 joint-stock companies were already operating there – wine making and leather factories, hops and tobacco processing factories, two flourmills and stone quarries. Education developed successfully, too. The St. St. Cyril and Methodius district library was opened; a symphonic orchestra and a town choir were set up, and the Chernomorets Sports Society was founded.
Today the town of Balchik is a well-known international resort with its rich historical past and sites, incredible architectural style of its buildings, beautiful countryside and kind and hospitable people. In proximity to the town are the world-known Black-Sea resorts of Albena and Golden Sands, the monuments of history in Varna, the Aladja Monastery and the Stone Forest natural phenomenon. In the town there are a lot of museums and art galleries, monuments and churches.
A really impressive place is the Museum of History and Archaeology with its unique numismatic collection and exceptional objects of the ancient and mediaeval culture of past civilizations, as well as the ethnographic house where the urban and rural everyday life have been presented. Another site worthy to visit is the national-revival complex comprising the restored school from the same epoch, next to the St. Nicholas Church with its original icons made by icon-painters from the Samokov and Tryavna schools, and the ruins of the ancient and mediaeval town of Dionysopolis and Kravuna.
The art gallery has one of the best collections in the country. Nowadays the town is also a centre of a number of traditional cultural events and festivals.
THE PALACE IN BALCHIK – THE SUMMER-DREAM OF A QUEEN In 1924, Queen Maria of Romania was fascinated by that heavenly nook – the Bulgarian piece of land, nestling between the white rocks of Balchik and the sea. The centuries-old trees, the wild flowers, the brooks and the birds, even the old mills that had long died away and the dried stone fountains enchanted the First Lady of Romania. The Italian architects Augusto and Amerigo designed the Peaceful Nest. The extravagant minaret imparts some oriental charm to the palace. The old mills were restored and the new buildings were a continuation of the architectural style of the past – their lower parts were made of Balchik stone and their roofs were covered with Turkish tiles. The Swiss garden designer Jules Janine created the magnificent vegetable kingdom of the park. The queen’s stone throne is the favourable place of tourists.
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