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History of Varna


Sail Training International

Varna Municipality

Varna na mladite

History of Varna

Varna is an ancient town and it seems its history begins… before history, in times when history had no name. The natural data- a crossroad location, bland climate with Mediterranean breath and the hospitable coast has ever advantageously influence the rising development of these parts through all historical times. Millions of years Varna is a stop along Via Pontica- the birds’ migration way. Hereby the waves of the great migration of peoples pass too. From the ages of the biblical Flood till the late Middle Age the roads of conquerors and civilizations cross marking these shores for any length of time. The town has been determined to witness lots of historical vicissitudes. Its vigorous thousands-of-years history entitles it to be considered a coeval of the European civilization.
More than 100 000 years ago – in the end of the late Old- Stone Age, the prehistoric man had found his “home” around the deep inlets and sea- side lakes in the vicinity of today’s Varna. In the Middle Stone Age the ancient man set nearby some of the few tracks of his presence in the European continent.
Thousands of years later, on the luxuriant sides of the Varna Lake, an ancient European civilization arose and flourished; it built the largest complex of submerged villages in South- Eastern Europe. This highly- developed prehistoric culture probably felt a prey of sudden weather changes which might have been in the basis of the Biblical myth about the Great Flood and the legendary Noah and his Ark.
Varna keeps the oldest tooled gold in the world. The magnificent samples of the ancient jewellery art reflections of the culture of a highly- developed civilization which preceded the ones that arose later along the banks of Tigris, Euphrates and Nile. In the Bronze Age to the shores of Varna Bay new inhabitants appeared- that thanks to the great Homer’s poem “The Iliad” became later famous under the name Thracians. During the whole first millennium BC the Thracians populated densely the shores of the bay and the Varna lakes. Here they settled 13 sites one of which became the basis of the future Odessos- one of the oldest European cities.
2 600 years ago settlers from Asia Minor Greek town of Millet founded the ancient Odessos (now Varna) where the Thracian settlement of the same name was. Excellent ceramists and sculptors worked in the town and chiseled and modelled marble statues and terracotta little figures of different deities, votive and sepulchral reliefs, fine painted utensils. Stately temples decorated with marble columns, capitals, epistles and reliefs, were constructed. In 4th century BC the town had its own coins, including silver and gold ones.
Roman culture set its mark on the town’s life. Portrait sculptures, sepulchral and dedication reliefs, beautiful utensils of ceramics, bronze and glass were made here; the traditional goldsmith’s art continued developing. Along with the traditional deities, new ones came to be respected; among them the list was headed by the healing gods Asclepius and Hygia. Typical Roman entertainment occurred, too- gladiators’ fights, and the big sports and cultural festivities- in which sportsmen from other regions participated- were renamed Darzaleia games in honour of the great god of Odessos- Darzalas. The town minted its own bronze coins with Emperors’ images and the town’s name up to the middle of 3rd century.
In 4th- 5th century, the ancient culture of Odessos graduallydeclined and the early Christian culture developed: lots of churches were built decorated with marble, mosaics and mural painting, and in ceramic and metal works the symbolism of the new idea came into its own.
In that period Odessos was centre of bishopry and for a short time- centre of a large administrative province in the early Byzantine State that included even the Cyclades in the Mediterranean Sea.
In 681 AD on this territory Proto- Bulgarians together with the settled earlier Slav tribes set the foundations of the Bulgarian state organizations and culture. The settlement- successor of the Ancient Odessos, was named Varna by its new inhabitants. In 863 Bulgarians adopted Christianity and soon after that in the town environs big and richly decorated monasteries were erected. They became centres of educational and literary activities to spread the old- Bulgarian script and culture. During the Second Bulgarian Kingdom (12th- 14th century) Varna was the largest Bulgarian port marked in the Middle Age portulans and sea charts. The town became a centre of bishopry with lots of churches that showed remarkable models of architectural and decorative mounting.
In 1389 Varna was also conquered and ravaged by the Ottomans.
Till the middle of the 15th century, in the periods of lull and peace, Varna became more and more a brisk centre of import and export trade, mainly by Genoese and Venetian ships.
During 16th- 19th century Varna was the biggest Black Sea port of the Ottoman Empire.
Between 18th and 19th century- from the Bulgarian National Revival to the Emancipation of the country from the Ottoman yoke, in Varna’s churches worked famous iconographers and wood-carvers of the Tryavna and the Black Sea schools. In Varna’s sea- side area one can still see Bulgarian houses from the middle of 19th century with their typical stone- and- wood architecture showing the big mastership of the builders of that time. The first Bulgarian commercial steam- shipping company was founded in Varna. In 1895- 1906 the new port was constructed- the largest for the whole West Black Sea coast; local and West European insurance companies and banks were established here. The town became one of the most important cultural centres in Bulgaria. A Commercial Academy and a solid number of up-to-date public works, private buildings and fabrics with joint –stock- Bulgarian/ foreign- capitals were erected to give a new, European image to Varna. A theatre was built upon the endowments of all citizens. The resort and balneotherapy activities developed.
In the twentieth century Varna increased several times in territory. The town became a city and marked an impetuous spiritual and economic development. Its streets were widened and its main boulevards- established. Its architectural “façade” sharply changed. Many of its today’s sights were erected then- the Drama and Opera Theatre, the Maritime Gardens, the Railway Station, the Palace of Culture and Sports, the Festival and Congress Centre, the large resort complexes, the Seaport, the International Airport and the Asparuh’s Bridge.
For all these 2 600 years the city is a point of intersection of cultures and epochs, religions and myths, junction of roads connecting countries and continents. Varna and its surroundings are studded with the signs of all epochs which the town has survived.
A unique succession of cultures and traditions founds the cultural layers of the modern city even to this day.


The ethos of the new century is already shown in Varna. On the steady presence foundations the city builds the additional storey of its future.
Varna is not only the summer capital of Bulgaria but a hudred percent modern and bright city with European detachment. In its architectural view remarkable buildings enter. Next to the classical baroque of the Archeological Museum, the modern body of the City Hall rises. In a broken-up eclecticism the gleam of up-to-date construction glass window displays alternates with the severity of the old architecture and creates the unique image of the city in which the town masonry of the beginning of 20th century strikes the observer, too.
But the genuine face of Varna is its citizens- warm- hearted and amiable, managing to work and relax well…Recently, Varna increases its population in unique rates: 12 500 people annually in average. The rest and sports areas- the “Varna” Stadium under reconstruction, the open- air and sheltered water-pools, and children’s and sport playgrounds and complexes- are oasises against the stress of the big city life.
In the summer time Varna trebles its inhabitants. The motley throng of guests conquers the streets, shops, cafes and restaurants of the sea capital.
The local infra- structure is well- developed.
In the municipality well-synchronized are all types of transport.
The infra- structure of Varna is permanently improving to catch up with the future.
Varna is already not the eastern boundary of Bulgaria rather than the eastern boundary of Europe. Its entrance is the port.
Renewal of the Varna Port is a stupendous project. The Maritime Gardens will stretch to the Varna- East port as well as the construction of new passenger and yachting terminals will turn this Varna zone into the most beautiful and demanded part of the city.

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