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VARNA

Varna is an important administrative, economic and cultural centre, the largest Bulgarian seaport and an internationally renowned resort. It is known as Bulgaria's Black Sea capital.

It came into being during the 6th century B.C. as a Greek city-state of colonists from Miletus, known as Odessos, which means "city on water". In a short time it became one of the most significant ports and commercial centres on the Black Sea. It was within the borders of Alexander the Great's state for a few decades. After his death, it was once again independent. It was annexed to the territories of the Roman Empire in 15 A.D. That was the era of the city's commercial and cultural flowering. The great ancient poet Ovidius stayed here on his way to the city of Tomi - the present-day Romanian city of Constanta, where he was exiled by Julius Caesar. (The reason for his exile was his poem "The Art of Love", a type of manual for seduction, and more likely - the poet's relationship with the emperor's daughter.) The name Varna was accepted after the Slavic invasions during the 6-7th century. At the end of the 8th century, the city was within the boundaries of the Bulgarian state. After many wars between Bulgaria and Byzantium, Tsar Kaloyan conclusively annexed Odessos to the Bulgarian state in 1201; it was an important fortress and port until it fell under Ottoman rule.

LANDMARKS
• The Sea Garden (situated over an area of 85 hectares) with rare Mediterranean plants - a national park of garden and park art, in which one can see the Naval Museum, the astronomical observatory with the Nicolaus Copernicus Planetarium, an aquarium, a dolphinarium, a small children's rowing canal, a lake for paddleboats, a zoo.
• The Chalcolithic Necropolis of Varna: the oldest presently known jewelry and items fashioned from gold (fourth millenium B.C.) were discovered in these graves.
• Varna's museums - archeological, ethnographic, of natural history, naval, Bulgarian Revival (late 19th century), of the history of Varna, of medical history, of health care, the Vladislav Varnenchik Park-Museum.
• The Holy Godmother's Cathedral (1886), one of the "visiting cards" of Varna. It was built by a Petersburg architectural design. It is of interest because of its murals and icons.
• The Drama Theatre, built approximately a century ago in Viennese style.
• The Puppet Theatre, where the annual Golden Dolphin Festival of puppet artistry is held.
• The Art Gallery, opened in 1950.
The Roman Thermae (thermal baths) of the 2nd century, covering an area of 7000 m2 - the largest ancient public building discovered as yet in Bulgaria. Next to them stands the St. Athanasius' Church (17th century) with its interesting frescos, icons, wood-carved altar and bishop's throne.
• The Roman bathhouse (3rd century), built from stone and brick, with waterproof plaster and marble tiles on the floor.
• The Festival complex, built in front of the entrance to the Sea Garden, which is a site for many international events - the Varna Summer Musical Festival, the Love is Crazy International Film Festival, The International Ballet Competition, the Biannual World Festival of graphic design.
• The Palace of Culture and Sport, which is situated on the road to Golden Sands (Zlatni Pyasatsi).
• The Russian Monument in the Seaside Park.
• Asparuh's Bridge (2050 m in length) - part of the Black Sea highway, which connects the centre of the city with the Galata and Asparuh sections of the city. It is used by the local extreme sports club "Adrenaline" for organizing bungee jumping. Remains of Asparuh's Rampart, built 13 centuries ago by the founder of the Bulgarian state against the invasions of the Byzantine fleet, can be seen next to the bridge.
• Cape Galata with its beautiful meadows among the deciduous forest, many rocks and comfortable spots for fishing and clamming.
• Lake Varna - the largest and deepest bay-lake on the Bulgarian Black Sea coast, it is separated from the sea by a 2 km long strip of land. To the south one can see the Dzhanavar hill with its early Christian basilica.
• Pobitite Kamani Reserve (The Rammed Rocks, but also known as the Fossil or Stone Forresf) 18 km from Varna. It contains rock columns situated over an area of 5 km2, which resemble the ruins of an ancient temple. Scattered among sand and sparse vegetation, they give the locale a desert character. Individual figures in this unique natural phenomenon are 5-7 meters in height and up to 3 meters in diameter. According to scientists they are geological formations of limestone and sandstone, which have been eroded over the last 50 million years by the seawater rushing into these areas during the Miocene era.
The Aladzha (multi-colored) Cave Monastery of the Holy Trinity (12-14th century) is situated in a beautiful forested locale 15 km from Varna. It is one of the many monk cave domiciles (over 500), arising in natural caves during the time of feudalism, when the ascetic hermit movement of hesychasm (teaching of divine energy) was spreading. It consists of a chain of cells, common rooms, two churches and a chapel on two levels. It was called by this name because of the one-time multi-colored murals, the easy access to which was fatal for them. It was the busiest monastery during the Second Bulgarian Kingdom and during the first years of the Ottoman rule. The persecution of the Christians during that time of oppression led to its desolation and depopulation. On the initiative of Czech archeologists - the Skorpil brothers, in 1912 Aladzha monastery was declared a national antiquity, and in 1957 - a cultural monument of national significance.

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