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MELNIK

Melnik is the smallest town in Bulgaria, situated among the picturesque Sandstone Cliffs of Melnik - Pliocene lake formations on the southwestern slopes of the Pirin Mountain. Dug into these sand pyramids, which one could describe as natural sculptures with a variety of forms and lines, is a type of wine cellar in which the famous Melnik wine is aged.
The settlement was founded by Thracians. During the time of the
Romans and Slavs it was a significant cultural and administrative centre. Its name has a Slavic etymology. It was within the boundaries of the Bulgarian state since the 7th century, after which came periods of stagnation during the Ottoman rule and blooming during the National Revival era. The production of tobacco and quality wines turned the town into a flourishing commercial centre. Beautiful homes were built; funds were set aside for enlightenment. Well-known National-Revival educators -Emanuil Vaskidovich (born here), Neofit Rilski and Hristaki Pavlovich - worked in Melnik.
After the Liberation the town remained under Ottoman rule and declined. It lost its traditional connections with the Aegean Sea and Vardar Macedonia; the plant louse, Philoxera, destroyed the vineyards; and, during the Balkan War (1912), it was almost completely reduced to ashes. After their own liberation from the Ottoman rule its inhabitants numbered no more than 1000. Today they number only about 500, but the old traditions are restored and Melnik offers tourists its wine cellars, unique architectural monuments and beautiful nature. It has been declared a cultural and historical reserve.

LANDMARKS
• Old houses with rich architecture and beautiful arrangement, the most renowned of which are: Kordopulovata, Bolyarskata (Byzantine), Pashovata, Tsintsarovata, and Velevata among others.
• The ruins of St. Nicholas' Monastery (12th century).
• The historic Rozhen Monastery (12-13* century) known as The Nativity of the Godmother 6 km from Melnik, south of the village of Rozhen. Erected in 1217, the monastery was destroyed by fire and ransacked many times. The modern temple is from the end of the 16th century. The interior murals depict 150 Biblical scenes. The adornments include precious icons, elegant candlesticks, crosses, and a wonderful wood-carved iconostasis. A miracle-working icon of the Holy
Godmother, known as Bogoroditsa Platitera, stands in the central niche. The entire monastery complex is prized as a monument of the Bulgarian culture. Not far from the monastery, near the Sts. Cyril and Methodius's Church, one can find the grave of the Bulgarian revolutionary Yane Sandanski, for whom the town of Sandanski is named.
• Boyar Slav's Fortress (13-14th century).
• Roman bridge.
• Old Turkish bathhouse.
• Remains of some of the many churches, which existed here in the past, the most significant of which is St. Nicholas the Miracle-Worker's (1756).
• The Melnik Earthen Pyramids - natural sculptures of gray-white Pliocene sand, mixed with layers of clay, in amazing forms (mushrooms, minarets, bears, Egyptian pyramids, etc.), which were formed as a result of a combination of water erosion, winds and the extremes of heat and cold.

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