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Nessebar, Bulgaria

Location map: Nessebar
Known also as: Nessebur, Nesebar

Distance to district city: 37 km.

Price Category: 2 What's this?

Sightseeing nearby: Emine Cape

Location: The town of Nessebar has about 10,000 inhabitants and extends over a small peninsula. It lies 37km northeast of Bourgas. Its beach is considered to be one of the finest along the Black Sea coast due to a large sandy strip of land between the town and the village of Ravda, covered with clean golden sand.

History: The present-day town is the successor of a Thracian fishermen's settlement named Menabryia (meaning literally 'the town of Mena'), the foundation of which dates back to the 2nd century BC. Later it remained the only Doric colony along the Black Sea coast, as the rest were typical Ionic settlements. The Greeks named it Messembria (which was later transformed into Nessabar by the Slavs), and it grew into a big and well-fortified town-state. The town benefited from natural protection from both the land and the sea. Remains suggest the existence of aqueducts, a sewerage system, fortified wails, an amphitheatre and numerous cult edifices (including an impressive temple of Apollo) at that time. The town became a popular commercial centre as a variety of goods from the Aegean and the Mediterranean regions were traded there and it also minted its own coins in the 5th century BC. Two centuries later, it founded its own colony called Navlohos near Obzor. The whole land between Nessebar and Obzor used to be a granary that supplied the two colonies with food as well as goods of exchange. In the 1st century BC the town surrendered to Marcus Lukulus' legions and was subjected top Roman domination, during which the construction of a second colony of Messembria began and was finished. The second colony, built to the south of Nessebar, was named Anhialo (present-day Pomorie).
In the early Middle Ages the town rebuilt its fortress walls and stayed part of the Byzantine Empire until 812 when the protobulgarian Khan Kroum conquered it, including it in the territory of Bulgaria. During the reign of Ivan Alexander the town went thorough a cultural and economic boom, and occupied substantial territories beyond the stretch of the peninsula. It was around that period when most of the churches of Nessebar, remains of which are to be found in the present-day town, were built. In 1366 the knights of Amadeus of Savoy conquered the town, and then sold it to Byzantium for 15,000 golden ducats. In 1453, shortly after Constantinople fell under Turkish domination the town was conquered by the Ottoman Empire and went through a period of decay. The Liberation found Nessabar as a small fishermen's settlement, with well-developed viticulture on the hills above the town.

Places of Interest: Nowadays, Nessebar is one of the most popular resorts among foreign tourists for its ancient spirit and well-preserved remains. According to legends, the churches of Nessebar were no less than 41, which, when compared to the small population of the town, make the latter one of the world's settlements with the highest number of churches per capita. One of the oldest sanctuaries is the Basilica built on the coast most probably around the beginning of 5th century. The Old Bishop's Residence located in the centre of the town is probably the most impressive church in Nessebar. It is more than 25m long and 22m wide while its three naves were decorated with a colonnade and arches. St. Ivan the Baptist Church was built much later, in the 11th century, and is a typical cross-domed church with three naves, and four columns supporting the dome. One can see there fragments of frescoes dating back to the 13th century. The St. Stefan Church or the so-called New Bishop's Residence, situated in the vicinity of the harbour, was built in the 10th century. Its decoration is so picturesque that it marked the beginning of a typical local style, seen in the construction of churches of later times. The facade of the church is ornamented with built-in glazed ceramic figures of different colours and tiles. The same style was followed in the construction of St. Todor Church, though only two original facades have been preserved until present days. The St. John Aliturgetos Church perching high above the harbour is considered to be the most beautiful one. It has three naves and the decoration of the facades is of unique beauty.
Besides well-preserved churches, one can see the remains of fortress walls (best preserved at the old town's gate and the port), authentic medieval, Roman and Greek street pavements, fortifications of different epochs, administrative and other buildings. Some of the typical houses of Nessebar built in a unique style of the 16th-19th century are real architectural monuments (e.g. the houses of Diamanti, that of Panayot Mouskoyani, which hosts an ethnographic exhibition, the one of Captain Pavel). The old quarters of Nessebar show remarkable taste and mastership in the construction of houses, stone walls, and streets. The Turkish bath and the windmill at the beginning of the causeway are of particular interest.
Outside the town, one can visit the village of Aheloy, in the vicinity of which the Bulgarian Tsar Simeon I destroyed the armies of the Byzantine emperor Lion Foka. Aheloy is situated on the motorway to Bourgas near the mouth of the Aheloy River. The field of the landmark battle, which made the Bulgarian state the uncontestable dominion of the Balkan peninsula, is called nowadays Kokalos (having its root in the Bulgarian word for 'Bones') after the scattered corpses of killed soldiers.

Accommodation: The most famous hotels in the town are Messembria Hotel, Globus Hotel and Bourgas Hotel. There are also a lot of small hotels and private lodgings without prior booking (including in the old town. Traditionally, tourists arriving to the town are met by a bunch of local people offering accommodation at private houses and small hotels.

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Catering: The town is rich in restaurants, old-style mehanas and pubs ranging from the highest to the lower average class. Prices are somewhat above the average level of other old towns along the coast, though these are quite reasonable if compared to the nearby high-class resorts of Golden Sands, Albena or Sunny Beach.

Transport: There is a regular transport connecting Bourgas, Pomorie, Nessebar and Sunny Beach. Similarly to other seaside resorts during the peak season, there are a lot of private taxis and minibuses at competitive prices as well. Besides regular water transport to Bourgas, one can often hire local boatsmen to visit nearby places in the bay.

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