November 30, 2008

Walking Tour of Varna
Varna, Bulgaria

The cold, miserable Bulgarian winter weather of yesterday turned into sunshine today, giving perfect opportunity to saunter about the popular port city in the crisp, late afternoon air. Our host's apartment is smack in the middle of one of nicest parts of town, which made it real easy to step out and explore some of the best parts of town.

A sampling of some of Varna's objects of interest:

Ridiculous Fashion Sense and Odd Street Performers

Sometimes I feel like all the worst U.S. fashions from the 80s and 90s have filtered down to Eastern Europe, only to find new life. Seriously, WTF is this guy thinking? Clearly seen too many Fresh Prince of Bell-Air episodes. (…not that the chick is doing much better)

And this dude, with his sweater-wearing dog, plays his electronic keyboard with the dog singing along to the music. Seriously? I'd pay 'em to be quite.

Sea Garden and Beach

Varna's largest, oldest and best known public park, also said to be the largest landscaped park in the Balkans. It sports an open-air theatre and the Varna Zoo (1961), observatory and planetarium (1968), children's amusement park (1964), dolphinarium (1984), and plant species from the Netherlands, Germany, the Czech Republic and France.

The best is host is a saturated stretch of empty nightclub structures in various states of disrepair, all but abandoned during the winter months.

National Naval Museum

Founded in 1883 and located in the Sea Garden, this museum is said to be one of the cultural highlights of the city. The National Naval Museum holds fund of 70,000 exhibits, which present and preserve the history of the Bulgarian naval fleet and commercial shipping. The museum houses a ship-museum with four vessels, two helicopters and ship armaments. The permanent collection of exhibits includes uniforms, medals, navigation equipment, etc.

Thermae (Ancient Roman Public Hot Baths)

The Roman city, Odessus, covered 116 acres in present-day central Varna and had prominent public baths erected in the late 2nd century CE, now the largest Roman remains in Bulgaria (the building was 330 feet wide, 230 feet long, and 80 feet high) and fourth-largest known Roman baths in Europe.

What a great view to have from your apartment's balcony. You can see a satellite image of the ruins on Google Maps.

(scroll the image below left and right)

Short Churches

During the time when Bulgaria was ruled by the Ottoman Empire the Orthodox faith remained strong. The construction of a new Orthodox church was occasionally granted by the Sultan, but the populous was often only given a ridiculously short period of time during which it could be built—typically 30-40 days for total construction.

No church was permitted to have a spire which exceeded the height of a mosque, thus many churches of the time were (and can still be seen) built half way into the ground.

The Dormition of the Theotokos Cathedral

The Dormition of the Theotokos Cathedral is the largest and most famous Bulgarian Orthodox cathedral in Varna, officially opened on August 30, 1886. It's the residence of the bishopric of Varna and Preslav and one of the symbols of the city.

(scroll the image above left and right)

Christmas Lights

It feels so wonderful to be in a place with Christmas lights and decorations. For years I've found myself in places where such things aren't really popular, considered a novelty, isn't part of the culture, or is just too impoverished or remote to care. So nice…

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