The Euxinograd Palace was the Black Sea residence of the monarchs from the Third Bulgarian Tsardom, and is still a residence of the Bulgarian government today. Photo: BGNES
The Euxinograd Palace in the Black Sea residence of the Bulgarian government, and the partly restored ruins of the ancient and medieval fortress of Kastritsi located within the residence estate will be opened for tourists in April 2016 after two years of restoration.
The restoration of the French-style Euxinograd Residence, which is located on the Black Sea coast to the north of the city of Varna, has been carried out with BGN 9.8 (app. EUR 4.9 million) in EU funding under Operational Program “Regional Development".
In addition to the Euxinograd Palace and its park, the project includes the partial restoration of the Late Antiquity Byzantine and medieval Bulgarian fortress.
The restoration was originally supposed to be completed in October 2015 but was delayed because of the BGN 80,000 (app. EUR 40,000) purchase from Western Europe of several replicas of the original 19th century royal furniture.
Now MeglenaRoeva, manager of the EuxinogradResidence, has announced that the place will start welcoming tourists as of April 2016, reports the Trud daily.
Kastritsi was a major and thriving city during the Late Medieval Ages, and the annual excavations of its ruins keep yielding new exciting archaeological finds (see below).
The fortress and its buildings have been especially well preserved because it is inside the enclosed territory of the EuxinogradResidence of the Bulgariangovernment, which has been with limited public access since the end of the 19th century.
This has prevented treasure hunters and looters from damaging it, unlike what they have been doing to thousands of other archaeological and historical sites all over Bulgaria.
The park of the Euxinograd Residence includes the ruins of the Kastritsi Fortress, an entire medieval city, and has a total area of about 222 acres. Photos: BGNES
In addition to the ancient and medieval ruins of Kastritsi, the tours in the Euxinograd Residence will include the 130-year-old palace, the former royal stables, the park with the lilies, the rosarium (i.e. rose garden), and the four greenhouses – all part of the original ensemble of the former royal residence. A guided tour in the entire site is expected to take about 2 hours.
Roeva has made it clear that the Euxinograd Residence and the Kastritsi Fortress will be opened for visitors all year round, and tourist visits will not be limited even in August when members of the Bulgarian Cabinet and Parliament usually go on vacations there.
Admission tickets for the site are expected to cost about BGN 12-15 (app. EUR 6-7.5) for adults, and BGN 5 (app. EUR 2.5) for students and retirees.
Not unlike another popular cultural tourism spot on Bulgaria’s Black Sea coast, the Balchik Palace with its Botanical Garden, the Euxinograd Residence will also be made available for wedding ceremonies but at the price of BGN 5,000 (app. EUR 2,500).
Unlike the Euxinograd Palace and park, which used to be partially open for visitors before its restoration, the ruins of the Kastritsi Fortress have never been visited by tourists to date.
The latest interesting finds from the archaeological digs at the Kastritsi Fortress have been coins of the Mamluk Sultanate of Cairo – a dynasty of Cumans (a medieval people who inhabited the steppes north of the Black Sea in the Middle Ages) which ruled Egypt and the Levant for more than two centuries in the Late Middle Ages, until its Sultanatewas conquered by the Ottoman Turks in 1517 AD.
The Mamlukcoins discovered in the fortress of Kastritsi near Bulgaria’s Varna were most probably brought by merchantstrading in the Black Sea and the Eastern Mediterranean.
The management of the Euxinograd Residence of the Bulgarian government is looking to turn the place into a highly successful destination for cultural tourism.
The construction of the Euxinograd Palace started during the reign of Knyaz (King) Alexander I Batenberg (r. 1879-1886), shortly after Bulgaria’s National Liberationfrom theOttoman Turkish Empire in 1878. However, the palace was completed and inaugurated only in 1892.
The present restoration works have been designed to reconstruct the original appearance of the interior of the Euxinograd Palace on the first and second floor, and to turn the third floor into a museum.
Much of the original Chippendale, Rococo, and “Louis XVI" furniture has been restored, and will be presented in the rooms used by the royal family of the ThirdBulgarian Tsardom.
The former stables of the royal family of the Third Bulgarian Tsardom (1878-1946) will also be turned into a museum while the building of the guardsmen will be refashioned into a tourist information center.
The restorations include part of the ruins of the Kastritsi Fortress as well as the residence park, which has an area of 900 decares (app. 222 acres).
The Euxinograd Palace on the Black Sea coast north of Varna is the oldest residence of the Bulgarian rulers from the Third Bulgarian Tsardom outside of the capital Sofia.
The Late Antiquity Byzantine and medieval Bulgarian fortress and city ofKastritsi is located to the northeast of the Bulgarian Black Sea city of Varna, in the Euxinograd Residence of the Bulgarian government on the northern coast of the Bay of Varna. It occupies the St. George (St. Yani) Cape. The fortress of Kastritsi was built by the Byzantine (Eastern Roman) Empire in the 5th century AD, and was expanded in the 6th century AD. It was destroyed in the barbarianinvasions of the SlavsandAvars in the early 7th century AD, and was abandoned. The Kastritsi Fortress was restored in the middle of the 13th century AD by the Second Bulgarian Empire (1186-1396 AD), and emerged as a medieval Black Sea city. The preserved medievalfortresswalls rises to up to 3 meters. The outer fortress wall has a total of 5 rectangular fortresstowers with a diameter of 5.5 meters, and a three-meter wide gate. The fortress’s keep is a rectangular multi-story tower located in its western corner. The inside of the fortress features the ruins of a city from the High and Late Middle Ages, including an entire densely populated residential quarter of stone-masonry homes, and a one-nave, one-apse church.
It is believed that Kastritsi is one of the Late Antiquity Byzantine fortresses on the Black Sea coast described by the 6th century AD Byzantine chroniclerProcopius of Caesarea (ca. 500-ca. 560 AD) though its name was not mentioned. The KastritsiFortress was described in the early 14th century by cartographers from Genoa as in the High and Late Middle Ages it had thriving commercial relations with the Italian city-states Genoa and Venice. Kastritsi’s fortifications protected an area of 20 decares (app. 5 acres). The discoveredskeletons of men, women, and children indicated that the city’s population was slaughtered by the invading Ottoman Turks who conquered the Second Bulgarian Empire at the end of the 14th century AD. The Turkssettled Kastritsi briefly but abandoned the city in the 15th century (the most recent coins discovered there are from 1404 AD). Some Bulgarianarchaeologists have hypothesized that the Ottoman Turks might have vacated the fortress of Kastritsi because of the raids of the Vlachs (Wallachians) from the north.
In the Late Middle Ages, Kastritsi was a typical medievalcity with narrow streets and large homes. The archaeological remains of the medievalhomes, streets, churches, and fortifications of Kastritsi are very well preserved allowing the Bulgarianarchaeologists to discover lots of pottery vessels, metal tools, decorations, and over 2,500 coins. If it is researched more thoroughly, conserved, and exhibited, Kastritsi has the potential to show a fully preserved medieval Bulgarian city with a major potential for historical and culturaltourism, according to archaeologists.
The Kastritsi City and Fortress north of Bulgaria’s Varna is especially well preserved because it is inside the enclosed territory of the EuxinogradResidence of the Bulgariangovernment, which has been with limited public access since the end of the 19th century, meaning that treasure hunters and looters could not do damage to it, unlike what they have done to thousands of other archaeological and historical sites all over Bulgaria. The Euxinograd Residence was built on lands that the first ruler of Liberated Bulgaria, i.e. the Third Bulgarian Tsardom, Knyaz Alexander I Batenberg, received as a gift from the Greek Bishopric in Varna after Bulgaria’s Liberation from the Ottoman Empire in 1878. Thus, access to the site has been limited since 1890, and Kastritsi is said to be the only Bulgarian medieval city with a preserved port which has not seen any construction after the Late Middle Ages.
The KastritsiFortress and City was first excavated in 1899 by Czech-Bulgarian archaeologist Karel Skorpil, who, together with his brother Hermann Skorpil, is the founder of modern-day Bulgarian archaeology. Its most recent archaeologicalexcavations have been conducted every summer since 2004 by archaeologists from the Varna Museum of Archaeology led by its Director, Prof. Valentin Pletnyov. The recent archaeologicaldiscoveries there include a treasure of 166 silver coins of Bulgarian Tsar Ivan Alexander (r. 1331-1371 AD) and his son Mihail Asen, who was declared a “Co-Tsar" by Ivan Alexander in 1331 upon the latter’s assumptionof the Bulgarian throne. Mihail Asen died in a battle against the Ottoman Turks near Sredets (today’s Sofia) in 1355 AD. The treasure in question is one of the largest medieval Bulgarian treasures discovered in recent years. In addition to these and many other Bulgarian coins, other0treasure finds fromKastritsi include Byzantine, Tartar, Vlachian, Moldavian, Venetian, and Ottoman Turkish coins. These include a treasure of silvercoins of OttomanSultan Bayezid I “The Lighting"(r. 1389-1402 AD) and of Wallacian ruler Mircea the Elder (Mircea I of Wallachia (r. 1386-1418 AD) who held the region of Dobrudzha (today’s Northeast Bulgaria and Southeast Romania) in the early 15th century. The finds also include a rare gold coin from the Antiquityminted in the Ancient Greek colony of Callatis (today’s Mangalia in Romania) during the reign of Lysimachus (r. 306-281 BC), one of Alexander I the Great’s generals, and one of his diadochi (successors) who became King of Macedon, Thrace, and Asia Minor.
The Bulgarian archaeologists have excavated more than one-fifth of the territory of the KastritsiFortress, have started some conservationefforts, and have opened part of the site for tourists.