Bulgaria’s Varna Marks 95 Years as Black Sea Resort, Recalls Its First Foreign Tourists: French Intellectuals on Cruise

Bulgaria’s Varna Marks 95 Years as Black Sea Resort, Recalls Its First Foreign Tourists: French Intellectuals on Cruise

The cover of the new book "Varna and Its Residents in a Single Collection" presenting the early 20th century history of Bulgaria's Black Sea city of Varna in 720 old postcards. Photo: BTA

The cover of the new book “Varna and Its Residents in a Single Collection” presenting the early 20th century history of Bulgaria’s Black Sea city of Varna in 720 old postcards. Photo: BTA

The Bulgarian city of Varna has marked its 95th anniversary since receiving the formal status of a Black Sea resort, and the 117th anniversary since welcoming its first foreign tourists ever – a group of “French intellectuals".

Varna has not been just one of modern-day Bulgaria’s largest sea ports and the hub of summer tourism on the country’s northern Black Sea coast but it also boasts a rich cultural, historical, and archaeological heritage.

It is the home of the Varna Chalcolithic Necropolis and the 7,000-year-old Varna Gold Treasure discovered there, which is also known as the world’s oldest processed gold. And it is also the heir of the Ancient Greek, Thracian, and Roman city of Odessos (Odessus), and of a medieval Bulgarian city.

Varna was declared a special sea resort by the authorities of Varna Municipality in what then was the Tsardom of Bulgaria (1878-1944/46) on June 10, 1921.

In 1925, it was official declared a resort city by the then Bulgarian Tsar Boris III (r. 1918-1943). The same year a municipal cultural bureau was established.

The 95th anniversary of Varna’s first declaration of its status a resort has been celebrated with a public meeting entitled “Varna – 95 Years as a Sea Resort", reports BTA.

During the event, Sonya Georgieva, head of the municipal directorate on tourism, reminded that the first time the Bulgarian Black Sea city was visited by international tourists was in 1909.

This was a year after Bulgaria’s Declaration of Independence from Ottoman Turkey whose vassal the newly liberated Bulgarian state was between 1878 and 1908.

The first foreign tourists in Varna were a group of more than 200 French intellectuals who arrived by a cruise ship from the French Mediterranean port of Marseille.

They were received very warmly in Varna, with the Bulgarian government allocating a total of BGN 10,000 for their welcome.

It was because of this visit that the first tourist guidebook for Varna was published in French.

During their stay in Varna, the French tourists visited the “Pobitite Kamani” known in English as the Stone Desert, a beautiful desert-like rock formation to the northwest of the city, and the water springs near the town of Devnya which is the successor of the Roman and Byzantine city of Marcianople (Marcianopolis).

In her presentation, Georgieva has also reminded that the seaside beach in Varna for both women and men was opened in 1932. Even earlier, in 1926, the city’s sea baths, were opened and were visited by a total of 6,000 tourists during their first season.

Present-day Varna and its wider urban area including resorts such as Golden Sands and Sunny Day feature a total of 220 hotels.

A book entitled “Varna and Its Residents in a Single Collection" has been presented in the Black Sea city as part of the events for the anniversary.

The 270-page book authored by Ofeliya Hadzhikoleva is a collection of a total of 720 old postcards from Varna as well as photographs, facts, and personal stories from diaries of Varna residents dating back to 100 years ago.

The book has been sponsored by the Culture Fund of Varna Municipality and Port Varna.

The Stone Desert ("Pobiti Kamani" literally meaning "stones stuck into the ground") is a natural desert-like rock formation in Northeast Bulgaria which spurred interest on part of the first foreign tourists visiting Varna back in 1909. Photo: infobgv, Wikipedia

The Stone Desert (“Pobiti Kamani” literally meaning “stones stuck into the ground”) is a natural desert-like rock formation in Northeast Bulgaria which spurred interest on part of the first foreign tourists visiting Varna back in 1909. Photo: infobgv, Wikipedia