Bulgaria's Burgas Starts Turning Black Sea Fishing Village into Mediterranean Style Ethnographic Complex

Bulgaria’s Burgas Starts Turning Black Sea Fishing Village into Mediterranean Style Ethnographic Complex

The picturesque fishing village of Chengene Skele in Bulgaria”s Burgas on the Black Sea coast with its canals is reminiscent of parts of Venice in Italy. Photo: Video grab from Burgas Municipality

The Black Sea city of Burgas in Southeast Bulgaria has begun a project to fashion it’s emblematic fishing village and port Chengene Skele into a Mediterranean-style ethnographic complex.

The project for Chengene Skele (“Skele") means “scaffold") is part of the efforts of Burgas Municipality to promote cultural tourism, oftentimes with EU funding.

Some of the city’s other cultural tourism projects include major underwater archaeology explorations and digs, restoration of major archaeological sites such as Aquae Calidae – Thermopolis, Port Burgos on Cape Foros, the Roman colony of Deultum, the St. Anastasia Island, and the current restoration of the 120-year-old Burgas Cathedral “St. Cyril and St. Methodius".

The ethnographic complex of the Chengene Skele fishing village in Burgas, whose streets are canals just like in Venice, is going to be reachable for tourist with special boat rides, and it is expect to become a major cultural tourism attraction as of summer 2021, Burgas Municipality says.

“The maritime canals for the boats with the fishermen’s homes on both sides are extremely picturesque. There is no doubt that Burgas’ visitors will want to go and see them," the municipal press service says in a release.

It adds that the idea to paint the facades in bright colors typical for Mediterranean coastal towns and fishing villages resulted from conversations between local fishermen and Burgas Mayor Dimitar Nikolov.

A photo showing the fishing village of Burano in Venice, Italy, one of the models for the refashioning of the Chengene Skele village in Bulgaria’s Burgas. Photo: Burgas Municipality

The aim of the local authorities is to recreate a Mediterranean town’s atmosphere in Chengene Skele, an emblematic fishing village on Bulgaria’s southern Black Sea coast whose port infrastructure has recently been improved with EU funding.

Burgas Municipality has even included a photo of brightly colored homes from the Burano Island in the lagoon of Venice, Italy, as one of the models used in the refashioning of the Chengene Skele fishing village into an ethnographic complex for cultural tourism.

The painting of the facades of fishermen’s homes has begun with help from local fishermen, municipal employees, and volunteers.

The municipal press service points out that the bright colors selected by the chief architect of Burgas Emil Burulyanov correspond to some of the already existing colors in the fishing village.

“Chengene Skele is shaping up to become a favorite place for walks, having some fish, and taking unforgettable photos," Burgas Municipality says.

It adds further that the cultural tourism project for the famous Black Sea fishing village also provides for the construction of a conference and sports arena, a sailor’s café club, museum homes to be used exhibitions and children’s workshops, a park with a picnic zone and a playground, a beach alley, new green spaces, a square with a small amphitheatre for concerts and performances, аs well as a new fishing dock.

Touting the special atmosphere of Chengene Skele, Burgas’ Municipality points out that there aren’t that many well-preserved traditional fishing villages even worldwide, and that the city of Burgas is happy to boast one of them.

Aerial shots showing the charm of the Chengene Skele fishing village in Bulgaria’s Burgas, on the Black Sea coast with its several canals. Photos: Video grabs from Burgas Municipality

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Background Infonotes:

The originally Ancient Thracian city of Aquae Calidae (meaning “hot waters" in Latin) is an archaeological site located in Bulgaria’s Black Sea port city of Burgas, in today’s Burgas quarters of Vetren and Banevo.

It is proven that Aquae Calidae – known in the Middle Ages as Thermopolis or Therma – was visited by important ancient and medieval rulers such as Philip II of Macedon (r. 359-336 BC), Byzantine Emperors Justinian I (r. 527-565 AD) the Great and Constantine IV the Bearded (668-685 AD), Bulgarian Khan (or Kanas) Tervel (r. 700-718/721), and Ottoman Turkish Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent (r. 1520-1566 AD).

Archaeological excavations have found that the Aquae Calidae mineral baths were used as early as the Neolithic Age, with three prehistoric settlements being located there in the 6th-5th millennium BC.

The Ancient Thracians settled near the mineral waters in the middle of the 1st millennium BC, turning the major spring into the revered ancient “Sanctuary of the Three Nymphs" by the middle of the 1st century AD when the Roman Empire was wrapping up the conquest of Ancient Thrace. The earliest written testimony about the ancient spa resort Aquae Calidae dates back to the 4th century BC when Philip II of Macedon went there.

The name “Aquae Calidae" comes from the name of a Roman road station near the mineral springs which was erected along the major Roman road Via Pontica running along the Western coast of the Black Sea. The Sanctuary of the Three Nymphs was revered in Roman times.

The Roman baths at Aquae Calidae were rebuilt and expanded in the early years of the Byzantine Empire – the 4th-5th century, with fortress walls constructed during the reign of Emperor Justinian I the Great.

In the Middle Ages, Aquae Calidae became known as Therma or Thermopolis (“warm city" in Greek). In 708 AD, Khan (or Kanas) Tervel, ruler of the First Bulgarian Empire, defeated the army of Byzantine Emperor Justianian II (r. 685-695 and 705-711 AD) in the first Battle of Anchialos close to Thermopolis, conquering the ancient and medieval “spa resort" for Bulgaria. Another interesting episode from the history of Thermopolis has to do with the so called Latin Empire established when the knights from the Fourth Crusade conquered Constantinople.

After Tsar Kaloyan (r. 1197-1207 AD) of the Second Bulgarian Empire defeated the crusaders in the Battle of Adrianople in 1205 and captured Latin Emperor Baldwin of Flanders (also Baldwin I of Constantinople), the next year the Latin Emperor’s brother, Henry of Flanders, marched against Bulgaria conquering Thermopolis, looting the city and burning it to the ground.

The city of Thermopolis never recovered even though the mineral baths themselves were rebuilt later and used by Ottoman Turkish Sultan Suleiman I the Magnificent in 1562. In modern-day Bulgaria, in the 20th century the town near the mineral baths was known as Banevo until the 1980s when it was renamed to Burgas Mineral Baths; it became part of the city of Burgas in 2009.

Aquae Calidae – Thermopolis was first excavated in 1910 by renowned but controversial Bulgarian archaeologist Bogdan Filov (known as Bulgaria’s pro-German Prime Minister during World War II). The contemporary excavations were started in 2008 by Tsonya Drazheva and Dimcho Momchilov. In 2011, the ancient and medieval city was formally declared “The Aquae Calidae – Thermopolis Archaeological Preserve".

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