Our last stop was at Varna, the largest
Bulgarian city on the Black Sea. Its got beaches and industry as well
as universities but only about a third of the population of Odessa.
Over 60% of its revenue comes from trade or tourists. It's original
Greek name was Odessos
and in more recent times (1949) was named Stalin
The Roman Baths
Varna's Roman baths
were once the largest public building in Bulgaria. For Romans, the
Thermae were the center of their social life, occupying them for hours
daily before they got digital cable and broad-band access. With slaves
in tow, they would move from one room to another through water of
different temperatures. Once clean, they would exercise. Then their
slaves would scrape off the oil and dirt. Besides exercising and
getting scrubbed, Romans used the baths to shop and eat and drink.
Based upon its construction and coins found here, Varna's
thermae appears to be a late 2nd century AD building
constructed along the lines set out by the Roman architect Marcus
Vitruvius who inspired much Renaissance and neo-Classical
Today we pretty much see a few bricks left from this place
the overall footprint occupies most of its original 75,000 square feet.
Posted drawings help modern tourists envision the roofs, walls,
columns, and statues now mostly stolen from this site.
St. Atanassiy Church
Adjacent to the Thermae site is the very modest 1838 building which
houses the icons of the St. Atanassiy church. This building
replaced an earlier church which burnt down. This site has
had religious building back at least to the 10th century.
iconostasis of St Athanasius or St. Atanassiy Church
The building became an icon museum
After the iron
curtain fell, it returned to being a church and the icon collection
moved to the to the second
floor of the
Archeology Museum with reproductions left in their place here.
Many of the icons sport a large picture of the saint above,
with a set of cartoons featuring the scenes from his life below --an
Orthodox graphic novel..
Until the much fancier Assumption
opened in 1886, St. Atanassiy served as
Varna's cathedral even though it was an understated building, perhaps
deliberately so as supposedly the Ottomans would not let a church be
built higher than a warrior on horseback.
After the visit to the old cathedral
and the Roman baths, we
spent time in the archaeological museum. This neo-Renaissance
was originally a girls' school and has been in use since 1895.
Varna's Archaeological Museum
museum's key exhibit is that of the Gold of Varna,
the oldest gold in the world (4600-4200 BC). It came from a necropolis
found in 1972 about 2.5
miles from Varna's center. About 2/3rds of the graves have been
excavated. The 294
graves analyzed so far have yielded over 3000 artifacts. One grave
more gold by weight than every other site found to date from this era!
This time period may have been the turning point when
primarily female-dominated matriarchal
societies were shifting to male dominance.