Nesebar: A Trip Down Memory Lane

Today, a trip down memory lane – in more than one sense. First, the last time I saw the place we’re going to visit (when I took the photos) was in 1988 – I hazard the guess that a number of you weren’t even born then. Second, this is (or was then) a place forgotten by time and the world. And finally… photos from thirty years ago: look at their quality! That is, their lack of it (admittedly not helped by the scanner).

The Church of Christ Pantokrator, Nesebar
The Church of Christ Pantokrator, Nesebar

Nesebar is an island in Black Sea, about 30 kilometres northeast of the harbour town of Burgas in Bulgaria, very close to shore – so close that nowadays it’s no longer an island, being connected to the mainland by a narrow, man-made causeway – and it’s famous for its medieval architecture and Greek ruins. In fact, it’s a UNESCO World Heritage site.

19th-century houses, typical of the region, Nesebar
Typical 19th-century houses in one of the narrow alleys of Nesebar

Founded by the Dorian Greeks in the 6th century BC, Nesebar became a thriving trading centre, including minting its own coinage. In due course it was taken over by the Romans, then became part of the Byzantine Empire. As Nesebar was one of the strongholds at the frontiers of the empire, it was for a few centuries fought over by Byzantium and the emerging kingdom of Bulgaria. The Ottoman Empire eventually toppled Byzantium, and Nesebar was captured by the Turks in 1453, the same year Constantinople fell. Its decline in the importance under Ottoman rule contributed to the preservation of the town as if frozen in time: little changed in Nesebar in the following five centuries. Finally, with the driving out of the Turks at the end of the 19th century, Nesebar became part of Bulgaria.

View of Nesebar from the causeway
View of Nesebar from the causeway

I first saw Nesebar when I was fourteen; it was the first time I saw a genuinely medieval town (as opposed to the odd surviving building or castle here and there). It made a lasting impression although I’ve seen many others since. But comparing my old pictures to ones taken by others more recently I noticed this: with the fall of communism the town has clearly been restored and some of the churches opened for visitors. Worth a visit again?

Harbour, Nesebar
Harbour, Nesebar
⇒ For more up-to-date photos (rather less cloudy too): Nesebar on the UNESCO World Heritage List
⇒ Or read about my visit to another historic town on the UNESCO World Heritage List: First Impressions of Toledo
⇒ Although not a lot of people know it, Bulgaria is one of the oldest countries in Europe. Read about one of their earlier tsars who for a while conquered Nesebar: Simeon, the Great on the website of Radio Bulgaria.


3 thoughts on “Nesebar: A Trip Down Memory Lane

  1. I first went to Nessebar in 1993. This past summer, we stopped to lunch there on our way to Sinemoretz. I doubt you could reproduce your 1988 photo today, with no crush of people surrounding your family and no tourist stands almost overwhelming the architectural treasures. There is no reason to be nostalgic for the old regime, but that doesn’t mean one can’t be wistful for a less commercial UNESCO World Heritage site.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It seems a shame when commercialism overruns everything… sadly it’s the case all over the world. A few years ago I went to Mont Saint-Michel in France and after all, it’s a religious place but it was completely crowded with gift-shops – you could barely move along in the alleys and it obviously alters the feel of the place completely! But I suppose ultimately the income from tourism helps to keep these places alive and well-cared for… so it’s not all bad. The truth is that we contribute to this phenomenon ourselves – merely by being tourists!

      Liked by 1 person

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