Vienna-based photographer Juri Tscharyiski reveals Bulgaria's outer coastland
Issue 45-46, June-July 2010
interview by Gergana Manolova; photography by Juri Tscharyiski
For at least four months of the year the Black Sea coast is riddled with tourists, beach-goers and campers. Many people have been put off visiting the coastline – some because of the drastic overcrowding, others because of the newly-built concrete hotels of mammoth proportions that spring up all along the shore.
But there is another side to the coast, one of steep cliffs and sea spray, underwater caves and windswept plateaux. That is the unspoilt scenery of the coastline north of Balchik, up to the Romanian border. There are few sandy beaches to attract tourists, but they still come with tents and backpacks, seduced by the atmosphere. The inhabitants of the small villages scattered along the shore seem to be living half a century in the past. Balchik, Kavarna and Shabla are the bigger settlements here, but they too have a quaint air of timelessness that invariably affects the visitor.
The man-made landmarks only enhance that impression. One of the most famous, the palace at Balchik, was built when Romania settled in the region after the Second Balkan War in 1913. Queen Marie of Romania hired two Italian architects to design the palace, called the Quiet Nest, while a landscaper from Switzerland laid out the park. Fortunately, the elegant complex was preserved intact when Southern Dobrudzha was reincorporated in 1940. The only change was that the park became a botanical garden, which blends seamlessly with both the sea and the buildings of the palace.
Further north is Cape Kaliakra, whose name comes from Greek, meaning "a beautiful cape". A local legend says that St Nikola, protector of seamen, was being pursued by the Ottomans and God created more earth under his feet, so that he could escape. It is a poetic way to explain the 2 km of jagged rock jutting out into the sea. In the end, however, the saint was captured and killed but he is not forgotten. A small chapel, built at the end of the cape in 1993, symbolises his grave. The other monument here relates to the legend of the 40 Bulgarian virgins who tied their hair together and threw themselves into the sea – again to escape the Ottomans.
The cape is both a Nature and an Architectural Reserve – you can see remnants of both early Christian graveyards and an ancient necropolis and, if you're lucky, you might glimpse some dolphins in the sea. These are not the only exceptional sights, but the underwater caves that few know about are accessible only to divers.
The rocks may be picturesque, but they are also unforgiving. The only place on the north coast where fishermen can launch their boats is the village of Tyulenovo, so called because of the seals which used to live in the Black Sea. The underwater reef along the coast between Tyulenovo and Shabla is the reason for the 150 year old lighthouse in the town. Its light can be seen 17 miles out to sea and when they glimpse it, sailors know that they are halfway between the Danube delta and the Bosporus.
70 years ago, on 10 March 1943, Bulgaria's pro-Nazi government decided to defy Berlin and halt the deportation of Bulgaria's 50.000 Jews. This was down to the actions of one man - Dimitar Peshev. Just two years later he faced Communist justice and found himself on trial for his life. His niece Kaluda Kiradjieva remembers