Sofia and Nesebar

bg_nes1 Nesebar is an island just off the Black Sea coast of Bulgaria and a UNESCO World Heritage site. The city, known in antiquity as Mesembria, was founded by the Greeks 400 years before Christ as they colonized the Black Sea area and pushed out the Hippies also known as the Thracians. It became a base for the Byzantine empire's less than successful subjugation of the Bulgars. It changed hands many times between the Byzantines and the Bulgars with the Turks finally settling the issue. Along with Trabazon, it was one of the last Byzantiune outposts after the disasterous seige of Constantinople in 1453 by the Ottoman Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror that ended the 1000 year reign of the Byzantine empire. The Turks didn't need a fort and left the island to become a sleepy fishing port. Today, although while many are in ruins, the island boasts a fine collection of Byzantine churches saved by obscurity. bg_nes2 The 11th century of Church the Pantokrator in Nesebar. Nesebar features a number of well preserved churhes. This church features the characteristic red-brick style of the Byzantines that can still be seen in Istanbul in some places. bg_nes3 Part of the fortifications of Nesebar. bg_nes4 The charming narrow streets with houses that date from the 16th-19th century although the foundations of many probably date to pre-history. bg_nes5 Another Byzantine church in Nesebar. bg_sof1 A Russian orthodox church located in central sofia bg_sof2 The Alexander Nevski cathedral in Sofia. This impressive building was built in 1904-1912 and dedicated to Russian soldiers who died helping to liberate Bulgaria from the Ottoman empire in 1878. bg_sof3 Statue of St. Sofia in downtown Sofia. The town is very old with the original settlers being Thracian tribes around 3000 BC. The Thracians were an interesting lot who were known to have imbibed in smokking marijuana, making and drinking copious amounts of wine, promiscuity and generally having wild parties in honor of Dionysus. In other words, they were ancient hippies. It is no surprise then that they were not known to attack their neighbors or get into fights. It is also not surprising that they were pretty much kicked out of most of ancient Thrace (which extends from Turkey through Greece and up into Bulgaria and Macedonia) by any men with spears marching through. The Greeks were the first to push the Thracians out. The Romans/Byzantines made Sofia an important town on the road from Constantinople and Belgrade. In the 5th century the Huns levelled the town. The Byzantine empire ruled the area until the 7th century migration of the Bulgars and other Slavic tribes. It swapped hands a number of times between Byzantine Emperors and a series of Bulgar Kings. Finally, the Turks captured the town in 1382 and for the next five centuries it was under Ottoman rule before liberated in 1870s. Almost nothing remains from most of the rulers except a few old churches and mosques. bg_sof4 The 14th century St. Petka Samardziiska Church situated partially underground at the intersection of two of Sofia's busiest intersections. Too bad. Excavations of the churches base shows it was built ona Thracian temple meaning that there were probably a series of churches built on this spot. It was a common practice to build churches on the foundation of temples or other churches.

All material Copyright 2003-2004 Drew Sullivan unless otherwise indicated.
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