The Nezavisimost Square - home...
The Nezavisimost Square - home to the opera house - is a great starting
point for a casual stroll to take in some of the city's other historic sights.
Starting with the Roman fortress wall and Round Tower, Cathedral of the
Assumption, Old Clock Tower in the City Gardens you should make your
way through the residential quarters, dotted among chestnut tree-lined
streets... right down to the port.
Beware the mafia!!
Arrogance is located below the Captain Cook Fish restaurant close to Flag Hostel, you don't have to use your imagination much to realise where the name comes from. There are lots of big mafia types round here, if you're going here don't get too drunk or act remotely aggressive.
Don't Have The Rakia As A Digestif!
I'm not quite sure whether this little restaurant, tucked away in a side street just off Varna's main square (Nezavisimost), is in fact as old as it looks or whether it is a relatively recent mock-up of a traditional Bulgarian "Mehana". But either way it certainly does have an authentic feel to it with its wood and brick facade and interior, the various museum-type knick-knacks hanging from the walls, the small charcoal grill in its alcove and the wood-burning stove nestled in the corner.
The menu however certainly is authentic, offering a range of traditional Bulgarian peasant dishes such as "Mozuk v Maslo" (which is beef brains stewed in butter) as well as the full gamut of salads and grills.
The restaurant is set out a little formally but in fact is pretty laid-back and you are as welcome to pop in for a snack and a glass of wine as for a full-blown repast. I was particularly impressed with the waiter who single-handedly managed to juggle serving what became an almost full restaurant, cooking on the chargrill and still found the time to give me few guidelines on the winelist and the Rakia menu. On my only visit (this time round) I opted for the Rabbit (Zaek) in the Banskian-style which was bit like a Greek Stifado, cooked in wine with baby onions. As a salad I opted for the house salad, simply to find out what the "smilanski (??) beans" were - a sort of dark coloured butter-bean. Added a basket of local bread and washed the lot down with a bottle of excellent Mavrud (Assenovgrad 2003). Everything was absolutely Delish!
Feeling pretty stuffed I reckoned I needed a digestif and so followed the waiter's recommendation by having a large Slivenska Perla Rakia. Oooops! That stuff is lethal and I can see why it should only be consumed WITH food! It was a good job my hotel was less than 100 yards down the hill!!
With a bill of just over 32 Leva for the whole shebang I can certainly recommend Chuchura -just be careful with the Rakia!
The Varna Cathedral (1884-1886) - second in scale after St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Sofia.
Erected in honour of the Liberation from Ottoman yoke. Modern Byzantine architecture, spacious interior, woodcarved iconostasis by masters belonging to the School of Debur, stained glass. Painted in 1949-1950, it is declared monument of culture.
As Contender for European City of Culture 2019...
"...she certainly gets my vote!"
From the moment I saw the luminously blue-lit clocktower at the railway station as the train drew in I knew I was going to like Varna. Even though it was just after nightfall on a cool, damp, early May evening and I had just had an 8 hour train journey across country from Sofia I still had good feelings about my arrival. First impressions count for so much when arriving in a new place and as simple a thing as the well-presented rail terminus immediately conveyed the message: "Welcome To Varna!"
"The Black Sea's Industrial Hub"
Varna is Bulgaria's 3rd largest city and is the country's main commercial and naval port as well as being the main industrial centre on the Black Sea coast. Whilst the city is surrounded by heavy industry the city centre itself is a delight with its open spaces, wide streets and the magnificent Sea Gardens. Despite being densely populated in the suburbs Varna still manages to maintain a "small-town" feel and the pace of life belies its position as Bulgaria's 2nd most important economic city.
None of the stereotypes associated with a major industrial port town apply here. Try as I might I couldn't find any really dodgy dockfront bars, nor even a red-light area! Instead finding a pleasant mix of continental-style cafes, traditional and trendy restaurants and of course some decent pubs!
Other stereotypes which failed were the reports of Varna being in the thrall of organised crime and Bulgaria's oft reported levels of corruption in high places. I'm sure that, as with any city, there must be some degree of underworld activity and I'm sure too that dodgy deals must be done but the overall impression that I got from my two weeks here was of a clean, successful, forward-looking and happy-with-itself city where the local people seem proud of the environment that they have created for themselves. Smiles and laughter on the streets speak tomes about a place and in Varna these are thick tomes indeed.
"Aspects of Culture"
As one of Bulgaria's oldest cities Varna has a rich cultural history dating back into pre-history as evidenced by the discovery at Varna Necropolis of various gold and other artifacts from around 4,000 BC. Unfortunately on my last visit I only managed to find the time to get the merest tongue-tip taste of the diverse cultural life that Varna has to offer, both historically and contemporaneously, but on my next visit...(UPDATE Nov 2009 - thoroughly enjoyed!!).
Even though I only had the merest taste I did find Varna to have a great deal to offer and the city abounds with museums, theatres, art galleries, and magnificent architecture. Even just wandering the streets and parks one comes across a wealth of interesting (and usually unannounced) bits and pieces, including some rather pretty women ;)
During the course of the year Varna hosts a multitude of festivals and events ranging from an International Ballet Competition in July to its Summer Jazz Festival and all in all has something to offer even the most discerning visitor. Try this link: Events Diary
From my personal cultural viewpoint a big plus is the fact that it has its own brewery!!
Yep, definitely getting my vote for 2019's City of Culture.