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Sozopol - Bulgarian Black Sea Summer Resort Information - Invest Bulgaria
Sozopol - Bulgarian Black Sea Resort Information
The town of Sozopol has population of about 7,000 people and is situated 31km south of Bourgas. The town lies on a small rocky peninsula in the farthest southern part of the Bourgas Bay. 100 m long stripe of land connects it to the mainland. From 1925 on, the town has expanded in the direction of the Harmanite Area (the so-called 'new town'). Due to its increasing popularity Sozopol has been dubbed the Bulgarian St Tropez. Celebrities like Ralph Fiennes, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie have been guests of the resort.

Everything in Sozopol today is sunny, bright and attractive - starting with the cobblestone lanes and old houses with strings of fish hanging from the roof, and ending with the Southern drawl of the fishermen who fondly call their white boats "ships". The Apollonia Festival of the Arts staged here every September gathers painters and actors, singers and musicians, poets and dancers to a ten-day world of art come alive amidst the old houses of this Southern small town.

History has not preserved the name of this Thracian settlement in whose place Miletian Greeks founded the town of Apollonia in 610 B.C. After another 10 centuries it became known as Sozopol - "the town of salvation". Apollonia, a fortified and wealthy independent town boasting its own army and fleet, was completely destroyed by the legions of Marcus Lucullus in 72 B.C. The town's pride - a 13 m high bronze statue of Apollo rising in his imposing temple, is assumed by some to have been taken to Rome by the Roman conquerors.

During the Middle Ages Sozopol was part of both Byzanthium and Bulgaria, until the whole Balkan Peninsula was subjected Ottoman rule. Reduced to an ordinary fishing town, Sozopol was revived together with the other settlements in the Bulgarian lands towards the end of the 18th and the start of the 19th century. This is when several churches were reconstructed - St. George, St. Mary, St. John the Theologian, St. Zossim; the Sts. Cyril and Methodius church was erected, and over 150 houses restored.

The isle of St. Ivan is situated just 2km away from the old town in northern direction. St. Ivan is the biggest Black Sea isle in Bulgarian territorial waters. The isle shelters a sonar lighthouse, which together with the lighthouse on the Emine cape shows the way to the Bourgas Bay. Once upon a time, the isle hosted a monastery called the Holy Virgin, which was later renamed into St. Ivan Prodromos.

The earliest settlements in the area belonged to the Thracian tribes of Nipsei and Skirimian. In the 7th century BC Greek colonizers settled there and called the town after their god of Apollo, Apolonia. To the honor of Apollo, the construction of a thirteen-metre high bronze statute of the god was carried out by a sculptor named Kalamis. Apolonia developed mainly as a trading centre for honey, wax, corn, wine, olive oil, olives, textiles, jewellery, and pottery. Apolonia was frequently in economic and political disputes, including occasional wars, with the Doric inhabitants of Messembria (present-day Nessebar). Apolonia was included in the territory of the Macedonian State at the time of Alexander the Great. It was frequently subject to, but warded off, invasions of Nomads. The town fell under Roman domination in the 1st century BC after it was severely ruined by the armies of Marcus Lucul. The latter sent the famous statute of Apollo to Rome as a symbol of his victory. Yet Romans quickly restored the ruins, built new temples. Already in the 6th century BC Apolonia minted coins of its own. The high level of cultural development of the town at that time is testified by items found in its necropolis - ceramics, vases made of Egyptian glass, silver and golden decorations. The upturn of the town was so great, that Sozopol managed to establish its own colony, Anhialo (present-day Pomorie).

Roman domination secured three centuries of peace before the next invasion of barbarian tribes. It was only in the 5th century that the town was included in the territory of Byzantium. During the reign of Khan Kroum it was within the borders of Bulgaria and like all other sea towns it frequently changed hands between Bulgaria and Byzantium. It was severely devastated in the middle of the 14th century during an attack of the Genoa fleet. Later it was conquered and sold to the Romans by the knights of Amadeus of Savoy. After a long siege the town fell under Turkish rule in 1453. Only wooden houses have been built there ever since; the oldest of these can be still seen in the old quarter of the town. A small fishermen's settlement at the time of the Liberation, Sozopol gradually became the biggest fishing centre of the Bulgarian Black Sea coast, which also developed a tourism industry. The famous Tsar's Beach is located to the north of the town. Raiski Zaliv (Paradise Bay) is nestled among rocks to the south of the town, while further southwards are the Kavatsite beach and camping site. The Harmanite Beach is immediately to the south of the so-called 'new town'. An ancient necropolis was found here in 1993 and excavations are still going on.

The sights of Sozopol are many, but none of them can be separated from the rest since all of them impact the visitors as an attractive ensemble. Among these are two ancient churches from the Renaissance period - St. Zosim Church and The Holy Virgin Church. The houses of Dimitur Laskaridis, who used to be a fish trader (built in the 17th century, and now hosting an art gallery), Ana Trendafilova, Kourtidis, Una Psarianova (now redesigned into a restaurant, Stenata Restaurant), Grandmother Koukoulissa Hadzhinikolova (today housing the office of Sturshel Newspaper), Metropoliev (a medical centre at present), Kreanoolu, are only a few of the more than 45 architectural monuments of Sozopol. The A. Trendafilova House with its wooden facings modeled on the classical forms of Dorian pilasters, with its triangular gable and stylized sun is certainly worth seeing. The ceiling in one of the rooms is composed of multi-figural timber pieces, painted in different colours. The ancient atmosphere of the town is further fed by cobbled streets and high fences in front of which the old women sit and chat, knit laces and sell jams. Interestingly, one can still hear Greek speech among natives, particularly in the old town. Interesting places to visit are the Archaeological Museum and the Art Gallery. Moreover, at the beginning of September each year the town hosts the big Apolonia International Art Festival, which attracts artists and art lovers from all over the country and abroad.

Three different methods of construction are visible in the St. Mary's church, corresponding to the three stages of its erection. The eastern, altar wall is made of stone, up to 3 m thick, containing the apse and the two transepts (probably built in the 16th c.). The central part, faced with oak on the outside, dates from the 18th century, while the Western part and narthex were added during the 19th century. Partly dug into the ground, the church surprises with its spacious interior. The exquisitely carved altar, pulpit and bishop's throne were made by an unknown master of the Samokov School. Sozopol's housing architecture from the National Revival period closely resembles that of Nessebur. It falls into the category of the so-called "Black Sea house" featuring stonewalled basements, wooden staircases leading up to the living quarters, a wooden scaffolding, jutting eaves, and exterior wood paneling to protect the building from the salty sea air. Southern vegetation - fig trees and vineyards - form part of Sozopol's landscape.

Outside Sozopol, there are a number of fjord-like formations to the south. The coast here is particularly high and jagged by the incoming waves. There are numerous secluded caves as well. Some 20km to the south is the mouth of the Ropotamo River, which is declared a natural reserve. The Duni Resort is situated 12 km north of Primorsko and was completed in 1987 as a Bulgarian-Austrian project. It offers lots of hotels, villas and bungalows. The Alepou Beach and Arkoutino Beach just next to the resort in southern direction are wild and beautiful places where the sea is traditionally rough. Cape Maslen is situated just after the mouth of the Roporamo River. Its rocky profile and steep slope down to the sea offer a great view to tourists on top of it. Beneath the cape, one can see small and quiet coves among the fiords, covered with pebbles and seashells. Further southwards is the Perla Camping located in one of the most beautiful bays along the Black Sea coast. Here the beach gradually turns into a green grove. Nearby is the marsh of Stomoplo. Two natural reserves cover this area - Vodna Lilia (water lily) and Velyov Vir. Via Pontica - the way of migrating birds flying to the south passes through here. Every year, at the end of the summer, thousands of storks, pelicans, and about 30 species of birds of prey gather in around Sozopol before they head southwards to look for a warmer place to spend the winter.

While there are private lodgings in both the old and the new part of the town, the latter is constantly expanding and offers a bigger choice in terms of prices and quality alike. Private hotels have been also increasing in number in recent years, particularly in the new town. There are a lot of camping sites around Sozopol where many tourists spend their holidays: Kavatsite, Smokinya, Vesselie, Zlatna Ribka and Gradina. They offer bungalows of different categories, sites for caravans, tents and vehicles. Prices are quite moderate, while service is of acceptable quality to less picky tourists. One can also choose to sleep in the nearby town of Chernomoretz, where prices are much lower than in Sozopol. Chernomoretz is just 6km away from Sozopol, while it offers a rich choice of accommodation in spacious new houses.

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