VARNAs origins go back almost five millennia,
but it wasnt until seafaring Greeks founded a colony here in 585 BC that the
town became a port. The modern city is both a shipyard and port for commercial
freighters and the navy, and a riviera town visited by tourists of every nationality.
Its a cosmopolitan place and a nice one to stroll through: Baroque, turn-of-the-century
and contemporary architecture pleasantly blended with shady promenades and a handsome
Social life revolves around the ploshtad Nezavisimost, where the opera
house and theatre provide a backdrop for an ensemble of restaurants and cafes.
The square is the starting point of Varnas evening promenade, which flows eastward
from here along bul Knyaz Boris I towards bul Slivnitsa and the seaside gardens.
Beyond the opera house, Varnas main lateral boulevard cuts through pl Mitropolit
Simeon to the domed Cathedral of the Assumption. Constructed in 1886 along
the lines of St Petersburgs cathedral, it contains a splendid iconostasis and
carved bishops throne, and murals painted after the last war.
Exhibits in the Archeology Museum on the corner of Mariya Luiza and
Slivnitsa (TuesSat 10am5pm; $1) fill forty halls, three of them devoted to
skeletons and artefacts from a necropolis where a hoard of 4500-year-old gold
objects was discovered in 1972. Other halls display Greek and Roman antiquities,
medieval weaponry and ecclesiastical art, while upstairs theres an excellent
South of the centre, on ul Han Krum, youll stumble upon the impressive second-century
Roman baths complex (TuesSat 10am5pm; $2). Ten minutes west of here
on ul Panagyurishte, the Ethnographic Museum (TuesSat 10am5pm; $1.50),
which occupies an old house, contains a fine display of costumes and jewellery,
and a variety of ritual loaves among them the foot-shaped Proshtupalnik,
which was baked to celebrate a childs first steps.
The boat responsible for the Navys only victory the Drazhki (Intrepid)
is honourably embedded on the waterfront outside the Navy Museum (daily
9amnoon & 1.305pm; $2); it sank the Turkish cruiser Hamidie off
Cape Kaliakra in 1912. The museum traces sea power and commerce on the Black
Sea and the lower Danube back to its earliest days.
Most of Varnas eating and drinking venues are to be found along bul
Knyaz Boris I and bul Slivnitsa the latter a seemingly unbroken strip of touristy
cafes, bars and restaurants, although venues change from one season to the next.
For the best food and service, stick to the backstreets: Staviko, round
the corner from the Roman baths at ul osmi Noemvri 11, has good quality Bulgarian
standards; Paraklisa, near the Navy Museum on bul Primorski, offers the
most imaginative spin on traditional Balkan dishes; and Titanic, in the
grid of streets north of Knyaz Boris I at Ivan Vazov 39, is an elegant cafe-bar
with intimate restaurant upstairs. The municipal beach, reached by pathways
descending from the seaside gardens, is lined with open-air bars and discos
although few of these have regular names. For Internet access, try Doom
Internet Cafe, at ul 27 July 13.