Balchik is located in the northeastern part of the Bulgarian Black Sea coast. The city was founded 26 centuries ago by Greek colonists under the name Krowi. In the 6th century BC, the city was named after the Greek god of wine and joy Dionysus – Dionysopolis.
In the 4th century, BC Dionysopolis has already been an important economic centre. That is why they speak open coins minted in the city, on which the name of God Dionysus was printed. The cults of the god of wine and the great goddess KiBela were very popular.
In the 1st century BC, the city became part of the Roman Empire, and the greatest prosperity came in the second and third centuries. After the division of the Roman Empire in 395, the proximity of Constantinople, the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire, was essential for the development of the city. At that time the settlement became an important administrative and port centre. In 544-545, the city was destroyed by a severe earthquake that caused huge tidal waves. The surviving inhabitants moved and started to build the new settlement in the place of today’s neighbourhood “Horizon” in Balchik. In the early Middle Ages, the town was one of the regional centres of the Bulgarian kingdom Karvuna. At the end of the 14th century Dobrudja was conquered by the Ottoman Turks, and at the end of the 16th century, the city was called Balchik. Balchik was released from Ottoman domination on January 31, 1878.
At the beginning of the 20th century, the largest mill on the Balkan Peninsula was built here. About 70,000 tonnes of wheat per year were exported from the city, with more than 500 ships being used for this purpose. The wheat has travelled to England, Belgium, Germany, Denmark and others.
The area of Southern Dobrudzha, in which Balchik is located, was annexed to Romania in 1913, at the end of the Second Balkan War, and thus outside the borders of Bulgaria remain Silistra, Tutrakan, Dobrich, Balchik and Kavarna. From September 7, 1940, South Dobrudja was returned to Bulgaria.
Since the Roman occupation period, Balchik’s largest landmark, the Palace, was the former summer residence of the Queen Maria Alexandra Victoria de Edinburgh (1875-1938). The residence was built in 1924. The Botanical Garden – the other great landmark of the city – is located within the residence.
In the Historical Museum of Balchik, a large part of the finds discovered during excavations in the area is stored. The exhibits tell of the creation and development of the city in antiquity and during the Middle Ages, with photos and documents being presented during the period when Balchik and South Dobrudja are under Romanian rule. All the finds and marble statues from the temple of Kibela are kept in the museum. The temple of Cybele was discovered in 2007 and according to archaeologists, it dates back to 280-260 BC. In the remnants of the temple, 27 inscriptions have been found, and almost all the images are of the goddess Cybele. After the earthquake in the middle of the 6th century, the temple was overwhelmed. Today is available for visiting without paying an entrance fee. If desired, the curator of the Historical Museum can tell the story of the temple on the spot. When visiting the site be careful as it is not cultivated and is located at the bottom of a deep excavation.
Opposite the building of the Historical Museum is the Ethnographic Museum. The museum is housed in a Renaissance house, owned by a merchant from Balchik. Here are exhibited objects of household, ornaments, traditional clothing. A special place is devoted to crafts such as copper, abbey and others. Traditional costumes from Dobroudja and Kotel can be seen on the second floor of the museum, there are also exhibited interesting instruments such as donations (weaving machines), loops, looms and more.
More about the development of Balchik during the Renaissance (XVIII – XIX centuries), tourists can learn at the Secondary School and St Nicholas Temple, which are a symbol of the struggle of the local population for their own church and education. The two sites are united under the name of the Renaissance complex. The school can see how the school room and the teacher’s office appeared between 1861 and 1865. In the classroom, the classes of the smallest students – “sandboxes” – followed by the writing plates on marble slabs and the classes behind them were the most advanced students who wrote on parchment sheets.
The Art Gallery is also an interesting place to visit. After the return of Southern Dobrudzha to Bulgaria in 1940 the gallery was closed and the exhibits were taken to Romania. The reconstruction of the cultural institution began in the 1960s. Today, on an area of 800 square meters are exhibited works of art by many Bulgarian authors. On the first floor, there is a hall for foreign art and two other halls, taking temporary exhibitions. A central location in the foyer on the second floor is the statue of God Dionysus. Here is the permanent exhibition of the gallery. There are over 1500 works by Bulgarian and foreign authors in the gallery’s gallery.