Balchik is a picturesque Black Sea coastal town, of almost 14,000 residents, in the Southern Dobruja area of northeastern Bulgaria.
It spreads itself over the many scenic hills and cliffs which surround this area of coast. Although its natural beauty and rural feel still remain, it now has numerous restaurants serving fresh fish, bars offering both local and international beverage delicacies, and small hand-made souvenir shops to remind visitors of their time here.
The History of Balchik:
Balchik is a place rich with history, and that becomes apparent as soon as you arrive within it. When exploring the area, numerous ruins and abandoned buildings become visible – remnants of its past, and of its long journey to becoming the place it is today. Although now under Bulgarian control and influence, the town was once colonised by the Ionian ancient Greeks with the name Krounoi, which means ‘town of springs’. Right now, however, it owes its name to a medieval ruler, Balik, who once occupied the area.
The Romanian Occupation:
It was only after the Second Balkan War in 1913 that the town gained its present name and became part of the Kingdom of Romania. After a visit to Balchik, the Romanian Queen Maria (1875-1938) was said to be enchanted by its natural beauty, warm climate and abundance of nature. She declared it one of her favourite places to visit for her and her immediate family, and it was her who commissioned the building of the Palace and botanical gardens. It remained under Romanian control until the Treaty of Craiova in 1940, which effectively sold the area back to the Bulgarians.
Why has Balchik become such a popular tourist destination?
Balchik gained fame amongst tourists because of its tranquility, history and natural beauty. The Queen’s Palace and surrounding gardens are Balchik’s most popular attractions, and so draws in many visitors – over 200,000 per year. It is a place which caters mainly for the summer traveller, who would likely see a trip here as an opportunity to briefly escape a hectic city life, and to enjoy the Bulgarian sun, sand and scenery. What’s more, it is close to both Albena and Varna and so is easily accessible and provides tourists with a more serene and relaxing experience than its neighbouring towns and cities.
However, it was only after the liberation of Bulgaria, in 1878, that Balchik began to develop into the centre of a rich agriculture region, whose main export was wheat. And it was only later that it transformed further into a major destination for tourists, who felt the same the way the Romanian Queen did about the place! Interestingly, it has also become a popular wedding destination, with couples flying in from all over the world to take advantage of the beautiful scenery and desirable climate.
The 20th Century Romanian Art Influence:
The Queen was not the only one to find solace in Balchik; the town also gained fame for being an attraction for avant-garde Romanian painters, so much so that the informal Balchik School of Painting was established. Indeed, this school was crucial to the development of Romanian 20th Century painting, with the town’s houses and sea views seeming to be the artists’ most desired subjects. The theme of creativity and art remains central to Balchik today, demonstrated by the annual festival event called ’The Process – Space Art Festival’ of international contemporary art. This festival takes place over two weeks in June and has been running since 1991, and it draws in curious parties from all over the globe. In addition, the In the Palace International Short Film Festival finishes its run in Balchik at the end of June each year.
With all this in mind, it is not hard to see why Balchik continues to flourish and grow in popularity as visitors flock towards this scenic, history-rich and creative coastal town.