more than a year ago
35 km south of Burgas lies one of the most fascinating and popular ancient Black Sea towns, whose origins date back to the ancient Greeks. Apollonia (as it was known then) was not only a powerful trading post but also an active arts and cultural centre. In fact there are archaeological finds that prove cultural activity in the area as far 7000 years ago.
Today most visitors head straight for the charming old town – which not dissimilar to Nessebar shares a long history of different civilisations, evidence of which is there to be seen in the old town and also the museum. The old town itself was declared a conservation area in 1974.
In recent years the Sozopol Foundation has been instrumental in uncovering and preserving the cultural heritage of the town and there have indeed been some headline-grabbing discoveries. In 2010, during archaeological excavations of the nearby Saint Ivan (Saint John’s) Island, researchers unearthed holy relics of John the Baptist. Today the priceless relics are in the custody of the St. Cyril and St. Methodius Church, at the entrance of the old town, and attract hundreds of pilgrims from all over the world. Visitors to the archaeological museum can see the alabaster casket which originally contained the relics of John the Baptist and a small box with a Greek inscription describing their journey to St. Ivan Island.
In spring 2012, during excavations at the Southern Fortress wall where an old monastery was being unearthed, archaeologists came across two skeletons with iron stakes through their hearts which once again brought up the Eastern European ‘vampire connection’. In fact it was believed that people who had been bad during their lifetime were deliberately pegged to their graves so that they could not cross over to the un-dead. The skeleton can now be seen in the National History Museum Sofia.
We are sure that as excavations in the region continue so many more exciting stories will come to light and we wish the authorities in charge the necessary wisdom to become the careful custodians of this heritage. South of the town, along the Harmanite beach a necropolis was uncovered with graves dating back as far as 3000 BC. After a year of excavations much of the site lies dishevelled and uncared for or has been covered and built on by private land owners.
There is much more to Sozopol than its historic heritage. It is a seaside town with pleasant beaches and a harbour (and more recently a marina). Fishermen go out daily to catch fish and some of the best fresh fish is to be had in one of the many waterfront restaurants. You can also go out on evening boat rides around the coast of Sozopol and if you are lucky you might even spot some Black Sea dolphins.
To this day Sozopol is an arty place, the preferred summer destination for many Bulgarian artists, writers and actors. The old town has a modern amphitheatre with regular cultural events in the summer, plenty of quaint shops, galleries, bars and restaurants, as well as an open air cinema towards the end of the town, which all go towards making Sozopol a great holiday destination for a day or a week.
The annual Apollonia Arts festival will take place this year from 30th August – 6th September 2021


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