МELNIK – A CORNER OF PARADISE REGAINED

 


Архитектурното наследство на Мелник

Traditional houses in Melnik
  (photo by courtesy of "Bulgarian Photography" Archive)

     
    In the middle ages, dignitaries fallen into disgrace were exiled to these parts by the Byzantine emperors. You should not, however, fathom Melnik to be some kind of Balkan Siberia. On the contrary, situated in the bosom of the Pirin mountain, in the southernmost parts of Bulgaria, this historical place is rather remindful of paradise. Surrounded by beautiful "pyramids" of yellow sandstone, itself all green and enjoying a benign climate, Melnik is also a place of gorgeous vineyards.

    Here, raising grapes has been a common occupation since time immemorial. It was in this region of the Balkans that Thracian God Dionysus (Bacchus) and his company of forest gods, satires and maenads were doing pranks and frolicking. Dark and "heavy", the Melnik wine goes down the throat before one is aware of it, and only genuine drinkers know when to say  "stop" to this irresistible temptation.

    For more than one thousand years the red nectar had been exported to Western and Northern Europe but at stiff prices.

With time, however, there was no one to fill up the huge casks  in the vast basements of the spacious Melnik houses. Once among the largest settlements in the Balkan Peninsula, Melnik was reduced to a small neighbourhood of some 400 residents to became a "record-holder" as Bulgaria's smallest town. The main reason for this downward trend was the new Bulgarian-Greek border set in the period following the 1912-1918 wars – it cut off the wine merchants from the route leading to the boats in the Thessalonike port.

On the other hand, this romantic town came to be visited by tourists from many places in the world - lovers of wine, nature, and ancient sites. Today Melnik (only 20 km away from Sandanski, a famous spa resort) is a revived tourist centre. It has marvellous cellars, fine wine, preserved traditional crafts, picturesque houses providing accommodation and good service.

 
The surroundings of Melnik

 


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