Byzantine Travel Journal: Day 11 (Nessebar)

2010 © Gregory Scott

It is said Nessebar, Bulgaria has more ancient churches per capita than any other place in the world. I believe it.  And if, as I wrote yesterday, churches are the physical evidence of the kingdom of God, this place was once very much Kingdom territory, and perhaps still is today.

Nessebar is a strip of land, a peninsula really, jutting out into the Black Sea from mainland Bulgaria. The Greeks were settled here as early as the 6th century B.C., followed by the Romans in the 1st century B.C. and then the Byzantines.

The influence of the Byzantines is not only seen in the design of the churches but in the building materials.  The churches have bricks with imprints denoting their manufacture in Constantinople.

2010 © Gregory Scott

Nessebar, known to the Byzantines as Mesembria, was apparently an important town to the Bulgars and the Byzantines, as it changed hands repeatedly.  Nessebar was eventually conquered by the Ottomans in 1453.

Today, Nessebar is a village of tourist and antique shops, restaurants and ancient churches separated by narrow cobblestone streets. Its shops have all the standard tourist chachka, but there are also a number of antique shops, and they all seem to have Nazi antiques:  passports, fountain pens, medals, rings, clocks, all with the Nazi insignia.  I couldn’t get an adequate answer from anyone as to why all the Nazi stuff. It seemed an odd contrast on a small peninsula with so many ancient churches, the symbol of man at his worst surrounded by the symbol of man at his best.  GS.