Cities
Melnik
Bulgaria


Location: Melnik is located about 180 km south from Sofia and 23 km away from the town of Sandanski at the foot of Pirin Mountain.

Population: 250 inhabitants. Melnik is the smallest town in Bulgaria but it is so attractive that usually the number of tourists per day is several times higher than the number of inhabitants.

History: The town was founded in ancient times by the Thracian tribes that inhabited these lands. During the 6th century the Slavs settled there and gave the name of the town Melnik, originating from the word mel (white clay). In 864 the town was included in the territory of the Bulgarian state. At the beginning of the 13th century the ruler of the West Rhodopes Alexy Slav (nephew of the tsars Asen, Petar and Kaloyan) pronounced himself as an independent ruler by separating his lands from Bulgarian kingdom and pronounced Melnik for his capital, transforming it to an inaccessible fortress and a rich and cultural settlement. After the fall under Ottoman rule, in 1395, the town declined, but during the period of the Bulgarian National Revival it flourished again, due to the production and trade of the famous wine from Melnik, which was exported all over Europe, mainly to England and Austria. In the period from 17th to 19th century the production of wine and tobacco transformed Melnik into a flourishing commercial settlement with more than 25 000 inhabitants. About 1300 houses and more than 70 churches, as well as 4 monasteries, were erected here. The town also had a rich library, where the cultural and educational activities took place. After the Liberation, Melnik remained under the Ottoman rule and experienced another decline. It was liberated on 17th of October 1912 by army detachment led by Yane Sandanski, but a large part of the town was burnt down. Its Greek and Turkish population was exiled and from 12 000 inhabitants in 1921 only 721 remained, while in 1934 their number decreased to 512.

Landmarks: The town was pronounced for a natural, cultural and historical reserve and also for a museum town because of its old white houses cuddling next to each other, located in the midst of unique sand formations, also known as The Pyramids of Melnik.

  • Probably, the most famous landmark in the town is Kordopulovs house the largest one on the Balkan Peninsula from the Bulgarian National Revival period. It was built in 1754 by a rich Greek merchant. It has unique mural paintings, stained glass and wood carving. It has a wine cellar typical for Melnik, dug as a tunnel underneath the building, where huge wine casks are on display. Wine testing is also organized for the visitors of the house.

  • Boyars house: a valuable architecture monument from the Middle Ages and the oldest preserved house in Bulgaria.

  • Pashas house: it was built in 1815. Currently it is a historical museum of the town, where a rich collection that represents life in the town and the lifestyle after the Bulgarian National Revival is stored. Some of the most preserved bells from the time of the despot Alexy Slav are also stored here.

  • The St. Nicholas Church was built during the 13th century and it is the main operating church in Melnik with a status of a metropolitan church.

  • The St. Virgin Mary Spileotisa Monastery is located above Melnik, in St Zona place. It was founded by despot Alexy Slav, who gave it the legal status of a despot's and royal" monastery with a certificate from 1220.

  • The ruins of: St. Nicholas Monastery from the 12th century; Slavs fortress, a feudal castle of despot Alexy Slav (1207-1230); The Roman bridge, the old Turkish bath, as well as the remnants of several other churches.

Surroundings

  • 6 km north-east from Melnik, on the ridge of a high hill, Rozhen monastery of the Nativity of the Mother of God is located. was found in 1217 and it was burned down and pillaged several times after that. The current monastery building is from the 19th century, while the church is from the year 1600 and it was renovated in 1732. The church has preserved unique mural paintings, glass stains and wood carving. The great Bulgarian revolutionary Yane Sandanski, who was buried close to the monastery, spent the last years of his life here.

  • The road to the Rozhen Monastery passes through the Sand Pyramids in Melnik bizarre rock formation, with natural sculptures of different forms and delineations: some of them resemble hay stacks, others the Egyptian pyramids or gothic hills, towers or enormous mushrooms.