Melnik

Location:
Melnik is located 165 km south of Sofia, in the Pirin mountain, towards the border with Greece.

History:
This part of Bulgaria has always been subject to Greek influences, since it is so close to the Bulgarian – Greek border. In Classical antiquity Greeks were involved in the trade here, which becomes clear from the very early ceramics and coins that had been found. Later Melnik was overshadowed by nearby Petra, modern-day Petrich. By the 13th century Melnik was a small Greek town, inhabited by people who had moved from the Plovdiv Greek community. These people and their descendants were the founders of the flourishing trade in the region. By the time of the Liberation in 1878, the population was about 15,000 people. The town declined rapidly in the late 19th and early 20th century due to the political conflicts between Greek and Bulgarian nationalists during and after the Balkan Wars (1912-1913). In the Second Balkan War the area was occupied by the Greek army. The local Greek inhabitants, who had suffered badly from the actions of the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (IMRO), followed the Greek army back, crossing the border and establishing a new settlement at Nea Melnikon, near Serres, in northern Greece. After the failure of the 1923 Rising, and the growth of violent internecine conflict within IMRO, a civil war nearly raged between the nationalists and many people left the region and moved to Sofia to escape it.

Things to see:
Melnik, with its population of only 800, is the smallest Bulgarian town, picturesquely situated amidst fantastic scenery - strangely shaped pyramids of sand and limestone. Steep, sandstone rocks, lovely white houses, perched on their slopes and cobbled streets shape out the unique charm of this tiny Bulgarian town. A beautiful architectural example from the time when the town was flourishing is the Kordopoulos House. The house and its wine cellar date back to  the 18th century and are a remarkable representation of the great wealth of the Hellenic merchant class of old Melnik. From architectural point of view, interesting are the Venetian stained glass windows, the spacious rooms and salons, the ornamental murals, used in the decoration of the house.
Another interesting building is the hammam, a very pretty little Turkish bath in the 18th century style in the middle of the village. 

Within a 30 minute walk along the Melnitsa River, the Rozhen Monastery is situated. The monastery is about 5 km to the east of Melnik and is a great historic monument that is well worth visiting. It is not only a wonderful Christian edifice, beautifully situated at the foot of the Pirin range, but also a sacred shrine to the aspirations of IMRO (Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization) and the Bulgarian struggle in this part of Macedonia.

Photos from Melnik


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