In 1941, Kaliakra became one of the first protected areas in Bulgaria. In 1966, it was declared a Natural Reserve; since 2003 it is also an Archaeological Reserve. In archaeological terms, Cape Kaliakra is a classic antiquity and medieval fortified center, capital of the Despotate of Dobrudzha of the Second Bulgarian Kingdom and the residence of Despot Dobrotitza. The Kaliakra Natural Reserve is one of the most popular reserves on the Bulgarian Black Sea coast. It covers an area of 688 decares of steppes and impressive cliffs with numerous caves rising above the sea. It is well-known for its steppe vegetation. Here were found about 359 herbaceous, 17 shrub and 18 tree species, which form around 29 % of the flora in Dobrudzha. The richness of bird species can be explained by Via Pontica – the bird migration route passing over the area.
Today “Kaliakra” Reserve is one of the 100 National Tourist Sites.
Due to its natural protection provided by the high and steep shores and its strategic position, the place has been inhabited since ancient times. In the second half of the 4th c. BC here was founded the Thracian fortified town Tirizis. In late antiquity (4th – 6th c.), the settlement on Cape Kaliakra, at this time already known as Acre, achieved significant territorial expansion.
The precipitate progress of the medieval town Kaliakra however, is largely associated with the 14th c., when it became the capital of the Despotate of Dobrudzha. The written sources and the epigraphic monuments provide evidence of an active religious life. At the Citadel, home of the Despot, rose a magnificent church building, of which almost no traces are left today. In the outer city there were several neighborhood churches, the remains of four of which were discovered during archaeological excavations. All of them burned down during the conquest of Kaliakra by the Ottoman Turks at the end of 14th century. Later they were restored as modest religious buildings around which necropolises developed. From the 15th c. to the beginning of the 18th c. the citadel of the fortress was occupied by a Turkish garrison, for whose religious needs a mosque was built. The written records mention also a dervish monastery. During the same period Kaliakra’s name became associated with important historical events. In 1402, the Voivode Mircea the Elder of Wallachia conquered these lands and ruled over them, albeit briefly. In 1444, the troops of Wladyslaw of Varna stopped at the Cape when retreating after the unsuccessful battle against the Ottoman Empire near Varna. In 1791 off the coast of Kaliakra raged the largest naval battle in the Black Sea, in which the Russian squadron led by Admiral Ushakov defeated the otherwise superior Turkish armada.
At the beginning of 20th c. an earthquake caused a part of the Cape to collapse. Many of the archaeological remains disappeared forever. This fate was met also by the old local shrine venerated by two religions – the one of Sara Saltık and Saint Nicholas. Until now seven such shrines are said to exist in the Balkans, two of them are in Dobrudzha. These are the temples in the town of Babadag (modern Romania) and Cape Kaliakra. It is assumed that both appeared in the first centuries of Ottoman rule as a result of the relocation of the Tartars, in whose pantheon Sara Saltık holds an important place, as he was revered as a zealous warrior of Islam; Saint Nicholas, on the other hand, was celebrated as the patron saint of sailors, fishermen and merchants. The temple in Cape Kaliakra experienced its heyday in the 16th c., when it was the home of about 200 dervishes, including followers of non-orthodox Islam. The decline of the monastery began as early as the beginning of the next century. However, it survived until the early 20th c., when an earthquake destroyed completely the saint’s grave. This event, as well as the new ethno-demographic processes taking place at the same time in Dobrudzha, condemned to oblivion the memory of Sara Saltık. Christians, however, continued to worship Saint Nicholas here, and today it is a favorite spot for tourists visiting the ancient cape.
The name of the cape is associated with many legends. The most famous of them tells the story of 40 Bulgarian girls who, in order to escape the Turkish invaders, plaited their hair together and jumped into the depths of the sea. Today, at the beginning of the cape rises an obelisk called the “Gate of the 40 maids”.
According to another legend, when Saint Nicholas was chased by the Ottomans, he ran to the sea but the earth kept expanding under his feet. This is how the cape was formed. It ends at the place where the Ottomans caught up with the saint and slayed him.
Where: “Kaliakra” Natural and Archeological Reserve is located 12 km from Kavarna and 6 km from the village of Balgarevo. It is accessible by car or public transport from the Bus Station-Kavarna (tel. of Bus Station-Kavarna 0570/8 23 90).
When: The site is open all year round, but the best time to visit is between April and October. Opening hours: 9:00 to 20:00
During the tourist season it is possible to organize guided tours with a specialist curator on the site (for more information and inquiries – tel.: 0570/8 21 50 and 0570/4 22 15 History Museum-Kavarna).
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