Cultural Corridors of South East Europe

Heritage by Country / Bulgaria


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About the site

Corridor: Western Trans-Balkan Road
Country: Bulgaria, Melnik
Type: Fortress, Vernacular Architecture
Epoch: Modern Times, Middle Ages
Theme: Fortresses, Vernacular Architecture
World Heritage:
Modern TimesMiddle AgesFortressesVernacular ArchitectureFortressVernacular Architecture

Nestled in the south-western slopes of the Pirin mountain, Melnik is the smallest town in Bulgaria. It is declared as cultural and historical reserve and museum-town. The town is famous for its sandy pyramids, the moulded by nature whitish sandstone. The natural phenomenon, that sheltered Melnik, consists of fairy sculptures with various forms and outlines, resembling hay bundles, Gothic towers, minarets, embrasures, huge obelisks, pyramids and rock mushrooms.
Even from most ancient times there was a Thracian settlement here. Along the cobblestone streets, throughout time, succeed Slavs, Bulgarians, Greeks, Latin steps. During the Middle Ages, in the centre of the town, was built the castle of the local despot (ruler) Aleksii Slav. Some scholars believe he was the founder of the Rojen monastery “Birth of Chris”. The present, picturesquely nestled little town, was once a significant economic and spiritual centre, with over 25 000 inhabitants and about 1300 houses. The history of town is revealed also by the ruins of the monastery “St. Nicholas” (12th c.), the Roman bridge, the old Turkish baths, and the remains of several churches, being 75 in the past. In the 17th-18th c. tobacco growing and the production of the excellent Melnik wine turned the town into a flourishing trade centre. The houses of Melnik from that period were quite impressive with their rich architecture, with the wine cellars, with their furniture revealing the Bulgarian sense for uniting practicality and beauty. In the san pyramids encircling the houses from all sides were cut the wine cellars, where the famous wine matured and was preserved – the favourite wine of Churchill. The Kordopoulov house is one of the biggest in South Eastern Europe form the Revival’s period. It was built in 1754 and belonged to the rich Melnik Kordopoulov family. It consists of ground floor, with a wine cellar hewn, a semi-floor for farming purposes and main living floor projecting forward. The capacity of the wine cellar is 250-300 tons of wine. Other remarkable examples of local architecture are Pashov’s and Tsintsarov’s houses. The exceptional atmosphere of Melnik – unique architecture, ancient sites, the fragrance of wine – within the fairy outline of the high sand pyramids, overwhelms the visitor feeling the grandeur of past times.

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