When walking along steep winding streets of Balchik it is hard not to believe that it is over two thousand years old. As an aging diva, the town hides its respectable age beneath make up of modern houses and outfits of a resort’s infrastructure. And only exhibits of local museums give away a carried-away flirt. In 2007 a temple, dedicated to the mother of Gods, Cybele, was unexpectedly dug out. It was this discovery that allowed writing a missing prologue to Balchik’s biography: discovered coins date as far back as 3rd century B.C.
Since then Greek settlements changed a series of names and generations of citizens until it asserted itself in its modern version. Even local history experts have difficulties answering the question what “Balchik” means. There are numerous suggestions: from Bulgarian boyar Balik, who reigned there in the Middle Ages to “small town” and “sweet” village. The latter is supposed to testify to high quality of honey from the area.
Yarosh’s Balchik’s business card is the Palace of Princess Mary of Edinburgh, Queen of Romania (North of Bulgarian was temporarily given to their neighbors as a result of World War I). Grand daughter of Emperor Alexander of Russia built here a residence to her taste and called it “Quiet Nest”. Over a 15 years’ time nice architectural structures with the three-storey palace in the lead, crowned with a minaret, emerged on the Black Sea coast. At that, St. Mary’s chapel was located near there – the one that had been dismantled on Crete to be reconstructed again in Balchik. Such neighboring of different religions’ altars was a reflection of the Queen’s unusual views. She, as well as other Bahá'í Faith followers, believed that all believes lead to a single god.
Around the Quiet Nest a park spreads out, it iterates intricacies of Cretan Labyrinth. Water falls on millstones to turn coniferous alleys into channels. Terraces, framed with Moroccan jars, connect a dozen villas of this summer residence. And rich collection of plants makes it one of Europe’s largest botanic gardens. Over 200 tourists come here annually to see with their own eyes five-meter-high cacti, exotic representatives of flora and simply inhale dizzying odor of millions of flowers. Should we believe tour guides, in rose garden queen’s guests used to loose consciousness not only because of natural beauties but also because of opium. The hostess herself used to treat them with the drug. Then, hiding behind backs of relaxed actors, painters and society people, she was listening to their interesting confessions.
It should be admitted that it isn’t that hard to believe this legend. Queen of Romania was an uncommon person as for her title. She differed from other Europe’s first ladies because she smoked and was wearing her hair short. Also, Maria rode horses better than military men did, wrote poems under pseudonym Carmen Sylva and even collected gravestones. One can get acquainted with the latter hobby of the royal woman in her residence. A stone throne, in which the queen used to watch sunset over the sea, is impressive. Her will is the best testimony of her love to the Quiet Nest: to burry her heart in the chapel of the palace.
Nowadays culture events, like, for instance, International Short Film and Documentaries Festival ‘In The Palace’ are held here. It was in this palace, where Francis Ford Coppola’s famous movie Youth Without Youth was shot. Creator of The Godfather was so inspired by the Quiet Nest that dedicated 11 shooting days to it.
As to resort-like kind of rest, Balchik cannot boast of having considerable beaches and endless chain of restaurants. Instead local prices compare favorably with those of more in-demand locations: Albena, Golden Sands and Nesebar. Here one can gather own thoughts, forget about crowds of tourists and had a leisurely walk along the town’s quay. And you can’t but indulge yourself and respond to the call of deliberate rest when there are both yacht and golf clubs at hand and in an establishment called The Beds you can lie down on a bed by the pool after having danced to the top of your bent.
“White town!” Ovid exclaimed when sailing by Balchik of his times. Poet couldn’t bring himself to take his eyes off of standing out rocks and snow-white houses with red roofs nestled among them in several tiers. Thousands years later ancient classic’s amazement was supported by Queen of Romania who found peace and inspiration here. And what would your impression of Balchik be?