For those who join Prestige Holidays on our 8-day escorted tour of Bulgaria, the ancient land of the Thracians offers a deep and abiding cultural experience. It also delivers the opportunity to sample the country’s superb wine, which comes with a very prestigious seal of approval.
In a country of untold historical importance, even Bulgaria’s smallest city (population 385) packs a powerful cultural punch. Melnik, situated in the Pirin Mountains, is not only an architectural reserve – it’s also renowned for its wine, a preferred vintage of Sir Winston Churchill.
Melnik: A Miniature Historical Powerhouse
Set on a dramatic natural stage surrounded by sandstone formations (known as pyramids), some up to 100m tall, the landscape of Melnik is in itself a unique attraction. But the magnificently preserved architecture, fascinating relics of antiquity and six-century-old wine culture combine to form what is truly an historical powerhouse in miniature.
Day three of Prestige Holidays’ escorted tour combines a leisurely exploration of Melnik followed by a visit to the nearby medieval Rozhen Monastery and wine tasting.
Attractions of Melnik
Melnik is compact and walkable and its appeal is very much in the experience itself. Among its notable historic architecture is the eighteenth-century Kordopulov House, a four-storey Revival-era mansion with stained glass, underground wine cellars and secret passageways.
Slava Krepost is a ruined thirteenth-century despot’s fortress which sits in an elevated location just above the town, called St. Nicholas Plateau, along with the ruins of several churches and monasteries.
The town has three extant churches from an original 70, including Sveta Varvara and Sveta Antoni. There’s an historical museum and also the Museum of Wine, which pays homage to its long history of winemaking.
The thirteenth-century working Rozhen Monastery is the largest Orthodox monastery in the Pirin region and is considered one of the most sacred places in the country. Largely rebuilt during the Ottoman rule, over the years the monastery has served as sanctuary for revolutionaries and activists, but today is a place of spirituality and peace.
The complex comprises architecture from several different eras and includes some beautifully preserved sixteenth-century frescoes, intricate carvings and the spectacular stained glass windows of the Nativity of the Virgin Church. One of the most revered sites is the icon house, which is said to have been painted by St Luke.
The region’s winemaking traditions date back to the Thracians and Romans. During Medieval times the Bulgarian monks produced vintages and aged them in the crypts of the monasteries. In a region so renowned for its viticulture, naturally we give you the opportunity to sample the drop that so enamoured Sir Winston Churchill that he ordered 500 litres of it annually.
Discover more about the historical aspects of this wonderful escorted tour here.