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The architectural delights of Bulgaria
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Bulgaria offers locals and tourists a reason to praise and admire the diverse range of architecture on offer, which ranges from 20th century public buildings to places of worship. All of these sights carry a story and their individual styles make the skyline a fascinating one. Whilst, its architecture will not be your primary reason for visiting Bulgaria, it certainly makes your stay more interesting.

Award winning historic buildings

The Dormition of the Theotokos Cathedral is the biggest and most famous Bulgarian Orthodox cathedral on the entire Black Sea coast. Located in Varna, this impressive cathedral was formally opened on 30th August 1886. It is the home of the bishopric of Varna and Preslav, and one of Varna’s most famous landmarks. The plan for the cathedral, which is a replica of the temple found in Finland’s Peterhof, was by an architect named Maas. Construction commenced soon after the foundation stones were laid, and it took a further six years to complete. Originally, the local government agreed a 6,000 leva contract with Maas, but he soon asked for more funding, so the commission decided to buy his plans but not engage him in the construction. Whilst the foundations were laid following Maas’ design, the rest of the building followed the plans of public architect P. Kupka, who later won an award for best architectural design in 1887.

The cathedral is designed in a three cross, domed basilica featuring two large aisles, with the key altar being dedicated to the Dormition of the Theotokos. The task of selecting a master builder began in the summer of 1880 and, after an extensive search the job was finally assigned to Yanko Kostandi. The cathedral was constructed the following year, and the first church service was given on 30th August 1886. Work on the interior continued; the bishop's throne – made to a design of Niko Mavrudi - was installed in 1897, and the wall of the painted icons and religious symbols was created later by the artist Ivan Filipov from Debar. A new bell tower was proposed, but not according to the original plans. The dome of the original drawings was lifted to for the bell tower, the bell was supposed to weigh 1.6 tons and bear the inscription ‘In honour of the Liberator’ - today, these words adorn the entrance door. Over forty religious icons were brought over from Russia as a donation by Nicholas II in 1901. The cathedral floor was covered with ceramic tiles of different colours in 1911 and the balcony was finished four years later. Further decoration of the Cathedral began after 1949 under Professor N. Rostovtsev, who donated the necessary materials. Inside there are six famous chandeliers that were the work of woodcarver P. Kushlev. The large painted windows were installed in the 1960s. Saints Cyril and Methodius are found on the larger south ones, while the north ones show St Angelarius and St Clement of Ohrid. Today the cathedral is a popular destination for tourists from all over the world.

The Nikola Vaptsarov Naval Academy was named after its architect, who later went on to win an award for the building’s design in 1882. The design of the building is in the Neo-Classical style, with the interior decorated in the same elegant and sophisticated taste. Today the building is home to the Bulgaria’s Naval Academy, and it is one of the most respected centres of maritime personnel education in the country. These academies are based all over the country, and the most famous is situated in the capital city of Varna. However, the building which holds the name of architect Nikola Vaptsarov lies in Bulgaria’s border city, Rousse and serves the Danube Naval fleet. It is the oldest vocational school in the country.

Modern master - Svilen Enev

Bulgaria’s modern styled buildings of the 1960s includes Varna’s Palace of Culture and Sports. This dramatic 20th century building was constructed in 1968 by famous Bulgarian architect Svilen Enev, who won an award for best architectural design later that year. Today the building has many purposes; it is home to a number of business and scientific events, as well as of prestigious International sports events such as volleyball and basketball. Inside the building is an elegant waterfall, which serves as the main interior feature. The palace also holds a 3,000 seats sports hall, sports shops, restaurants and nightclubs with parking facilities. The Sports Palace is a focal point of Varna centre and attracts locals and tourists year round due to the many varied attractions it offers.

21st century shopping

Female architect Vanya Karadjova won the award for best architect in the year of 2005. The reason for this prestigious award is her design for ‘the ship’ which is located along Varna’s coastline. The modern design took a staggering ten years to build. The plans were put to the local government in 1995, and they granted only a small percentage of the money for the build. The remainder of the building’s costs had to be raised by donations from other local businesses and fundraising events. The total cost of the building was a massive 4 million leva, and it took 250 builders to complete the complex design. Today the building serves as an up-market shopping mall. The mall is home to many shops from designer shoe stores to book shops. There are many restaurants offering both traditional and international cuisine. Prices in this chic shopping mall are relatively high, and it caters to wealthy locals and tourists. Parking is available with the capacity to hold up to 700 cars. Parking is free of charge for 2 hours.

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