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Ancient Greeks founded a colony here and named it Mesambria, later on Bulgarians and Ottomans transformed the Greek name into Mesemvrija. The present name was given in the year 1930. The spelling Nessebar (Nesebar, also Nesseber or Nesebur) is the most common one.

Nessebar occupies a small, rocky island in the Black Sea, only to be connected with the mainland by an (artificial) isthmus. The town can be found between Varna (around 90 km) and Bourgas (about 25 km) almost in the middle of the Bulgarian part of the Black Sea coast. There's another interesting old town only a few kilometres south of Nessebar, called Pomorie. To the north, touristy Sunny Beach stretches along the Sea. Population is less than 20 000 (incl. the new town). Nessebar is clearly divided into Old Nessebar, i.e. the historic old city core occupying the entire peninsula (ex-island), and New Nessebar sprawling along the coastline on the mainland. Since the alleys of Old Nessebar are too narrow, visitors are not allowed to enter by car. But there's a conveniently located parking lot near the entrance to the old city. New Nessebar is not really interesting. Old Nessebar on the other hand is a pleasant mélange of some very old houses and partially wooden houses built 200 to 300 years ago, accompanied by uneven cobbled streets. The entire old town centre has been declared World Cultural Heritage by the UNESCO.

The old town is almost romantic, but be aware that you'll have to share this place with countless tourists - several million visitors flock to Old Nessebar every year. Especially in summer it's virtually impossible to enjoy a quiet walk through the alleys. However, there's a good reason for that - Nessebar is indeed somewhat of a must-see. At first there was a Thracian settlement, with remainings that can be dated back to the 2-nd millennium BC.

The island was much bigger than it is today - about one third of the land was lost due to coastal erosion. Thracians erected a first harbour and named the place Menabria. During the VI century BC, the long Greek period began. Dorian Greeks founded a colony in Menabria and used the old Thracian name. Menabria then was a powerful city-state with its own fleet, its own currency, numerous temples and a fortification system. Parts of those can still be seen. In 72 BC, the Roman Empire conquered Thracia and Nessebar. The town Anchialos (present-day Pomorie), south of Nessebar, outstripped Mesambria (Menabria was renamed again).

Production and trade in Mesambria declined, and the town began to crumble. Things got better under the Byzantine reign between the IV and VII century AD. New basilicas were erected and trade reactivated. Furthermore, fortification systems were extended. Mesambria became an important fleet base. Things didn't change a lot during the First Bulgarian Empire and the following Ottoman occupation. It remained an important place, with only a slight change of the name: Now, the town was called Mesemvrija. During the Second Bulgarian Empire in the XIV century, Mesemvrija reached its heyday. The citizens started to build on the mainland as well. The decline of the town started with the new Ottoman occupation in the XIV century. During the next five centuries, Mesemvrija was degraded to just another small town in the vast Ottoman Empire. After being liberated by Russian troops in 1829, many Greek and Turkish inhabitants fled the place. Later, Nessebar became a forgotten place with just a few fishermen. Around the year 1900, only 1900 people lived in Nessebar - 95 % of them were Greeks. The demographic situation kept on changing. Greeks left the place and were soon outnumbered by Bulgarians. In the 1930-ies, people discovered Nessebar's quality as a seaside resort. In addition to wine production and fishing, tourism slowly became an important source of income. During the 1960-ies, the restoration of the old city centre started. This was rewarded in 1983, when the UNESCO declared Old Nessebar a world cultural heritage - quite early for a place in Eastern Europe.

Today, most people live in New Nessebar. The entire town can lodge around 15 000 visitors at the same time - almost as many as there are inhabitants. Nessebar lies on the main road between Varna and Bourgas, so it's very easy to get there by bus or car.

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