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Melnik


    

     Melnik - the smallest town in Bulgaria attracts lots of Bulgarian and foreign tourists with its whimsical pyramids shining golden-yellow, shaped on the background of magnificent Pirin Mountain. Its wine is worldwide known. The tradition in wine production has been maintained since 1346. The famous Melnik wine was imported here from Syria. The town has had an eventful and turbulent history. Archaeologists claim that the Thracians were the first to settle in these lands. Later came the Romans and left a unique trace: the ancient Roman Bridge. It is the Slavs, who are supposed to have first given the town its present name, after the sand pyramids (the ancient Slavonic word "mel" means clay, chalk) that surround the town.
     Melnik became a part of the Bulgarian State in 845 and within a few centuries flourished greatly. During the 13th century Melnik passed through a great political, economic and cultural upsurge, when despot Slav, a descendant of Assen dynasty, ruler of the Rhodopes and Pirin Mountain in 1209 turned the town into a capital of an independent feudal principality. It turned into a centre of arts and crafts, of building and trade, of icon painting, goldsmiths' products, filigree works, and masonry. Building developed to a great extent. Most of the ruins are of that time. But it is mostly the dark red wine upon which the town has built its reputation. Millions of liters were exported in camel caravans to Venice, Vienna and Budapest.
     During the prosperous 17th-18th centuries, residents went all out constructing houses, some of which were set on foundations of ruined mediaeval buildings. Nowadays some of them have been restored and turned into museums while others serve as guest houses, restaurants and taverns where guests can sample dishes of the Bulgarian national cuisine and the famous Melnik wines.
     The town is an architectural reserve. 96 buildings are cultural monuments.The houses are amphitheatrically placed on the famous golden Melnik's rocks.The specific terrain made people fight for each square foot of land. That is why Melnik houses seem perched one above the other, so close as though they are whispering something to each other. Again, to cope with the slope, people built the basement of stone at several levels where the full-bodied wine matures. The white facades are framed with dark boards and the windows are grouped several together in an elegant fashion. The interiors usually exhibit ceilings of carved wood, chimneys, decorative cupboards, murals and even stained glass. But apart from the generally typical features, every house here has individuality and its own history and life. There are narrow and crooked streets with many little shops and wine cellars. A man can't pass with indifference by the Yankov's House, Daskalov's House, Lambov's House or Sandakchiev's House. But the most remarkable one is Kordopulov's House, built in 1758.
     Kordopulov's House is named after the wine merchant Manolis Kordopulov to whom it once belonged, is a veritable gem of Bulgarian architecture of the National Revival, remarkably planned and executed. Its basement contains one of the largest wine cellars in the town equipped with special canals and ventilation. The house is also famous for its decorative murals and stained Venetian glass, exquisite carved ceilings and sumptuous Baroque decoration. It is a museum - open daily 8.00 am - 8.00 pm. 
     Among the attractions of Melnik are: History Museum, located in Pashov's House, Boyar's House, Kordopulov's House, etc. The architecture of Rozhen Monastery (just 6 km away from Melnik) is very impressive. The church in its yard, built in 1600, was renewed and painted in the 18th century. It contains a wealth of splendid stained glass, woodcarvings and old icons. Parts of them, together with the wood-carvings from the icon stand were exhibited in the Charpentier gallery, Paris and in the Huegel Villa in the town of Essen.
      Melnik is favourable for medical treatment of chronic pulmonary, kidney and rheumatic.
 
      Landmarks

     Nowadays it has about 230 inhabitants but possesses great potential for the development of tourism. The ruins of the old-time splendor are sufficient to submerge one into the atmosphere of long past centuries. The old Melnik houses are impressive with their architecture in conformity with the laws of nature, with their wealth, with their wine cellars, with the Bulgarian 
     Rozhen Monastery is not far from the town (6 km), it was a center of Christian faith and arts. 20 km northeast one can find Rupite.
 
     Transport

     The town is situated at the distance of 24 km from the town of Sandanski and is linked through an asphalt road (12 km) to the international road Sofia-Athens. There are regular bus connection with Petrich, Blagoevgrad and Sofia. The nearest railway station, Damyanitsa, on the Sofia-Kulata railway line is at the distance of 12 km.