Presentation of wooden houses

Old wooden houses in surprising Nesebar

A family event gave me the opportunity to spend a few days of vacation in Bulgaria. As the very strong sun kept us further away from the beach, we decided on one of the days to visit the town of Nesebar, a short distance from Sveti Vlas, the resort where we spent our holiday. I didn't know what to expect, I had no information about the small town on the Black Sea. I was to be greeted by a perfectly maintained medieval town with very authentic old wooden houses, cobbled streets, defensive walls and many old churches. The Pearl of the Black Sea, as I later found out it was called, perfectly justifies its name, being truly a carefully and lovingly protected pearl.

old wooden houses

Just some information about Nesebar

You will also find it in presentations as Neseber or Nesebur or spelled with a double "s". It is located in the province of Burgas, just 5 km from Sunny Beach, Bulgaria's largest and best-known Black Sea resort. It has two parts, the old and the new town, linked by a built-up isthmus, the old town being on an island.

The medieval-looking town is built on the ancient ruins of the Thracian settlement of Mesambria, with over 3000 years of turbulent history behind it. It has been under Greek, Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman empires. Traces of their passage can still be seen in the ruins of the city walls, churches and houses made of wood and stone. The present appearance of the town is medieval, having been rebuilt in the Renaissance period. More than 60 authentic houses from that period can still be found.

In 1983 Nesebar was declared a UNESCO monument and since then its restoration began. In addition to the old houses, new houses of identical appearance were built. The old town is a unit, with nothing to disturb its medieval image. All the modern-looking buildings are on the other side, in the new town. Over time the town has lost 1/3 of its entire area (it is now 32 km²) and is covered by water, with the old city walls still visible from the shore.

old wooden houses
photo source:
Old houses in Nesebar

The houses, despite looking different, are all built according to the same pattern - a stone ground floor with a wooden upper floor. They have an authentic old look although they are adapted to the new living conditions. The old town is inhabited and receives several times more tourists than the total number of inhabitants (just over 13,000) each year.

I looked carefully at houses that looked unchanged for hundreds of years and discovered, with great difficulty, new windows. Perfectly made, perfectly framed, without changing the overall look of the house. There are also visibly newer houses that are no different from the architecture and general appearance of the old ones. Everything is so unified that you get the feeling that one person worked to build the whole town.

And imagine that most of these old wooden houses have shops, restaurants on the ground floor, are hotels or have small terraces at the back or on the sea side. Although it looks like a big open-air museum, the houses are permanently inhabited, the town has a tumultuous life which, thanks to the mild climate, lasts longer than in a normal seaside town (until October). Thousands of tourists visit daily and others come for a wonderful stay, on beaches on sand considered the finest on the whole coast and with restaurants with discreet, vine-covered terraces where you can see the sea.

old wooden houses

Accuracy of renovations

Walking through the narrow streets of Nesebar I smelled at one point the smell of wood oil. I looked around to discover the workshop where they worked with that oil. I realised later that a wooden shutter. I realized this because it had that freshly oiled sheen.

I must have stood there for 15 minutes to see if the wood was old and re-ground or the shutter was completely rebuilt. I'm not quite sure now either, but I think it was re-done. The wood was burned, carefully sanded to give it structure and then coloured to give it a light, reddish-yellow patina.

The shutter was hooked with a wire latch so it wouldn't open very far and had all the elements on it that took it back hundreds of years - nails, old locks, scratches. Seeing the way it was restored made me understand why the Nesebar looks so authentic.

old wooden houses

Our Bulgarian neighbours can teach us a lot

After 5 days spent on the Bulgarian coast, I understood that we have a lot to learn from our neighbours. From the old wooden houses, maintained and restored so as not to alter the medieval air, to the invitation, made in Romanian, to eat a fish "too good, too like at the sea", from the green spaces maintained by and the trees were greener than in the forest, to the perfect service received everywhere from kind people, we could learn everything if we wanted. The conditions are there, we just need some willpower.

And don't forget! If you end up in Sveti Vlas don't miss the Balkan restaurant. You'll find many Masterchef worthy dishes cooked by Elena, one of our Romanians. We discovered the restaurant by chance and kept going because we liked the food. One evening, the waiter told us that the chef was from Romania. We congratulated him on his cooking, he came over to say hello and we became friends. I praised the fish soup, which reminded me of the Delta, and he told me that was where he got his inspiration. If you're in the area, go to Balkan, you'll be surprised how good you'll eat.

old wooden houses

old wooden houses

old wooden houses
fish soup from Balkan

About the author

Mihaela Radu

Mihaela Radu is a chemical engineer but has a great passion for wood. She has been working in the field for more than 20 years, wood finishing being what defined her during this period. She gained experience working in a research institute, in her own company, as well as in a multinational. She wants to continuously share her experience with those who have the same passion - and more.


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