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Varna is the largest city on the Bulgarian Black Sea Coast, third-largest in Bulgaria after Sofia and Plovdiv, and 79th-largest in the European Union.
Varna, commonly referred to as the marine capital (or the summer capital) of Bulgaria, is a major tourist destination, seaport, and headquarters of the Bulgarian Navy and merchant marine. It is the centre of Varna Province and Bulgaria's North-Eastern planning region (NUTS II), comprising the provinces of Dobrich, Shumen, Silistra, and Varna.

Geography and transportation
Varna occupies an area of 205 km² on verdant terraces descending from the calcareous Frangen Plateau (height 350 m) along the horseshoe-shaped Varna Bay of the Black Sea, the elongated Lake Varna and two parallel navigable canals bridged by the Asparuhov most. Varna has in excess of 20 km of sand beaches and abounds in thermal mineral water sources. It enjoys a mild continental climate influenced by the proximity to the sea.
The city lies 470 km north-east of Sofia, and the closest major cities are Dobrich (45 km to the north), Shumen (80 km to the west), and Burgas (130 km to the south-west). Varna is accessible by air (Varna International Airport), sea (Port of Varna Cruise Terminal), railroad (Central Train Station), and automobile. Major roads include European routes E70 and E87 and national motorways A2 and A3; there are bus lines to many Bulgarian and European cities from two bus terminals.
The public transit system is extensive and reasonably priced, with dozens of local and express bus, electrical bus, and fixed-route minibus lines, and there is a large fleet of taxicabs.

Antiquity and Bulgarian conquest - Varna is among Europe's oldest cities. It was founded as an ancient Greek (of the city of Miletus) trading colony (apoikia), Odessos, about 570 BC (in the time of Astyages), on the site of an older Thracian settlement. The name Odessos, first mentioned by Strabo, was apparently pre-Greek, perhaps of Carian origin. Long before the Thracians populated the area, prehistoric settlements best known for the eneolithic necropolis, site of the Varna culture and the alleged world's oldest gold treasure, existed within the modern city limits. For centuries, Odessos was a contact zone between the urban Ionians and the Thracians (Getae, Crobyzi, Terizi) of the hinterland. By the 4th century BC, it had become a mixed Greco-Thracian community.
In 339, the city was unsuccessfully besieged by Philip II but surrendered to Alexander the Great in 335, and was later ruled by his diadochus Lysimachus. The Roman city, Odessus (annexed in 15 AD and included in the province of Moesia, later Moesia Inferior), occupied 47 hectares in present-day central Varna and had prominent public baths, Thermae, erected in the late 2nd century, now the largest Roman remains in Bulgaria (the building was 100 m wide, 70 m long, and 20 m high) and fourth largest known Roman baths in Europe. The city was a Christian centre, as testified by the ruins of early basilicas, monasteries, and indications that apostle Ampliatus (Амплий, Amply), disciple of Saint Andrew, served as bishop there. In 442, a peace treaty between Theodosius II and Attila was done at Odessus.
Theophanes the Confessor first mentioned the name Varna, as the place came to be known with the Slavic conquest of the Balkans, in reference to a 7th-century event. This name is arguably the most ancient among Bulgarian town names that have survived unchanged; it is pronounced identically in all regional languages. Asparukh, the founder of the First Bulgarian Empire, advanced to the so-called Varna near Odessos in 681 and made peace after routing a Byzantine army lead by Constantine IV in the Danube delta. Recent scholarship has suggested that the capital of Bulgaria was perhaps initially located in the vicinity of Varna before it was established in Pliska. Asparukh fortified the Varna lowland against possible Byzantine landing by a rampart, remains of which are still standing.
Middle Ages - Control changed from Byzantine to Bulgarian hands several times during the Middle Ages. In the late 9th and the 10th century, Varna was the site of a principal scriptorium of the Preslav Literary School in a monastery founded by Boris I who may have used it as his monastic retreat. In 1201, Kaloyan besieged and took over the fortress on Holy Saturday using a siege tower, and annexed the city to the Second Bulgarian Empire.
By the 14th century, it had turned into a thriving commercial hub frequented by Genoese, Venetian and Ragusan merchant ships (the three republics held consulates there) and flanked by two fortresses, Kastritsi and Galata, within sight of each other and each with a smaller port of its own.
14th-century Italian portolan charts showed Varna as perhaps the most important seaport between Constantinople and the Danube delta; they usually labeled the surrounding land Zagora (Bulgaria). The city was unsuccessfully besieged by Amadeus VI of Savoy in 1366; in 1386, it briefly become the capital of the spinoff Principality of Karvuna, which was then taken over by the Ottomans in 1389 (and again in 1444), ceded temporarily to Manuel II Palaiologos in 1413 (perhaps until 1444), and sacked by Tatars in 1414.
Battle of Varna - On November 10, 1444, arguably the last major battle of the Crusades in European history was fought outside the city walls. The Turks routed an army of 20,000 crusaders led by Ladislaus III of Poland (also Ulászló I of Hungary), which had assembled at the port to set sail to Constantinople. The Christian army was attacked by a superior force of 55,000 or 60,000 Ottomans led by sultan Murad II. Ladislaus III was killed in a bold attempt to capture the sultan, earning the sobriquet Warneńczyk (of Varna in Polish; he is also known as Várnai Ulászló in Hungarian or Ladislaus Varnensis in Latin). The subsequent retreat of the crusader army made the fall of Constantinople to the Ottomans in 1453 all but inevitable, and Varna (with all of Bulgaria) was to remain under Ottoman domination for over four centuries. Today, there is a cenotaph of Ladislaus III in Varna.
Late Ottoman rule - The Russians temporarily took over the city in 1773 and again in 1828, following the prolonged Siege of Varna, returning it to the Ottomans in 1830 after its medieval fortress was razed. The British and French campaigning against Russia in the Crimean War (1854-1856) used Varna as headquarters and principal naval base, many soldiers died of cholera and the city was devastated by a fire. In 1866, the first railroad in Bulgarian lands connected Varna with the port of Rousse on the Danube, linking the Ottoman capital Istanbul with Central Europe; for a few years, the Orient Express ran through that route. The port of Varna developed as a major supplier of food—notably wheat from the adjacent breadbasket region of South Dobruja—to Istanbul.
Liberated Bulgaria - With the national liberation in 1878, the city, which numbered 26 thousand inhabitants, was ceded to Bulgaria by the Treaty of Berlin and Russian troops entered it on July 27. With the departure of most ethnic Turks and Greeks and the arrival of Bulgarians from inland, Northern Dobruja, Bessarabia, and Asia Minor, and later, of refugees from Macedonia, Eastern Thrace and Southern Dobruja following the Balkan Wars and the First World War, ethnic diversity gave way to Bulgarian predominance, although sizeable minorities of Gagauz, Armenians, and Sephardic Jews remained for decades.
The city established itself as Bulgaria's principal port of export, significant industrial and viticulture centre, seat of the nation's oldest institution of higher learning outside Sofia, a popular spot for international festivals and events, as well as the country's summer capital since the erection of the Euxinograd royal summer palace. Mass tourism emerged in the 1960s.
In 1962, the 15th Chess Olympiad, also known as the World Team Championship, was here. In 1969 and 1987, Varna was the host of the World Rhythmic Gymnastics Championships. From September 30 to October 4, 1973, the 10th Olympic Congress took place in the Sports Palace.

Varna's Naval Museum, on display torpedo boat DrazkiCity landmarks include the Varna Archaeological Museum, exhibiting the Gold of Varna, the Roman Baths, the Battle of Varna Park Museum, the Naval Museum in the Italianate Villa Assareto displaying the museum ship torpedo boat Drazki, the Museum of Ethnography in an Ottoman-period compound featuring the life of local urban dwellers, fisherfolk, and peasants in the late 19th and early 20th century.
The Sea Garden is the oldest and perhaps largest park in town containing an an open-air theatre (venue of the Intenational Ballet Competition, opera performances and concerts), an aquarium (opened 1912), a dolphinarium (opened 1984), the Nicolaus Copernicus Observatory and Planetarium, the Museum of Natural History, a terrarium, a zoo, an alpineum, a small European-style Luna Park, and other attractions. The National Revival Alley is decorated with bronze monuments to prominent Bulgarians, and the Cosmonauts' Alley contains trees planted by Yuri Gagarin and other Soviet cosmonauts in the 1960s. The Garden is a national monument of landscape architecture.
The waterfront promenade is lined by a string of beach clubs offering a vibrant scene of rock, hip-hop, Bulgarian and American-style pop, techno, and, naturally, chalga. In October 2006, The Independent dubbed Varna Europe's new funky-town, the good-time capital of Bulgaria. It enjoys a nationwide reputation for its rock and hip-hop artists and related events such as July Morning, international rock and hip-hop (including graffiti) venues.
The city beaches, also known as sea baths (морски бани, morski bani), are dotted with hot sulphuric mineral water sources (used for spas, swimming pools and public showers) and punctured by small sheltered marinas. Additionally, the 2.05 km long, 50 m high Asparuhov most bridge is a popular spot for bungee jumping. Outside the city are the Euxinograd palace, park and winery, the University of Sofia Botanical Garden (Ecopark Varna), the Pobiti Kamani (rock columns) rock phenomenon, and the medieval cave monastery, Aladzha.

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