Melnik, Bulgaria


Melnik is a town in Blagoevgrad Province, southwestern Bulgaria, in the southwestern Pirin Mountains, about 440 m above sea level. The town is an architectural reserve and 96 of its buildings are cultural monuments. With a population of 385, it is the smallest town in Bulgaria, retaining its city status today for historical reasons.

According to archaeological evidence, the first to settle in the area were the Thracian tribe Medi to which the famous rebel Spartacus belonged. Centuries later, the presence of the Romans left the town one of its landmarks — the Ancient Roman bridge, which is still preserved. The Slavs who later came in these parts named the settlement Melnik after the sand formations surrounding it on all sides (the Bulgarian word "mel" means "white clay, chalk"). Melnik became a part of the First Bulgarian Empire under the rule of Khan Presian I (836-852) and prospered greatly in the period. Melnik became the capital of an independent feudal principality ruled by Despot Alexius Slav, a descendant of the Asen dynasty, in 1209, and passed through an economic and cultural upsurge during his reign. The town continued to flourish under Tsar Ivan Asen II because of the duty-free trade with Venetian-ruled Dubrovnik.

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