“A deep forest and a road, winding among gardens and vineyards, and a sea so transparent that the sand and the movements of the fish can be noticed on the seabed.”
In this poetic way, Konstantin Jireček describes the area of St. Constantine during his trips in Bulgaria at the end of the 19th century.
The Sts. Constantine and Helena Monastery – the first stop when following the footsteps of time. There are different legends about who, when and why created a monastery right here, but undoubtedly, its existence has played a very important role in the establishment of the area as a resort and a favourite place for recreation and rest. The proximity of the monastery to Varna became the main reason for its rediscovery for the civilized world. It is not known when exactly the monastery was founded, but the tradition tells us that a monastic brotherhood lived here in the 14th century. Its clerics, after fleeing from the yatagan of the Muslim Hagrites, found shelter amidst the thick forests near the sea and established a monastery, surrounded by a picturesque nature, a dense forest and good spring water.
Since the middle of the 19th century, the St. Constantine Monastery has been a familiar and preferred place for rest for the people from Varna. The transformation of the place into a resort made it possible for the citizens of Varna to take a walk or go on a picnic to the monastery during the holidays. The most people gathered on the day of the holy equal-to-the-apostles Constantine and Helena. In the summer, local rich men came here to spend the hot days amidst the coolness and in celebrations. Visitors came to the monastery not only for rest but also for improving their health condition amidst nature, sea and the healing mineral springs.
Prince Alexander of Battenberg - the first high-ranking tourist in St. Constantine
After the Liberation of Bulgaria in 1878, the Grand National Assembly elected the first Bulgarian prince – Alexander of Battenberg. The prince loved to come to Varna and was familiar with the surroundings of the city. Battenberg visited St. Constantine for the first time in August 1880, and thus became the first high-ranking tourist at the monastery, which also contributed to the development of the region as a seaside resort. For its part, this was of great importance for the development of the country at the end of the 19th century, when the idea of turning Varna into a summer capital of the Principality of Bulgaria was introduced. In 1882, the Sandrovo Palace was constructed, which was later renamed to Euxinograd.
In 1899, the St. Constantine Monastery and its farming became property of the District Council of Varna. The city government began to seek new ways for its development, and thus, in 1907, it was decided to turn the area around the monastery into a resort. The repairs and expansion of the old half-destroyed monastery buildings began. The wine school, whose classrooms were remodelled and adjusted to accommodate tourists, became the first “hotel”. The first holidaymakers came in 1908. This event marked the beginning of the resort and the sea tourism in Bulgaria.
Creating the park
A pride and beauty of the newly built St. Constantine Resort became the newly created park, which included interesting tree species, bushes and beautiful flowers, forming attractive park areas. The development of its green wealth is linked to the name of the Czech park-builder Anton Novak, who is famous for building the Schönburg and Belvedere palaces in Vienna and for establishing of the sea garden in Varna. The oldest tree on the territory of the resort today is the over 100-year-old Polish elm (Ulmus campestris), which is located in the yard of the Joliot-Curie International House of Scientists and enjoys the status of a protected tree.
The largest children’s sanatorium on the Balkans was found in the Sts. Constantine and Helena Resort. There are two names from the history of Varna, which are related to the Sts. Constantine and Helena Resort and which contributed the most to the prestige of the city at the end of the 19th century. These are Professor Paraskev Stoyanov – the founder of the sea therapy and the mud therapy in Bulgaria and Dr. Aleksandar Nedyalkov – manager of the Tsaritsa Eleonora State Children’s Sea Sanatorium in the resort.
The dream of Prof. Stoyanov was to organize a sanatorium near the sea for children threatened by bone and joint tuberculosis. This happened in 1908, when, in the Sts. Constantine and Helena Resort, was started the construction of the sanatorium buildings. Queen Eleonora, who lived in the Euxinograd Palace in that time, personally took part in building and furnishing the sanatorium not only with moral support but also with personal donations. The medical establishment was officially opened in 1909 and became the largest children’s sanatorium on the Balkans, which received children from all over Bulgaria. The sanatorium was situated right next to the seashore amidst the greenery of the park. The principles of the air, sea and mud therapy turned into the main principles of the medical establishment. After thousands of sick children were cured here, and the condition of hundreds improved greatly, Sts. Constantine and Helena became known as the first sea climatic treatment station in Bulgaria. Nowadays, the resort offers a wide variety of healing programs, using all known factors of the impact of the sea and thermal waters on the health and strength of the human body.
First participation in an international tourism fair
In 1924, the one-storey hotel in the St. Constantine Monastery was upgraded with two more floors. Thus, the three-storey building, for the first time in the history of Bulgarian tourism, took part in the International Tourism Fair in Prague in 1928.
Development of the resort and tourism from 1908 to the present day
Following the analysis of the interest of foreign tourists to reside along the Varna coast, a regulation plan and rules for the suburban resort zone were adopted in 1933. It provided for the St. Constantine area to become a bustling and secular suburban resort with new luxury hotels, a sea casino, beautiful pedestrian lanes along the coast, a large park area and a recreation area. The first were the holiday station of the telegraph workers, the Polish holiday station, built by the municipality in Warsaw, the stations of the Teachers’ Fund, the Sofia School Board, and the Clerk’s Insurance Company. For the comfort of the tourists, a seasonal summer telegraph-mail station was opened where the visitors could send letters and postcards. Over the years, the development of the resort and of tourism as a whole was not only of a local interest, but turned into a state issue with the introduction of the Economic Tourism sector in the Bulgarian economy in 1947. New hotels, restaurants, confectioneries, bars, sports facilities, tennis courts, playgrounds, outdoor swimming pools were built in the resort.
Nowadays, in search of a proper rest and a favourable combination of a sea, thermal springs and a sea climate, thousands of tourists come to the Sts. Constantine and Helena Resort all year round to discover their perfect sea, spa, wellness and balneo vacation. And what is more – the place is special for those who find inspiration in beautiful landscapes and draw on the charging energy of the sea.