Friday, December 7, 2012

The Black Sea: Crossroads of History

Once upon a time, the Black Sea was a huge freshwater lake. At the end of the last ice age, because of a sudden climactic warming, glaciers began to melt and consequently, the world’s oceans began to rise.

In 5,600 BC, the Mediterranean Sea broke through a natural land “dam” where today there is the city of Istanbul. This geological event created the Bosporus Strait, allowing vast amounts of seawater to flow into the previously fresh waters of the Black Sea. Carbon-14 radio-dating methods support this viewpoint.

Its ancient name was Pontus Exinus (the inhospitable sea).

The Black Sea was explored and colonized by the Greeks in the 8th century B.C. and later by the Romans in the 3rd century B.C. Its commercial importance grew from the Greek dominance to the Byzantine Empire, when the capital of the Roman Empire became Costantinople.

When the Ottomans invaded Constantinople and changed it into Instanbul, the Black Sea was closed to foreign commerce until 1856 when the Treaty of Paris which settled the Crimea War and made the Black Sea a neutral territory, closing it to all warships and prohibiting fortifications and the presence of armaments on its shores. The treaty marked a severe setback to Russian influence in the region. However since then, the Sea re-opened for business to all nations interested in commerce.

The Black Sea is home to some of humankind’s most intriguing legends like Jason’s Gold Fleece and Noah’s Ark.

Maritime explorer Bob Ballard mostly known for the discoveries of the wrecks of the RMS Titanic in 1985 and of the battleship Bismarck in 1989 he is combing the floor of the Black Sea in search of the remains of ancient dwellings, which would buttress a new theory that a cataclysmic flood struck the region some 7,000 years ago—swelling the sea and eventually becoming the basis of the Noah story.

Ballard’s research has been extensevely featured through a special programming on National Geographic Channel. 

Troy, Constantinople, Istanbul, Sevastopol, Odessa, and Yalta are just a few of the names in this coastal area that have been carved in world history.

From the Christian Crusades to the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Black Sea has witnessed major religious and political changes which greatly influenced human history.

Today, the Black sea is a melting pots of cultures, traditions, religions and historical memories. It’s still a vital trading crossroads, with major ports along its coast, the commercial fisheries, a diversity of marine life, beautiful tourist beaches and unique archaelogical sites.

The recent discovery of ancient wooden ships in the floor of the Black Sea has grown a renewed interest in its underwater treasures and history. In 1976, Willard Bascom suggested that the deep, anoxic waters of the Black Sea might have preserved ships from antiquity because typical wood-devouring organisms could not survive there. At a depth of 150m, the Black Sea contains insufficient oxygen to support most familiar biological life forms.

The Black Sea has six bordering countries: Bulgaria and Romania on the west, Ukraine on the north, Russia and Georgia on the east, and Turkey on the south.


The Bulgars were a Caucasian-turkish tribe which formed the first Bulgarian nation in the 7th century. In 1389, the Ottoman Turks took over Bulgaria and nearly 500 years later Bulgaria regained independence with the help of Russia.

Eventually Bulgaria fell under the Soviet influence and in 1946 became a People's Republic.

The Communist regime ended in 1990, when the country held its first free elections since World War II and began its path towards democracy.

In 2001, Simeon Borisov Saxe-Coburg, the former king of Bulgaria who was forced from his throne after World War II, returned to power as Prime Minister.

Bulgaria is a unique mix of ethnic groups: Bulgars, Slavs, Thracians, Armenians, Greeks, Romans, and Turks. Some villages have a church, some have a mosque, and some have both. Bulgaria is a peaceful nation which is a pretty rare quality in the Balkans area.

Bulgaria relies on the Black Sea for fishing, commerce, and tourism with its major beach resorts. Varna is the country's largest seaport and second-largest city. Bourgas and Sozopol are the primary fishing ports, Tsarevo is a major touristic hub.

Did You Know That? — About Bulgaria

-   In Bulgaria, shaking your head from side to side means "yes," and nodding your head up and down means "no."
-   Sofia's Alexander Nevski Church is the largest Orthodox Church in Europe.

-   The Cyrillic alphabet was developed in Bulgaria by the saints Methodious and Cyril.

-   Orpheus, the great musician of Greek myth, whose songs could charm wild beasts and coax even rocks to move, was said to have been born in the ancient land of Bulgaria.

-   Bulgarian food uses minced or grilled lamb, beef, veal, pork, pickles, lamb's cheese, and yogurt. Ayran, a yogurt thinned with water, is a popular drink that looks like milk. Traditional Shopska salad is made with tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers and topped with feta cheese.
-   The most important commercial port is Bourgas.
-   The Corporate Income Tax in Bulgaria is 10%.
-   More than 80% of households own the home free from mortgage.


The name Romania comes from the Latin word “Romanus” that means Roman, however the nation’s current name has been in use only since the second half of the XIXth century.

Before that time its name was Wallachia or Moldavia.

In Romania there are both strong European and Turkish influences, as Romania was part of the Ottoman Empire until 1877.

Romania's political history of the past century has been marked by political instability and violent revolutions: after World War II, King Mihai was forced to abdicate, forced by the Communists, and Romania became a "People's Republic."

In the 1960s, Nicolae Ceausescu took over the Communist Party leadership and instituted increasingly oppressive measures. He was overthrown and executed in late 1989.

Currently, Romania is a democracy and recently joined the European Union.

Romania has a chain of resorts, a "string of pearls," along the Black Sea coast. The largest urban center and seaport is Constanta. The sun, air, Black Sea water, and thermal mud treatments at these resorts are said to have restorative powers.

Did You Know That? — About Romania

-   The Roman poet Ovid was exiled to the Romanian coast by Emperor Augustus in 8 A.D. He wrote some of his most important work there, such as Tristia, which expresses his sadness at being far from home.

-   Romania's Lake Rosca is home to Europe's largest pelican colony.

-   Famous Romanians range from Count Dracula (Vlad the Impaler) in Transylvania to the modern sculptor Constantin Brancusi.

-   Zakuska is a traditional spread made from roasted eggplant, peppers, and tomatoes. Almost all Romanian.
-   The Corporate Income Tax is 16%.
-   More than 80% of households own the home free from mortgage.

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