Having been based in the Black Sea port of Varna for the past three years, I am constantly being surprised by the many hidden sights, natural attractions, and cultural gems that are still left to be discovered. One of the most recent, and photogenic, was a sleepy fishing village near me that is populated by a significant Russian minority. The locals are a remnant of the Russian – Turkish War. This is the village of Kazashko (Казашко) or as I’ve affectionately deemed it: The Bulgarian Mevagissey.
Situated three kilometers outside of Varna city limits, this fishing village near me was not on my radar until I was told about it. Kazashko had a reported population of 349 people in 2015 and is a world apart from the type of fishing village in the UK, like Mevagissey, I’ve been used to.
Kazashko is situated on the Gulf of Varna. A large baby blue Orthodox Cross marks the best spot on the banks of the village to grab a superb vista of the shipping traffic heading into Varna’s inland Black Sea port. Nearby was a local ethnic-Russian fisherman wearing a traditional headgear that resembled a witches’ hat. Fittingly, Halloween was only two days earlier.
The quaint waterside homes of the locals in Kazashko almost exclusively boast wooden piers jutting out into the clear waters of the Black Sea. As I took a walk out along these haphazard walkways, it wasn’t long before I spotted catfish and baby sharks in the water below.
Walking deeper into the village on a Monday evening, I found the streets to be largely empty. Although Bulgaria is a fairly safe country, the yards of the homes in Kazashko were guarded by dogs ranging from Bull Mastiffs to Alsatians, just for good measure. Of course, like everywhere in Bulgaria, there was no shortage of street-wise looking cats.
The village cemetery is where the Russian identity of this village can really be seen. Exclusively different from the majority of Bulgarian cemeteries I’ve seen, the graves here were Russian style Orthodox crosses. The peaceful hillside cemetery overlooked the water below. Under the golden rays of the setting sun, the contrasts were stunning. Interestingly, the cemetery was home to an exclusive abundance of Yukka plant which reminded me of the prevalence of Elm Trees in British cemeteries.
The majority of the people living in the Bulgarian version of Mevagissey are descendants of the Don and Kuban Cossacks who have been settled in the area since 1905. Their main occupation, in addition to being able to handle a variety of weapons and fight wars, was fishing. This is an occupation that has certainly not been lost by their modern descendants.
As the sun began to disappear, I returned to the baby blue cross to head back to Varna. The bench under it was now occupied by two local women enjoying some plastic cups of Bulgarian wine and catching the sunset. I’ll certainly be returning to the Bulgarian Mevagissey, a fascinating place indeed.
For further reading on the prevalence of ethnic Russians in Bulgaria, check out our article covering one of the most interesting facts about Bulgaria – Why are there so many Russians in Bulgaria?