We are along the Black Sea coast, where there is a place that enjoys keen interests from tourists even in winter.
This is Shabla Municipality, in the northernmost section of the Bulgarian coastline, a territory that have become the winter getaway of dozens of endangered bird species, including the entire world population of the Red-breasted Goose.
During the cold months, when seaside resorts shut down, Shabla Municipality welcomes coaches with foreign tourists armed with cameras, binoculars and every kind of equipment.
However, before heading to the wetlands, they make a stopover in a pictoresque place where time seems has stopped.
There, weathered by winds and history, stands the Shabla Lighthouse, Шабленски фар in bulgarian.
This is the oldest (and the tallest one) lighthouse on the Bulgarian Black Sea coast occupies the country’s easternmost point, Cape Shabla, 5 kilometres east of the eponymous town, in Dobrich Province.
Here the astronomical New Year arrives earlier than in the rest of the country, basically 19 minutes earlier than in the capital Sofia located 550 km to the west of the cape.
The beacon painted in red and white stripes is one of the most interesting sites along Bulgaria’s northern Black Sea coast section and, for more than a century and a half it shows the way to navigators in the Black Sea.
Supposedly it was build to copy one of the world’s seven wonders, the Alexandria Lighthouse reduced to rubble by a quake in the Middle Ages.
The Shabla Lighthouse is also called the Sand Lighthouse, for its power to protect ships from getting stuck into the treacherous shallow waters stretching from Cape Shabla to the nearby village of Tyulenovo. It protects the ships from colliding with a reef, which stretches nearly one sea mile, as well as preventing them from getting stuck in the shallows between the cape and the village.
The lights emitted from its 32 m tower flash once every 25 seconds, sending out signals 17 miles into the sea.
132 are the steps that lead to the halogen projector that stands on a constant watch and lights the way to the ships. The lighthouse walls are 1.20 meters thick and cold does not penetrate into the room even during the winter.
The station was established in 1786 by the Ottoman Empire, it was built in its modern appearance during the Crimean War and opened on 15 July 1856.
However there is evidence that guiding lights have been sent out from Cape Shabla since ancient times, when the Black Sea was the sea crossroads of merchants from the region.
Similar to other Bulgarian lighthouses the Shabla one was launched and managed by the French Compagnie des Phares de l’Empire Ottoman in the mid-19 century, when Bulgaria was still under Ottoman rule.
The lighthouse tower has a monogram of Ottoman Sultan Abdülmecid inscribed into it.
Monograms of the ruling Ottoman monarch were inscribed in buildings of exceptional importance for the empire.
It is curious to know that the tallest lighthouse in Bulgaria was built fast and its construction came cheaper than many other such facilities, as building material for the building was taken directly from the ruins of a 4th-century Roman fortress that lied just a few meters from it.
Either way, Cape Shabla has seen human settlements since ancient times.
Historical sources claim that more than 2 millennia ago, a port with the name Karia existed in close proximity of the present lighthouse, and it survives in the name of the present-day locality that offers wonderful landscapes.
Apart from its lovely beaches, the area is also the scene of rather fearsome sea storms that artists and photographers love to depict in their works.
In 1901 a devastating quake caused colossal damage, but luckily the lighthouse survived almost unscathed.
But the Shabla Lighthouse has also its secret: in 1996 when its 140th anniversary was marked the people managing the building dug into its foundation a message to future generations that should be opened when the facility turns 200, more precisely in in 2056. It could contain data on the distance between the shore and the lighthouse: the men measured that the distance is 13 meters, but according to statistics in 1948 it was 29 meters. The guards want this distance to be measured and compared in the years to come.