You can see a lot in Melnik. Sweeping mountain vistas, quaint city streets and picturesque valleys are all plentiful, as are fantastic markets and great bottles of wine.
But the most interesting thing you might come across is this number: 385. That’s the number of residents in this tiny Bulgarian hamlet, and many would say they’re 385 of the luckiest people on Earth.
Melnik is the smallest city in Bulgaria by a wide margin -- in fact, it’s only able to maintain its status as an incorporated city in somewhat honorary fashion, due to the city’s storied history. In fact, nearly 100 of its barely-more-than-that buildings are designated historic landmarks.
Founded more than 1,000 years ago in the 9th century, Melnik has changed hands numerous times as war swept Europe over the centuries, at different times belonging to the Bulgarian Empire, the Ottoman Empire, Bulgaria, Russia, and then Bulgaria once more.
The remote city is nestled in the Pirin Mountains, making both travel and residency difficult for citizens. The locals swear by this quiet and reserved isolation however, and visitors are quick to note the quaintness of the town, with its small cafes and old-world atmosphere instantly transporting tourists to something of a land that time forgot.
It’s no wonder then, that Melnik has developed a robust and celebrated winemaking tradition, that most ancient of crafts, and one which is perfectly suited for its agrarian surroundings. Of course, that wine is the main cash crop of the sleepy town and brings delight to the locals as well as visitors.