Balchik is a a city of late-19th- and early-20th-Century houses huddled between the waterfront and the steep limestone plateau, where rows of Communist-era apartment blocks can be seen. Its ancient predecessor, Dionysopolis, appeared by the waterfront in the 6th Century BC, and was a lively place inhabited by Greeks and Thracians. In the Roman era, life here continued without much fuss until the Goth invasion of 378 brought about destruction.
Dionysopolis recovered from the blow, only to be annihilated by the forces of nature: In the mid-6th Century a devastating earthquake hit the area, followed by a tsunami. The city disappeared. The survivors resettled in the massive fortress on the plateau. They returned to the waterfront generations later, when all memories of the disaster had faded.
The fortress's low walls are now amid the Horizont neighbourhood (ask for directions at the local museum of history). But the true ancient attraction lies in Balchik's lower city. In 2007, during construction works, was discovered a perfectly preserved temple of the goddess Cybele, which the locals called also the Pontic Mother of the Gods. The shrine was built in the 3rd Century BC and flourished; in the 4th Century AD, for example, it was adorned with a silver statue of the goddess. During the 378 invasion the temple was burnt to the ground together with the furniture, statues and votive inscriptions. The tsunami helped preserve the remains, covering them with a thick layer of alluvium.
Plans for turning the temple into a museum are currently suspended, but with the help of the America for Bulgaria Foundation the local history museum has dedicated one of its halls to the Temple of Cybele and its fascinating artefacts.