10th, March, 2021. A man will celebrate his birthday. He will become 100 years old. A long story for a man and his sea. He is the oldest keeper of the oldest lighthouse on the Bulgarian northern Black Sea coast. Ivan Hadzhiivanov and the Lighthouse of Shabla.
Ivan Hadzhiivanov was born very close to Shabla Lighthouse in the village of Tylenovo. And the sea has proven to be his destiny. A few years after serving in the Bulgarian White Sea Fleet during the Second World War he returned to his birthplace. On the 1st, July, 1949 he started the journey of his lifetime – he became the Shabla Lighthouse keeper.
For 42 years, till 1992, every day he went up and down 132 steps to clean and light the lighthouse. Among his precious moments is the privilege to be the first person in Bulgaria to greet the sun every morning as this is the easternmost point of the country. Together with the other citizens of Shabla they enter every New Year before most of their countrymen, the difference with the capital Sofia, situated in the Western part of the country is around 19 minutes.
The Lighthouse of Shabla is well connected with his family. His wife is the first and still the only woman lighthouse keeper in Bulgaria. His son inherited the honour and responsibility to make sure the Lighthouse sends its saving rays 17 miles into the sea every 25 seconds. And did this till his death.
The Shabla Lighthouse is indeed the oldest one in Bulgaria – built in 1856. It is also the oldest authentic operating lighthouse on the Balkans. As it was built during the Ottoman rule it has the monogram of Sultan Abdulmecid – it was not the usual practise back then and thus is an acknowledgement that it was a very important object. The design is an exact although a smaller copy of the famous Pharos of Alexandria – one of the Seven Wonders of the World. It has a square basis oriented in the four directions of the world and can serve as a compass.
А message is walled up in the Shabla lighthouse. The message should be opened in 2056. It is a letter written by its keepers in 1996. They were worried that the distance between the Lighthouse and the sea is getting shorter and shorter and wrote their message to the future generations. Besides reading the message, the audience will also compare the speed of decreasing of the distance which in 1948 was 29 meters and 1996 already just 13 meters.
Currently the Lighthouse is part of the military objects of the country and there is no regular free access to people. Nevertheless, earlier this year the mayor of Shabla announced the intention of the local authorities to inspire tourism through providing free access to tourists, including the climbing to the top of the 32 meters high tower.