Republic of Bulgaria is situated on the Balkan Peninsula, in southeastern Europe. On the East it is bordered by Black Sea, on the West by Republic of Macedonia and Serbia, on the North by Romania and on the South by Greece and Turkey. The climate is humid continental with soft winter and hot summer. The friendly geographical location of Bulgaria creates excellent conditions for tourism development.
Bulgaria is one of the oldest European countries. It is found in 681. Besides of its strategic situation, between the East and West cultures, Bulgaria is famous with its cultural – historical monuments and heritage.
– Territory: the country occupies an aria of 110 993,6 square kilometers
– Population: 7 973 671 inhabitants
– Capital: Sofia /with population of 1 173 811 inhabitants/
– Official language: Bulgarian
– Political system: Parliamentary Republic
– National currency: lev
– Time zone: GMT + 2
1st of January – New Year
3rd of March – Liberation day of Bulgaria from Ottoman rule
1st of May – Labor Day
6th of May – St. George’s Day, Day of the Bulgarian Army
24th of May – Day of Bulgarian Education and Culture, and Slavonic Literature
6th of September – Day of Unification of Bulgaria
22nd of September – Independence Day of Bulgaria
1st of November – Day of National Leaders – holiday for all educational institutions
24th of December – Christmas Eve
25th & 26th of December – Christmas
Easter – four days (Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday) which are set in the respective year /2015 – 12 April; 2016 – 1 May; 2017 – 16 April; 2018 – 8 April; 2019 – 28 April/
The territory of modern Bulgaria was inhabited from the Age of the Neolithic and Copper Periods, which is proved by the exceptional archaeological finds.
Throughout centuries there were roads passing through the country’s territory connecting Europe and Asia.
Most of the archaeological finds are made close to Kazanlak, Karlovo, Nova Zagora, Veliko Tarnovo, Vidin, Sofia, Teteven, Troyan, Kardzhali and in the Rhodope Mountains.
The worldwide famous culture of the Thracians was developed in the territory of today’s Bulgaria which is proved by the oldest gold treasure in the world – the Valchitran treasure (13-12 BC). The Thracian heritage has significant influence over the Bulgarian culture. According to the archaeological and historical data, in the today’s Bulgaria territory first the Thracians have planted the grape-vine and started producing wine. Most famous Thracians are Orpheus and Spartacus.
In 681 at the Balkan Peninsula was settled by the Proto-Bulgarians, who for centuries mingle with the local population of Slavs.
In the 9th century important moment in the country’s development is the creation of the Slavonic Alphabet from Saints Cyril and Methodius during the First Bulgarian Empire. Under the reign of Tsar Simeon I the Great (893 – 927) the Bulgarian Kingdom reached the top of its political greatness and power. In 1018 after continuous wars, Bulgaria was conquered by the Byzantine Empire. From the very first years under Byzantine rule, the Bulgarians started fighting for their freedom. In 1186 a rebellion is raised, leaded by two brothers – Asen and Peter which has ended with rejection of the byzantine rule. The Second Bulgarian Kingdom was founded, and Tarnovo became the new capital.
When Bulgaria was conquered by the Ottoman Turks a lot of official and religious documents were destroyed, as well as a lot of Christian sanctuaries. Bulgarians did not lose heart and have managed to preserve their language, culture and faith.
Early 18th – century marks Bulgaria’s effort of progress and education, called Revival. At that time the Bulgarian church has strengthened its position. After many unsuccessful attempts to win freedom, after five centuries of slavery, with the help of the Russian state on March 3, 1878 the Treaty of San Stefano is signed and Bulgaria became an independent country.
In 1879 the first constitution of Bulgaria is passed – one of the most democratic at that time. In 1885 the both already created Bulgarian states – the Principality of Bulgaria and Eastern Rumelia – were united. In 1908 the Bulgarian prince Ferdinand Saxe-Coburg Gotha proclaimed independence from Turkey and was declared king of the Third Bulgarian Kingdom.
Bulgaria was leading the victorious Balkan war in 1912. Together with Serbia and Greece, Bulgaria was fighting for the freedom of Trace and Macedonia. As a result of this war more territories populated by Bulgarians were detached from it.
The intervention of Bulgaria in the World War I on the side of the Central Powers ended with a national catastrophe. The Neuilly Peace Treaty of 1919 imposed severe provisions on Bulgaria: it lost a great part of its lands.
In the early 1940s, Bulgaria led a policy in the interest of Germany and the Axis powers. In 1941 Bulgaria started to fight for the Axis powers, but the Bulgarian army did not take part in the fights at the Eastern Front. King Boris III supported the public pressure and did not allow the deportation of about 50,000 Bulgarian Jews.
After the end of World War II Bulgaria was under the political and economic influence of the Soviet Union. In 1946 Bulgaria was proclaimed a Republic. The Bulgarian Communist Party came to power. The political parties outside the Fatherland Front were banned, the economy and banks were nationalized, and the arable land was organized in cooperatives.
The end of 1989 marked the beginning of the democratic changes in Bulgaria. Multiparty elections were held. A new Constitution was adopted. Bulgaria chose the way of democratic development and market economy.
From January 1, 2007 after fulfilling the criteria for membership, Bulgaria became a full member of the European Union.
The main religion in Bulgaria is Eastern – Orthodox. In the country co-exist in harmony and representatives of other religious ethnical groups as: Catholics, Muslims, Protestants, Jews and others. The Eastern Orthodox Church is a result of disagreements between the Greek / Eastern / churches and Latin / West / church. Bulgarian Orthodox Church as autocephalous Eastern Orthodox Church was established in 865, when Boris I accepted the Christian faith. The first religious centers – the monasteries – were build rights after the Christianity was accepted. Their role was of great importance in the 13th and 14th century and especially during the Ottoman rule. One of the oldest, biggest and most beautiful monasteries is the worldwide famous Rila Monastery, also known as “Bulgarian” Jerusalem.
The Bulgarian Orthodox Church has a rich history of icons that depict biblical scenes, local saints, the Virgin Mary or Jesus. The icon is of particular importance for the Orthodox Church, because it is adopted as the dwelling place of God’s grace, creating a sense of the faithful presence of God.
Bulgaria is known by its beautiful nature that captivates everyone who has visited the country. Majestic mountains, ancient forests, beautiful valleys and infinite plains, golden beaches and incredible azure of the sea make the Bulgarian nature especially attractive. The country takes second place in the world regarding the nature reserves, which are 17.
The climate is humid continental with four seasons and mean annual temperature of 10,5 º C. The coldest month is January with mean temperature 0º C. The mean temperature in the summer is 30 º C and the mean temperature of the sea water is 25 º C. Main typical features of the nature are the great variety and richness of plant and animal species. The vegetation of Bulgaria numbers about 12 000 species. The most common animals and birds are typical for Europe: deer, wild boars, bears, wolves, foxes, jackals, cocks of the wood, vultures, sparrows, grass snakes, etc.
Bulgaria is making great efforts to conserve the biodiversity. The protected areas are 49, reserves – 17 (the largest number of registered reserves in Europe), 7 national parks. The air and water resources of the country are some of the cleanest in Europe.
The rivers in Bulgaria are not big so there are no shipping conditions. The most of them spring from the mountains and flow into the Black or Aegean Sea. Along the northern border flows the Danube River, the only one where ships can sail. Maritsa River springs from the Rila Mountains and together with the Iskar River are the both largest rivers in Bulgaria, the deepest and longest in the country.
Culture and traditions:
Located at the crossroads between East and West, as well as the centuries of history, have marked the culture and traditions in Bulgaria. The nations who have lived at the today’s Bulgarian lands were Thracians, Romans, Slavs, and Bulgarians. All of them have marked not only the culture and the history of the country but also of whole Europe. Famous around the world are the discovered treasures, such as:
– The treasure from Varna’s necropolis – the oldest worked gold found in the world.
– Plenty of Thracian tombs and sanctuaries like those in Kazanlak, Sveshtari, Starosel, Aleksandrovo, Perperikon, Tatul.
– Many valued worldwide Thracian gold treasures – Panagurishte, Valchitran, Rogozene and others.
– Remains of whole urban complexes – Augusta Trajana, Nicopolis ad Istrum Pautalia Akre, Messemvria Apollonia Serdica Herakliya Sintica and many others.
Bulgarian customs originate in the far past and are strongly intertwined with the history of the Christian religion.
– Fire dancing /Nestinarstvo/ is very old Bulgarian custom that was practiced in several villages in Strandja Mountain. The ritual in its authentic form is performed on the Day of Saints Constantine and Helena – May 21 or June 3 (old style). The special fire dance is performed in the evenings.
– Kukeri are special rituals conducted mostly during New Year and Lent. They are performed only by men who themselves have made their special masks and costumes.
– Laduvane is another interesting custom which is performed on New Year, St. George’s Day, Midsummer and Lazaritsa. On this day girls divine who will be their husband and turn to Lada – the goddess of love and marriage, to predict them what kind of person he will be.
– Lazaruvane is a ritual, which is connected to the beginning of spring. It is held on St. Lazarus Day, 8 days before Easter. The date of the celebration changes, but it is always on a Saturday, the day before Palm Sunday celebration. On this day willow twigs are picked and on the next day house doors are decorated with them.
– The biggest holidays, celebrated in Bulgaria, are Christmas and Easter – this is the time when families gather together, couple of generations celebrates together united by the feeling of belonging to the healthy Bulgarian family. Highly respected are: the first Sunday before Lent, the second Sunday before Lent, Great Lent, All Souls’ Day and fasts.
– Picking and manufacturing roses are one of the oldest and most traditional Bulgarian trades. In the beginning of June in the towns in Trace region with main center Kazanlak, Roses’ Queen is picked up among all the girls. This marks the end of 1 month celebrations in honor of the rose and the rose oil.
The country has several architectural reserves where people can see the incredible Bulgarian architecture from the Revival (XVIII – XIX century) – Koprivshtica, Tryavna, Borovets, Zheravna, Bansko, Melnik and others. In some ethnographic complexes (Etara, Zlatograd, Old Dobrich, etc.), you can meet the Bulgarian customs and the craftsmen’ work who continue to create their products by old technology inherited from their ancestors.
Important part of the Bulgarian culture is the national folklore music, national song and the Bulgarian national dances (hora). For performing the Bulgarian national music typical Bulgarian instruments are needed: pipe, rebec, bagpipe and others. Depending on the rhythm and the steps there are several folklore dances: hora and ruchenitsi.
Recently the Bulgarian culture is proud of its achievements in literature, art, music and architecture, proof of what is the rich culture calendar which includes dozens of international and national festivals, exhibitions and etc.
Wine and cuisine:
Before Christ, before the Egyptians, traders from the land known now as Bulgaria were crossing the Mediterranean. These ancient historical facts are not only a source of great national pride but also an inspiration. Much has been lost over the millennia, but even more has remained – a world full of colors, rhythms and melodious songs of living Bulgarian folklore, the unfading beauty of Bulgarian crafts, customs and festivals, the taste of Bulgarian cuisine and the proven quality of Bulgarian wines.
Bulgarian cuisine is rich in wonderful dishes typical only for the country. Some of them are: Banska Kapama (meat and vegetable stewed in a clay pot), Rodopsko cheverme (lamb roasted on a spit over an open fire), Trakiiski katmi (a special type of pancake), Dobrudjanska banitsa, Danube fish soup, mussels from Sozopol and many others. Here every dish is served with a glass of good wine. The delicate white wines Dimiat, Muscat and Riesling are followed by the thick red Merlot, Cabernet and Gumza.
Bulgaria, along with countries such as France, Spain, Italy and Greece, is one of the leaders in the production of wine in the world.