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About Bulgaria

General Information

Territory: 110 994 km2
Population: 7 973 671
Capital: Sofia
Official language: Bulgarian
Religion: Orthodox Church
Political system: Parliamentary Republic
National currency: Lev
Time zone: GMT +2


Official holidays:

January 1st New Years’s Holiday;
March 3rd National Holiday;
May 1st Labour Day;
May 6th Gergyovden, and the Bulgarian Military Army’s Day;
May 24th Cyril and Methodius Day;
September 6th Unification Day;
September 22nd Independence Day;
November 1st National Day of the Bulgarian Revival Leaders;
December 24,25,26 Christmas Days;
Easter different day every year.


Location

Bulgaria is situated in the south-east of Europe, the north-east part of the Balkan Peninsula. The River Danube forms the northern border - between Bulgaria and Romania. To the west the country borders with Serbia and Macedonia, and to the south – with Turkey and Greece. The eastern Bulgarian border is shaped by the Black Sea, which links the country to Russia, Ukraine and Georgia. The Black Sea border is 378 km long.

The total area of the country is 111,000 square km. Although it only takes 2% of Europe’s territory, Bulgaria has rich variety of natural findings, flora and fauna, a lot of curative and mineral springs. The country has exciting history and picturesque nature, which makes it attractive for the tourists.


Bulgarian History

Some archaeological discoveries show that the territory of Bulgaria has been inhabited since the Stone Age. The Valchitran Treasure, found near the city of Varna, dates back from that time. It is the oldest gold treasure in the world.

During the Bronze Age the Bulgarian lands were inhabited by the Thracians. They did agriculture and stock-breeding, and left numerous proofs for their own rich culture. Between the 11th and the 4th century B.C., the first Thracian state unions appeared. In the 1st century B.C. their lands were conquered by the Roman Empire, and after the 5th century they became part of Byzantium.

In the 6th century the Slavs settled in the Balkan Peninsula, and in the second half of the 7th century the proto-Bulgarians arrived. The Slavs and the proto-Bulgarians united and founded the Bulgarian State, officially acknowledged by Byzantium in 681. The proto-Bulgarian’s leader Khan Asparuh stood at the head of the new country, and Pliska was made the capital city. During the rule of Khan Tervel (700-718) Bulgaria became a great political power, and under Khan Krum (803-814) it increased its territories.

In 864, during the rule of Prince Boris the First Michael (852-889), Bulgarians accepted Christianity as their official religion. With this they removed the ethnical differences between proto-Bulgarians and Slavs, so this is when the building of a unified Bulgarian nation was started.

At the end of the 9th century the brothers Cyril and Methodi created and spread the Slavonic alphabet. Their students and followers came to Bulgaria, where they were warmly welcomed, and found good working conditions. They developed rich educational and literary activity. The Slavonic letter spread out of Bulgaria into other Slav countries like Serbia and Russia. The rule of Tzar Simeon (893-927) was called “the Golden Age of Bulgarian culture”. At that time the boundaries of Bulgaria reach as far as the Black Sea, the White Sea and the Aegean Sea.

During the time when Simeon’s ancestors ruled Bulgaria, the country got weaker due to inside struggles. In 1018, after continuous wars, Bulgaria was conquered by Byzantium. In the very first years of Byzantine reign, Bulgarians started to fight back for their freedom. In 1186 the rebellion, led by the boyar brothers Asen and Peter, discarded Byzantium’s rule. The Second Bulgarian Kingdom was founded, and Tarnovo was made capital. After 1186 the country was first ruled by Asen, and afterwards by Peter. Bulgaria’s previous power was restored under the rule of their youngest brother Kaloyan (1197-1207).

Under the rule of Tzar Ivan Asen II (1218-1241) the Second Bulgarian Kingdom reached its prime. The borders of the country reached the Black Sea, the White Sea and the Adriatic Sea. Economy and culture were blooming again.

In 1235 the Bulgarian Head of Church acquired the title Patriarch. The discord between some of the boyars led to splitting of Bulgaria into two kingdoms – with Vidin and Tarnovo as centers. This weakened the country, so in 1396 it was conquered by the Ottoman Empire. For almost five centuries from that moment on, Bulgaria was under Ottoman management. The early years were characterized by badly-organized attempts for struggling for independence. Later on the appearance of the haidouks provided the foundation of a well-organized national liberation movement. Some of its most powerful figures were Vasil Levski, Liuben Karavelov, Hristo Botev and many other Bulgarians.

The formation of the Bulgarian nation and the development of national enlightenment started at the dawn of the 18th century. One of the most significant books of that period was the “Slav-Bulgarian History”, written by the monk Paisii Hilendarski in 1762. The ideas for national freedom led to the establishment of self-dependent national church, as well as to development of education and culture.

The April Revolt broke in 1876 – it was the first big-scale and well-organized attempt for liberation from the Ottoman domination. The revolt was smashed cruelly and drowned in blood, but it attracted the attention of the European countries towards the Bulgarian national issues. As a result of the Russian-Turkish War for Liberation (1877-1878), the Bulgarian country was restored in 1878. The former Bulgarian territories were split in three – the Principality of Bulgaria with Prince Alexander Batenberg, Eastern Rumelia governed by a Christian appointed by the Sultan, and Thracia and Macedonia remained under the management of the Ottoman Empire.

The decision for the tearing apart Bulgaria, made in the Berlin Congress (1878) has never been accepted by the Bulgarian people. The breaking of the Kresna-Razlog Rebellion (1878-1879) was thanks to that decision, and finally in 1885 the Principality of Bulgarian and Eastern Rumelia were united.

Ferdinand Sax Koburggotski, Prince of Bulgaria from 1887, proclaimed independence from Turkey. In 1908 he became King of the Bulgarian people. Together with Serbia and Greece, Bulgaria took part in the Balkan War (1912) and fought for the freedom of Thracia and Macedonia. Bulgaria won that war, but then, in the Inter-Ally War (1913) it was overcome by Romania, Turkey and its former allies, that tore away Bulgarian-populated territories.

Bulgaria’s interference in World War I at the side of the Central Forces ended with national catastrophe. In 1918 King Ferdinand abdicated in favor of his son, Boris III. The Peace Treaty of Neuilly, signed in 1919, imposed firm clauses on Bulgaria – the country lost its border with the White Sea, West Thracia became part of Greece, South Dobrudza was adjoined to Romania, and other parts were given to the Serbian-Croatian-Slovakian Kingdom.

In the early 1940s Bulgaria’s politics was directed in favor of Germany. In August 1943 King Boris III died, and the Regency of the young king Simeon II was pronounced government of the country. On September 5, 1944, the Soviet Army entered Bulgaria. On September 9 a government of the Fatherland Front was established, led by Kimon Georgiev. In 1946 Bulgaria was pronounced National Republic. The Mother Queen, King Simeon II and Queen Maria-Luisa left the country, passing through Turkey on their way to Egypt. The Bulgarian Communist Party took power. All political parties outside the Fatherland Front were banned, the economy and the banks were nationalized, the farmland was forcedly organized into co-operations.

November 10, 1989 was the date which put the beginning of the democratic changes in Bulgaria. A new constitution was accepted (1991), the political parties were restored, the property taken away in 1947 was given back to its owners, privatization was started, as well as the process of returning the land to the former owners. In 1990 Zelio Zelev became the first democratically elected president of the country.

After 1996 Bulgaria’s major foreign-political priorities became the membership in the European Union and NATO. In 2004 Bulgaria did become a NATO member, and it is did become a member of the EU in early 2007.


Climate

The larger part of Bulgaria has a moderately-continental climate. The four clearly expresses seasons, along with the variety of nature – mountains with broad-leaved and coniferous forests, hilly plains, picturesque river valleys, the sea – create a number of specific micro-climatic conditions. Spring is mild, summer is warm, autumn – cool and sunny, and winter – not very cold, with snowfalls on the high mountains. All this makes Bulgaria a preferable resting place for the tourists.

The Black Sea affects the climate in the coastal area of Eastern Bulgaria. That is why winters in that part are milder. The average air temperature in January is 0-3 °C, and in July – 22-23 °C. The quantity of rain is comparatively regular in all the seasons.

The high mountain areas have comparatively low temperatures and heavy snowfalls, which creates good conditions for winter sports and tourism. At places the snow stays for over 200 days a year.

In the Eastern Rhodopes, the Strandza Mountain and around the valleys of the rivers Struma and Mesta, the climate is continental-Mediterranean. Winter snowing prevails. The winters are mild, the springs come earlier, and the summers are hot, with average temperatures in July about 24-25 °C.

The average yearly temperature in Bulgaria is 10.5 °C, and in summer – 22 °C. The winter temperatures vary between 13 and 15 °C.


Sea Tourism

The Bulgarian Black Sea coast is 378 km long. About 70 beaches with total area of 9 million square kilometers spread along the coast. Some of them are quite large, so hundreds of visitors can enjoy the hot sun there; others are small and calm, cuddled inside picturesque bays with incredible scenery. Steep watersides have formed at many places – perfect spots for lovers of romance, fishing and diving…

The Black Sea water has low content of salt. This, along with its moderate temperature (22-24 0C in summer), makes it especially nice for swimming and bathing. The tides are insignificant. There are no strong water currents, nor dangerous animals or water plants that could be any threat to the health and life of the tourists.

Several picturesque rivers flow into the Black Sea. Their creeks are surrounded by thick, cool, moisture-loving woods. Some of these rivers are floatable for small jet boats, so they offer the tourists unforgetable boat rides along the stream. The numerous seaside lakes – lagoons and firths, are shelters for a huge variety of rare plants and animal species, especially birds. Some of them keep large findings of curative mud, which, in combination with the hundreds of minerals springs along the coast, puts Bulgaria into one of the top places in Europe for richness of balneo-curative resources.

The Black Sea resorts offer excellent holiday conditions, inexhaustible opportunities for having fun and exciting challenges.


Skiing and Mountain Tourism

There are 16 mountains in Bulgaria. They cover about one third of the country’s territory. Here is the longest mountain chain (Stara Planina, which means Old Mountain) and the highest massif on the Balkans (Rila). The altitude varies between 600 and 2925 meters. Slanting slopes alternate with high peaks, deep abysses, picturesque river valleys and majestic gorges. The unique caves, rock phenomena and waterfalls attract a great number of tourists…

The mountain regions are known for their huge variety of flora and fauna species. At places there are well-preserved natural massifs of broad-leaved and coniferous forests, which are 250-300 years of age. The oldest tree (the Baikusheva White Fir in the Pirin Mountain) is over 1300 years old, as old and Bulgaria itself. Some of the largest dwelling places of the bears, the wolves and the wild goats in Europe are situated in our mountains. The biological variety is maintained through numerous protected natural parks and reserves.

The climate is exceptionally healthy – moderately cool in summer and moderately cold in winter, with a lot of sunshine and prolonged hold of the snow cover on the high mountains. The mountains of Rila, Pirin, the Rhodopes, Vitosha and Stara Planina offer convenient ski-tracks and equipment for skiing tourism and winter sports. The continuance of the skiing season in the mountain resorts is up to 190 days. The total length of the ski-tracks is more than 80 km with displacement up to 1500 meters.

During the summer season the mountains offer various opportunities for active tourism and rest. The tourists can lend color to their stay through different programs for walking, bicycle and horse tourism, hang-gliding, parachuting, water sports, rock climbing, speleological tourism, orientation competitions, scout camps, etc.


Balneological Tourism

Balneological tourism is traditional for Bulgaria as a tourist country. The tradition to use the curative qualities of the waters and the natural resources started back in Thracian times. The Thracians were famous skillful healers who knew the curative characteristics of the mineral springs. The “sacred” springs of the Thracians used to be well-known in every corner of the Great Roman Empire…

Few countries in Europe can compete with Bulgaria for the abundance and variety of their thermo-mineral waters. There are over 550 findings with 1600 mineral springs, characterized with exceedingly varied chemical composition. The large supplies of high-quality firth curative mud and turf are also a valuable resource.

The varied mountain relief, the spacious sea coast-line, the proximity to the Mediterranean Sea and the favorable geographic position of Bulgaria create excellent biological and climatic conditions for balneological tourism. The number of sunny days in Bulgaria is 18-20% higher than the corresponding number in Central, Northern and Northwestern Europe, and the quantity of the rainfall during the spring and summer months is 26-65% lower.

There are more than a hundred balneological resorts in Bulgaria. Very well-trained specialists work there. The rich gamut of curative and rehabilitation tourist programs is constantly renewed and updated by the inclusion of exotic, unique elements, as well as more modern treatment. Most of the services are directed not only to people who need medication and prophylaxis, but also to healthy people looking for relaxation and riddance of daily stress. Parallel with the conduct of treatment and prophylaxis, various opportunities for sports are offered – water sports, tennis, cycling, jogging, walking tours in mountain environment, etc.


Village Tourism

The Bulgarian villages have preserved the originality of life-style and traditions. A rest in a village is attractive, so more and more people prefer this kind of relaxation and entertainment. The countryside, the local folklore, habits and crafts, the traditional cuisine and the notorious Bulgarian hospitality attract both Bulgarian and foreign visitors. Nowadays over 50 villages and 30 monasteries offer accommodation for tourists.

Having chosen the village entertainment, a tourist can get involved in agricultural activities, rides with horses and carts, craftsmen’s activities like wood processing, carving, textile, ceramics, weaving, blacksmith activities, etc. Tourists can take home a cloth, a piece of terracotta or some other object, made by their own hands. If you are willing, you can take part in cuisine courses or wine tasting, you can study Bulgarian folklore or watch the local family and religious celebrations…

The accommodation is usually in the hosts’ own house. According to their preferences, the guests can have their meals on the table together with the hosts. Traditional local meals are served, along with ecologically clean natural food and drinks. The tourists can take part in the preparation of the food, if they want to.

Most of the village housekeepers grow various vegetables, fruit-trees, dessert and wine sorts of grapes, and also keep a lot of animals, pets and birds. They produce different kinds of wine, brandy, local delicacies, and of course, the famous home-made Bulgarian yoghurt. The tourists are impressed by the traditions in agricultural production. The manual mowing and milking, the production of home-made cheese and yellow cheese, the making of yoghurt, the preparation of jam and marmalade, these are all important elements of the tourist production of the Bulgarian villages.