About the country
The republic of Bulgaria is located in Southeast Europe and occupies 23% of the territory of the Balkan Peninsula. It borders on the north by Romania; to the south by Greece, South-East with Turkey to the west with Serbia and Macedonia to the east lies the Black Sea.
Size and population
The total area of the country is 111 thousand. Km2, by which the state ranks 102nd place in area in the world, 15th in Europe and 11th in the European Union. Population according the last census was 7,364,000 people, ranking the country 96th in population in the world.
Located between Southern and Eastern Europe, Bulgaria covers parts of the regions of Moesia, Thrace and Macedonia. Approximately 1/3 of the territory is plain, plateaus and hills are equal to about 41%. In the southwestern part of the country are Rila and Pirin mountains, to the east are located the more extensive Rhodope, and the highest mountain in the southeast is Strandja. The highest peak on the Balkan Peninsula – Musala with height 2925 meters, is located in Rila. The Balkan Mountains cross the country from west to east. The Southeast, along the Black Sea and Danube River, is characterized by hilly and flat terrain.
Bulgaria has a humid continental climate with four seasons and in the areas to the south and the Black Sea the climate is Mediterranean.
Evidence of human presence dating back to 44,000 BC – the Paleolithic era was found in the lands of present-day Bulgaria. Around 5000 BC, an advanced civilization created the most ancient gold jewelry in the world. Consequently, on the territory of modern Bulgaria developed the cultures of Thracians, Greeks and Romans. In the 6th century the Slavs permanently settled in the lands south of the Danube, and a century later the Bulgars penetrated the Balkans. Thus began the construction of the Bulgarian state. The first Bulgarian state was founded in 681 and existed until 1018. It had a profound influence on Eastern European nations through its literary schools and literature. The Second Bulgarian Kingdom existed from 1185 till 1396, when it was conquered by the Ottoman Empire. Bulgaria was liberated from five centuries of Ottoman control by the Russian Empire in 1878, after a long cultural and economic revival, a number of unsuccessful uprisings and diplomatic struggles. In 1946 the monarchy became a People’s Republic, led by the Bulgarian Communist Party. In 1990 Bulgaria became a Democratic Republic, in 2004 joined NATO, and in 2007 – the European Union.
The basis of the Bulgarian customs and rituals is the combination of pagan and Christian worldviews. The most famous customs are:
– Nestinarstvo – Dancing barefoot in embers and sanctifying icons. According to tradition dancers play on the evening of the Konstantin and Elena holiday. In Bulgaria the custom can be seen in the village of Bulgari in Strandja Mountain. People dance on burning embers elsewhere, but it is more like a tourist attraction.
– Martenitsi are twisted white and red thread that is tied on the hands for health on the first of March. They are worn till the emergence of a blooming tree or a migratory bird, that is, until the start of spring.
– Lazarouvane is a custom related to the Christian holiday Lazarus, a Saturday before Palm Sunday. Girls called lazarki get dressed in traditional Bulgarian costumes and go around the neighboring houses, singing songs and blessing for health, happiness and prosperity.
– Easter is the most important religious holiday. Easter customs are associated with dyeing eggs and kneading cakes. The date of Easter is determined by the first full moon after the vernal equinox.
– The “Kukeri” rituals are performed by men dressed as beasts or typical characters (grandmother, grandfather, Kings, etc.), who wear masks and often have bells on their belts. They dance in the streets to scare evil spirits and banish the cold.
– Koleduvane is a ritual, related with the most important customs associated with Christmas. Koledari sing for happiness in the family, health and prosperity.
– Survakane is a custom, carried out on New Year. Sourvakari go from house to house and make wishes for health and fertility.
– Hamkane is performed on Sirni Zagovezni. According to custom, all members of the family try to capture only their mouths a peeled boiled egg, halva or charcoal, tied on a thread hanging that hangs from the ceiling, which is rotated around the table.
White brined cheese and yogurt are some of the most typical products used in Bulgarian cuisine. Many of the typical Bulgarian dishes are found in the cuisines of other Balkan nations (Turks, Romanians, Serbs, Greeks, Albanians) – salads (“Shopska”), stews (“gyuvech”, “kavarma”), sauces (“liutenitsa”), bakes (“musaka”, “drob-surma”), grilled minced meat (kebapcheta, kiufteta, karnacheta), syrupy desserts (“baklava”, “kadaif”) and others. The Bulgarian cuisine often includes spices like onion, garlic, red pepper, allspice, bay leaf. Bulgarians have typical dishes associated with certain holidays. For example sarma and stuffed peppers on Christmas Eve, kapama and other dishes with sauerkraut on New Year, fish for St. Nicholas, banitsa and halva on Sirni Zagoverzni, cozonak on Easter, lamb for St. George and others.
The capital of Bulgaria is Sofia. Other large cities are: Plovdiv, Varna, Burgas, Ruse, Stara Zagora and Pleven.
In eastern Bulgaria are the coastal cities-resorts: Shabla, Kavarna, Balchik, Byala, Obzor, Nessebar, Pomorie, Burgas, Sozopol, Primorsko, Sveti Vlas, Chernomorets, Tsarevo, Primorsko, Aheloy, Ahtopol.
Mountain tourism is developed in Samokov, Bansko, Dobrinishte, Chepelare, Smolyan, Elena, Troyan, Teteven and others.
The country has famous resort and wellness centers in the cities of Bankya, Vurshetc, Hisar, Sapareva Banya, Strelcha, Kyustendil, Devin and others.
Other tourist sites are the cities located along the Danube: Vidin, Lom, Kozloduy, Oryahovo, Nikopol, Belene, Svishtov, Ruse, Tutrakan and Silistra.
Interesting are the cities with preserved Revival architecture like Kotel, Koprivshtitsa, Karlovo, Kalofer, Sopot, Elena, Tryavna, Bansko, Melnik (the smallest town in Bulgaria) and others.
Some cities have conserved or restored architectural and ethnographic complexes: Plovdiv (Old Plovdiv), Nessebar (Old Town – UNESCO), Gabrovo (museum), Sozopol (Old town), Dobrich (Old Dobrich), Zlatograd (Area Complex), Lovech (Varosha), Smolyan (Raikovo and Ustovo neighborhoods), Blagoevgrad (Varosha), Sevlievo (Ethnographic museum), Malko Tarnovo, Veliko Tarnovo (Samovodska charshiya), Pleven (Revival Complex), Razgrad (Varos) and others.
Of great tourist interest are the old Bulgarian capitals: Pliska, Preslav and Veliko Tarnovo.
Bulgaria offers numerous and diverse resorts. Black Sea resorts include: “Rusalka”, “Albena”, “Golden Sands”, “Riviera”, “Chaika”, “Sunny Day”, “St. St. Constantine and Helena “,” St. Iliya, “Obzor”, “St.Vlas”, “Dyuni”, Nessebar, Ravda, Kiten, Pomorie, Primorsko, Chernomorets, Sozopol, Lozenets, Tsarevo, Ahtopol and Sinemorets.
The most popular mountain resorts are Pamporovo, Borovets and Bansko. Good conditions for winter sports offer the resorts: Malyovitsa, Panichishte, Batak, Beklemeto, Ribaritsa, Ossogovo, Momchilovtsi, Chepelare, Berkovitsa, Uzana, Yundola, Belmeken, Bodrost-Kartala, Semkovo and Aleko.
In addition, the country offers excellent spa and wellness resorts: Hisar, Velingrad, Sandanski, Bankya, Kyustendil, Narechen, Pavel Banya, Kostenets, Varshets, Burgas Mineral Baths, Momin prohod, Sliven mineral baths, Starozagorski Mineral Baths, Haskovo Mineral Baths, Sapareva banya, Banya, Teteven, Tryavna, Kotel, Elena, Samokov, Apriltsi, Dryanovo.
Bulgaria’s a center to the increasingly popular rural turism.
Some of the most picturesque villages are located in the Rhodopes – Gela, Shiroka Luka, Momchilovtsi, Orehovo, Smolyan, Arda, Leshten, Kovachevitsa, Pletena and others.
Stara Planina also offers many сцениц villages – Bozhentsi, Arbanassi, Ribaritsa, Zheravna, Oreshak, Medven, Skandalo, villages in the Elena, Etropole and Teteven Balkan regions and others.
You can visit the beautiful villages in the Rila Mountain: Govedartzi, Beli Iskar, Mala tsurkva or Dobursko.
In Strandja, the villages Bulgari, Kosti, Brushlian, Mladejko also offers accommodation. If you stay there in early June, you can witness the ancient ritual – dance over embers.
At the Black Sea you can combine a summer vacation with rural tourism in the villages Durankulak, Krapetz, Tyulenovo, Kamen bryag, Balgarevo, Shkorpilovci, Lozenets, Varvara, Sinemorets, Rezovo and others.