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BULGARIA
 

Cities in BULGARIA

Sofia

Geography and Landscape

Geography

Bulgaria (officially: Republika Bulgaria), is a republic in Southeastern Europe, located on the Balkan Peninsula. The Balkans is a mountainous region that extends south of the Danube River.

Bulgaria Landscape Photo:Anton Lefterov Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no changes made

The surface of Bulgaria is 110,994 km2. In the north Bulgaria borders on Romania (608 km) and the border there is formed by the Danube over a distance of 425 km. In the west, Bulgaria borders Macedonia (148 km) and Serbia (318 km). The border with Greece (494 km) in the south is formed by the valleys of the Rodopi Mountains. In the southeast Bulgaria borders on Turkey (240 km) and in the east on the Black Sea (Cerno More). The greatest distance from north to south is 330 km and from east to west 520 km.

Bulgaria Satellite photoPhoto:Public domain

Landscape

The eastern coastline is the lowest part of the country. Bulgaria is on average approximately 470 meters above sea level. Geographically, Bulgaria can be divided into three areas and the central mountain range plays a major role in this. Namely, the Balkan Mountains (Stara Planina) divide the country in half from west to east and are divided into the Upper Balkans, Western Balkans and Eastern Balkans. In the Upper Balkans is one of the highest mountains in Bulgaria, the Botev (2376 meters). The average height of this mountain range is about 700 meters.

Bulgaria WinterPhoto:Deyan Vasilev Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no changes made

The Danube Lowland or Danube Bulgaria is located to the north of the Balkan Mountains and is a north-sloping, very fertile loess plateau, which breaks off with a steep bank against the Danube. In the northeast lies the hilly forest area of Deli Orman, which forms the transition to the Dobruja. South of the Balkan Mountains is the Thracian Plain and after that come three major massifs: the Rila Mountains, the Pirin Mountains and the Rodopi Massif, which extends far into Greece. The highest peak in Bulgaria is in the Rila Mountains and is the Musala (2925 meters).

Bulgaria has hundreds of rivers and some of them play a major role in the drainage and irrigation of the Danube Lowlands and the Thracian Plain, especially the Danube (Bulgarian: Dunav), the Iskâr and the Jantra. Other important rivers are the Tundža, the Marica, the Struma and the Mesta. Bulgaria has no natural large lakes, but a few large reservoirs.

Climate and Weather

Bulgaria Rose ValleyPhoto:Plamen Agov Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no changes made

The typical Central European continental climate with warm summers and cold winters is strongly influenced in Bulgaria by the Black Sea and the Balkan mountains. Northern Bulgaria has a distinct continental climate, with hot summers and harsh winters. South of the Balkan Mountains, which form a climate division, there is a milder climate and closer to Greece there are more and more Mediterranean features.

Average daily temperatures inland are around 24°C and July and August is clearly the hottest period of the year. It is then on average approx. 27°C and along the Black Sea coast the temperatures will reach 30°C. Fortunately, the sea breeze provides some cooling. Because the Black Sea is connected to the Aegean Sea via the Bosporus, the water temperature of the Black Sea rises to approx. 23°C in September. The Rila Mountains and the Rodopi are suitable for skiing in winter.

The rainfall averages 600 mm per year, but in the mountains often more than 1000 mm falls per year, often in the form of snow. The snow remains on the highest peaks until June. Little snow falls in the lower regions of Bulgaria. The main rainy season is summer, in the south autumn. The number of hours of sunshine per day varies from 2 hours in January to 10 hours in the middle of summer.

Plants and Animals

Plants

Rodopi Mountains BulgariaPhoto:aski Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported no changes made

Plant growth is varied due to the climate transition from continental to Mediterranean. The Danube Plain, with its fertile loess soils, is important for Bulgarian agriculture. This landscape, mainly dominated by cultivated land, also consists of grasslands and steppe vegetation. The Balkan Mountains are quite forested with mainly wild chestnuts, elms, oaks, beech and ash. The High Balkans and the Pirin Mountains have alpine vegetation.

The Thracian Plain is very green with wild apple and pear trees in the valleys. The southern mountain regions and especially the Rodopi Mountains have impressive coniferous forests. Mediterranean vegetation occurs in the Maritsa Plain and on the Black Sea coast. Total forest ownership has declined dramatically since the Middle Ages; only 30% of Bulgaria is covered with forest, including a lot of deciduous forest.

Animals

Storks Bulgaria Photo:Edal Anton Lefterov CC Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no changes made

The animal world belongs to that of the Mediterranean transition area, which results in a great diversity of species. Wild boars, wolves and bears live on the slopes of the forested mountains. Bulgaria has about 350 bird species of which about 160 live around Lake Srebarna, which is under UNESCO protection. Many species of birds can also be found on the many islands in the Danube, such as spoonbills, plovers, grebes and egrets.

In the countryside there are still tens of thousands of storks that travel south in August. Pelicans breed on the coast and large colonies of swallows live. Swallows are also common inland. In a number of swamps there are still quite a few freshwater turtles. The protected areas mainly include the so-called “wetlands”, which are very important for breeding and wintering birds.

Seventeen areas have been designated as protected natural areas and nature reserves. The Bajuvi Doupki-Djindjeritsa Nature Reserve, like Lake Srebarna, is under UNESCO protection.

History

Prehistory and Antiquity

Magura Cave Drawings Bulgaria Photo:Nk in the public domain

Archaeological finds have shown that people must have lived in Bulgaria 50,000 to 100,000 years ago. They lived in caves in the lower parts of Bulgaria. Remains of thousands of years old settlements have also been found. The people of that time lived from hunting, fishing, and gathering herbs and carrots.

Bulgaria was inhabited in ancient times by Thracians, who in the 1st century BC. were subdued by the Romans. From ca.300 B.C. they had mixed with the invaded Celts. In general it can be said that the Romans never succeeded in conquering the entire area around the Black Sea (Pontus Euxinus). Under Emperor Claudius, the Romans advanced towards the Danube, but there stopped their conquests. The area between the Danube and the Balkan Mountains became the Roman province of Moesia. The headquarters of the 11th legion was located in the easternmost Danube city of Silistra (Durostorum).

Middle Ages; First and Second Czar Empire

Baptism of Boris I BulgariaPhoto:Public domain

After the conquest by Claudius, Thrace developed well, especially in the trading cities such as Ulpia Serdina (now: the capital Sofia), Trimontium (now: Plovdiv) and Augusta Traiana (Stara Zagora). In the countryside, the Romans had a harder time with constant attacks on their troops. In 476 the Western Roman Empire fell and the Middle Ages started around 1500. From the 3rd century, the time of the great migrations, the area west of the Black Sea was invaded by the Huns and the Visigoths. After these peoples, Slavic tribes crossed the Danube around the 5th century. Ultimately, the Thracian culture was completely absorbed into the Slavic culture.

Between the 5th and 7th centuries, the Bulgars, Turko-Mongol nomadic tribes, entered Bulgaria. This naturally resulted in a lot of conflict, both among themselves and with the Slavic tribes. However, in 681 most of the chieftains rallied behind King Kan Asparuh and the first Bulgarian Tsar Empire began, which would last until 1018. The most important tsar at the time was Boris I, who reigned until 889. He introduced the Slavic (Cyrillic) alphabet and Christianity was accepted as the state religion. He was succeeded by Tsar Simeon the Great, who significantly expanded the territory of Bulgaria and in the 10th century the empire covered large parts of the former Yugoslavia, Albania and northern Greece. The first capital was Pliska, succeeded by Preslav in 893. Under Tsar Petar there was a popular uprising, among other things as a result of the strong feudal system that had to keep the common people under control.

This marked the beginning of the end of the First Czar Empire, which would be divided into an eastern and western part. Macedonia became an independent empire under Tsar Samuel, and the eastern part became part of Byzantium in 972. In 1018, under the Byzantine Emperor Basil II, Bulgaria came under Byzantine rule. One after another uprising followed, but it was not until 1185 that the Byzantines managed to get rid of them. However, a fervently desired Greater Bulgaria was never there again, the surrounding empires were too strong for that.

In 1187 the second Bulgarian empire was proclaimed with Târnovo as its capital. Under Tsar Kalojan they managed to recapture some areas from the Byzantines. The Byzantines reclaimed their territories but lost the battle of Adrianopolis in 1205. A short time later, the celebrated Kalojan was murdered by disaffected boyars (aristocratic landowners). Also during the reign of Tsar Ivan Assen II, the Bulgarian territory expanded and trade and culture flourished. After Ivan, however, the prosperity soon ended again due to mutual disputes between boyars and peasants, causing the second Bulgarian empire to decline. From 1323 to 1396 a revival followed, but the subsequent Turkish rule caused dark times. In the mid-14th century, the Bulgarians already suffered a lot from attacks by the Mongols and at the end of the 14th century, the whole of Bulgaria was conquered by the Ottoman Empire, among other things after the lost battle of Nikopolis.

Turkish rule

Levski BulgariaPhoto:Public domain

Bulgaria was initially ruled by a stadtholder, but since the 16th century the provincial administrators, the pashas, reigned supreme and exercised a cruel and corrupt regime. Besides the severe oppression by the Turks, the population suffered from the abuse of power by the Hellenized high clergy. Developments elsewhere in Europe under the influence of the Renaissance completely ignored Bulgaria and people remained stuck in the Middle Ages, as it were. The Enlightenment in the 18th century and the industrial revolution also passed Bulgaria by. Most of the nobility converted to Islam, only the common people remained loyal to the Greek-Byzantine faith despite persecution and oppression.

Bulgarian nationalism did not develop properly until the 19th century. In the 1930s, revolutionary committees sprang up everywhere and eventually merged into the Internal Revolutionary Organization (BRO) under the leadership of Vasil Kântschew (nickname: Levski), who was hanged by the Turks in 1873. On April 20, 1876, a national uprising against the Turks resulted in horrific Turkish reprisals. This uprising took the lives of tens of thousands of men, women and children. The Western powers protested vehemently against the massacre but did not intervene further in the struggle for economic reasons. Only Russia came to the rescue of the Bulgarians, mainly to increase their military and political influence south of Crimea.

After a three-year struggle, at the peace of San Stefano on March 3, 1878, the Turks were more or less forced to agree to the founding of Greater Bulgaria over an area from the Danube to the Aegean Sea. However, Germany, England and Austria-Hungary did not see much of this and threatened a new war at the Congress of Berlin (1878). This resulted in a small principality of Bulgaria, which would remain indebted to the Turks. The first monarch of the new Bulgaria became the Prussian Prince Alexander von Battenberg. He soon went to war with Serbia and Turkey after attempting to form a single union with Eastern Romania. Battenberg won the battle and the outcome was also internationally accepted (Peace of Bucharest). In 1887, Ferdinand von Saxe-Coburg ascended the throne and began to fully annex Eastern Romania and improve relations with Russia. In 1908 he proclaimed himself Tsar of Bulgaria.

First and Second World War

Bulgarian soldiers World War I.Photo:Public domain

Despite two Balkan wars in 1912 and 1913, it was possible to establish a connection with the Aegean Sea. After Russia sided with Serbia, Bulgaria sought support from Austria, which would drag the country into World War I. After the Serbian assassination of the Austrian heir to the throne Frans Ferdinand in 1914, Austria invaded Serbia, aided by the Bulgars. Bulgaria had joined Germany and Austria-Hungary and faced Russia, England and France. After the conquest of Serbia, Macedonia was also conquered. In September 1918, Ferdinand gave up when French troops broke through the Bulgarian lines from Greece.

After the war, Bulgaria lost Macedonia to Yugoslavia and a part of Greece, which meant that the connection with the Aegean Sea was very short-lived (27 October 1919; Peace of Neuilly). The First World War had serious consequences for Bulgaria. The million-strong army had to be demobilized, the hard-hit industry had to be rebuilt and heavy reparations were imposed on Bulgaria on other countries. Inspired by the Russian revolution, the Communist Party of Bulgaria (CPB) was founded in 1919. Until 1923 Alexander Stamboeliski, the leader of the Agrarian Union, was the strong man in Bulgaria. He tried to combat hunger and poverty among the population by abolishing large landholdings and by expropriating companies. These agrarian reforms naturally earned him many opponents who killed him in June 1923.

After Stambuliski, Alexander Tsankov came to power, a fierce anti-communist with fascist traits. The communists and the Agrarian Union meanwhile illegally formed the United Front. In September 1923 they seized power with the help of Russia, but it was suppressed with much bloodshed. In 1925 an attack on Boris III followed, leading to a time of "white terror" with arrests and executions with many, often innocent victims. From 1935, King Boris III became directly involved in the situation with the help of the army. For example, political parties were banned and the constitution made inoperative.

Moreover, he was deeply impressed by the successes of Adolf Hitler in Germany and it was therefore not surprising that Bulgaria joined the Vienna Pact in 1941. This meant for the until then neutral Bulgaria that it was directly involved in the war. German forces soon moved through Bulgaria to Greece, after which England and the United States declared war on Bulgaria. However, Bulgaria did not participate in the military operations. In the meantime, Social Democrats, Republicans and Communists had united in the Patriotic Front (VF), which carried out actions of resistance against the pro-German government. This government refused to assist the Germans with the attack on Russia. Hitler was very upset about this after a visit of Hitler to Bulgaria to King Boris III, who died shortly afterwards under very mysterious circumstances. The rule was taken over by his six-year-old son Simeon under a three-man regency. The VF meanwhile became the National Liberation Army in close cooperation with the Russians. After the German defeat in 1943 at Stalingrad, the actions of the partisans led by Georgi Dimitrov became more frequent. After negotiations with the Allies in August 1944, a pro-Western government was soon installed in Sofia

Russian rule

Former Bulgarian Communist Party headquartersPhoto:Bloervedt Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International no changes made

Yet Bulgaria's future would soon look very different. The Russians had reached the Danube through the war after conquering Romania from the Germans. On 5 September 1944, the Russians unexpectedly declared war on the Bulgarians, immediately entered the country and overthrew both the royal family and the newly appointed cabinet. A transitional government was installed, headed by Kimon Georgiev, who immediately declared war on Germany.

Compared to other Eastern European countries that had been allied with Germany, the position of the communists in Bulgaria was strong. In the Patriotic Front they had a suitable body for the development of their power and were able to profit from strong pro-Russian feelings among the population. Georgiev formed a government, in which the communists obtained the Ministry of the Interior. In six months, more than 2000 people were executed as part of a large-scale 'purge', including the three regents (including Prime Minister Filov and the Minister of War, Michov). Little King Simeon was still able to flee to Spain and only came back into the picture in 2001!

Bulgaria came out of the Second World War relatively unscathed because it did not have to give up territory. Bulgaria did have to pay $ 75 million in reparations to Greece and Yugoslavia. However, it would take until September 15, 1946 before the republic was proclaimed after a referendum in which most Bulgarians voted against the monarchy. After the People's Republic was proclaimed, Georgi Dimitrov became party leader and head of state. He was also Chairman of the Council of Ministers and First Secretary of the Communist Party. The Council of Ministers consisted entirely of members of the National Front. After the war, this party obtained 70% of the vote in the first elections. The new people's government, also predominantly communist, adopted a new constitution in December 1947 on the model of that of the Soviet Union.

From that time on, opposition was almost impossible and opposition leader Nikola Petkov was soon arrested. In both the economic and political plans, Dimitrov was “accompanied” by Zdanov, the right-hand man of the Russian dictator Stalin. Bulgaria followed the policy prescribed for all popular democracies, but developed a remarkable zeal especially in the collectivization of agriculture. Even after Dimitrov's death in 1950, political mock trials against the anti-communists dominated. This only came to an end when Stalin died in 1953. There were even people who were rehabilitated! After the split between Stalin and Tito of Yugoslavia, who was portrayed as a “traitor to communist solidarity”, Bulgaria would become one of Tito's fiercest opponents.

The difficulties with Turkey were of a very different nature. After the proclamation of the People's Republic of Bulgaria, about 150,000 ethnic Turks left Bulgaria. They feared persecution because of their faith. In 1951 Turkey closed the border with Bulgaria. It was not until 1968 that an emigration treaty was concluded, after which thousands and thousands of Turks left the country. Also in 1968, Bulgaria took part with a small group of soldiers in the Russian invasion of rebellious Czechoslovakia. In the 1960s and 1970s, the communist party grew stronger and determined both domestic and foreign policy. However, this never happened after extensive consultations with Moscow, and Bulgaria was therefore the most fanatical ally of the Soviet Union alongside East Germany.

Period Zhivkov

Zhikov BulgariaPhoto:Schaar, Helmut Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 de no changes made

The most important man at this time was Tudor Zhivkov, secretary-general of the Communist Party since 1954 and prime minister since 1962. After a constitutional amendment in 1971, he became chairman of the newly formed State Council. From that time on, Zhivkov assumed all power, and his friends or relatives sat at almost all important posts in the country, without parliament intervening. Relations with the West were seriously disrupted after November 1982, after Mehmet Ali Agca, the Turk who attacked the Pope in 1981, revealed that he had acted on behalf of the Bulgarian secret service. A Bulgarian suspect in Italy was released in 1986 for lack of evidence.

At the end of 1984, Bulgaria started a campaign to "bulgarize" the Turkish minority in the country, about 10% of the total population. Ethnic Turks and Pomaks (about 250,000 descendants of the Bulgars converted to Islam during Ottoman rule) were forced to take Slavic names. Hundreds of reluctant Turks were convicted or exiled. At the Balkan Conference in Belgrade (1988), Bulgaria was also criticized for the treatment of Macedonians, who were not recognized as an official minority either. The bulgarization campaign against ethnic Turks was launched in Dec. 1989 ceased operations. Shortly afterwards, several tens of thousands of Muslim Bulgarians who had emigrated to Turkey returned.

Only under Gorbachev's rule in the Soviet Union with its glasnost and perestroika did changes come. In 1986, a number of ministries were dissolved or merged, and a year later Bulgaria initiated far-reaching economic reforms along the lines of the “perestroika” in the Soviet Union. In 1987 there was also a little more freedom of the press. The press immediately “took advantage” of this by denouncing corruption and the many economic and social injustices. It was therefore not surprising that freedom of the press was already restricted after a year. All reformers were also taken out of their sails and even Zhivkov's intended successor, Aleksandrov, was sent away. However, developments in Eastern Europe succeeded each other at such a rapid pace that the communists in Bulgaria could not stop. Opposition was suddenly allowed again and it could never be long before 78-year-old Zhivkov would have to leave the field. That would happen on November 10, 1989 after 35 years in power. The reason for this was a scattered demonstration by the environmental organization Eco-Glasnost on November 3, 1989. Within the central committee there was so much disagreement about this that Zhivkov lost his grip on the committee and “voluntarily” resigned, along with all his relatives and faithful people.

New future

Georgi Parvanov Bulgaria Photo:The Chancellery of the Senate of the Republic of Poland CC Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Poland no changes made

The committee and parliament then took all kinds of measures to appease the opposition movement. The Politburo, the government and other power bodies were purged of Zhivkov's supporters in late 1989. On June 18, 1990, the first free elections in 44 years were held, with the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) of the former communists as a surprise winner. In rural areas in particular, large numbers of people voted for the BSP. Main opposition party became the Union of Democratic Forces (SDS).

Despite a majority in parliament, economic and social reforms did not really get off the ground. among other things due to differences of opinion and a stream of revelations about the communist period. The BSP appointed Petar Mladenov as interim president, the former chairman of the state councilor. However, his rule was short-lived because, according to the anti-communists, the economic and political changes progressed far too slowly. The socialist headquarters was set on fire and Mladenov then wanted to deploy the army to quell the riots. However, he signed his political death warrant and in August 1990 a new interim president was elected who was acceptable to all parties: the philosopher Zheljoe Zhelev.

The 1991 parliamentary elections were won by the SDS with the BSP as the largest opposition party. The minority government was headed by Flip Dimitrov. He tried to implement revolutionary economic reforms and went on a witch hunt for former communists. This policy resulted in the contradictions between the BSP and the SDS flaring up again. In November 1992, former leader Zhivkov was sentenced to seven years in prison and a purge of the BSP followed. The government was replaced in October 1992 by a government of non-party ministers headed by Prime Minister Lyuben Berov. Although intended as temporary, the Berov government stayed together until September 1994, as neither the BSP nor the SDS wanted to call new elections. The parties represented two political extremes that stood in the way of consensus and perpetuated the economic and moral crisis in which the country found itself after nearly half a century of communism.

From September to December 1994, a business cabinet under Reneta Indzhova took office to bridge the period up to the elections. Bulgaria sought further affiliation with the West in 1994, but also strengthened traditional ties with Moscow, including in the economic field. The BSP won the elections again in early 1995 under the leadership of Zjan Videnov. He worked hard to restore the power of the old communist elite and was therefore called on several times by President Zhelev. However, corruption and fraud were rampant as the population continued to become impoverished. The 1996 presidential elections were won by SDS candidate Petur Stojanov and were the sign for the BSP to demand the resignation of its own leader Videnov.

The people of Sofia took to the streets demanding early elections to be held on April 20, 1997. These elections were won by a large majority by the United Democratic Force (VDK), a combination of SDS and Volksunie. The new Prime Minister Ivan Kostov was faced with the arduous task of reviving the collapsed economy and finally putting an end to the communist past. The June 2001 elections were surprisingly won by the party of former King Simeon II, the National Movement for Simeon II. He succeeded Ivan Kostov. The victory became possible because the population had also turned away from the anti-communists 12 years after the fall of communism. They, too, had failed to counter the continuing social impoverishment among broad sections of the population. It is unlikely that the monarchy will ever return; According to a poll, 82% of voters wanted Bulgaria to remain a republic.

In August, Simeon (citizen name: Simeon Saxcoburggotski) announced sweeping reforms to get the country out of the doldrums. A radical change in the tax system, a reduction in bureaucracy and an increase in the minimum wage were some of the measures to be taken. In November, after the second round of the presidential election, the socialist Georgi Parvanov became Bulgaria's new president. He got 55.8% of the vote and incumbent pro-Western President Petar Stojanov had to settle for 44.2%. Bulgaria became a member of NATO in April 2004 under Prime Minister Saxe-Coburg, and negotiations on EU accession were technically concluded on 15 June 2004. On April 25, 2005, President Parvanov and Prime Minister Saxe-Coburg signed the EU Accession Treaty in Luxembourg. Subsequently, on May 11, 2005, the Bulgarian Parliament overwhelmingly ratified the Treaty.

Bulgarian President Georgi Parvanov was re-elected as the first head of state in the Balkan country in October 2006 after the fall of communism in 1989. He defeated his ultra-nationalist opponent Volen Siderov in the second round of the presidential election.

Rumen Radev, BulgariaPhoto:Kremlin.ru Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International no changes made

In January 2007 Bulgaria becomes a member of the European Union. In the years since, Bulgaria has been called to account for the lack of progress in the fight against corruption. In July 2009, the right wing wins elections in Bulgaria led by Borissov the mayor of Sofia. In October 2011, fellow party member Rosen Plevneliev won the presidential election. In February 2013 Borissov resigned after riots. In May 2013 a stalemate arose, there was no convincing winner and the two largest parties asked the technocrat Delyan Peevski to form a government. In January 2014, Bulgarians will be allowed to settle freely within the EU, including in the countries of the EU that originally blocked it. In November 2014, Borisov becomes prime minister again in a center-right coalition. In January 2015, Bulgaria erected a large fence along the border with Turkey to stop immigrants. In November 2016, the socialist Rumen Radev wins the presidential election. Parliament overturned a presidential veto on anti-corruption laws in January 2018, paving the way for the creation of a special unit to tackle high-level abuse. The next elections are scheduled for 2021.

Population

Bulgaria street scenePhoto:Adam Jones Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic no changes made

In 2017, Bulgaria had 7,101,510 million inhabitants. This means that Bulgaria has an average of about 62 inhabitants per km2. In 2017, the population growth was –0.61%. About 74% of the population lives in cities, the largest of which are Sofia (1.2 million inhabitants), Plovdiv (340,000), Varna (334,000), Bourgas (200,000), Ruse (150,000), and Stara Zagora (148,000) . The rest of the population lives in the sparsely populated countryside.

The population consists mainly of Bulgarians (77%). The largest minority group is Turkish (8%) followed by the Roma (gypsies; 4.4%). Furthermore, small groups of Macedonians, Armenians, Romanians, Russians, Jews and Tatars still live in Bulgaria. The situation of the Turkish minority deteriorated in the course of the 1980s. In 1984 the Turks were forced to adopt a Slavic name. Large-scale intimidation techniques began in 1988, as a result of which hundreds of thousands of Turkish Bulgarians left the country and fled to Turkey. The number of Roma is probably higher, but for fear of discrimination, many Roma conceal their ethnic origin.

The Russians are mainly Russian men and women who married Bulgarian citizens after the Second World War. The Armenians mainly live in the capital Sofia and Plovdiv. The Macedonians are not officially recognized as a minority group by the Bulgarian government. Until the Second World War, more than 50,000 Jews lived in Bulgaria. Because there was hardly any anti-Semitism in Bulgaria, not one Bulgarian Jew was eventually deported to the German camps. The fact that there are now only about 4,000 Jews living in Bulgaria is due to the massive emigration to Israel that started after the Second World War.

The population structure is quite Western. The population between 0-14 years is 14.6%, between 15-64 years 66.2%, and 65 years and older 19.2%. (2017) The infant mortality rate is 9.7 per 1,000 live births. The average life expectancy for women is approximately 78.2 years and for men approximately 71.4 years. (2017)

Language

Old Bulgarian AlphabetPhoto:Vaskots7 Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no changes made

Bulgarian is spoken by the vast majority of the population and is the country's official language. Bulgarian is a South Slavic language spoken by the approximately 7.8 million inhabitants of Bulgaria and by minorities in Greek Thrace, the Romanian part of Dobruja and in Moldavia.

The Slavic alphabet was introduced by the monks Cyril and Methodius in 863. The first alphabet initially consisted of 44 capital letters and 48 regular letters, but was so complex that students of these two monks constructed a new alphabet based on the Greek italic.

Probably under the influence of other Balkan peoples, the Slavic system of declension endings for nouns has been largely lost, while a specific article placed after the noun has been created. Together with the transition of the combinations tj, dj, in št and "d, these are the most striking features of Bulgarian compared to the other Slavic languages.

There are two dialect groups, the western and the eastern. The eastern dialect group can still be divided into a north and a southeastern group. The main difference lies in the pronunciation of the Old Slavic è. The generally civilized Bulgarian ties in with the northeastern dialect. Old Bulgarian has become the Slavic Orthodox church language, Church Slavic. Since the 12th century, the language has been called Middle Bulgarian, New Bulgarian already emerged in the 16th and 17th centuries, but it was not until the 19th century that the traditional (Church-Slavic) written language was replaced. Until the 11th century, Glagolitic was used as a script, followed by Cyrillic, as in Russia, Serbia and Macedonia. Before the mass exodus in 1989, Turkish was the mother tongue of 10% of the population. Many Roma also speak Turkish. Some of the population in the coastal cities speaks Greek and some Romanian is still spoken along the Danube.

Following are some Bulgarian spoken words:

Religion

17th Century Bulgarian Orthodox ChurchPhoto:Svilen Enev Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no changes made

Of the faithful part of the population (approx. 40%), 83.5% belong to the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, headed by a patriarch, who is also a Metropolitan of Sofia. Furthermore, 13% of the believers are Muslims, mainly Turks and Pomaks (Bulgarians who have become Muslim), 1.5% Roman Catholic and 1% each Protestant and Jew. The Roman Catholic Church has two dioceses.

The 1947 Constitution greatly reduced the power of the Church. There was a complete separation of church and state, a ban on the education and organization of the youth for the church and a provision that clergy are paid by the state. Formally, freedom of religion is guaranteed, but the constitution also stipulates that the state supervises the denominations.

Now that communist atheism has passed, a great deal of interest has arisen in everything that has to do with superstition, parapsychological phenomena, occultism, ghosts and aliens.

Bogomilism was a heretical Christian movement from medieval Bulgaria, originating from the Byzantine Empire. The adherents believed that the history of the universe was determined by both God and Satan. As a result, they disobeyed both secular and ecclesiastical authority, as a result of which they were banned by the church and persecuted by the tsars.

Another religious phenomenon is the “White Brotherhood”, founded by Peter Dunov between the two world wars. Dunov's teaching is a mixture of Christian and Hindu elements that should produce a perfect clairvoyant human being. This sect is growing in popularity.

Society

State structure

Parliament building of BulgariaPhoto:Nenko Lazarov r Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 no changes made

Bulgaria became a People's Republic on September 15, 1946 and was the last Eastern European country to transition to a democratic constitution in 1991.

The Narodno Sobranje, the National Assembly of 240 deputies, is the highest legislative power according to the revised 1991 constitution. The Narodno Sobranje is elected every four years by all Bulgarians aged 18 and over through direct elections. There is no obligation to vote. For very drastic matters such as constitutional changes, a Grand National Assembly of 400 representatives is elected by a combination of the proportional and majority voting systems.

The President is the Head of State and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces and, together with the Deputy Prime Minister, is elected for a five-year term in direct universal suffrage under the proportional electoral system. The president can only be re-elected once. With the right of veto, he can block or postpone legislative proposals from the Sobranje. He also appoints, after consultation with parliament, the prime minister, who comes from the largest party in parliament. A presidential candidate must be at least 40 years old and have lived in Bulgaria for the last five years.

In the new 1991 constitution, the reference to the leading role of the communist party was omitted and a multiparty system was introduced. A mixed economy was also allowed, as well as different forms of ownership. Articles restricting freedom of expression were dropped. An accompanying electoral law created the conditions for free and democratic elections. The Council of Ministers was fully accountable to the Sobranje.

Bulgaria is divided into 278 districts and nine provinces. Districts are administered by the mayor and the district council and have their own budget. Provinces are administrative units administered by governors appointed by the council of ministers. The nine provinces or oblasti are Burgas, Grad Sofiya, Khaskovo, Lovech, Montana, Plovdiv, Ruse, Sofia and Varna. Bulgaria is a member of the United Nations and some of its sub-organizations, an associate member of the European Union, the North Atlantic Cooperation Council and the Council of Europe. Between 1955 and 1991, Bulgaria was a member of the Warsaw Pact and the Comecon. For the current political situation, see chapter history.

Education

School Sofia Photo:Todor Bozhinov Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International no changes made

For a long time tuition was free and regulated by the state. In recent years, however, tuition fees have to be paid to state universities. There is a compulsory education for children from six to sixteen years old. The first private schools were not opened until 1991. Scientific education can be taken at the Universities of Sofia (since 1889), Plovdiv, Veliko Turnovo and Varna and at fourteen regional schools. An American University is located in Blagoevgrad.

In 1997 there were 3,889 schools, more than 110,000 educators and teachers and more than 1.4 million pupils and students. Due to cutbacks, many good teachers have left for the business world.

Turkish lessons are only allowed in certain regions, but optional and outside the regular curriculum.

Economy

General

Unemployment Bulgaria geographic distributionPhoto:Ikonact Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International no changes made

After World War II, the economy of the Bulgarian people's democracy was one of the poorest countries in the Balkans, along with Albania. The Eastern European Recovery Plan (Comecon) brought about major socio-economic changes. Industry, transport companies and banks were nationalized and agricultural cooperatives were founded. All means of production were at one point in the hands of the state and the first five-year plan was introduced. The emphasis in all of this was on heavy industry and the modernization of agriculture. The production of consumer goods did not start until much later. Unemployment was rare at the time; a job could be created for everyone. There was often even a shortage of workers, thousands of which were brought in from countries such as Cuba, Nicaragua and Vietnam.

The end of communism clearly showed how fragile Bulgaria's economy was. For example, the industry was mainly exported to the Soviet Union and other Eastern European countries. This traditional outlet suddenly disappeared after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Soviet Empire. Western competition increased and the quality requirements of the export products were raised. The economic reforms needed to continue to participate in the free market economy got underway only slowly. The International Monetary Fund and World Bank provided more than $ 1.5 billion to support reform plans.

The measures ensured that the initial sky-high inflation was somewhat curbed, government spending was reduced, a guided wage policy was pursued and state-owned companies were sold. The disadvantage was that the standard of living of most Bulgarians fell below the social minimum. The transition from a managed economy to the free market brought with it a logical recession, which however seemed to have been subdued in 1994. Prices fell slowly, exports to the west increased dramatically due to very low wages, privatization is going well and the balance of payments has recovered somewhat. 70% of the Bulgarian economy is now privately owned. The pace of privatization has accelerated since 1998 under pressure from the IMF and the World Bank. Domestic investment has increased, real incomes have risen and credit is increasing, especially for small and medium-sized enterprises.

The European Commission declared in October 2002 that Bulgaria is a functioning market economy.

The floods in summer 2005 and the current account deficit hamper the possibility of tax relief and improving purchasing power for citizens. Since 2013, the borders of the EU have been open to Bulgarians. GDP per capita is at $ 21,700 (2017).

Agriculture, forestry and fishing

Bulgaria Agriculture Photo:Biso Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported no changes made

Bulgaria is a fertile country with more than 55% of its surface used for agriculture, and is still one of the pillars of the economy. Collectivization, which started in 1945, has been abolished. Nevertheless, there are still about 300 large state-owned companies where the harvested agricultural products are directly processed industrially. About 15% of the total cultivated land is cultivated by the farmers for their own account. These companies supply 40% of the meat produced and 45% of all vegetables. Important agricultural products are: wheat, barley, corn, tobacco, cotton, fruits and vegetables, wine grapes and sugar. The national pride is Bulgarian rose oil production, which, however, is facing increasing competition from countries such as Turkey and China.

In the mountain areas livestock farming (especially sheep) and forestry (wood extraction) are important. Besides wool, the sheep also provide milk, cheese and meat. Yogurt is a true Bulgarian invention, discovered by Professor Mletchnikov in the nineteenth century. The pig sector also supplies a lot of meat for the domestic market.

The center of the fishery is the Black Sea port of Varna; the Bulgarians mainly fish off the African west coast and in the Mediterranean. Only about 17% of the fish is caught in the Black Sea and inland waters. Most of the fish caught goes to the fish processing industry.

Industry and mining

Power plant BulgariaPhoto:Julien81 Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no changes made

The industry developed strongly after 1945. The agricultural (canned, tobacco, wine) and textile production are largely destined for export. In addition, the emphasis is on modern technology. Industry is located in Dimitrovgrad and Kremikovitsi (with the largest blast furnaces), Sofia (electrical engineering, machine building), Varna (shipbuilding), Pleven and Bourgas (petrochemical industry; agricultural machinery), Stara-Zagora and Reka-Devnija (chemical industry). Bulgaria is a major producer of computers and industrial robots (the center of modern technology is in Veliko Turnovo).

The Bulgarian soil is poor in resources. Besides some coal, there is plenty of brown coal to be found, but it is of poor quality. In addition, some manganese, zinc, lead, iron ore and pyrite are extracted in the mountain areas. For natural gas and oil, people are still heavily dependent on Russia.

Trade

Business Park Sofia Photo:Cadiboy Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no changes made

International trade has been hit hard by the collapse of the Eastern bloc. The Gulf War and the boycott of Yugoslavia created additional problems. Trade fell to half. The value of exports amounted to nearly $ 4 billion in 1999, now it has increased to more than 32 Billion in 2017. The main exports are textiles, chemicals, agricultural products, wine (Bulgaria is one of the top ten wine producing countries), tobacco and ores and minerals. The main trading partners were Russia, Italy, Greece, Germany and former Yugoslavia. Main trading partners now are the Russian Federation, Germany, Austria, Italy and Greece.

Traffic

Modern Trains Bulgarian RailwaysPhoto:Wiki05 CrC-licentie Naamsvermelding-Gelijk delen 3.0 Unported no changes made

The main arteries are roads and railways; there is a network of more than 6000 km, half of which is electrified. Several major international routes pass through Bulgaria.

The road network is dense (37,000 km) and has several motorways, which will be connected by a large ring road by 2000. The construction of motorways has priority, partly due to the increase in the number of passenger cars and tourist traffic.

The main ports on the Black Sea are Varna and Bourgas; there is a regular service to the Mediterranean, as well as connections to ports in the Persian Gulf and India. The Danube is the only waterway in Bulgaria of importance to the economy, both for domestic and foreign shipping. The Friendship Bridge is the longest bridge over the Danube and connects Ruse with the Romanian Giurgiu.

Air traffic is currently being privatized and is still under construction. There are eleven airports for domestic and foreign flights. The main airport is Vrazjdebna near Sofia; other important international airports are located at Varna and Burgas.

Holidays and Sightseeing

General

Sunny beach Bulgaria Photo:Infobvg Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International no changes made

Bulgaria has been one of the fastest growing tourist destinations in Europe for several years now. Especially the long sandy beaches of the Black Sea, the ski destinations in the mountains and the capital Sofia have a lot to offer. But Bulgaria also has a lot of natural beauty, museums and archaeological sites, beautiful rural villages and cultural heritage, including medieval monasteries and churches.

The main tourist cities of Bulgaria are very different from each other. Sofia has grown into a large modern city since the late 19th century, second city Plovdiv has a small inner city and country houses in Byzantine style. The coastal town of Varna is especially popular with many tourists in summer, Veliko Tûrnovo still has medieval ruins. Ruse, located on the Danube, is special because of its Austrian-style architecture.

Remains of early civilizations, Thracians (including Kazanlûk, Starosel, Sveshtari), Romans (including Nikolopis ad Istrum, Varna), Bulgars (including Cherven, Pliska, Preslav, Velika Tûrnovo, Shumen) and Ottoman Turks (including Plovdiv, Sofia, Shumen) , can be found all over Bulgaria.

The very varied Bulgarian landscape is attractive to nature lovers. For example, the Black Sea coast not only has fantastic sandy beaches, but also high cliffs and swampy river estuaries. In addition to agricultural areas (for viticulture), the interior also has rugged mountain ranges, rivers, lakes, ravines, caves and swamps. Along the Danube you will find hills and fertile agricultural land.

Sofia

Sofia Sveta Nedelya BulgariaPhoto:Stolichanin Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International no changes made

Sofia has no shortage of religious monuments. One of Sofia's most important churches is Sveta Nedelya Church, built around 1860 but seriously damaged by a bomb attack in 1925. Then rebuilt. The small Sveta Samardzhiiska Church, located in an underground shopping center, has remnants of 16th century frescoes and an 11th century nave. The Tsurkva na Sveti Nikolai Chudotvorets, better known as the 'Russian Church', has gilded domes, a portal with light green tiles and an interior with many beautiful frescoes and arabesques. The Hram-pametnik Aleksandûr Nevski (Aleksandûr Nevsky memorial church) has gold-covered and copper domes, a mosaic of Christ, a beautiful domed fresco, an iconostasis of marble, alabaster and onyx, a tsar's throne and in the crypt a beautiful icon gallery with the richest collection of religious artifacts from Bulgaria. Built in the Byzantine style in the 11th-13th centuries, Boyana Church is one of Bulgaria's best-known medieval buildings and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This church also contains beautiful frescoes.

Also worth a visit are the Banya Bashi Mosque and the Moorish-style Sofia Synagogue (1909), one of the largest synagogues in Europe with a candlestick weighing more than 2000 kg. There is also the Sveta Sofia Church, the most important and oldest Christian church in Sofia until the Middle Ages, and the Sveti Sedmochislenitsi Church, built as a mosque in the 16th century. Monasteries to visit near Sofia include the Dragalevtsi Monastery and the Saint George Monastery.

Sofia Archaeological MuseumPhoto:Ann Wuyts Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic no changes made

Most of Sofia's museums are almost exclusively Bulgaria-oriented and each in their own way tell the fortunes of the once great Bulgarian empire and about the peoples that were successively important to Bulgaria: Thracians, Greeks, Romans, Turks and Bulgars. They also provide a fascinating insight into the Balkans and generally have low entrance fees.

The Archaeological Museum, located in Sofia's former great mosques, Buyuk Dzhamiya (1474), houses a wonderful collection of treasures from prehistoric, Thracian, Roman and Middle Ages. In the hills outside the city is the National History Museum, which includes a golden treasure from the Thracian era (4th century BC), icons and frescoes, medieval pottery production, traditional costumes from all over Bulgaria and a hall about Bulgaria under the Ottoman rule and a hall over Bulgaria after its liberation in 1878.

In addition to a large collection of (historical) machines, laboratory instruments, classic cars and motorcycles, the National Polytechnic Museum also has a collection of porcelain and (royal) tableware. The National Art Gallery contains frescoes by the most famous creator of religious art, Zahari Zograf. In addition, the museum has a collection that shows the development of Bulgarian art, including a room with impressionist art and a room with paintings made in the interwar period. The Natural History Museum's main themes are geology and the European animal world, with crystals and stones, stuffed and living animals. The National Gallery for Foreign Art has collections of primitive African art, Japanese engravings and paintings from the 19th and 20th centuries, among others. The Military Museum displays historical and current Bulgarian uniforms and war equipment. The Ivan Vazov House Museum honors the life and work (poems, novels, drama) of the best-loved Bulgarian writer, Ivan Vazov (1850-1921).

Various places of interest in Sofia:

Botanicheska Gradina: Botanical garden of Sofia University with Mediterranean flora and a rose garden

Mineralna Banya: public bath house with hot mineral springs

Tsentralni hali: Central Market Hall

Zhenski Pazar Market: largest open-air market

Southern Bulgaria

Borovets Winter sports BulgariaPhoto:Public domain

The mountainous southern Bulgaria is covered with snow for much of the year, and this part of Bulgaria is increasingly being discovered by all Europeans as an area for winter sports holidays. Some of the most famous winter sports areas are Borovets, Vitosha and Samokov, close to Sofia, Pamporovo in the Rhodopen Mountains and Bansko in the Pirin Mountains.

The rugged southern Bulgaria is also a great holiday destination for nature lovers. National parks with a very diverse flora and fauna can be found in the Rila and Pirin Mountains. Furthermore, there are many opportunities for cyclists and hikers and lovers of historic buildings can also indulge themselves, including two monasteries that are on the World Heritage List of UNESCO. Plovdiv is the second largest city in Bulgaria after Sofia, with Roman ruins, museums, mosques, churches and rebirth houses.

Bachkovo Monastery BulgariaPhoto:Nenko Lazarov Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 no changes made

Various places of interest in South Bulgaria:

Bachkovo Monastery: World Heritage Site founded in 1083, rebuilt after destruction in 17th century; beautiful architecture and frescoes; Sveti Nikola Church (1834)

Bansko: popular ski destination; historical centre; Sveta Troitsa Church; Neofit Rilskihuis (highlights the life and work of Rilski, language and educational expert, daily life 19th century, garden with modern sculptures) Velyanov House (19th century); Icon Museum (Bansko School of Painters); narrow gauge train ride through the mountains

Batak: Historical Museum (April uprising and massacre 1876); Sveta Nedelyakerk; Ethnographic Museum (traditional agricultural tools and lumberjacks)

Belitsa: dancing bear park

Blagoevgrad: university town; Historical Museum (archaeological collection, mineral collection, stuffed animals); Church of Anunciation

Borovets: popular ski destination; Bistritsa Palace (late 19th century hunting lodge King Ferdinand)

Dobursko: 17th century Teodor Tiron i Teodor Stratilat Church

Gotse Delchev: Historical Museum (3000-year-old Thracian clay figurines, Roman cart, 19th-century cowbells, regional costumes)

Haskovo: Eskimoskee (oldest mosque in the Balkans); Historical Museum (tobacco industry); Sveta Bogoroditsa Church

Kûrdzhali: 'Muslim' city; Historical Museum (archaeological, ethnographic, natural history collection, medieval iron and bronze crosses)

Kyustendil: health resort, Historical Museum (regional archaeological finds); Pautalia Baths (Bulgaria's second largest Roman bath complex); Sveta Bogoroditsa Church; remnants of the 4th century Hisarlûk fortress

Madzharovo nature reserve: very interesting for bird watchers

Melnik: Melnik wine; Historical Museum (terracotta wine jugs, regional costume); Kordopulov House (fine example of early rebirth architecture)

Mogilitsa: Agushevkonak (19th century example of fortified Rhodope country house); Uhlovitza cave (underground waterfalls and beautiful rock formations)

Momchilovtsi: snowboard park; Kormisosh (Bulgaria's largest hunting reserve)

Eastern Rhodopen Mountains: Skalite na Ustra (impressive rock formations); kamenite gûbi (stone mushrooms); prehistoric ruins Perperikon and Ahridos); Vkamenenata Gora (stone forest); Tatul (including Thracian ruin)

Pamporovo: popular ski destination

Pernik: bi-annual Kukeri and Survakari dance festival; mining museum

Pirin National Park: Bayuvi Dupki Dzhindzhiritsa Nature Reserve; Baikousheva Mura (Bulgaria's oldest tree, approx. 1300 years old); Popovo lake; Vihren (highest mountain Pirin Mountains 2914 m)

Plovdiv: Historical Museum (including weapons and uniforms); Imaret Mosque (1445); Dzhumaya Mosque (ca. 1364); Sveta Marinakerk (1783); Sveta Bogoroditsa Church; Konstantin i Elena Church; Roman stadium; Roman theater (2nd century AD); Archaeological Museum; Natural History Museum (stuffed animals, aquarium, minerals, fossils); Municipal Art Museum (Bulgarian and international art); Apteka Hipokrat (museum pharmacy); Icon Museum; State Museum of Art (19th-century and 20th-century Bulgarian paintings)

Rila National Park: largest national park in Bulgaria with Musala (highest mountain Bulgarian Balkan 2925 m), Shtrashno (mountain lake at 2465 m altitude), Parangalitsa (UNESCO biosphere reserve), Seven Lakes hiking trail along seven glacial lakes), wolves, bears, wild boars and about 60 endemic plant species

Rila Monastery BulgariaPhoto:Raggatt2000 Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no changes made

Rila Monastery: World Heritage Site originally 10th century, later destroyed and rebuilt several times (with beautiful frescoes and iconostasis, Nativity Church, largest monastery church in Bulgaria, relic (right hand) of Saint Ivan, tomb of Tsar Boris, farm museum, Hrelo tower (oldest preserved monastery building from 1334)

Rozhen Monastery: originally 1220, restored after decay in 1597; Kiril i Metodiikerk

Samokov: Bairaklim Mosque; Historical Museum (including two working replicas of medieval forges)

Sandanski: Archaeological Museum

Shiroka Lûka: Ascension Church (1834); Ethnographic Museum; Kukeri Carnival; international gaida festival (Bulgarian bagpipes)

Smolyan: Historical Museum (prehistoric, Thracian and Ottoman objects); Art museum; modern Sveti Vaserion Smoly church; planetarium

Velingrad: health resort with many warm water baths; Historical Museum (regional costumes, jewelery, painted Easter eggs

Western Rhodopen Mountains: many species of bats; Yagodina cave; Devil's Throat Cave; Trigrad gorge; Buzhnov Gorge

Zlatograd: Ethnographic Museum Complex (craft workshops, Ethnographic Museum, Education Museum, Watermill Museum)

Central Bulgaria

Stara Planina BulgariaPhoto:Evgeni Dinev Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic no changes made

The central part of Bulgaria, divided in two by the Stara Planina or Balkan Mountains, has been of great importance to the turbulent modern history and the people and events that shaped Bulgaria as a nation. Memories of this past can be found in abundance in beautiful towns such as Lovech and Koprivshtitsa, filled with national rebirth architecture, and sites of important military victories, such as the Battle of the Shipka Pass. Stunning artistic achievements, including the vibrant frescoes of the Dryanovo and Troyan monasteries and an incredibly detailed masterpiece of the 19th-century Tryavna school of woodcarvers, attest to the vitality of Bulgarian traditions. The numerous house museums honor the spirit and artifacts of the freedom fighters and other eminent Bulgarians of yesteryear.

The natural beauty of Central Bulgaria can be experienced through hiking, climbing, caving, horseback riding and other outdoor activities, and is all about the presence of waterfalls, cliffs, caves and rivers. But the lowlands also beckon to tourists with romantic locations such as the Rose Valley (Sredna Gora) near Kazanlak, which itself was long known for its rose oil production.

For many visitors, the essence of Central Bulgaria comes together in one place: Veliko Tarnovo, the magnificent former capital of the Bulgarian Tsars, built along rolling hills and bisected by a river, with one of the most beautiful fortresses in Europe overlooking the city .

Glozhene Monastery BulgariaPhoto:Grojen in het publieke domein

Bulgaria is a real 'monastic country', and that also applies to Central Bulgaria.

The beautifully situated Glozhene Monastery, high above the Vit Valley, is dedicated to St. George the Conqueror and was founded in 1224. The monastery complex also houses a Historical Museum. The Troyan Monastery, one of the largest in Bulgaria, was founded in 1600, but the accompanying Sveta Bogoroditsa Church was not completed until 1835. Near the monastery is the Hiding Museum, where the famous Bulgarian revolutionary Vasil Levski (1837-1873) hid from the Turks. Founded in the 14th century by Teodosi Tûrnovski and located to the south of Veliko Tûrnovo, the Kilifarevo Monastery was regularly destroyed and rebuilt in Ottoman times. The accompanying church dates from the mid-18th century and is dedicated to Saint Demetrius of Salonika. The Preobrazhenski Monastery, located to the north of Veliko Tûrnovo, also dates back to the 14th century and was destroyed in Ottoman times. Most of the icons and murals were created by the famous Bulgarian icon painter Zahai Zograf (1810-1853). The Sveta Troitsa Monastery, also north of Veliko Tûrnovo and currently a nunnery, is located on the site of an 11th century monastery. The church, built in 1847, was destroyed in an earthquake in 1913. The Kûpinovo Monastery (originally 13th century) was rebuilt after a number of Ottoman destruction in 1825, the church dates back to 1835.

Special religious buildings can be found in Lovech (Church of the Ascension from 1834), Tryavna (Archangel Michael's Church from 1821), Veliko Tûrnovo (Kiril i Metodii Church from 1860; Sveti Nikola Church; in the Tsarevets fortress the Sveti Dimitûr Church, the Petûr i Pavel Church and the Patriarchate Church; Church of the 40 Martyrs; Church of the Assumption of Mary from 1923; Petûr i Pavel Church from the 13th century; Sveti George Church from 1616; Sveti Dimitûr Church), Arbanasi (Archangels Michael and Gabriel Church from the 17th century; Nativity Church from the 17th century); Elena (Ascension Church; Sveti Nikola Church), Zheravna (Sveti Nikola Church), Yambol (Ebu Bekir Mosque from 1413), Shipka (Memorial Church from 1902), Karlovo (Sveta Bogoroditsa Church from 1851), Koprivshtitsa (Sveta Bogoroditsa Church from 1817).

Momin Skok Waterfall BulgariaPhoto:Laveol Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International no changes made

Various places of interest in Central Bulgaria:

Arbanasi: Konstantslievhuis

Bozhentsi: History museum (utensils local farmers and daily life); Doncho Popamuseum (rich wool merchant's daily life); Opoe Rayna Museum (everyday life of simple people)

Dryanovo: Historical Museum (architect Kolyo Ficheto (1800-1881); Bacho Kirogrot

Elena: Ethnographic Museum (carpets and clothing); Ilarion Makariopolski House

Emen Gap: hiking trail; Momin Skok waterfall; nature reserve

Gabrovo: House of Humor and Satire (funny paintings and inventions, clown suits, cartoons); Museum of Education (development of Bulgarian education); Historical Museum (local history 13th century to 1950); Etûra complex (open-air museum with old crafts); Detchkohuis

Hisarya: Historical Museum (Thracian and Roman finds)

Karlovo: Historical Museum (prehistoric finds, costumes, weapons); Vasil Levski Museum (revolutionary 1837-1873)

Kazanlûk: Iskra Museum (silver and gold Thracian objects); Tomb (replica of Thacian tomb); Ethnographic Complex Kulata (restored 19th century houses); Rose Oil Industry Museum; Rose Festival (first weekend in June); Tundzhadal (Valley of the Thracian Kings with many burial mounds or 'mogili')

Koprivshtitsa: Debelyanov House, Kableshkov House, Lyutov House, Karavelov House, Benkovsky House, Oslekov House; Bridge of the First Shot (April Uprising 1876)

Kotel: Ethnographic Museum (carpets; decor style late 19th century); Carpet Exposition; Pantheon (educationalist Petûr Beron (1799-1871), revolutionary Georgi Rakovski (1821-1867)

Lovech: Ethnographic Museum (19th century European furniture; Ottoman floor cushions and low tables); Vasil Levski Museum (rebel leader Vasil levski (1837-1873)

Central Balkan National Park: nine reserves (bears, wolves, wild cats, nine endemic plant species)

Nikopolis ad Istrum BulgariaPhoto:Klearchos Kapoutsis Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic no changes made

Nikopolis ad Istrum (remains of a Roman city)

Shipka: Freedom monument and museum (-Sliven: Hadzhi Dimitûrmuseum (insurgent against the Turks (1840-1868)); Historical Museum; Blue Rocks

Sopot: Ivan Vazov Museum (writer 1850-1922)

Stara Zagora: Neolitni zhilishta (Neolithic huts and museum); Roman theater; Museum for 19th-century city life (including period furniture 19th century)

Starosel: Thracian Tombs

Teteven: Historical Museum (archaeological finds from Neolithic and Roman times; weapons from the Middle Ages to the 19th century; 19th century costumes)

Troyan: Museum of Traditional Crafts (overview of local ceramics industry; wood carvings; 18th and 19th century fur hats from 18th and 19th centuries, 'kalpakchiite)

Tryavna: Shkoloto (former school building, now art museum including antique clocks); Museum of Icon Painting (19th century icons from School of Tryavna); Raikov House, Daskalov House, Slaveykov House, Angel Kûnchev House

Velik Tûrnovo: Samovodska Charshiya (bazaar); Kunstmuseum (Bulgarian paintings 19th and 20th century); Archaeological Museum (including classical columns and busts); Museum of the National Rebirth and the Legislative Assembly (including revolt against the Turks); Museum of Modern History (Balkan Wars and 1st World War); Tsarevets (restored fortress)

Zheravna: Sava Filaretov House, Chorbadzhi House, Yovkov House

Northern Bulgaria

Belogradchik Bulgaria Photo:Elena Chochkova Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no changes made

Northern Bulgaria is not as spectacular from a tourist point of view as other parts of Bulgaria, but it offers a varied landscape with dense pine forests, low hills in the Danube valley and especially grille mountain formations. So plenty of enjoyment for nature lovers and hikers, but also for beautiful architecture one can go here in cities such as Shumen and Ruse.

Just outside Rabisha is the limestone Magura Cave, with prehistoric rock carvings from the 2nd century BC. and mineral formations. The jagged rock formations of Belogradchik used to form a natural fortress and were used as such by the Romans, Bulgars and during the Ottoman occupation. The landscape of the Vrachanski Balkans consists of meadows, wooded valleys and the impressive Vratsata gorge. The spectacular Ledenika cave can also be found in this area. The Iskûr gorge is also more than worth a visit with special rock formations such as the Katina pyramids and the steep Lakatnik rocks. here are also a number of pilgrimage sites, including the Cherepish Monastery and the Sedemte Prestola Monastery. The valley of the Rusenski Lom River is a habitat for many animal species, but it also contains a rock monastery and a fortress.

Various places of interest in Northern Bulgaria:

Srebarna Bulgaria Photo:Izvora in the public domain

Srebarna is a UNESCO biosphere reserve with a particularly varied bird population.

Belogradchik: Natural History Museum (stuffed birds and mammals from Northern Bulgaria

Berkovitsa: health resort; Ivan Vazov Museum (famous Bulgarian writer, 1850-1921); Ethnographic Museum (local pottery)

Chiprovtsi: Municipal Museum (carpets or 'kilims', woven jewelry)

Madara: Rider of Madara (medieval relief on rock face)

Montana: Historical Museum (costumes of the Karakachani, nomadic herders)

Pleven: mausoleum (Russian victims of Russo-Turkish War, 1877-1878); Liberation Museum (siege Russo-Turkish War, weapons and uniforms); Historical Museum (weapons, archaeological finds Roman times); Skobelev Museum (Russian generals); Panorama (paintings about the occupation)

Ruse: Sveta Troitska Church from 1764; Ploshtad Svoboda (square with liberation monument, Drama theater and statue of Mercury); Regional History Museum (prehistory, Roman times, Middle Ages, Belle Époque, wedding attire); Sexanginta Prista (Roman harbor ruins); Zahari Stoyanov Museum (Bulgarian freedom fighter); Transport museum (railway history Ruse); Pantheon of Heroes of the National Rebirth

Rusenski Lom Valley: Sveti Dimitûr Besarbovski and Ivanovo rock monasteries; Chervenfort ruins

Shumen: Historical Museum (including medieval finds); Pancho Vladigerov House, Panaiot Volov House, Lajos Kossuth Museum (Hungarian nationalist leader); Tombul Mosque (largest mosque in Bulgaria); Monument to the Founders of the Bulgarian State; Shumenfort

Silistra: medieval ruins; Archaeological Museum (city history, Roman tombstones, stone sundial 1st century); Medzhiditabiyafort

Sveshtari: Sveshtari Mogili (burial mounds, including Ginina Mogila, a 3rd century tomb and also a UNESCO World Heritage Site); Demir Babab Tekke (16th-century Muslim saint's grave)

Svishtov: Sveta Troitska Church from 1867; Aleko Konstantinov Church

Veliki Preslav: Archaeological Museum (medieval pottery, coins and gold jewelry)

Vidin: Historical Museum (floor mosaics and marble statues from the Roman era); Baba Vida (13th century fortress); Ethnographic Museum (including Vlach clothing); Sveti Panteleimon (17th century church)

Black Sea coast

For most holidaymakers who have chosen Bulgaria's Black Sea coast as their destination, the warm summers, beautiful sandy beaches and clear blue water are the main attractions. However, it is also a good place to be a little further from the tourist centers. Fishing villages, unspoiled coastlines, nature reserves and historic cities such as Varna, Nesebûr and Sozopol offer something for everyone. Sunny Beach (Slûnchev Bryag) is an ever-expanding seaside resort and currently the largest seaside resort in Bulgaria, ideal for all-inclusive family holidays on the approx. 8 km long beach. Golden Sands (Zlatni Pyasâtsi) is the second largest resort with a beach length of about 3.5 km and many hotels. Not far from Golden Sands is the Aladzha Monastery, dug into the limestone cliffs in the 6th century. The long, clean and safe beach of Albena is an ideal starting point for many water sports Albena is a bit quieter than the neighboring beach Golden Sands because the holiday accommodations are more spread out.

Balchik Bulgaria Photo:Boby Dimitrov Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic no changes made

Various sights Black Sea coast:

Ahtopol: seaside resort; Ascension chapel from 1796

Balchik: National Rebirth Complex (replica of the first Bulgarian school); Historical Museum (history Balchik); Ethnographic Museum (costumes, old crafts); Kunstmuseum (20th century paintings); Palace of Queen Marie (including a very large collection of cacti)

Brushlyan: cityscape

Bûlgari: fire dancing on June 3-4

Burgas: Ethnographic Museum (including traditional costumes); Kiril i Metodiikerk; Armenian church from 1853; Natural History Museum (including minerals and stuffed mammals); Archaeological Museum (finds, Stone Age, Bronze Age and Greek Rule); Art museum (including 18th and 19th century icons); Lake Poda (rare plants and birds)

Devnya: Pobiti Kamûni ('stone forest' with approx. 2000 stone columns)

Dobrich: Archaeological Museum (gold jewelry 5th century BC); Ethnographic Museum (costumes, embroidery, farm garden); Kunstmuseum (Bulgarian painters); Stariya Dobrich (workshops old crafts)

Kavarna: Ethnographic Museum (daily life 19th century); Art museum (including seascapes); Maritime Museum (sea trade); Historical Museum (recent city history)

Nessebur Pantocrator Bulgaria Photo:Gérard Janot Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no changes made

Nesebûr: Archaeological Museum (city history 2nd-1st millennium BC to Middle Ages); Christ Pantocrator Church; New Metropolitan Church; Johannes Aliturgetos Church; ruin of the Old Metropolitan Church; Sveta Paraskeva Church; Sveti Spa Church from the 17th century; Ethnographic Museum including traditional costumes)

Pomorie: Salt Museum; 17th century Transfiguration Church

Ropotamo Nature Reserve: sand dunes, rare plants and flowers

Sozopol: cityscape; Archaeological Museum (city history); Southern Fortress and Tower Museum; Apollonia Art Festival in early September; Art museum (including seascapes); Sveta Bogoroditsa Church 15th century; Sveti Zosim Church

Strandzha tour: five reserves with rare plants and endangered species

Sveti Konstantin: small seaside resort; Konstantin and Elena Monastery

Tsarevo: Uspenie Bogorodichno Church from 1820

Varna: Archaeological Museum (many gold objects from the necropolis found in 1972, dated 4400-4200 BC, Thracian and Roman objects); Ascension Cathedral (Bulgaria's second largest Christian church); Ascension Church from 1602; Sveti Atanas Church from 1838; Armenian church from 1842; Ethnographic Museum (including farm, traditional costumes); ruins of Roman baths; City history museum (period late 18th century up to around 1950); Medical Museum (skulls, skeletons, instruments); Naval Museum (including torpedo boat from the First Balkan War, navigated the Black Sea from the 6th century BC 1921 and further artillery, helicopters); Municipal Art Museum (Bulgarian painting since the early 20th century); Marine park (aquarium, planetarium, dolphinarium, terrarium, zoo); Evksinograd Palace from 1886

Yailata: cave houses; necropolis, ruins medieval castle

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Sources

Berg, H. van den / Reis-handboek voor Bulgarije
Elmar

Detrez, R. / Bulgarije: mensen, politiek, economie, cultuur, milieu
Koninklijk Instituut voor de Tropen

Resnick, A. / Bulgaria
Childrens Press

CIA - World Factbook

BBC - Country Profiles

Last updated September 2021
Copyright: Team Landenweb