Bulgaria is situated in the Southeast part of Europe, in the heart of the Balkan Peninsula. It is bordered by Romania to the north, the two countries divided by the Danube River; Macedonia and Serbia to the west; Greece and Turkey to the south; and Black sea to the east. It has a very strategic location, on the gates between West and Central Europe, and Asia. It covers an area of 111 000 sq. km.
Bulgaria is one of the oldest countries in Europe. It has been established in the year of 681 and has existed for more than 1300 years now. When the state of Bulgaria was founded, it became the third country in Europe after the Western and Eastern Roman Empires.
The UNESCO list of the planet’s cultural and natural heritage consists of 300 objects. 9 of them are in Bulgaria, headed by the Rila Monastery.
Bulgaria is ranked as the third country in the world (after Italy and Greece) with respect of the number of cultural and historical monuments. It has 160 monasteries, 38 cultural monuments and 330 museums.
The earliest worked up gold in the world was found in Bulgaria – it is reported to be 7 000 years old. This is proof that the European civilization existed exactly in the lands of Bulgaria, all together with Mesopotamia and Egypt. The golden treasures and wall-paintings of the Thracians, found in shrines and temples of Thracian kings in the lands of Bulgaria, are real masterpieces.
Bulgaria is the home of the famous Rose oil, which is a key ingredient of the most celebrated aromas in the world perfume industry.
Bulgaria is one of the world’s major producers and exporters of wine; the well-known Bulgarian yogurt is a vital component of the Bulgarian population’s everyday meals, and is believed to be the reason for the longevity of the people.
The creative spirit of the Bulgarians has given the world the most significant modern invention - the computer. Its inventor John Atanassov was of Bulgarian descent. The constructor of the Boeing - Assen Yordanov, and the chief of the secret program of NASA, which had prepared the first step on the Moon - John Nochev, are both of Bulgarian descent, too.
CAPITAL: Sofia, the biggest city in the country, with 1.5 million of inhabitants or 10 % of the population of Bulgaria.
OFFICIAL LANGUAGE: Bulgarian written in Cyrillic alphabet, which was created by the brothers Cyril and Methodius in 9th century. Other countries using the Cyrillic nowadays are Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Macedonia, Mongolia. Despite that, most Bulgarians speak at least one of the major international languages (English, French, German, Russian).
NATIONAL CURRENCY: The main monetary unit is the Lev. One Lev = 100 stotinki. The Bulgarian paper notes comprise the following denominations: 2, 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 leva. The earliest valid banknote emission is 1999. The currency board operating in the country since 1997 liquidated the hyperinflation and brought financial stability, connecting the Lev with the German Mark in 1:1 proportion. Since 2002 the Lev is attached to the EUR and now the Bulgarian National Bank’s official rate is 1 EUR = 1.95583 BGN.
CULTURE: Bulgaria’s huge cultural heritage is a result of its rich history.
There are 36 cultural reserves, 160 monasteries, about 40 000 cultural monuments, 7 of which are included in UNESCO’s list of cultural and natural heritage. Numerous monuments from different historical epochs are preserved: prehistoric findings, Thracian tombs, findings from the period of Hellenism, Roman and Byzantine fortresses, historical monuments from the time of the First and Second Bulgarian Kingdoms and the period of the National Renaissance, architectural ensembles in the big cities, as well as whole villages with preserved authentic atmosphere and architecture.
The oldest worked up gold in Europe was found in the Necropolis of Varna. The gold treasures of Vulchedrum, Panaguiriste, Vratsa, Lukovit and Letnitsa are famous all around the world, as well as the silver one from Rogosen. In lots of the Bulgarian regions the typical atmosphere from the period of the Renaissance is preserved, such as the old part of Plovdiv, Veliko Tarnovo, Koprivshtitsa, Tryavna, Arbanasi, Bozhentsi, Zheravna, Melnik, Bansko, Kovatchevitsa, Nesebar, Sozopol, etc.
There are lots of churches and monasteries in Bulgaria. The most famous ones are Rila, Bachkovo, Rozhen, Troyan and Preobrazhenski monasteries, as well as the rock monastery of Aladzha. Hundreds of churches, in which unique examples of Bulgarian icon-paintings, wall-paintings, wooden-carves, frescoes and icons are preserved attract major interest. Some of the monasteries even offer accommodation.
FOLKLORE: Bulgaria has a great reason to be proud of its folklore traditions. Folklore dances, music, traditional costumes and customs play an important role in the life of the Bulgarians. Even nowadays, a foreigner can witness a lot of feasts and rituals:
Survakari (сурвакари) - these are usually young boys, who wish everyone health and success on Christmas day, dressed in traditional costumes and with special sticks.
Trifon Zarezan (Трифон Зарезан) – the producers of wine’s special holiday, celebrated on 14th February.
Lazarovden (Лазаровден) – The day of St. Lazar. On the last Saturday before Easter, young girls dance and sing and wish everybody health and longevity.
The Rose Festival - celebrated in the beginning of June in the Bulgarian Rose Valley, in the towns of Karlovo and Kazanluk.
FLORA AND FAUNA: You could enjoy the abundance of different and numerous representatives of the vegetation and animal life in the separated regions of the country. There are 3 national and 9 natural parks and 16 biological reserves in Bulgaria. Two of them – the National Park of Pirin and the reserve of Sreburna, are included of UNESCO’s list of cultural and nature heritage.
CLIMATE: The climate in Bulgaria is defined of four totally different seasons – warm summer, long and sunny autumn, winter with deep snow and short and magnificent spring.