|Country Information & Lifestyle|
Where tomorrow meets yesterday
Since ancient times Bulgaria has been a major crossroads between Europe, Asia and Africa and is comprised of the classical regions of Thrace, Moesia and Macedonia. Bulgaria was founded in 681 and is the oldest contemporary country in Europe and the oldest treasure in the world, the Varna Neocroplis, 6,500 years old was discovered here.
From the seats of the Bulgarian khans, czars and kings, to the stone carving of the Madara Horseman; the Thracian Gold Treasures; the breathtaking murals of the Kazanlak Tomb and the church in Boyana, to the quiet wisdom of the Rila Monastery, Bulgaria has so much to offer there will never be enough time to see it all.
Bulgaria is famous for its oleaginous rose which blooms in the Valley of Roses and the country produces half of the rose oil in the world. Bulgaria was the birthplace of the Cyrillic alphabet, the second most widely used alphabet in the world and Bulgarian tobacco brands are world famous.
Bulgaria is situated in Southeast Europe and occupies the eastern part of the Balkan Peninsula. To the north it borders Romania, mainly along the Danube, to the west Serbia and the Republic of Macedonia, to the south Greece and Turkey and to the east the Black Sea. The climate is continental with four clearly marked seasons, cold, damp winters, warm spring, hot, dry summers and a beautiful fall.
The geography is extremely varied with large plains and lowlands, low and high mountains, valleys and lovely gorges. More than one quarter of the country's territory is covered with forests. The entire coastline is covered with golden sandy beaches, secluded coves and dramatic cliffs, bathed in enough sizzling sunshine and amenities to rival any of the Spanish Costa's. The area is famous for its calm water with virtually no tides making it a favourite with young families.
The coast is dotted with charming, historical towns, mountain ranges, meadows and rivers all within a few minutes of the crystal clear water, whilst further inland dramatic mountain ranges create a breathtaking backdrop to the exhilarating ski slopes of Bansko, a thriving ski resort.
The southwest of the country is mountainous with two alpine ranges, Rila and Pirin, where the rare edelweiss plant is found growing. Further east are the lower, but more extensive Rhodope mountains. Hilly and country plains are found on the Black Sea coast in the east and along Bulgaria's main river, the Danube, in the south. The country has three national parks, ten natural parks and ninety reserves.
When you visit the old cities of Pliska, Veliki Preslav and Veliko Turnovo it is like turning back the clock a few centuries. Pliska is the Slavic name the Proto-Bulgarians gave to the first capital of their new state. Reviving the traditions of their predecessors they erected a monumental and austere looking city. The large Basilica, the palaces and Throne Room from the second half of the 9th century remain and Pliska is now a National Archaeological Reserve.
Veliki Preslav, the second Bulgarian capital, was built over three decades by Tsar Simeon and designed to correspond to the prosperity and upsurge of the Bulgarian state, the conversion to Christianity, the creation of the Slav script and culture. The Patleina Monastery was the centre of writers of the famous Preslav school of literature and the place where unique painted Preslav ceramics were crafted. Two fortress walls surrounded the city, and the inner city, housing the palace complex and the famous Golden Church, were full of splendour and ornate decorations.
Veliko Turnovo was the capital of the Second Bulgarian Empire (1185- 1393) and you should certainly visit this most unusual city where stone houses seem perched one above the other on the steep bank of the Yatra river. Tsarevets, the place of the patriarchal church and royal palaces, the hill where Baudoiun´s Towers still rises, linked with the legend of the Latin Emperor Baudouin of Flanders who was captured by Tsar Kaloyanr and then another hill Trapezitsa where the foundations of 17 medieval churches were discovered are all places to visit. The original SamovodeMarket has been brought back to life and, as in olden times, skillful craftsmen fashion and sell exquisite objects in the small restored workshops.
The Bulgarian monasteries - hiding human, warm and living rather than "divine" beauty behind their austere stone facades, still amaze with their magnificent architecture, unfading frescoes and murals, exquisite icons and wood-carvings, made by self-taught architects, builders and painters. The Bulgarian monasteries during difficult and turbulent times acted as centres of patriotism which helped to preserve national feelings and hopes of the Bulgarians.
The Monastery of Saint Ivan of Rila, better known as Rila Monastery, was founded in the 10th century and is the largest and most famous Eastern Orthodox monastery in Bulgaria and is situated in the northwest Rila mountains 117km from the capital Sofia in the deep valley of the Rilska Rive. It was named after the famous Bulgarian saint and hermit Ivan of Rila and is a key tourist attraction in Bulgaria and Southeastern Europe as a whole.
You will find an exquisite taste in Bulgarian cuisine and in the fine aroma of Bulgarian wines. Bulgarian cuisine is tasty, spicy and varied, juicy, grilled meat served with piquant sauces, the banista (cheese pie) which simply melts in the mouth and the famous Bulgarian yogurt). Bansko-style kapama,(meat and vegetables stewed in an earthenware dish), Rhodope cheverme,(lamb roasted on a spit over an open fire), Thracian katmi, a special type of pancake) and Dobroudjanska banitsa, Danube fish soup and Sozopol-style mussels.
The cosy, typically Bulgarian folk-style restaurants will tempt you with Shopska salad and chilled grape brandy, stuffed vine leaves or peppers, kavarma the Miller's Way, monastery-style hotchpotch, moussaka and kebab. The delicate white wines Dimyat, Misket and Riesling are followed by full reds such as Merlot, Cabernet and Gamza. Cups of steaming coffee are served with sweet jam, pancakes with honey and walnuts or baklava.
Bulgaria is a country rich in folklore, distinctive traditional music, rituals and tales. Melodious tunes and beautiful voices, fiery dances and brightly coloured costumes, Bulgarian folklore has to be seen, felt and experienced! If you attend one of the many picturesque folk fairs, singing contests and original folklore festivals you will perhaps discover the joire-de-vivre atmosphere of the rites and celebrations and the key to the heart and soul to the mystery that is Bulgaria.
Bulgaria is a tranquil country of outstanding natural beauty, crystal pure air, sandy beaches, cascading white waters and a land rich in folklore. Come visit and see this beautiful country for yourself.