Bulgaria is situated in Southeastern Europe, in the central part of the Balkan Peninsula. It borders on Roumania to the north, Yugoslavia and the Republic of Macedonia to the west, Greece and Turkey to the south and the Black Sea to the east. Bulgaria covers an area of 110 993.6 square kilometres and its population numbers about 8.5 million (1992).
Bulgarians are mostly a Slav people - closest relatives of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenians, as well as of the Russians, Ukrainians and Byelorussians, of the Czechs, Slovaks and Poles. But Bulgarians are nonetheless a Balkan people, so that there are numerous examples in their language, traditions, customs, mentality, culture, and value system, of relationships and interactions with all their neighbours - Greeks, Roumanians, Albanians, Turks, etc.
Founded in 681, Bulgaria is one of the oldest European states, with over 13 centuries of history. The present-day Bulgarian lands have been populated as early as the Palaeolithic period.
The oldest native population of Eastern Balkans were the Thracians. This people provided the classical antiquity with gods and goddesses like Dionysus, Hephaestus, Artemis, Kibela, Ares... Orpheus and Spartacus were Thracians. Thracians participated in the Trojan War on the side of the Achaeans. Thracian culture is one of the foundations of modern civilization.
During the Great Migration of Peoples dozens of tribes crossed the Bulgarian lands, each one leaving its traces; many of these later went to the West and were involved in the formation of the contemporary European nations. Of particular significance is the Slavic invasion, who in the early 7th century had already colonized almost the whole peninsula, getting as far as Peloponesus. At the end of the 7th century the Danube delta area was invaded by the Proto-Bulgarians, a people having long statehood traditions in the lands by the Volga and Kama rivers. Making an alliance with the Slav tribes, they founded here their new state, named after them - Bulgaria, which signed its first peace treaty with Byzantium in 681.
The First Bulgarian Kingdom existed from 681 till 1018. In this period Bulgaria adopted Christianity (865). Bulgaria was recognized as tzardom by the Pope and the Holy Roman Empire. The first translations of the Holy Scriptures from Greek into Slavonic were made in the Old-Bulgarian language. Old-Bulgarian became the language of church, literature and administration in a number of Slavic and non-Slavic countries. The Old-Bulgarian alphabet, known as the Cyrillic Alphabet, having passed through evolution, is now used in Bulgaria, Serbia, Belarus, the Ukraine, Russia, etc. In 1018, Bulgaria fell under Byzantium rule.
The Second Bulgarian Kingdom (1185-1396) was initiated after a successful uprising of the Bulgarian aristocracy. The city of Turnovo become the capital. This kingdom was fated by history to play an important role in the invasion of the Ottoman Muslim. At the price of its independence, Bulgaria blocked the Sultans’ expansion to Europe.
Bulgaria was an Ottoman province in the course of five centuries. Bulgarian aristocracy was liquidated, Bulgarian administration was eliminated, and the Bulgarian church was deprived of its autonomy and made subject to the dominion of the Greek Constantinople Patriarchate. During this period the ordinary Bulgarian peasants, craftsmen, tradesmen and clergymen went through hard trials, which formed in their conscience a responsibility for their own identity, nationality, faith, spirituality, culture, history... The Bulgarian people maintained and backed the growth of their monasteries, restored their towns, further developed their crafts and trade, created a remarkable for its time educational system, generated their unique folklore... They produced spiritual and political leaders of European calibre, regained their church autonomy (1870), organized their national liberation movement, which reached its peak in the April uprising of 1876. This uprising had a world-wide response. Its crushing was the direct cause for a large-scale international concern that culminated in the declaration of the Russian-Turkish War of 1877-78.
The Third Bulgarian Kingdom stemmed from the San Stephano Peace Treaty signed on 3 March 1878. This treaty re-established Bulgaria in its ethnic boundaries, but it was revised only several months later by the then Great Powers. Bulgaria was divided into three parts and until the World War II the unification of the Bulgarian people continued to be a dominant concern both in the foreign and the domestic policy of the Bulgarian state.
Until 1944 the country was a Constitutional Monarchy. After the World War II Bulgaria fell under the sphere of influence of the Soviet Union.
Following 10 November 1989, Bulgaria stepped on the road to democracy again. Nowadays, it is a multi-party state and a Parliamentary Republic.
Bulgaria is now a country of functioning market economy. It is a candidate for membership in the European Union.
SOFIA – BULGARIA’S CAPITAL
Sofia is one of the most ancient cities in Europe. In the 8th century B.C., on the site of former Neolithic settlement around the thermal springs was built an ancient Thracian town, which later on the Romans, who conquered it, named Serdika, i.e. the town of Serds, after the name of the Thracian tribe which populated it. During the Roman epoch (1st-4th centuries A.D.) the town flourished as a centre of the Inner Thrace Province.
In the 5th-6th centuries A.D., during the so called Great Migration of Peoples the town suffered invasions by the Huns, Goths and other barbaric tribes. In mid 6th century A.D. the town resurrected as an important administrative and economic centre of the Byzantium Empire under the name of Triaditza.
In 809 the town became part of the Bulgarian state and was given the Slavic name Sredetz.
From the end of the 16th century till the 70’s of the 19th century the town, as well as the whole Bulgarian state were under Ottoman rule. Sofia, the last name given to the town, originates for the beginning of the 15th century.
Today Sofia is a modern European city with population of over 1,2 mln. and territory of 1,311 sq. km. Apart from being administrative, political and economic centre, Sofia is also an important cultural and educational centre.
The geographic location of Bulgaria’s Capital, Sofia, has always been specified as unique and strategically important. The city is located in the “middle” of the Balkan Peninsula, in the western part of Bulgaria. Few are the capitals in the world, which have Sofia’s specifics - average altitude of about 550 m, availability of mineral springs with healing properties of the water, short distances to most of the neighbouring Balkan countries’ capitals.
Sofia is one of the most important “poles” of the links and communications on the Balkans.
On Sofia’s territory cross two of the most important for the country and the Balkan Peninsula transport axles – the first transport direction is north-east, which continues to Romania, Ukraine and Russia; the second one is north-west – towards the Central and Western European countries. After 1992 there was started the construction of a high-speed transport highway from Vidin and Lom to Sofia – Kulata – Thessaloniki and Athens, which is part of the Trans-European transport corridors.
Sports and Recreation
Situated at the foot of the Vitosha, Liulin and Plana mountains, in the vicinity of the Pancharevo Lake and the Iskar Dam, Sofia offers its residents and visitors a unique opportunity for communicating with nature. Marine entertainment lovers can have a boat or water wheel trip on the Pancharevo Lake and to surf on the Iskar Dam.
In summer mountain tourism lovers can spend wonderful time along various routes in the neighbouring mountains, to visit the natural landmarks of the Vitosha Reserve – the Moreni Stone River.
In winter, only within two hours winter sports lovers can reach the ski slopes of Vitosha which offer excellent opportunities for both beginner skiers and snow-borders and for those who seek mastery and emotions. Within the city’s limits those, who persevere in maintaining their athletic shape, the Capital offers various opportunities – fitness centres, swimming pools, tennis courts, ice skating, etc.
Entertainment in Sofia
In Sofia there are a number of museums, churches, theatres, art galleries; a rich variety of discothеques, clubs with live entertainment of different kinds of music (jazz, pop, ethnic…); facilities, offering Bulgarian national cuisine, as well as European, Chinese, Arabic, etc. The Sofialand Entertainment Park offers attractive entertainment and emotions. Animal lovers can visit the Sofia Zoo, which is the largest in Bulgaria. Cultural life in Sofia is intensive and full of numerous events. Sofia is a centre of many musical and film festivals, symposia, etc. Those, curious to find out preliminary information on the cultural life in Sofia and the country may visit the electronic edition of The Sofia Echo – a newspaper for foreigners in Bulgaria (www.sofiaecho.com) or to have a look at the English version of the electronic edition of “Programata”, a cultural and information guide (www.programata.bg)
General practical information
The currency unit in the Republic of Bulgaria is the Bulgarian Lev (plural form - Leva/Levs) or BGN, 1 Lev = 100 stotinki. The Bulgarian National Bank’s fixed rate is: EUR 1 = BGN 1.95583.
Medical services - There are many clinics, hospitals and private medical offices where you may seek medical assistance, paying cash at quite reasonable rates. There is also a special hospital for foreigners, “St. Anna”, at the following address: 1 Evgeni Pavlovski Street, tel.: 75-361. You may also get medical insurance with one of the numerous insurance companies in Bulgaria.
Climate - Bulgaria’s climate is moderately continental with 4 seasons – spring, summer, autumn, winter. Spring is rainy and warm with temperatures ranging from +15 C to +22 C. The summer months (June, July, August) are hot and dry with temperatures ranging from +25 C to +38 C. Autumn is mild and moderately rainy. It gets rather cold in late autumn and winter. Normally temperatures from November till March vary from +10 C down to –20 C. Characteristic are heavy snowfalls which often continue till mid March.
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