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Map of Bulgaria

Bulgaria (България), officially the Republic of Bulgaria since 1989, is a country in southeastern Europe. It borders Romania to the north, Serbia and Macedonia to the west, Greece and Turkey to the south, and the Black Sea to the east. With a territory of 110,994 square kilometers (42,855 sq mi), Bulgaria is Europe’s 14th-largest country.

Bulgaria’s varied landscape provides the opportunity for different kinds of tourism and entertainment. There are over 40 mountains in Bulgaria which has enabled the development of many winter resorts that are preferred both by Bulgarians and by foreign tourists. Bansko, as one of the biggest skiing resorts, is famous not only for its slopes, but also for its Town Centre, where Renaissance architecture and traditional culture and cuisine have been a tourist attraction for years.

RilaMountain

Rila mountain

Mountain regions are visited not only in winter. During summer one can take on the challenge to conquer Cherni Vrah (2,290 m), the summit of the Vitosha mountain, or even the Musala peak. Situated in the Rila Mountain, Musala (2,925 m) is the highest peak in Bulgaria and on the Balkan Peninsula. For those not inclined to walk the distance, there is also an open lift that takes you to the route around the Seven Rila Lakes – a beautiful site of the Bulgarian mountain landscape.

The Black Sea seaside also offers quite a lot. There are resorts for different kinds of summer experiences. From off the beaten track camps where one can feel nature to big party centers, such as Sunny Beach and Golden Sands. Being one of the countries with the highest number of natural mineral springs in Continental Europe – over 600, Bulgaria offers also many SPA resorts.

Bulgaria is a country with rich history. It was a cradle of many early civilizations, as the country’s many monuments attest. In fact, Bulgaria comes third in the list of countries with most valuable archaeological sites discovered on their territories, preceded only by Greece and Italy.
The Varna Necropolis is considered one of the key archaeological sites in world prehistory with the oldest golden treasure found in the world (dating back from 4,600 BC to 4,200 BC) and 15 000 Thracian tombs discovered on its territory.

Gold, found in the Varna Necropolis

The Thracian city of Perperikon is located in the Eastern Rhodope Mountain. It is the biggest megalith in the Balkans and is considered to have been a sacred place. Romans, Byzantines and Bulgarians have inhabited the city during the centuries until it was destroyed in 14th century by the Ottoman Empire.

As a state, Bulgaria was recognized by the Byzantium in 681AD, and that makes it the oldest country in Europe that hasn’t changed its name since it was first established. In 864, during the reign of Tsar Boris I (852-889), Bulgarians adopted Christianity as their official religion, which makes Bulgaria one of the oldest Christian states in Europe. In 927 the Patriarchate of Constantinople recognized the Bulgarian Orthodox Church as independent. This made it one of the few independent churches after the ones in ancient Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem. It contributed greatly to the preservation of the Bulgarian language and culture during the period while Bulgaria was part of the Ottoman Empire.

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Early Cyrillic alphabet

One of the biggest contributions of the First Bulgarian State is the Cyrillic alphabet. During the reign of Tsar Boris I, Clement of Ohrid – a student of Saints Cyril and Methodius, was warmly welcomed into Bulgaria. In the early X century he, along with Naum from Preslav, developed the Cyrillic script. It was based on the Greek alphabet, but was augmented with consonants and ligatures from the Glagolitic alphabet. The Cyrillic alphabet was spread among other Slavic peoples and is to this day used on the Balkans and Northern Eurasia. Since Bulgaria joined the European Union in 2007, it is one of the official scripts of the EU, along with Latin and Greek.

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Centre of Sofia

Three cities have been capitals of the Bulgarian state before Sofia became one – Pliska, Veliki Preslav and Veliko Turnovo. Sofia, established 2,400 years ago, is the current capital of Bulgaria. It was settled by the Thracian tribe Serdi, and from there its first name, Serdika. Later, when the region became part of the Bulgarian empire, the city was called Sredets. This was until 14th century, when it was named Sofia, most probably because of the church “St. Sofia”, that was, at the time at the very end of the city. The official holiday of the capital is celebrated on the 17th September, when it’s the day of the goddess Sofia and her three daughters – Faith, Hope and Love.

Nesebar

Ancient city of Nessebar
There are nine UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Bulgaria. Two of them are natural : Pirin National Park and Srebarna Nature reserve; seven are cultural sites: Rila Monastery, Boyana Church, Madara Rider, Rock-Hewn Churches of Ivanovo, Thracian tomb of Kazanlak, ancient city of Nessebar and ancient tomb of Sveshtari.
In addition, there are two masterpieces of the intangible cultural heritage, under the protection of UNESCO – the ritual of Nestinarstvo and Bistritsa babi.

Nestinarstvo
Nestinarstvo is one of the most mystical rituals in the world. It includes barefoot dancing on embers. It originates in Southeastern Bulgaria, the Strandzha mountain region, and is till this day practiced only there. It is traditionally performed on St. Helen and Constantine day. Its roots lie in the old pagan rituals, but during the centuries it has adapted to Christian Orthodox beliefs.
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Bistrishkite babi
Bistritsa Babi is a female ensemble that performs dances and songs, traditional for the Shopluk region. Established in 1939, the group is famous for the use of polyphony, typical for the shoppe music.

Valya Balkanska – Izlel e Delyo haidutin
The music from the different parts of Bulgaria is characterized with different features. The Rhodope mountain region, for example, is known for its monophonic singing and slow, lyrical sound. The song “Izlel Je Delyo Haidutin”, best known in the performance of Valya Balkanska, is a representative of that region. It is one of the songs that are on the Golden Record that is on the board of Voyager 1 and 2, inteded to communicate the greatest masterpieces of the Earth to the outer space.
roses

Rose fields

Today, Bulgaria is a democratic republic and one of the 28 countries in the European Union.
Bulgaria is famous all over the world for its rose oil production, unique for the region. Around 1000 rose blossoms are needed for producing one gram of oil, which is then used in some of the world’s most popular perfumes. It is also a country with excellent wine vintage, which makes it one of the leading countries in Europe in wine production.

The territory of Bulgaria is known for being the only place in the world where you can find the Lactobacillus Bulgaricus bacteria, which is what gives the Bulgarian yogurt its unique taste.

Famous people

Boris Hristov (1914-1993) was a Bulgarian opera singer born in Plovdiv. He is considered one of the 20 greatest basses of 20th century. Among his most famous roles were those of Tsar Boris in Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov, Philip II in Verdi’s Don Carlo, and Attila in Verdi’s opera of the same name.
Dan Kolov (1892–1940), born Doncho Kolеv Danev, was a Bulgarian wrestler. He is considered one of the best wrestlers of all time and a legend in world wrestling. In 1936, at the European Championship in Paris,  the Iron Hands, as was nicknamed, became the second Bulgarian wrestler to win the gold.
Dimitar Berbatov is a Bulgarian football player, currently playing for the French Monaco. He has the “Bulgarian Football Player of the Year” award 7 times on his record. With his 48 goals for the Bulgarian national football team, he is all time record holder for the most goals for the team. During his professional career he has played in several football clubs, including Manchester United, Fulham and Tottenham.
Grigor Dimitrov is the Bulgarian top professional tennis player. He was born on 16 May 1991 in Haskovo and began playing tennis at the age of 5. In 2008 the best Bulgarian in ATP won both Wimbledon and US Open junior titles. In 2014 Grisho, as he is known among the Bulgarians, got to the quarter finals of Australia Open and the semifinals of Wimbledon, becoming No 8 seed.
Hristo Stoichkov is a retired Bulgarian football player, coach and honorary consul in Spain. Kamata (“the Dagger”), as he is well known, is the most successful Bulgarian football player of all times – he has been awarded Ballon d’Or, The European and World Cup Golden Boot, The World Cup Bronze Ball and included in the 1994 World Cup dream team. He is not only three-time Bulgarian champion but also five-time La Liga champion with FC Barcelona.
Julia Krasteva is a well-known author in the fields of psychology, linguistics, feminism and philosophy. She was born in Bulgaria and graduated from the Sofia University. Currently she is living in France and is a professor in Paris. Her works had won her international awards like the Holberg International Memorial Prize in 2004 and  the 2006 Hannah Arendt Prize for Political Thought.
Lili Ivanova is a Bulgarian singer, whose career started in 1961. She has performed on stages all over the world and is still in her active years. Because of her prolific discography she is known as the Prima of the Bulgarian pop music.
Nikolay Gyaurov (1929 – 2004) was a Bulgarian opera singer, who studied in Sofia Musical Academy and in Moscow. He has performed on the biggest stages in the world like Bolshoy theater, La Scala and e Metropolitan Opera. His best roles were in Faust, Don Carlos and Don Juan.
Rumyana Neykova is a Bulgarian single scull rower. She is best known for setting the 7 min 7 sec record in women single scull in 2002 and winning the 2008 Beijing Olympics gold in the same dicipline.
Sylvie Vartan was born in Bulgaria but spent most of her life in France. She is one of the first rock singers in France who has had a career not only performing on stage, but also being on big screen. She has been doing charity actively in her home country, for which she has been awarded by the Bulgarian Red Cross.
Stanka Zlateva is the first Bulgarian female competitor in wrestling. She has won two Olympic silver medals – the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing and the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, as well as five World and six European Wrestling championships.
Stefka Kostadinova is a retired Bulgarian athlete in the high jump and currently the President of the Bulgarian Olympic Committee. A gold medalist in the high jump in 1996 Atlanta Olympics, she is also the current world record holder in the women’s high jump. A record which she set already in 1987 World Championships in Athletics in Rome by jumping 209 cm.
Vasko Vasilev is a Bulgarian violin player born in Sofia. He has been playing solo in front of audience since the age of 7. In 1994, he became the youngest violin player ever to become concertmaster in the Royal Opera House in London. He has performed in concerts with numerous artists, including Lili Ivanova, Vanessa Mae, Placido Domingo, Michel Jackson, Madonna and Sting.
Veselin Topalov is a Bulgarian chess grandmaster. In 2005 he won the FIDE World Chess Championship alongside with Chess Oscar. Topalov has been ranked No 1 for 27 months in total. Only Kasparov, Karpov, Fischer and Carlsen have been on the top for longer.