Official name: Republic of Bulgaria;
Location: Bulgaria is situated in South¬eastern Europe occupying the eastern part of the Balkan Peninsula;
Area: 111.000 sq km./42 857 sq. miles;
Population: 7, 4 million inhabitants;
Capital: Sofia (2 million inhabitants);
Landscape: Extremely varied - large plains and lowlands, low and high moun¬tains, valleys and lovely gorges as well as sandy seaside beaches;
State Government: Bulgaria is a parliamentary republic;
President: Rosen Plevneliev;
The official language: Bulgarian (Southern Slavic language);
Religions: 86.6% of the population is East¬ern Orthodox, 13% is Muslim. The Bulgar¬ian Orthodox Church is autonomous and headed by a Patriarch;
Winter time: UTS +2 hours (October through March);
Summer time: UTS +2 hours (April through September);
Summer temperatures: average 26º to 35ºC;
(40 ºC is not uncommon)
Winter temperatures: average -5º to 5ºC;
Country dialing code: +359;
Measure units: degree Celsius (ºC), meter (m.), gram (gr.), liter (l.).
The territory of present-day Bulgaria was first inhabited by early humans as long as 1.6 million years ago. In the Kozarnika cave (in northwest Bulgaria) scholars have dis¬covered the second-oldest traces of hu¬mans and their culture in Europe (after Georgia). In the past 100 years of prehis¬toric research in Bulgaria, many Paleolithic sites related to Homo erectus, Homo ne¬anderthalensis and Homo sapiens have been discovered and studied. Bulgaria (along with the entire Balkan Peninsula) was among the first regions in Europe to be settled by migrating Neolithic farmers from Asia Minor, who by the late 7th mil¬lennium BC brought the achievements of the Neolithic revolution to Europe and es¬tablished vibrant Neolithic societies. In the following Stone-Copper Age, thanks to the dissemination of metal-processing tech¬nologies and the ore sources of South¬eastern Europe, prehistoric Balkan soci¬eties were able to turn metal-processing into an industry, becoming the first metal traders in the world by 4500-4200 BC. Trade with copper and other goods (salt in northeast Bulgaria), advanced agricultur¬al practices and the demographic growth led to increasing wealth
and social stratifi¬cation within Stone-Copper Age societies. Significant evidence of these processes can be found at the famous necropolis near Varna (4600-4200 BC, Northeast Bul¬garia). Excavated graves contained much more gold compared to all gold found in the rest of the world before and during the same age. The end of the Stone-Cop¬per Age was marked by serious climate changes that drastically altered these so¬cieties’ natural environment and by nomad invaders from the northeast (Presumably Indo-Europeans), who introduced a new metal (bronze) and a new type of animal (the horse) to the Balkans. These invaders conquered the Balkan Peninsula and set¬tled there either replacing or assimilating the indigenous population. The Bronze Age was characterized by transcontinen¬tal trade with bronze, copper and other goods, in which Balkan societies played a considerable role. Early Indo-European tribes were the ancestors of the Ancient Greeks, Thracians, Phrygians, Illyrians and other people who shaped the history of Southeastern Europe and Asia Minor in the subsequent Iron Age.
From the 3rd millennium BC until the end of Late Antiquity, the territory of pres¬ent-day Bulgaria was inhabited by the Thracians. According to Herodotus, the Thracians were the second-largest ethnic group in the ancient world, after the Indi¬ans. They occupied vast territories from the Carpathian Mountains to the Aegean Sea. During certain periods, some Thra¬cian tribes dominated others or founded kingdoms - strong and wealthy enough to withstand incursions by the Persians, Greeks, Celts, Scythians and Macedo¬nians. Although they never created a large pan-Thracian state, the Odrysian Kingdom (6th century BC – 45 AD) ranked as the largest and among the strongest states in Southeastern Europe for approximately 150 years (late 6th to early 4th century BC). Thracian culture was created as a re¬sult of constant multicultural interactions from the Late Bronze Age (2nd millennium BC) until the end of Late Antiquity. It was influenced by
the Great Greek Coloniza¬tion which began in the 7th century BC along the Aegean Sea, the Sea of Marma¬ra and the Black Sea shores; as well as by the Persian civilization in the 6th and 5th centuries BC; by the Scythians; the rise and fall of the Macedonian Kingdom (4th – 2rd century BC); and Celtic invasions (3rd century BC). Visible remnants of the once-flourishing Thracian culture include: monumental temples, heroons (shrines or temples dedicated to a hero) and tombs all over Bulgaria, as well as the world famous Thracian gold and silver treasures exhib¬ited at Bulgarian museums. The Thracians were considered the best horse-breeders and among the bravest soldiers in the an¬cient world, recognizable by their double spears, swords called akinakos and Phry¬gian (also called Thracian) helmets. Some of the well-known deities and heroes in the Greek pantheon are actually of Thra¬cian origin: Dionysus, Orpheus, etc.
In the 2nd century BC the Roman Em¬pire gradually started to conquer the Bal¬kan Peninsula. Immediately preceding the colonization, the Thracians were as disunited as ever. Some kingdoms in the south were culturally part of the Helle¬nistic world, eager to cooperate with the emerging Roman Republic, while king¬doms in the north kept their dignity and fought the Romans. Greek colonies on the Black Sea coast also opposed the Roman expansion (unsuccessfully). The Roman campaign in the Eastern Balkan territo¬ries took more than a century. In 15 AD the province of Moesia was established in what is present-day northern Bulgar¬ia, and Thracia (in southern Bulgaria) was established around 45 AD, while Dacia re¬placed the Dacian Kingdom north of the Danube (in present-day Romania), as late as 106 AD during the rule of Emperor Tra¬jan.
Roman rule brought most of the greatest achievements of the period: new towns were established and old ones were re¬built by Roman standards; monumental buildings, roads, bridges and aqueducts (water-mains) were constructed, while trade flourished. Along the Danube River, which served as a border, a system of towns and fortresses was built to protect Pax Romana from the Barbarian World.
In the southern Thracian lands, the Greek language and Hellenistic culture mixed with local traditions continued to domi¬nate, even during the Roman Period. In the north, Latin-based culture consequently replaced the former Thracian identity.
The Great Migration of People started in the Balkans when the Visigoths crossed the Danube in 375 AD. Year after year throughout the 5th to the 7th centuries AD, various barbarian tribes – Goths, Huns, Avars, Slavs, Bulgars, etc. – managed to break through the Danubian border and to devastate the provinces in the Eastern Balkans. These invasions and the Black Death pandemic in the 6th century AD cre¬ated a demographic gap and consider¬ably changed the political and ethnic map in the Balkans. In 6th and 7th centuries AD the surviving Roman (Byzantine) pop¬ulation abandoned the land and moved to the largest fortified cities in the south¬ern or coastal parts of the peninsula, to the benefit of numerous Slavic tribes (originally from northern parts of Central Europe). Slavs invaded the Balkans and settled on the deserted Roman territories. A new era began: the Middle Ages.
In 680 AD another ethnic group settled in the northeastern Balkans – the Bulgars (also called Proto-Bulgarians). Their origins are still under dispute in scholarly circles, with various hypotheses claiming they were Iranian, Turko-Mongolian or both. They inhabited the plains between the Caucasus Mountains, the Volga River, and the Caspian and Black Sea, where in 632 AD the Bulgarian Khan Kubrat established a powerful kingdom, known as the Old Great Bulgaria. After his death the king¬dom was defeated by the Khazars. Howev¬er, Bulgars who lived in the western parts of the Old Great Bulgaria (along the Black Sea between the Lower Dnieper and the Danube Delta) maintained their indepen¬dence. Led by Kubrat’s son Khan Asparuh, they crossed the Danube and invaded the territories to the south, defeating the Byz¬antine army in 681. As a result, the Byzan¬tine Emperor accepted the status quo of a “Barbaric” state expanding over Roman territories. Some historians consider 632 AD as the date of the establishment of the Bulgarian state; others consider 681 AD as a nation-founding date. In the 7th through the 9th centuries AD, Bulgaria conquered new territories westwards in the Balkans and Central Europe. The Bulgars and local Slavic tribes established an alliance which led to a demographic assimilation of the Bulgars by the more numerous Slavs in the following centuries. Thus, the later Bulgarians are descendents both of Bul¬gars and Slavs. In 864 AD the Bulgarian Khan Boris I (852-889) accepted Christianity and bap¬tized the Bulgarians. He changed also his pagan title “khan” to “king.”
The first Sla¬vonic alphabet - Glagolitsa, created in 855 AD by St. Cyril and St. Methodius was adopted soon after this conversion, but at the end of the 9th century it was re¬placed by the Cyrillic alphabet upon the orders of King Boris I. The new alpha¬bet was created by St. Kliment of Ohrid (a high-ranking Bulgarian official and bish¬op) and named in honor of his teacher, St. Cyril. It is an adapted version of the Greek alphabet, making it far more comprehen-sible for the literate medieval Bulgarian elites. This is how the Cyrillic alphabet was created and introduced into the Slavic world.
The reign of Tsar Simeon (893-927), son of King Boris, is called the Golden Age of the First Bulgarian Empire, due to the development of arts, literature and the economy. As a symbol of the new, Chris¬tian era in Bulgarian history, the capital was moved from the former capital Pliska, which was associated with paganism, to the newly built city of Preslav (“the most glorious city”). Simeon was crowned there as tsar (emperor) in 917 AD; however, Byz¬antium recognized Bulgaria as the first non-Roman empire in Eastern Europe ten years later, in 927 AD. In that same year, the patriarch of Constantinople recog-nized the Bulgarian Orthodox Church as an independent patriarchate. The late 10th and early 11th centuries in Bulgarian history are marked by consecutive wars against the Russians and the Byzantines, which ended with the downfall of the First Bulgarian Empire and its inclusion in the Byzantine Empire for the next century and a half (1018-1185).
In 1185 AD, the brothers Petar, Asen and Kaloyan – Bulgarian aristocrats and Byz¬antine vassals – revolted against their su¬zerain and revived the Bulgarian Empire with Tarnovo as its new capital city. During the reigns of Tsar Kaloyan (1197-1207) and Tsar Ivan Asen II (1218-1241), the Second Bulgarian Empire became the dominant political power in southeastern Europe, with territories stretching from the Adriatic to the Black Sea and from the Aegean Sea to the Carpathian Mountains. Tsar Ivan Alexander (1331-1371) led the Bulgarian Empire into a period of eco¬nomic growth and cultural renaissance, while the sec¬ond half of the 14th century was a period of political de¬centralization and defensive wars against the Ottomans and the Hun¬garians. In 1396, Bulgar¬ia (technically the Vidin Em-pire – the last independent part of the de¬centralized medieval Bulgarian Tsardom) was conquered by the Ottomans and re¬mained part of that empire until 1878.
Late Medieval (Ottoman period) and Modern Bulgarian History
The Ottoman conquest caused a demo¬graphic collapse, destroyed the elite of Bulgarian medieval society and also mar¬ginalized the Christian church. It is blamed for slowing Bulgarian development and removing Bulgarian culture from the orbit of European civilization for five centuries. In the 18th century, the Bulgarian Nation¬al Revival Period started during which Bul¬garians achieved new confidence based on economic prosperity and a national identity reconnected with medieval Bul-garia as well as the contemporary Euro¬pean civilization.
As a result of long-lasting political and revolutionary struggles, along with diplomacy, Ottomans in the 19th cen¬tury made re¬forms which recognized the cultural, educational and ecclesi¬astic auton¬omy of Bul¬garians in the Ottoman Empire. In 1878 after the Russo-Turk¬ish Liberation War, the mod¬ern Bulgarian state was es¬tablished as a constitutional monarchy. Bulgaria took part in the First Balkan War (1912-1913) along with its allies Serbia, Greece and Montenegro against the Ottoman Empire. The Christian alli¬ance won the war and limited the territo¬rial possessions of the Ottoman Empire in the Balkans to the region around Istanbul (Eastern Thrace and the Turkish Straits).
As a result of being on the “wrong” side in the Second Balkan war (1913), World War I (1914-1918) and World War II (1939-1945), Bulgaria lost one-third of the ter¬ritories (the northern Aegean coast and Macedonia) which were inhabited pre¬dominantly with Bulgarians, as well as 200,000 soldiers. Between 1912 and 1940, approximately one million Bulgarian ref¬ugees had to leave their homes in what are today northern Greece, northwestern Turkey, Serbia and Romania due to ethnic cleansing and the politics of national¬istic assimilation. The plebiscite held in 1946 abolished the Bulgarian monarchy. Between 1944 and 1989 the country be¬longed to the Eastern socialist block and Warsaw Pact. The process of democrati¬zation as well as the transition to a market economy was long and hard but ultimately successful. In 2004, the country joined NATO and in January of 2007, it became a full member state of the European Union.
More info about Bulgaria at:
www.cityinfoguide.net – monthly updated Sofia/Varna/Burgas guide in English with key-information and tips about the cities, people, country and cul¬ture.
www.programata.bg/?l=2– weekly updated Sofia/Varna/Burgas/Plovdiv/Stara Zagora guide in both Bulgarian and English about the cities’ cultural events, nightlife and gourmet.
The Bulgarian language is one of the old¬est codified European languages (9 cen¬tury AD) that have survived to the present day. Bulgarian belongs to the South Slavic language family. As a homeland of the Cyrillic alphabet (created in 890-s AD), Bulgarian communication relies on its tra¬ditional language, using nearly 100 % Cy¬rillic alphabet (excluding tourist, traffic and advertisement signs).
Bulgarian-Cyrillic letters are:
A (а), Б (b), В (v), Г (g), Д (d), Е (e), Ж (zh,ž), З (z), И (i), Й (j), К (k), Л (l), М (m), Н (n), О (o), П (p), Р (r), С (s), Т (t), У (u), Ф (f), Х (h), Ц (tz), Ч (ch,č), Ш (sh,š), Щ (sht, št), Ъ (ă*), Ь (**), Ю (ju, yu), Я (ja, ya)
* Ъ = vocal pronounced like English sound in Earth, corner, pearl, bird;
** Ь = after consonants softening like миньон= mignon
|Hello! Hi!||Здрасти! (Zdrasti!)|
|Howareyou? What’sup?||Какси? (Kaksi?)|
|Good morning!||Добро утро! (Dobro utro!)|
|Good night!||Лека нощ! (Leka nosht!)|
|Bye! See you!||Чао!Довиждане!(Ciao, Dovizhdane)|
|Have a nice day!||Приятен ден! (Priatenden!)|
|Thank you!||Благодаря! /Мерси! (Bla- godarya!/Mersi!)|
|What is the time?||
Колко е часът? (Kolkoe
|Where is...?||Къде е?(Kădee?)|
В колко часа....?(V
|How much is it?||Колко струва? (Kolko struva?)|
Marked by four distinct seasons, Bulgaria enjoys a generally favourable climate that is one of the country’s best features. Sum¬mers are typically hot and dry, but rarely oppressive, with moderately relative hu¬midity. Winters are cold, but not bitterly so. In the Southern and Black Sea coastal regions, Mediterranean climate tempers the harsher continental climate of the in¬terior. The country’s half-dozen mountain groups also play a significant part in de¬termining regional variances.
Bulgarian cuisine tends to be oriented toward meat and potatoes, but vegetarians needn’t worry as several of the most pop¬ular dishes are diary-based and in general Bulgarians consume a lot of salads (the most popular is shopska salad, a tasty mix of tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, occa¬sionally roasted peppers, topped with si¬rene (white brined sheep cheese). Another distinctive salad is snezhanka, consisting of dense yogurt, cucumbers and garlic.
Among the most flavorful meat and veg¬etable dishes are those baked in covered clay pots, such as kapama and kavarma.
A popular snack and breakfast item is banitsa, baked pastry filled with cheese (and sometimes leeks or spinach), washed down by boza, a non-alcoholic malted beverage that dates back several centu¬ries.
Bulgarian wines are internationally re¬nowned and one of the country’s prime exports. Bulgarian beer is also notable, with app. 30 regional brands. The national spirit, rakia, is a fiery brandy ritually con-sumed with a variety of appetizers (meze). Most popular drinks among young people when go out are beer, vodka, wine and cocktails.
Bulgarian international airports:
SOFIA - http://www.sofia-airport.bg
VARNA - http://www.varna-airport.bg
BURGAS - www.bourgas-airport.com
PLOVDIV - www.plovdivairport.com
Don’t forget checking the low cost flight options (most often from European airports to Bulgaria. Save money through a combination of flights!) at:
Bulgaria has a developed bus transpor¬tation system (both internal and external). What is more - travel costs here are among the cheapest in Europe. Bulgarians prefer travelling inside the country by bus if the distance is shorter than 400 km. Bus lines connect major Bulgarian towns with al¬most all European countries. The time-ta¬ble of Sofia central bus station available at: http://www.centralnaavtogara.bg
Although the Bulgarian rail road network is one of the most developed in Europe, Bulgarian trains are definitely not among the fastest. If you would like to travel shorter distance, it is better that you catch a bus. The advantage of Bulgarian rail¬ways is that they go through some really spectacular areas far from the main roads and motorways. The time-table of Bulgar¬ian trains can be found at www.bdz.bg. Catching an international train to Bulgaria is not recommended, esp. in the summer, because it is slower than the bus and is usually crowded.
Taxi in Bulgaria is a relatively cheap way of transport (0.79-0.99 BGN per km) but some taxis in the area of international airports and railway - as well as bus-sta¬tions might have unreasonable prices! Ask on info-desks for recommended compa¬nies when taxi use is necessary or try to have a look at the price-list first (every taxi mandatory has the price-list put on the front-desk and right back window)!
Visitors arriving from the EU do not re¬quire a visa, although it is advisable to car¬ry a passport and/or other valid identifica¬tion that can confirm the nationality of the bearer.
Citizens of some non-EU countries (such as USA, Canada, Japan, Australia, etc.) are permitted to travel to Bulgaria for tourism and/or business purposes without a visa as long as their planned stay does not ex¬ceed 90 days. For further information, visit the Bulgarian Embassy website or Con¬sulate website specific to your country. All other foreigners may cross the border of the Republic of Bulgaria as long as they hold a valid passport and an appropriate visa (Airport Transit Visa, Transit Visa, Reg¬ular Visa or Work Visa). Valid health insur¬ance is required.
All visitors to Bulgaria, other than EU na¬tionals, must register as foreigners at the passport directorates within five days of arrival. This registration is usually done as a matter of course through the hotel or accommodation establishment. Immigra¬tion and entry regulations are very strictly enforced.
Passports of all visitors should be valid for at least six months on entry for those requiring a visa, and three months on entry for visa exempt nationals other than those from EU countries, whose passports must be valid for the period of stay.
Upon crossing the state borderline of the Republic of Bulgaria, passengers may im-port and export commodities that in type, quantities, and value are not of a commer-cial nature. These do not include objects the passenger carry for personal use and consumption objects.
Passengers have the right to import at no custom duty or import fees the ob¬jects necessary to the foreign individuals for their stay in the country, which in their type and quantity correspond to both pur¬pose and the duration of their stay, as well as consumption objects:
Passenger older than 16 can import du¬ty-free commodities, acquired abroad other than the listed above, at a total value up to US$ 100 or the equivalent in other currency units. For passengers under 16 the duty-free import rate for commodities acquired abroad is US$ 50 or their equiv¬alent in other currency units.
Personal use objects, new and used, which a passenger may normally need during one’s trip, taking into account all circumstances of the travel, are placed under the regime of temporary import with a full exemption of all customs dues. Re-exporting personal belongings cannot take place later than the moment when the natural person who has imported them is leaving the customs territory of the Republic of Bulgaria.
The Bulgarian currency is the Bulgar¬ian LEV (BGN). You can not pay in Euros or other foreign currency except in casi¬nos and big hotels (where the exchange rate is really unfair)! Since 1997, the Bul¬garian LEV has been pegged to the EURO at the exchange rate of 1 euro = 1.955 lev (usually sold for 1.94 lev).
Bulgarian banks accept all credit cards and travel¬ers’ cheques. Usually banks open at 8.00-8.30 am and close at 17.00-18.00 pm. They work from Monday to Friday (Only FI Bank works on Saturdays). Shopping malls, hypermarkets and many shops in Sofia and/or bigger towns and resorts will also ac¬cept credit cards. This is not valid for the smaller “domestic” shops throughout the country where the only way of payment is cash. NB! The only accepted currency in the whole country is the Bulgarian lev!
Exchange of foreign currencies is practiced not only by banks but also by numerous exchange offices. NB! Most of them don’t collect commission fee and have acceptable ex¬change rates (+/- 0.5-1,5% of the official rate) however, those located in shopping areas of big cities, resorts, railway stations, airports etc. can “tenderly” or “sharply” decrease your financial abilities. Ask in ad¬vance how much money you will get!
ATMs are available all over the country and POS-terminals are in every bank of¬fice.
You can see Bulgarian notes and coins in circulation at:
IMPORTANT NOTICE: If you plan to use your credit/debit card in Bulgaria, please inform your bank on your intention before departure! Otherwise it is very possible that your bank will block your account/ card for security reasons when you try to use it abroad! Unblocking your card, when abroad, may cost you lots of phone calls and troubles!
Post offices - all over Bulgaria offer in ternational postal, telephone, telegraph, and fax services.
In every town and even in smaller villages you may find one or several Internet cafes. Bigger Internet cafes offer usually long distance call services as well. A wireless Internet connection is available in many public areas in the big towns (cafes, restaurants, hotels, malls, etc.).
Phone cards for street phones can be bought at traffic places & shops or you can use the paid phones in the post offices or hotels. The number of street phones has recently decreased because of new¬er communication technologies.There are also a lot of Phone shops/kiosks where you can make long distance phone calls on low prices (0,07-0,20 BGN/min¬ute).
Cell-phones and roaming (companies in Bulgaria):
Outlets in Bulgaria generally accept 1 type of plug.
Two round pins. If your appliances plug has a different shape, you may need a plug adapter.
Offices - 9.00 am to 5.00 pm (Monday to Friday)
Banks - 8.00 - 8.30 am - 4.30 - 6.00 pm (Monday to Friday)
Shops – 8.00 - 10.00 am to 7.00 - 9.00 pm (Monday to Friday, Saturday until Noon) but many shops are opened even on Sundays.
National emergency number is: 112
All EU citizens could benefit from Bul¬garian medical services, equally to the Bulgarian citizens, if their home-country health insurance is proved by a card/certificate etc.!
Bottle (0,33l) of mineralwater (in a restaurant): 1,50-4 BGN
Bottle (0,5l) of mineralwater (in a store): 0,70–1 BGN
Coffee (in a café): 1,20–3 BGN
Apple (organic): 0,60-2 BG
Pizza (in a restaurant): 4–10 BGN
Vegetable salad 250gr.(in a restaurant): 2,50–7BG
Fresh natural orange juice150ml: 2-4 BGN
Cinema ticket: 6-12 BGN
Night club entrance fee: 7–20 BGN