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Bulgaria

Description of Bulgaria

Bulgaria is located in the southeastern part of Europe. It shares a northern border with Romania. Its western border is shared with Macedonia and Serbia. Turkey and Greece border Bulgaria in the south and in the east the country borders the Black sea. 

During the Neolithic period the lands of Bulgaria were developed by organized prehistoric cultures. The ancient history saw Thracians as well as Romans and Greeks. The first Bulgarian Empire dates back to 681 CE. The empire dominated the majority of the Balkans and worked as a cultural hub for the Slavs in the Middle Ages. When the 2nd Bulgarian empire fell in 1396, the area fell under Ottoman rule for almost 5 centuries. From 1877 through 1878, the Russo Turkish War took place and this led to the Third Bulgarian State being formed. There were several conflicts with neighbors that took place over the next few years. This prompted the country to side with Germany during both of the World Wars. In the year 1946, Bulgaria became a socialist state under the Eastern Bloc, which was led by the Soviets. The country transitioned into a democracy in the year 1989, when the ruling communist party allowed a multi-party election to take place. 

The population of the country is roughly 7.4 million. The population is fairly urbanized and most of the people live in administrative centers in the 28 provinces of the country. Most of the cultural and commercial activities are centered around Sofia, which are the capital and the largest city of the country. The strongest economic sectors for the country are power engineering, agriculture, and heavy industry. Each of these relies heavily on the natural resources of Bulgaria.

History 

Human activity in Bulgaria dates back to the Paleolithic era. There have been animal bones that are incised with markings made by man found in the Kozarnika cave. These are assumed to show early examples of human behavior in the area. Some of the early prehistoric societies that are found in the area include the Vinca culture, Neolithic Hamangia culture, as well as the Eneolithic Varna culture. The eneolithics are thought to have invented gold exploitation and working. Some of the first gold smelters created coins, jewelry and weapons. 

During the 7th century Bulgur tribes moved into the lower areas of the rivers Dniepr, Dniester, and Danube. They were led by Asparukh. Sometime after the year 670, he moved 50,000 Bulgars to an area across the Danube. In the year 680 Asparukh severed Scythia minor from the empire. In 681, a peace treaty was signed with Byzantium and a permanent capital was established at Pliska, which is just south of the Danube. This was the start of the first Bulgarian Empire. The Bulgars mixed with the local population. A common language was adopted based on the Slavic dialect. 

The Bulgarian state was strengthened by succeeding Khans throughout the 8th and the 9th centuries. Tervel first established the empire as being a military power when he defeated the Arab army of 26,000. The country’s territory was doubled by Krum when he killed Nicephorus I, who was the Byzantine emperor, during the Battle of Pliska. This was when the first laws were written. Boris I got rid of paganism in 864 in favor of Christianity. In 893, the 34 year rule of Simeon the Great. It was during this time that the country saw the largest amount of territorial expansion. 

In 971, the Byzantine’s successfully invaded and took over the capital Preslav. Under the rule of Samuil, the empire recovered a bit. However, this rise ended when Basil II, the Byzantine emperor, defeated the army of Bulgaria in 1014. Samuil passed away not long after this battle and by the year 1018, the Byzantines had ended this first empire. 

Basil II retained rule over the local area and prevented discontent and revolts. When he died, the domestic policies were changed and there were a series of rebellions that broke out. None of these were successful. In 1185, nobles from the Asen dynasty organized a major uprising. This resulted in the Bulgarian state being re-established. Tarnovo was made the capital of this second empire. 

The zenith of the 2nd empire was reached from 1218 through 1241 under the rule of Ivan Asen II. This is when culture and commerce flourished in the area. The strong religious and economic influence from Tarnovo, made this area considered as a 3rd Rome. 

When the Asen dynasty ended in the year 1257, the economic and military might started to decline as well. There were many internal conflicts as well as constant attacks from Hungary and Byzantine. 

After the Ottomans took over and ruled the area for more around 500 years, a Treaty of San Stefano was signed in the year 1878 by the Ottoman Empire and the Russians. This treaty included a provision that would set up a Bulgarian principality that was based on the territories controlled during the 2nd Bulgarian Empire. However, this did not come into effect as there was fear that a large country located in the Balkans could threaten the Great Powers interest. This treaty was overpowered by the Treaty of Berlin that provided for a smaller state made up of Moesia and a part of Sofia. This left a large population of Bulgarians living outside of the new country. This played an important role in the politics of the country during the 20th century. 

Geography 

The country of Bulgaria takes up a part of the eastern Balkan peninsula. It shares borders with 5 countries, Romania, Serbia, Macedonia, Turkey, and Greece. It has a coastline of 354 kilometers. It is the 105th largest country in the world. 

The Danubian Plain, the Rhodope Mountains, Thracian Plain, and the Balkan Mountains make up some of the more notable topographical features of the country. The edge of the Danubian plain on the south slopes up towards the Balkan foothills and the Danube river makes up the border of Romania. 

The Balkan Mountains run through the center of the country and there are 2 alpine ranges in the southwest part of the country. Musala, which is the highest point of the peninsula is located in Bulgaria. About a third of Bulgaria consists of plains and about 41% is made up of hills and plateaus. There is a dense network of around 540 rivers that run through it. Most of these rivers are quite small and have water levels that are fairly low. The Iskar, is the longest river that is located only in Bulgaria. It is 368 kilometers long. Some of the other major rivers of the country are Maritsa located in the south and the Struma. 

Visiting Bulgaria 

There has been a national movement in the country to try to get more tourists to visit. They started a program called the 100 sites of Bulgaria to promote national tourism. This covers many of the popular sites found in the country. There is a reward scheme that is based on collecting stamps from the different sites. This is a way to encourage tourists to sightsee and travel throughout the country. 

The sites that are selected for the program have historical and cultural significance. They range from geological phenomena, to national parks, mountain peaks, museums, monasteries, architectural and archeological sanctuaries, monuments and historic areas. Each of these landmarks is provided with a unique seal. This is stamped into the pages of a booklet that the Bulgarian tourist Union issues. This booklet can be purchased at any of the tourist union centers or at any of the site locations for the price of 1 lev. In addition to the booklet, travelers receive a map with all of the sites listed along with their working hours and addresses. The book will hold 100 stamps and despite the movement’s title, there are actually more than 100 official sites to see. 

Collecting stamps is rewarded based on the number of stamps that a person collects. For 25 stamps a person will receive a bronze badge. For 50 stamps a person earns a silver badge. Completing the entire booklet by obtaining 100 stamps earns a gold badge. Each August, badge earners are entered into a lottery that offers prizes such as overseas and domestic excursions, tents, bicycles, sleeping bags, and other items related to travel. 

When the original program was introduced, many of the official sites highlighted the communist government that ruled the country until 1989. Many of these sites were taken off in 2003. 

There were a number of organizations that participated in the development and promotion of this tourist program including: 

  • Bulgarian Orthodox Church
  • State agency of youth and sports
  • Ministry of culture
  • Ministry of education
  • Bulgarian tourist union
  • Bulgarian national television
  • Bulgarian national radio
  • Bulgarian red cross
  • Union for Bulgarian motorists
  • Ministry of water and environment

There are many great places to visit listed as official sites for this promotion. In Banks, visitors will find the Velyanov House, the Holy Trinity Church, the Art School of Bansko, the Nikola Vaptsarov Museum, and the Neofit Rilski Museum. In Pirin you can visit Vihren Peak and the Theodore Stratilates and Theodore Tyro churches are located in Dobarsko village. One place that you want to make sure that you do not miss is the Aladzha monastery, which is located near Varna. This is an old monastery that was built into the chalk cliffs that are surrounded by a forest. It dates back to around the 5th century. 

There are several cities located throughout the country that have sites that can be visited to earn stamps. This includes Melnik, Petrich, Malko Tarnovo, Nesebar, Vidin, Vratsa, Okolchitsa, Kotel, Tutrakan, Silven, Sinite Kamani, and many more. 

There are many great hiking opportunities located throughout Bulgaria. There are a number of regions in the country that offer day trips and multiday trips. The best time to hike some of the highest mountains of the area is during the summer, from the late part of June into September. This is the time when the snow is melted and the weather is typically dry. During the winter ski trips and snowshoeing are possible from December through March, depending on the weather and snow conditions. Some of the main areas to hike include: 

  • Pirin Mountains: these mountains are located just south of Rila. They are close to the Mediterranean Sea and Greece. They are famous for having the most sunny days each year. Northern Pirin offers the most popular area for hiking. The highest peak is Mount Vihren which is about 2914 meters.
  • Rila Mountains: Mount Musala, sits at 2925 meters, and is the highest point in the Balkans and is located in Rila. The northwest part of the mountains is a popular hiking destination. There are many cultural and natural sights in this area including the Skakavitsa Waterfall, and 7 lakes Cirque, and Rila Monastery. The Rila National Park is the largest of Bulgaria and located here.
  • Balkan Mountains: this is the mountain chain that gave the Balkan Peninsula its name. The chain stretches along the country and is perfect for those who are looking for longer hiking trips. One of the long distance routes follows along the main ridge from the western border of the country all the way to the seaside. Central Balkan National park, which is one of the largest national parks in the country is located in this area. 

The people of Bulgaria are typically friendly and visiting the country is relatively safe. If you travel outside any of the main tourist areas you will want to use your common sense. This means that you should watch your belongings, dress more like the locals, and do not show off that you have a lot of money on you. If you are traveling in Sofia, make sure you avoid traveling down any dark streets at night. For the most part, falling in a pothole is much more of a concern than being robbed.

Some facts about Bulgaria

Population of country 7,148,785 people
Area of Bulgaria 110,910 sq. kilometers
Located on the continent Europe (EU)
Capital of Bulgaria Sofia
Currency at Bulgaria Lev (BGN)
Domain Zone .bg
Phone country code 359
FIPS code of Bulgaria BU

Gallery of Bulgaria

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Bulgaria video guide

More information about Bulgaria

Climate of Bulgaria:
  • temperate
  • cold, damp winters
  • hot, dry summers
Terrain of Bulgaria:
  • mostly mountains with lowlands in north and southeast
Bulgaria also has such useful resources as: bauxite, copper, lead, zinc, coal, timber, arable land.

Top cities of Bulgaria


City Name Population State Coordinates
1 Sofia 1,152,556 people Oblast Sofiya-Grad 42.69751 x 23.32415
2 Plovdiv 340,494 people Oblast Plovdiv 42.15 x 24.75
3 Varna 312,770 people Oblast Varna 43.21667 x 27.91667
4 Burgas 195,966 people Oblast Burgas 42.50606 x 27.46781
5 Ruse 156,238 people Oblast Ruse 43.85639 x 25.97083
6 Stara Zagora 143,431 people Oblast Stara Zagora 42.43278 x 25.64194
7 Pleven 118,675 people Oblast Pleven 43.41667 x 24.61667
8 Sliven 96,368 people Oblast Sliven 42.68583 x 26.32917
9 Dobrich 94,831 people Oblast Dobrich 43.56667 x 27.83333
10 Shumen 87,283 people Oblast Shumen 43.27064 x 26.92286
11 Pernik 82,467 people Oblast Pernik 42.6 x 23.03333
12 Yambol 80,116 people Oblast Yambol 42.48333 x 26.5
13 Khaskovo 79,699 people Oblast Khaskovo 41.94028 x 25.56944
14 Pazardzhik 75,977 people Oblast Pazardzhik 42.2 x 24.33333
15 Blagoevgrad 71,306 people Oblast Blagoevgrad 42.01667 x 23.1
16 Veliko Turnovo 66,217 people Oblast Veliko Turnovo 43.08124 x 25.62904
17 Gabrovo 66,175 people Oblast Gabrovo 42.87472 x 25.33417
18 Vratsa 64,941 people Oblast Vratsa 43.21 x 23.5625
19 Tonchevtsi 59,834 people Oblast Gabrovo 42.9 x 25.31667
20 Kazanluk 55,196 people Oblast Stara Zagora 42.61667 x 25.4
21 Vidin 54,409 people Oblast Vidin 43.99 x 22.8725
22 Asenovgrad 52,170 people Oblast Plovdiv 42.01667 x 24.86667
23 Kurdzhali 51,000 people Oblast Kurdzhali 41.65 x 25.36667
24 Kyustendil 48,286 people Oblast Kyustendil 42.28389 x 22.69111
25 Montana 47,445 people Oblast Montana 43.4125 x 23.225
26 Dimitrovgrad 43,288 people Oblast Khaskovo 42.05 x 25.6
27 Lovech 42,211 people Oblast Lovech 43.13333 x 24.71667
28 Silistra 39,715 people Oblast Silistra 44.11667 x 27.26667
29 Gorna Oryakhovitsa 38,553 people Oblast Veliko Turnovo 43.12778 x 25.70167
30 Razgrad 38,285 people Oblast Razgrad 43.53333 x 26.51667

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