The year 681 marks the beginning of The First Bulgarian Empire founded south of the Danube delta. Modern-day Bulgaria is bordered by Romania to the north, the Black Sea to the east, Turkey and Greece to the south and Macedonia and Serbia to the west. Having gone through a lot of territory changes Bulgaria nowadays occupies approximately 111 000 square kilometres of Europe making it the 14th-largest country on the continent.
Sofia, the city that never grows old. Capital and largest city of Bulgaria founded more than 5000 years ago far before Rome it’s located in the western part of the country. It became the capital of the autonomous Principality of Bulgaria in 1879, which later became the Kingdom of Bulgaria (1908.) Many associate the name of the city with the St Sofia church built there in antiquity others with the St martyr Sofia who died for her faith with her three daughters. One thing is for sure, the church, the St martyr and the city are all named after one thing, God’s Holly Wisdom. The city’s most prominent building is the St Aleksander Nevski cathedral. With golden domes seen from kilometres away the cathedral is one of Sofia’s symbols.
When it comes to mineral waters Bulgaria is the country in the world with most mineral springs, next to Japan and Italy. A good example for that is the capital. with a valley that has as many as 42 mineral springs.
The current second largest city located by the north seaside is Varna also commonly referred to as the marine (or summer) capital of Bulgaria. In October 1972 in the western industrial zone of Varna was accidentally discovered the oldest golden treasure in the world, The Varna Necropolis. The treasure dates from 4,600 BC to 4,200 BC.
Standing between the south-western slope of the Dzhambaz Tepe and the Taxim tepe hill within the old town of Philippopolis present-day Plovdiv is the ancient theatre of Philippopolis. The historical building in the city center is a traditional Roman theatre which according to a builders’ inscription dates back to the time of Emperor Trajan.
Nowadays, during the summer months, the theatre hosts theatrical plays and musical shows.
The prize award ceremony of the 21st International Olympiad in Informatics was held in the theatre. The first IOI was also held in Bulgaria in 1989.
In 2011 the city of Plovdiv was ranked the oldest continuously inhabited city in Europe and 6th in the world.
Another Bulgarian treasure is the country’s yogurt being proclaimed the best in the world. This is thanks to the unique Lactobacillus bulgaricus bacteria which is used for its production and can only be found on the territory of the country. Yogurt is vastly used in the preparation of many traditional Bulgarian dishes. The western world calls it Bulgarian yogurt but in its homeland, Bulgaria, it’s called kiselo mlyako.
Bulgaria is known for having the finest rose oil in the world. It takes about 250 pounds of petals to manufacture 1 ounce of essence of roses. That is just one reason of why the liquid is so precious and worth about 10 times its weight in gold. The country produces about 85% of all rose oil in the world.
Bulgaria is the second largest exporter of bottled wine in the world. Production ranges between 200-220 million litres depending on the crop. Traditional classic technologies are applied, as well as refined, and modern ones borrowed from other leading wine producing countries. These, combined with the great natural potential along with centuries of old tradition and experience led Bulgarian wines to world success.
Among Bulgaria’s key tourist attractions are the Rila Monastery, the Belogradchik Rocks and Perperikon.
Built in the 10th century the Rila Monastery rises at 1147 m above sea level and lies amidst the Rila Mountains, to which it owes its name. The monastery is the largest and most famous Eastern Orthodox monastery in the country. It’s regarded as one of Bulgaria’s most important cultural, historical and architectural monuments. It’s also included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
The Belogradchik Rocks are a group of strange shaped sandstone and conglomerate rock formations formed 230 million years ago. They vary in colour from primarily red to yellow with some reaching up to 200 m in height. Many have fantastic shapes and are associated with interesting legends. In 2009, they were Bulgaria’s for the New 7 Wonders of Nature.
Perperikon an ancient Thracian city is located in the Eastern Rhodope range of Bulgaria. It is believed that the famous Temple of God Dionysus was situated in this location. Some of the legends surrounding the city tell stories about the ancient hero Orpheus, gold, silver and precious stones the area is rich of, Fragments of the True Cross and secret towns and battles like the Trojan War.
In 2004 in the centre of modern Sofia was discovered the Amphitheatre of Serdica. Built during the 3rd–4th century AD when the city bore the name Ulpia Serdica the amphitheatre has an arena only around 10 m (33 ft) smaller than the Colosseum and was among the biggest in the eastern part of the Roman Empire and the largest in what is today Bulgaria.
The Panagyurishte Treasure is a Thracian treasure found on the territory of Bulgaria in December 1949 (by three brothers). It consists of a phiale, an amphora and seven rhytons with total weight of more than 6000 kg of pure gold, all items richly and skilfully decorated with scenes of Thracian myths, customs and life, dating back from the 4th-3rd centuries BC. When not on a tour around the world, the treasure is the centerpiece of the Thracian art collection of the National Museum of History in Sofia.
The Cyrillic script or azbuka is an alphabetic writing system based on the Early Cyrillic, which was developed in the First Bulgarian Empire during the 9th century AD. It is named in honour of the two brothers, Saints Cyril and Methodius, who created the Glagolitic alphabet earlier on. As of 2011 around 252 million people in Eurasia use it as their official alphabet and With the accession of Bulgaria to the European Union Cyrillic became the third official script, following the Latin and Greek scripts.
The Bulgarian Orthodox Church is the oldest Slavic Orthodox Church in the world. The recognition of its independent status by the Patriarchate of Constantinople in 927 AD made the Bulgarian Church one of the earliest churches worldwide. On the territory of Bulgaria one can also find the oldest active monastery in Europe, the Monastery of Saint Athanasius located in south central Bulgaria.
The Bulgarian army, in its modern history is the only force in the entire world which has never lost a flag, captured by its enemies’ armies.
Bulgaria along with Denmark was the only country to save its Jews during the Holocaust.
Orders for the deportation of 48,000 Jews known to Hitler to the concentration camps in the pre-war boundaries of Bulgaria were not followed. Authorities also offered protection to Jews with no Bulgarian nationality residing in Bulgaria proper. The rebellion of the Bulgarian nation against the pro-Nazi cabinet led to the preservation of the lives of 50,000 Bulgarian Jews.
The Seven Rila Lakes are a group of lakes of glacial origin in the northwestern Rila Mountains situated between 2,100 and 2,500 metres elevation above sea level. Each lake carries a name associated with its most characteristic feature. They are located one above the other and are connected by small streams, which form tiny waterfalls and cascades. Sometime in October the lakes freeze and don’t melt before June with the ice cover reaching up to 2 meters.
Situated on a rocky peninsula on the Black Sea connected to the mainland by a thin piece of land was originally a Thracian settlement. The city’s remains include an acropolis, a temple of Apollo, an agora and a wall from the Thracian fortifications. Among other monuments, the Stara Mitropolia Basilica and the fortress date from the Middle Ages, when this was one of the most important Byzantine towns. The town is included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.