With a rich cultural past and traditions dating back over 13 centuries it is no wonder that Bulgaria has 9 locations on the UNESCO List of Global Cultural and Natural Heritage sites. Located in southeast Europe, in the northeast part of the Balkan Peninsula, Bulgaria sits at the crossroad between Europe and Asia. It’s a fascinating country well worth delving into.
For many years Bulgaria was an undiscovered destination for other Europeans. That’s possibly because after the Second World War it became heavily influenced by Russia, declaring itself a republic and putting the Communist Party in power in 1946. For many people outside the country, Bulgaria seemed mysterious and remote. However, that’s all changed today.
Bulgaria is a parliamentary democracy, the Head of State is the President who is elected for 5 years.
The country became a member of the EU in 2007 and is far more open to overseas visitors these days. In particular, the stunning beaches and picturesque bays of its Black Sea coast in the east attract tourists all year round. Its varied landscape also includes the vast lowlands of the Danube to the north and the highlands to the south.
When we say that Bulgaria is ‘old’ we truly mean it. It is believed that the oldest gold ornament ever discovered in the world was found near the city of Varna.
Bulgaria really can claim to be ‘a cradle of some of the earliest civilisations in Europe’.
But it’s not all plain sailing. The country is poor – one of the poorest in Europe – with very low wages. Of course this does mean that local food, drink and transport are relatively inexpensive compared with Western European countries, although foreign imports will cost more.
While Greek yoghurt is well known to most of us, you might not realise that Bulgaria too makes fantastic yoghurt and lovely, salty feta cheese. Expect to have one or both of these at almost every meal. Salads also make a regular appearance at mealtimes and look out for skara (meatballs, sausages and French fries) as a cheap and tasty meal.
You can also get good Bulgarian wines at a great price, but the absolute cheapest ones are probably best avoided. Then there’s Rakia, a drink made of grape, plums or other fruits that is invariably 40% alcohol – or more! If you’re invited into someone’s home, be warned – homemade Rakia can be as much as 60% alcohol, so sip it slowly!
The capital of Bulgaria is Sofia and other major cities are Plovdiv, Varna, Burgas and Ruse.
At a glance facts
- Language: Bulgarian
- Population: 7,036,848 (2018)
- International dialling code: +359
- Time zone: GMT+2
Europe, Member of the EU