About Bulgaria

The Republic of Bulgaria is situated in the south-east part of Europe and more precisely in the eastern part of the Balkan peninsula. To the north runs the Danube River which divides it from Romania, on the north-west it has a common boundary with Yugoslavia, and on the south-west with Macedonia. On the south-east it is contiguous to Turkey, and on the south-west to Greece. On the east the country is bounded by the Black Sea. The territory of Bulgaria is 111 000 square kilometres for a population of around 8 000 000 - Bulgarian 83.6%, Turkish 9.5%, Romany 4.6%, with others making up the balance of 2.3% (including Macedonians, Armenians, Tatars, and Circassians) (1998) The capital city is Sofia, with 1 188 000 inhabitants. Other larger cities are Plovdiv (350 000 inhabitants), Varna (300 000 inhabitants), Bourgas (200 000 inhabitants), Stara Zagora (150 000 inhabitants), Rousse (140 000 inhabitants), Pleven (120 000 inhabitants)

Bulgaria on the map

There are three international airports - Sofia, for regular flights, and Varna and Bourgas for charter (summer) flights. There are several ports in Bulgaria: on the Black Sea - Varna, Bourgas, Balchick, Nessebur; on the Danube - Vidin, Lom, Oriakhovo, Nickopol, Svishtov, Rousse, Toutrackan, Sillistra. The official language is (strangely!) Bulgarian, the oldest written Slavonic language, and the religion is Orthodox Christianity for the majority 83.8%, Muslim, 12.1%, Roman Catholic, 1.7%, Jewish 0.1%, Protestant, Gregorian-Armenian, and other 2.3% (1998).

The larger mountain ranges are the Balkan mountains (with its highest peak Botev - 2376 m), the Rhodopes (highest peak - Goliam Perelick - 2191 m), Rila (highest peak - Moussala - 2925 m), Pirin (highest peak - Vihren - 2914m), Vitosha (highest peak - Cherni Vruh -2290 m).

The protection of the natural world is one of the country’s major concerns. The protected territories in Bulgaria are 49, the bio spherical reserves - 17 (the greatest recorded number in Europe), the national parks - 7, the reserves - 82, the protected natural sites - 3055, the protected plants - 63 and the protected animals - 419. The air and water resources of the country are some of the purest in Europe.

Folklore :

- Trifon Zarezan Day

In the agricultural calendar, Trifon Zarezan celebrates the pruning of the vines, and is held on 14 February.

- Baba Marta

Baba Marta is celebrated on 1st March when people brush out the winter cobwebs with a traditional spring clean and offer each other tokens of good luck called martenitsi. They are made from red and white threads in different shapes.

- Kukerov Den

On the first Sunday before Lent, Kukerov Den celebrates the start of the agricultural year, and all over Bulgaria you can witness processions led by the dancing leaping Kukeri dressed in colourful masks and costumes.

- Lazarov Day

Lazaruvane is also celebrated in spring on St. Lazarus Day, and here village girls considered fit for marriage perform ritual songs and dances.

- St. Konstantin and St. Elena Day

The coming of summer is traditionally celebrated on St. Konstantin and St. Elena Day on May 21, and in some of the remoter villages in the Stranzha hills fire dancing, dancing on heated coals, is still practised in celebration of summer's arrival. Ethnologists have suggested that this practice is directly descended from Dionysina rites of the ancient Thracian.

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