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.
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.
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.
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:
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:
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.
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