Top Ten Bulgarian Attractions

Top Ten Bulgarian Attractions

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       Bulgaria is a country in Southeast Europe, bordered by Romania, Serbia, the Republic of Macedonia, Greece and Turkey. The Black Sea defines the extent of the country to the east. With a territory of 110,994 square km (42,855 square mi), Bulgaria ranks as the 15th largest country in Europe. Several mountainous areas define the landscape, most notably Stara Planina (the Balkan Mountains) and Rhodope mountain ranges, as well as the Rila range, which includes the highest peak in the entire Balkans. In contrast, the Danubian plain in the north and the Upper Thracian Plain in the south represent Bulgaria’s lowest and most fertile regions. The 378 km (235 mi) Black Sea coastline covers the entire eastern bound of the country. The emergence of a unified Bulgarian ethnicity and state dates back to the 17th century AD. All Bulgarian political entities that subsequently emerged preserved the traditions (in ethnic name, language and alphabet) of the First Bulgarian Empire (681–1018), which at times covered most of the Balkans and became a cultural hub for the Slavs in the Middle Ages. With the decline of the Second Bulgarian Empire (1185–1396), Bulgarian territories came under Ottoman rule for nearly five centuries. The Russo-Turkish War of 1877–1878 led to the establishment of a Third Bulgarian state as a principality in 1878, which gained its full sovereignty in 1908. In 1945, after WWII, it became a communist state and was a part of the Eastern Bloc until the political changes in Eastern Europe in 1989/1990, when the Communist Party allowed multi-party elections. Bulgarian politics undertook a transition to democracy and free-market capitalism was introduced. The Bulgarian government functions as a parliamentary democracy within a unitary constitutional republic. Sofia, a global city, is the country’s capital and the 12th largest settlement in the European Union. Bulgaria is a member of the European Union, NATO, the UN, the Council of Europe, the World Trade Organization and is a founding state of the OSCE and the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organization. Bulgaria has a high Human Development Index of 0.743, ranking 58th in the world in 2010.

  1. Sofia
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           Sofia is the capital and largest city of Bulgaria and the 12th largest city in the European Union with a population of 1.27 million people. It is located in western Bulgaria, at the foot of Mount Vitosha and is ranked as a Beta- world city. Prehistoric settlements were excavated in the center of the present city, near the royal palace, as well as in outer districts such as Slatina and Obelya. The well-preserved town walls (especially their substructures) from antiquity date back before the 7th century BC, when Thracians established their city next to the most important and highly respected mineral spring, still functioning today. Sofia has had several names in the different periods of its existence, and remnants from the city’s past can still be seen today alongside modern landmarks. Many of the major universities, institutions, and businesses of Bulgaria are concentrated in Sofia. It is also a center of media, cultural events, modern theaters, it is a home of research institutes, sporting events, orchestras, and museums. IT industry sector is gradually growing in Sofia, together with the increasing number of events in contemporary arts, festivals, etc.
    Links: Cities, Sculptures, Churches, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sofia,
  2. Plovdiv
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           Plovdiv is the 2nd largest city in Bulgaria after Sofia with a population of 338,153 inhabitants (2011). Plovdiv’s history spans some 6,000 years, with traces of a Neolithic settlement dating to roughly 4,000 BC; it is one of the oldest cities in Europe. It is the administrative center of Plovdiv Province in southern Bulgaria and three municipalities (Plovdiv-city, Maritsa and Rodopi) and Bulgaria’s Yuzhen tsentralen planning region, as well as the largest and most important city in Northern Thrace and the wider international historical region of Thrace. The city is an important economic, transport, cultural and educational center. Known in the West for most of its history by the Greek name Philippopolis, it was originally a Thracian settlement before becoming a major Roman city. In the Middle Ages, it retained its strategic regional importance, changing hands between the Byzantine and Bulgarian Empires. It came under Ottoman rule in the 14th century. In 1878, Plovdiv was made the capital of the autonomous Ottoman region of Eastern Rumelia; in 1885, it became part of Bulgaria with the unification of that region and the Principality of Bulgaria. Plovdiv is situated in the southern part of the Plovdiv Plain on the two banks of the Maritsa River. The city has historically developed on seven syenite hills, some of which are 250 m (820.21 ft) high. Because of these seven hills, Plovdiv is often referred to in Bulgaria as “The City of the Seven Hills.” Plovdiv is host to economic and cultural events, such as the International Fair Plovdiv, the international theatrical festival “A stage on a crossroad,” the TV festival “The golden chest.” There are many remains preserved from Antiquity such as the Ancient amphitheatre, Roman odeon, Roman Stadium, the archaeological complex Eirene and others.
    Links: Top Ten Fairs, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plovdiv,
  3. Varna
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           Varna is the largest city and seaside resort on the Bulgarian Black Sea Coast and 3rd largest in Bulgaria after Sofia and Plovdiv, with a population of 334,870 (2011). It is the administrative center of the homonymous province and Varna Municipality. Commonly referred to as the marine (or summer) capital of Bulgaria, Varna is a major tourist destination, business and university center, seaport, and headquarters of the Bulgarian Navy and merchant marine, as well as the center of Varna Province and Bulgaria’s North-Eastern planning region, comprising also the provinces of Dobrich, Shumen and Targovishte. In April 2008, Varna was designated seat of the Black Sea Euro-Region (a new regional organization, not identical to the Black Sea Euroregion) by the Council of Europe.
    Links: Top 100 Beaches, Top Ten Bridges, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Varna,
  4. Burgas
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           Burgas is the 2nd largest city and seaside resort on the Bulgarian Black Sea Coast with a population of 197,301 (2011). It is also the 4th largest by population in Bulgaria, after Sofia, Plovdiv and Varna. It is the capital of Burgas Province and an important industrial, transport, cultural and tourist center. Surrounded by the coastal Burgas Lakes and located at the westernmost point of the Black Sea, the large Burgas Bay, Burgas has the largest and most important Bulgarian port. Today, it is a key economic, cultural and tourist center of southeastern Bulgaria, with the Burgas Airport serving the resorts of the southern Bulgarian coast.
    Links: Top Ten Sand Sculptureshttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burgas,
  5. Rila Monastery
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           The Monastery of Saint Ivan of Rila, better known as the Rila Monastery is the largest and most famous Eastern Orthodox monastery in Bulgaria. It is situated in the southwestern Rila Mountains, 117 km (73 mi) south of the capital Sofia in the deep valley of the Rilska River at an elevation of 1,147 m (3,763 ft) above sea level. The monastery is named after its founder, the hermit Ivan of Rila (876 – 946 AD). Founded in the 10th century, the Rila Monastery is regarded as one of Bulgaria’s most important cultural, historical and architectural monuments and is a key tourist attraction for both Bulgaria and Southeastern Europe. The monastery is depicted on the reverse of the 1 lev banknote, issued in 1999.
    Links: Monasteries, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rila_Monastery,
  6. Ancient City of Nesebar
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           Nesebar is an ancient town and one of the major seaside resorts on the Bulgarian Black Sea Coast, located in Burgas Province. It is the administrative center of the homonymous Nesebar Municipality. Often referred to as the “Pearl of the Black Sea” and “Bulgaria’s Dubrovnik,” Nesebar is a rich city-museum defined by more than three millennia of ever-changing history. It is a one of the most prominent tourist destinations and seaports on the Black Sea, in what has become a popular area with several large resorts, the largest, Sunny Beach, is situated immediately to the north of Nesebar. Nesebar has on several occasions found itself on the frontier of a threatened empire, and as such it is a town with a rich history. The ancient part of the town is situated on a peninsula (previously an island) connected to the mainland by a narrow man-made isthmus, and it bears evidence of occupation by a variety of different civilizations over the course of its existence. As of December 2009, the town has a population of 11,626 inhabitants.
    Links: Churches, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nesebar,
  7. Pirin National Park
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           Pirin National Park is a World Heritage national park that encompasses the larger part of the Pirin Mountains in the southwest of Bulgaria. It has an area of about 400 square km (150 square mi) and lies at an altitude from 1,008–2,914 m (3,307–9,560 ft). Two nature reserves are located within the boundaries of the park, Bayuvi Dupki-Dzhindzhiritsa, one of the oldest in the country, and Yulen.
    Links: National Parks, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pirin_National_Park,
  8. Rock-hewn Churches of Ivanovo
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           The Rock-hewn Churches of Ivanovo are a group of monolithic churches, chapels and monasteries hewn out of solid rock and completely different from other monastery complexes in Bulgaria, located near the village of Ivanovo, 20 km south of Rousse, on the high rocky banks of the Rusenski Lom, 32 m above the river. The complex is noted for its beautiful and well-preserved medieval frescoes. The caves in the region had been inhabited by monks from the 1220’s, when it was founded by the future Patriarch of Bulgaria Joachim, to the 17th century, where they hewed cells, churches and chapels out of solid rock. At the peak of the monastery complex, the number of churches was about 40, while the other premises were around 300, most of which are not preserved today. Second Bulgarian Empire rulers such as Ivan Alexander and Ivan Asen II frequently made donations to the complex, as evidenced by donor portraits in some of the churches. Other patrons included nobles from the capital Tarnovo and nearest big medieval town Cherven, with which the monastery complex had strong ties in the 13th and 14th centuries. It was a center of hesychasm in the Bulgarian lands in the 14th century and continued to exist in the early centuries of the Ottoman rule of Bulgaria, but gradually decayed. The monastery complex owes much of its fame to 13th and 14th century frescoes, preserved in 5 of the churches, which are thought of as wonderful examples of Bulgarian medieval art. The rock premises used by the monks include the St Archangel Michael Chapel (“The Buried Church”), the Baptistery, the Gospodev Dol Chapel, the St. Theodore Church (“The Demolished Church”) and the main Church, with the 14th century murals in the latter one being arguably the most famous of all in Ivanovo and noted as some of the most representative examples of Palaeologan art. Many century-old inscriptions have also been preserved in the monastical premises, including the famous indented inscription of the monk Ivo Gramatik from 1308–1309.
    Links: Churches, Top Ten Rock-Cut Architecture, Paintings, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rock-hewn_Churches_of_Ivanovo,
  9. Srebarna Nature Reserve
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           The Srebarna Nature Reserve is a nature reserve in northeastern Bulgaria (Southern Dobruja), near the village of the same name, 18 km west of Silistra and 2 km south of the Danube. It comprises Lake Srebarna and its surroundings and is located on the Via Pontica, a bird migration route between Europe and Africa. The reserve embraces 6 km² of protected area and a buffer zone of 5.4 km². The lake’s depth varies from 1 to 3 m. There is a museum constructed, where a collection of stuffed species typical for the reserve is arranged.
    Links: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Srebarna_Nature_Reserve,
  10. Boyana Church
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           The Boyana Church is a medieval Bulgarian Orthodox church situated on the outskirts of Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria, in the Boyana quarter. The east wing of the two-storey church was originally constructed in the late 10th or early 11th century, while the central wing was added in the 13th century under the Second Bulgarian Empire. The building was later finished with an expansion to the west in the middle of the 19th century. The church owes its world fame mainly to its frescoes from 1259. They form a second layer over the paintings from earlier centuries and represent one of the most complete and well-preserved monuments of Eastern European medieval art. A total of 89 scenes with 240 human images are depicted on the walls of the church. The name of the painter was recently discovered during restoration. The inscription reads: “zograph Vassilii from the village Subonosha, Sersko and his apprentice Dimitar. Eighteen scenes in the narthex depict the life of Saint Nicholas. The painter here drew certain aspects of contemporary lifestyle. In The Miracle at Sea, the ship and the sailors’ hats recall the Venetian fleet. The portraits of the patrons of the church, Sebastocrator Kaloyan and his wife Desislava, as well as those of Bulgarian tsar Constantine Tikh and Tsaritsa Irina, are thought to be among the most impressive and lifelike frescoes in the church, and are located on the north wall of the church. Besides the first layer of 11th-12th century frescoes, of which only fragments are preserved, and the famous second layer of murals from 1259, the church also has a smaller number of later frescoes from the 14th and 16th-17th century, as well as from 1882. The frescoes were restored and cleaned in 1912-1915 by an Austrian and a Bulgarian specialist, as well in 1934 and 1944. The church was closed for the public in 1977 in order to be restored and once again opened in 2000.
    Links: Churches, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boyana_Church,
  11. Varna Necropolis
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           The Varna Necropolis is a burial site in the western industrial zone of Varna (approximately half a kilometer from Lake Varna and 4 km from the city center), Bulgaria, internationally considered one of the key archaeological sites in world prehistory.
    Links: Top Ten Necropolises, Top 100 Gold Artifacts, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Varna_Necropolis,
  12. Thracian Tomb of Sveshtari
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           The Thracian Tomb of Sveshtari (Bulgarian: Свещарска гробница, Sveshtarska grobnitsa) is situated 2.5 km southwest of the village of Sveshtari, Razgrad Province, which is located 42 km northeast of Razgrad, in the northeast of Bulgaria. Discovered in 1982 in a mound, this 3rd century BC Thracian tomb reflects the fundamental structural principles of Thracian cult buildings. The tomb’s architectural decor is considered to be unique, with polychrome half-human, half-plant caryatids and painted murals. The ten female figures carved in high relief on the walls of the central chamber and the decorations of the lunette in its vault are the only examples of this type found so far in the Thracian lands. It is a remarkable reminder of the culture of the Getae, a Thracian people who were in contact with the Hellenistic and Hyperborean worlds, according to ancient geographers. It has been suggested that it is part of the site of the Getan city of Helis.
    Links: Top Ten Tombs, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thracian_Tomb_of_Sveshtari,
  13. Thracian Tomb of Kazanlak
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           The Thracian Tomb of Kazanlak is a vaulted brickwork “beehive” (tholos) tomb near the town of Kazanlak in central Bulgaria. The tomb is part of a large Thracian necropolis. It comprises a narrow corridor and a round burial chamber, both decorated with murals representing a Thracian couple at a ritual funeral feast. The monument dates back to the 4th century BC. The murals are memorable for the splendid horses and especially for the gesture of farewell, in which the seated couple grasp each other’s wrists in a moment of tenderness and equality. The paintings are Bulgaria’s best-preserved artistic masterpieces from the Hellenistic period. The tomb is situated near the ancient Thracian capital of Seuthopolis. The seated woman of the murals is depicted on the reverse of the Bulgarian 50 stotinkas coin issued in 2005.
    Links: Top Ten Tombs, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thracian_Tomb_of_Kazanlak,
  14. Madara Rider
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           The Madara Rider or Madara Horseman is an early medieval large rock relief carved on the Madara Plateau east of Shumen in northeastern Bulgaria, near the village of Madara. The Madara Rider is depicted on the obverse of smaller Bulgarian coins (1 to 50 stotinki) issued in 1999 and 2000. A June 29, 2008, official survey on the design of Bulgaria’s future euro coins was won by the Madara Horseman with 25.44% of the votes.
    Links: Relieves and Petroglyphs, Top 100 Coins, Top 100 European Coins, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Madara_Rider,
  15. Links: Attractions, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bulgaria,