The first time I traveled through Bulgaria, I knew it wasn’t enough. So I came back for round two. I love these kind of countries- ones ultimately over-looked by most of the world as a country of interest. In countries like Bulgaria, i feel like it’s more of the “wild west”, more free, fewer rules and regulations, and fewer tourists.
From a traveler’s standpoint though, it seems like a great shame that more people flock to the neighboring Turkey and Greece, where it is much more developed and expensive, when they can potentially find something just as amazing in Bulgaria, Macedonia, Albania…. Heck, all over the Balkans! When you are here, it’s a whole different feel.
You sort of have a slight apprehension going there in the first place: it having a name synonymous with all kinds of wars. And you definitely feel like you’re on the “other side” of Europe, as everything is in Cyrillic and not revolving around you, the tourist. That said, I think this made it all the more better for me! It’s an awesome place, and I’m glad it is how it is. It probably wont be this way forever, so I think you should see it now. Until then, here are things I learned about Bulgaria!
1. Bulgaria brought the world the Cyrillic alphabet – which today is used in Russia and throughout the Balkans and other Slavic nations. It was invented by two monks during the First Bulgarian Empire
2. ancient Roman influence on Bulgaria is still evident in many of the cities,. You’ll find Roman baths in Varna, ruins in Sofia, and a mostly-in-tact Roman theater in Plovdiv
3. Bulgaria is apparently the birthplace of yoghurt, and the stuff is everywhere. Not only are there about 300 varieties in supermarkets, but there’s also yoghurt in many of Bulgaria’s signature dishes.
3. The roses grown in Bulgaria’s “Rose Valley” produce most (70-85%) of the world’s rose oil – a component in most perfumes.
4. On the first day of March each year, Bulgarians exchange red-and-white woven bracelets with each other. They wear these Martenitsi bracelets throughout the month, until they see a stork or a blooming tree. Then, the bracelets are tied to trees as a way of welcoming springtime. This is a holiday of sorts, called Baba Marta (“Grandmother March”), and celebrates the passing of winter.
5. Bulgaria has two major ranges – the Balkan Mountains and the Rhodope Mountains – and a few smaller ranges, including the Rila and Pirin mountains. Because of all these mountains, Bulgarian towns like Bansko have become very popular for winter sports. (and cheap!)
6. It has the world’s largest IMAX 3D cinema.
7. After the collapse of a Roman bridge in the 4th Century there was no crossing of the Danube between Romania and Bulgaria for 1,600 years.
8. Though small in area, Bulgaria ranks third in Europe in biodiversity, with a number of rare and endemic species. More than 700 brown bears, 1,000 wolves, golden jackal, wild cats, common otters, souslik and 37 species of reptiles can be found here
9. A must see when travelling to the country is The Rila Cross, which is one of the many unique things in Bulgaria. It’s a wooden cross with 140 microscopic scenes from the Bible featuring more than 1,500 figures; the largest of them is no bigger than a grain of rice.
10. A third of Bulgaria is forested. (hence the biodiversity)
11. For More Than 700 Years, Bulgaria Was Nearly Twice Its Current Size
12. Michael Palin upset Bulgarians by saying it is most famous for it’s gypsies
13. Mastika, a 47% proof spirit made with tree resin, is a popular drink. Average price of a lager is less than $1.
14. The country is one of the world’s biggest winemakers – 200,000 tonnes a year.
15. Bulgarians invented the first electronic computer, digital watch and car air bag.
16. Bulgaria’s most famous footballers are Hristo Stoichkov, now 45 – highest scorer at the 1994 World Cup – and Manchester United’s Dimitar Berbatov, 30.
17. Bulgaria Has The 2nd Most Mineral Springs In Europe, just behind Iceland.
18. Plovdi is Europe’s Oldest Inhabited City, even older than Athens
19. Bulgarians shake their heads to mean yes and nod for no. Not kidding.