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04 October 2011


Posted in Bulgaria

Bulgaria  officially the Republic of Bulgaria  Republika Balgariya,  is a country in Southeast Europe. Bulgaria borders five other countries: Romania to the north (mostly along the Danube), Serbia and the Republic of Macedonia to the west, and Greece and Turkey to the south. The Black Sea defines the extent of the country to the east,hotel deals,

With a territory of 110,994 square kilometers (42,855 sq 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-kilometer (235 mi) Black Sea coastline covers the entire eastern bound of the country,travel insurance,

The emergence of a unified Bulgarian ethnicity and state dates back to the 7th 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.[6] 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.[7] In 1945, after World War II, it became a communist state[8] 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 elements of free-market capitalism were introduced,car hire,

The Bulgarian government functions as a parliamentary democracy within a unitary constitutional republic. Sofia, the capital, is Bulgaria's largest and the European Union's 12th largest city,[9] and is also a global city. Its government is a member of the European Union, NATO, the United Nations, 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.[10]

A gold rhyton from the Panagyurishte treasure, the 4th–3rd century BC 
Prehistoric cultures in the Bulgarian lands include the Neolithic Hamangia culture and Vinca culture (6th to 3rd millennia BC), the eneolithic Varna culture (5th millennium BC; see also Varna Necropolis), and the Bronze Age Ezero culture. The Karanovo chronology serves as a gauge for the prehistory of the wider Balkans region,hotel bookings,

The Thracians, one of the three primary ancestral groups of modern Bulgarians, lived separated in various tribes until King Teres united most of them around 500 BC in the Odrysian kingdom. They were eventually subjugated by Alexander the Great and later by the Roman Empire. After migrating from their original homeland, the easternmost South Slavs settled on the territory of modern Bulgaria during the 6th century and assimilated the Hellenized or Romanised Thracians. Eventually the Bulgar élite incorporated all of them into the First Bulgarian Empire.[11] By 
First Bulgarian Empire

Asparukh, heir of Old Great Bulgaria's khan Kubrat, migrated with several Bulgar tribes to the lower courses of the rivers Danube, Dniester and Dniepr (known as Ongal) after his father's state was subjugated by the Khazars. He conquered Moesia and Scythia Minor (Dobrudzha) from the Byzantine Empire, expanding his new kingdom further into the Balkan Peninsula.[13] A peace treaty with Byzantium in 681 and the establishment of a Bulgarian capital at Pliska south of the Danube mark the beginning of the First Bulgarian Empire.

Succeeding khans strengthened the Bulgarian state — Tervel (700–721) established Bulgaria as a major military power by defeating a 26,000-strong Arab army during the Second Arab Siege of Constantinople;[14] Krum (802–814)[15] doubled the country's territory, killed emperor Nicephorus I in the Battle of Pliska,[16] and introduced the first written code of law; Boris I (852–889) abolished Tengriism in favor of Eastern Orthodox Christianity in 864,[17] and introduced the Cyrillic alphabet. Simeon the Great's rule (893–927) saw the largest territorial expansion of Bulgaria in its history,[18] along with a golden age of Bulgarian culture and a military supremacy over the Byzantine Empire, demonstrated in the Battle of Achelous (917).[19]

Khan Krum feasts with his nobles after the battle of Pliska. His servant (far right) brings the wine-filled skull cup of emperor Nicephorus I. 
After Simeon's death, Bulgaria declined during the mid-10th century, weakened by wars with Croatians, Magyars, Pechenegs and Serbs, and the spread of the Bogomil heresy.[20][21] This resulted in consecutive Rus' and Byzantine invasions, which ended with the seizure of the capital Preslav by the Byzantine army.[22] Under Samuil, Bulgaria somewhat recovered from these attacks and even managed to conquer Serbia, Bosnia[23] and Duklja,[24] but this ended in 1014, when Byzantine Emperor Basil II ("the Bulgar-Slayer") defeated its armies at Klyuch.[25] Samuil died shortly after the battle, on 15 October 1014,[25] and by 1018 the Byzantine Empire conquered the remaimed parts of the First Bulgarian Empire, putting it to an end.
Second Bulgarian Empire

Main articles: Uprising of Asen and Peter and Second Bulgarian Empire

Basil II managed to prevent rebellions by retaining the local rule of the Bulgarian nobility (incorporated into Byzantine aristocracy as archons or strategoi),[26] guaranteeing the indivisibility of Bulgaria in its former geographic borders and recognising the autocephaly of the Bulgarian Archbishopric of Ohrid.[27] After his death Byzantine domestic policies changed, which led to a series of unsuccessful rebellions, the largest being led by Peter II Delyan. It was not until 1185 when Asen dynasty nobles Ivan Asen I and Peter IV organized a major uprising and succeeded in reestablishing the Bulgarian state, marking the beginning of the Second Bulgarian Empire.

The Bulgarian Empire under tzar Ivan Asen II 
The Asen dynasty set up its capital in Tarnovo. Kaloyan, the third of the Asen monarchs, extended his dominions to Belgrade, Nish and Skopie; he acknowledged the spiritual supremacy of the Pope, and received a royal crown from a papal legate.[11] Cultural and economic growth persisted under Ivan Asen II (1218–1241), who extended Bulgaria's control over Albania, Epirus, Macedonia and Thrace.[28] The achievements of the Tarnovo artistic school as well as the first coins to be minted by a Bulgarian ruler were only a few signs of the empire's welfare at that time.[11]

The Asen dynasty ended in 1257, and due to Tatar invasions, internal conflicts, and constant Byzantine and Hungarian attacks, the country's military and economic might declined. By the end of the 14th century, factional divisions between Bulgarian feudal landlords (bolyari) and the spread of Bogomilism had caused the Second Bulgarian Empire to split into three small tsardoms (At Vidin, Tarnovo and Karvuna) and several semi-independent principalities that fought among themselves, and also with Byzantines, Hungarians, Serbs, Venetians and Genoese. In the same period the Ottoman Turks, who had already started their invasion of the Balkans, conquered most Bulgarian towns and fortresses south of the Balkan Mountains and began their northwards conquest.

Ottoman Bulgaria and National awakening of Bulgaria
In 1393, the Ottomans captured Tarnovo, the capital of the Second Bulgarian Empire, after a three-month siege. In 1396, the Vidin Tsardom fell after the defeat of a Christian crusade at the Battle of Nicopolis. Finally, the Vidin Tzardom fell to in 1423 and with this, the Ottomans finally subjugated and occupied all Bulgarian controlled lands south of the Danube. [30][31][32] During their rule, the Bulgarian population south of the Danube suffered greatly from oppression, intolerance and misgovernment.

North of the Danube, where a significant number of Bulgarian nobility and common folk remained, the population was under the jurisdiction of various Christian autonomous, predominately Wallachian led principalities, where the Bulgarian alphabet continued to be used [34] and many cities kept their Bulgarian names, like the Wallachian capital of Targovishte. The nobility in the Christian principalities north of the Danube, continued to be known by their Bulgarian titles of Boyars and regularly helped Bulgarian population to continue to migrate north, as part of their military campaigns south of the Danube.  Thus, Bulgarian population north of the Danube never came under Ottoman occupation, which greatly helped the National revival south of the Danube in later centuries.

The nobility south of the Danube however, was eliminated and parts of the peasantry enserfed to Ottoman masters[36] while Bulgarians lacked judicial equality with the Ottoman Muslims and had to pay much higher taxes than them.[37] Bulgarian culture became isolated from Europe, its achievements destroyed, and the educated clergy fled to other countries.

Throughout the nearly five centuries of Ottoman rule, the Bulgarian people responded to the oppression by strengthening the haydut ("rebels") tradition,] and attempted to reestablish their state by organizing several revolts, most notably the First and Second Tarnovo Uprisings (1598 / 1686) and Karposh's Rebellion (1689). The National awakening of Bulgaria became one of the key factors in the struggle for liberation, resulting in the 1876 April uprising—the largest and best-organized Bulgarian rebellion. Though crushed by the Ottoman authorities—in reprisal, the Turks massacred some 15,000 Bulgarians[12]—the uprising prompted the Great Powers to take action. They convened the Constantinople Conference in 1876, but their decisions were rejected by the Ottoman authorities, which allowed the Russian Empire to seek a solution by force without risking military confrontation with other Great Powers (as had happened in the Crimean War of 1854 to 1856). The Russo-Turkish War of 1877–78 resulted in the defeat of Ottoman forces by the Russian Army (supported by Bulgarian volunteer forces and the Romanian Army) and the Treaty of San Stefano (3 March 1878), which set up an autonomous Bulgarian principality.

The Great Powers immediately rejected the treaty, fearing that such a large country in the Balkans might threaten their interests. The subsequent Treaty of Berlin (1878) provided for a much smaller autonomous state comprising Moesia and the region of Sofia.[39] The Bulgarian principality proclaimed itself a fully independent state on 5 October (22 September O.S.), 1908, after it won a war against Serbia and incorporated the semi-autonomous Ottoman territory of Eastern Rumelia.

Tzar Ferdinand I and his cabinet prepare to announce the declaration of independence, 1908 
In the years following the achievement of complete independence Bulgaria became increasingly militarized, and was referred to as "the Balkan Prussia".[40][41] In 1885 Northern Bulgaria and Southern Bulgaria united and subsequently defeated Serbia in the war of 1885. Between 1912 and 1918, Bulgaria became involved in a string of three consecutive conflicts – the Balkan Wars and World War I. After a disastrous defeat in the Second Balkan War, Bulgaria again found itself fighting on the losing side as a result of its alliance with the Central Powers in World War I. Despite achieving several decisive victories at Doiran, Monastir and again at Doiran in 1918, the country capitulated in 1918 and suffered significant territorial losses,[12] a total of 412,000 casualties, and a wave of more than 253,000[42] refugees who put an additional strain on the already ruined national economy.

The political unrest resulting from these losses led to the establishment of a royal authoritarian dictatorship by Tsar Boris III (1918–1943). Bulgaria entered World War II in 1941 as a member of the Axis but declined to participate in Operation Barbarossa and saved its Jewish population from deportation to concentration camps.[43] In the summer of 1943 Boris III died suddenly, an event which pushed the country into political turmoil as the war turned against Nazi Germany and the Communist guerilla movement gained more power.[44] In September 1944 the Communist-dominated Fatherland Front took power, following strikes and unrest, ending the alliance with Nazi Germany and joining the Allied side until the end of the war in 1945.

Zhelyu Zhelev (left), the first democratically elected president of Bulgaria[45] with George H. W. Bush in 1990 
The Communist uprising of 9 September 1944 led to the abolition of monarchic rule, but it was not until 1946 that a people's republic was established. It came under the Soviet sphere of influence, with Georgi Dimitrov (1946–1949) as the foremost Bulgarian political leader. Bulgaria installed a Soviet-style planned economy with some market-oriented policies emerging on an experimental level[46] under Todor Zhivkov (1954–1989). By the mid 1950s standards of living rose significantly.[47] Lyudmila Zhivkova, daughter of Zhivkov, promoted Bulgaria's national heritage, culture and arts worldwide.[48] On the other hand, an assimilation campaign of the late 1980s directed against ethnic Turks resulted in the emigration of some 300,000 of them to Turkey.[49][50] On 10 November 1989, the Bulgarian Communist Party gave up its political monopoly, Zhivkov resigned, and Bulgaria embarked on a transition from a single-party republic to a parliamentary democracy.

In June 1990 the first free elections took place, won by the moderate wing of the Communist Party (the Bulgarian Socialist Party—BSP). In July 1991, a new constitution that provided for a relatively weak elected President and for a Prime Minister accountable to the legislature, was adopted. The new system eventually failed to improve living standards or create economic growth — the average quality of life and economic performance actually remained lower than in the times of Communism well into the early 2000s.[51]

A reform package introduced in 1997 restored positive economic growth, but led to rising social inequality. Bulgaria became a member of NATO in 2004 and of the European Union in 2007. The US Library of Congress Federal Research Division reported it in 2006 as having generally good freedom of speech and human rights records,[52] while Freedom House listed Bulgaria as "free" in 2011, giving it scores of 2 for political rights and 2 for civil liberties.[53] 

Bulgaria lies between latitudes 41° and 45° N, and longitudes 22° and 29° E.

Geographically and in terms of climate, Bulgaria features notable diversity, with the landscape ranging from the Alpine snow-capped peaks in Rila, Pirin and the Balkan Mountains to the mild and sunny Black Sea coast; from the typically continental Danubian Plain (ancient Moesia) in the north to the strong Mediterranean climatic influence in the valleys of Macedonia and in the lowlands in the southernmost parts of Thrace.

Sandstone formations near Melnik, southern Bulgaria 

The Black Sea as seen from Medni Rid peak near Burgas.  Relief and natural resources

About 30% of the land is made up of plains, while plateaus and hills account for 41%.] The mountainous southwest of the country has two alpine ranges — Rila (where mount Musala, at 2,925 meters (9,596 ft), is located) and Pirin, and further east stand the lower but more extensive Rhodope Mountains. The Balkan mountain chain runs west-east through the middle of the country, north of the Rose Valley. Hilly countryside and plains lie to the southeast, along the Black Sea coast, and along Bulgaria's main river, the Danube, to the north.

Bulgaria has large deposits of bauxite, copper, lead, zinc, bismuth and manganese. Smaller deposits exist of iron, gold, silver, uranium, chromite, nickel, and others. Bulgaria has abundant non-metalliferous minerals such as rock-salt, gypsum, kaolin and marble.
Hydrography and climate

The country has a dense network of about 540 rivers, most of them—with the notable exception of the Danube—short and with low water-levels.[56] Most rivers flow through mountainous areas. The longest river located solely in Bulgarian territory, the Iskar, has a length of 368 kilometers (229 mi). Other major rivers include the Struma and the Maritsa in the south.

Some 20 nesting couples of the Eastern Imperial Eagle exist in Bulgaria, and their number is gradually growing.[57] 
Bulgaria overall has a temperate climate, with cold winters and hot summers. The barrier effect of the Balkan Mountains has some influence on climate throughout the country – northern Bulgaria experiences lower temperatures and receives more rain than the southern lowlands.

Precipitation averages about 630 millimeters (24.8 in) per year. In the lowlands rainfall varies between 500 and 800 millimeters (19.7 and 31.5 in), and in the mountain areas between 1,000 and 2,500 millimeters (39.4 and 98.4 in) of rain falls per year. Drier areas include Dobrudja and the northern coastal strip, while the higher parts of the Rila, Pirin, Rhodope Mountains, Stara Planina, Osogovska Mountain and Vitosha receive the highest levels of precipitation.
Environment and wildlife

Bulgaria has signed and ratified the Kyoto protocol[59] and has achieved a 30% reduction of carbon dioxide emissions from 1990 to 2009, completing the protocol's objectives.[60] However, pollution from outdated factories and metallurgy works, as well as severe deforestation (mostly caused by illegal logging), continue to be major problems.[61] Urban areas are particularly affected mostly due to energy production from coal-based powerplants and automobile traffic, while pesticide usage in the agriculture and antiquated industrial sewage systems have resulted in extensive soil and water pollution with chemicals and detergents. In addition, Bulgaria remains the only EU member which does not recycle municipal waste,[66] although an electronic waste recycling plant was put in operation in June 2010. The situation has improved in recent years, and several government-funded programs have been initiated in order to reduce pollution levels.

Three national parks, 11 nature parks and 17 biosphere reserves exist on Bulgaria's territory. Nearly 35% of its land area consists of forests, where some of the oldest trees in the world – such as Baikushev's Pine and the Granit oakhave grown. The brown bear and the jackal are prominent mammals, while the Eurasian lynx, the Eastern imperial eagle and the European mink have small, but growing populations.

15 September 2011


Posted in Bulgaria

Sofia is the capital and largest cityof Bulgaria and the 12th largest city by population 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 centre 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.
Sofia houses numerous museums, notably the National Historical Museum, the Bulgarian Natural History Museum, the Museum of Earth and Men, the Ethnographic Museum, the National Museum of Military History, the National Polytechnical Museum and the National Archaeological Museum. In addition, there are the Sofia City Art Gallery, the Bulgarian National Gallery of Arts, the Bulgarian National Gallery for Foreign Art as well as numerous private art galleries.
Sofia has an extensive nightlife scene with many night clubs, live venues, pubs, mehani (Bulgarian traditional taverns), and restaurants. The city has played host to many world-famous musical acts including Elton John, Madonna, George Michael, Tiesto, Lenny Kravitz, Kiss, Kylie Minogue, Depeche Mode, Rammstein, Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer, Anthrax, Judas Priest, Rihanna, Iron Maiden, AC/DC, Marillion, Scorpions, Duran Duran, Simply Red, Enrique Iglesias, Roxette, Kelly Rowland, Sting and many more.
The city offers many places of special interest such as the Sts. Cyril and Methodius National Library (which houses the largest national book collection and is Bulgaria's oldest cultural institute), the British Council, the Russian Cultural Institute, the Polish Cultural Institute, the Hungarian Institute, the Czech and the Slovak Cultural Institutes, the Italian Cultural Institute, the French Cultural Institute, Goethe Institut, Instituto Cervantes, and the Open Society Institute. The city is also known for the Boyana Church, which is a UNESCO world heritage site.
In addition, Sofia houses the Sofia Zoological Garden, which was founded in 1888.
Several international film productions were made here. Vitosha Boulevard, also called Vitoshka — ranked as the world's 22nd most expensive commercial street — represents numerous fashion boutiques and luxury goods stores and features exhibitions by world fashion designers. Sofia's geographic location, situated in the foothills of the weekend retreat Vitosha mountain, further adds to the city's specific atmosphere.
With its developing infrastructure and strategic location, Sofia is an important centre for international railway and automobile routes. Three Trans-European Transport Corridors cross the city: 4, 8 and 10. All major types of transport (except water transport) are represented in the city. It is home to eight railway stations,[24] the biggest of which is the Central Railway Station. Just next to it is the new Central Bus Station, the biggest and most modern of its kind in the country.[25] A number of other Bus Stations allow interurban and international trips from different parts of the city. The Sofia Airport with its new second terminal, finished in 2006, [26] handled some 2.7 million passengers in 2007.
Public transport is well-developed with bus, tram (153,6 km network[24]) and trolleybus (97 km network[24]) lines running in all areas of the city, although some vehicles are in a poor condition. The Sofia underground became operational from 1998 and is yet largely underdeveloped with one line and only 14 stations. Several new stations have been opened in 2009. Another, second line is being built with a targeted completion date in 2012. [30] The masterplan for the Sofia underground includes three lines with a total of 47 stations.[30] In recent years the marshrutka, a private passenger van, began serving fixed routes and proved an efficient and popular means of transport by being faster than public transport but cheaper than taxis. As of 2005 these vans numbered 368 and serviced 48 lines around the city and suburbs. There are some 6,000 licensed taxi cabs operating in the city and another 2,000 operating somewhat illegally. Low fares in comparison with other European countries, make taxis affordable and popular among a big part of the city population.
A number of ancient Roman, Byzantine and medieval Bulgarian buildings have been preserved in the city and its outskirts. Most notably, the 10th century Boyana Church (one of the UNESCO World Heritage protected sites), the Church of St. George, considered the oldest building in Sofia, and the early Byzantine Church of St Sophia.
A medieval monument of significant interest is the Church of St Petka of the Saddlers located in the very centre of the city providing a sharp contrast to the surrounding three Socialist Classicism edifices of the former Party House, TZUM, and Sheraton Sofia Hotel Balkan.
After the Liberation of Bulgaria from Ottoman rule in 1878 and the establishment of an autonomous Bulgarian monarchy with its capital in Sofia, Knyaz Alexander Battenberg invited architects from Austria-Hungary to shape the new capital's architectural appearance.
Among the architects invited to work in Bulgaria were Friedrich Grünanger, Adolf Václav Kolá?, Viktor Rumpelmayer and others, who designed the most important public buildings needed by the newly-reestablished Bulgarian government, as well as numerous houses for the country's elite.[33] Later, many foreign-educated Bulgarian architects also contributed.
The architecture of Sofia's centre is thus a combination of Neo-Baroque, Neo-Rococo, Neo-Renaissance and Neoclassicism, with the Vienna Secession also later playing an important part, but it is mostly typically Central European.
Among the most important buildings constructed in Sofia in the period are the former royal palace, today housing the National Art Gallery and the National Ethnographic Museum (1882); the Ivan Vazov National Theatre (1907); the former royal printing office, today the National Gallery for Foreign Art; the National Assembly of Bulgaria (1886), the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences (1893), etc.
After the Second World War and the establishment of a Communist government in Bulgaria in 1944, the architectural line was substantially altered. Socialist Classicism public buildings emerged in the centre, but as the city grew outwards, the new neighbourhoods were dominated by many concrete tower blocks, prefabricated panel apartment buildings (panelki) and examples of Brutalist architecture.
After the abolishment of Communism in 1989, Sofia has witnessed the construction of whole business districts and neighbourhoods, as well as modern skryscraper-like glass-fronted office buildings, but also top-class residential neighbourhoods. Capital Fort Business Center will be the first skyscraper in Bulgaria with its 126 m and 36 floors.
The capital's main attraction is probably the ample opportunity provided to Sofianites for making use of the city's sprawling parklands, many of which are densely forested. There are four such major parks - Tsar Boris's Garden in the city centre, as well as the Southern, Western and Northern and several other smaller parks, most notable of which are the City Garden and the Doctor Garden. The Vitosha Nature Park (the oldest national park in the Balkans [45]), which includes a big part of the Vitosha mountain to the south of Sofia, covers an area of almost 270 km² and lies entirely within the city limits.[46] Many Sofianites take weekly hikes up the mountain, and most do so at least a couple of times a year. There are bungalows as well as several ski slopes on Vitosha, allowing locals to take full advantage of the countryside and of the mountains without having to leave the city.
The Pancharevo lake area is a popular destination due to its scenery, historical heritage (Urvich fortress and Pancharevo monastery), as well as Bulgaria's largest rowing base - "Sredets".