How can a person describe his or her own country without being prejudiced? Despite it’s next to impossible, I’ll do my best to do so and entice you to come and explore Bulgaria as it’s truly a gem.
This short overview will saunter you around things as diverse as history, geography, nature, foreign relations, and many more. But let’s start off with something delicious – food and drinks!
Drinks – the Source of Potent Life
Bulgarian Wine – the Most Palatable Wine You Have Never Sampled
Even though I don’t have any hard evidence, Bulgaria might be the birthplace of wine. Think about that – the ancient Thracians lived in the lands of contemporary Bulgaria. And wine is related to them. Then, does that mean that it might be attributed to Bulgaria? Could be.
Alright, let’s end the didactic hassle about who invented this divine drink and dwell on something, which is undeniable.
Bulgaria not only produces tonnes of wine. It also imports some good amount of that. What’s even more impressive – its red wine varieties are among the best in the world.
Some of our wines can easily punch above the weight of the finest Italian and French wines. The fermented grapes tingle the palate with the titillating taste. And your wallet is safe and sound after the reasonable spending.
Now, I can’t blame you for drooling whilst reading this, but I can blame you for not reserving your tickets to Bulgaria yet. Be my dear guest if you need more convincing. But if you start dripping, I am not going to wipe you up!
Rakia – the Fiery Beverage that Will Make all Your Senses Explode
You have not lived if your tongue has not felt this fiery drink made from fermented fruit. Palatable whiskies are at least 12 years old and their cost is nowhere near affordable.
Rakia, on the other hand, can tickle your palate (or burn it if you are not into strong liqueurs) even when it’s young. A 6-month fermentation easily outshines 3-year old whiskies. But let’s not delve into that too much as many whisky connoisseurs will hunt me down.
The most popular Bulgarian rakia is the grape variety. However, there are loads of other options. Think about plums, cherries, cherry plums, apricots, peaches, figs, and raspberries. Interestingly enough, I have not heard of any other berry varieties, but if you have, please share with me.
Rakia’s alcohol strength is legendary so anywhere between 40 and 50-60 ABV will do the magic. You can find the former in shops. The latter are home-made.
We, Bulgarians, prefer indulging in it while chewing a green salad (in summer) or pickles (in winter). You should definitely try the most famous salad – Shopska (шопска) – with rakia. This combination is wondrous.
Boza – the Thick Goo that You Will Adore
We cannot forget boza when we are on the topic of Bulgarian drinks. It’s this fermented grains beverage that will either leave you wanting more or hate the moment that thick, viscous liquid started descending your oesophagus. But you just cannot get away without savouring it.
Be it einkorn, millet, or rye, it’s going to make your senses explode. It even contains some hints of alcohol, so don’t overdo it should you be riding more than 100 horses later.
Boza is usually consumed together with banitsa, which brings us to our next point – FOOD.
Food of Bulgaria – a Scrumptious Mixture of Balkan, Mediterranean, and Middle Eastern Characters
My friend Naddya has the most comprehensive article on Bulgarian food on the web, so I am not going to delve very deep into this theme. Yet, there are certain things that cannot be omitted or are worth repeating.
Banitsa – the Pastry that Makes You Orbit the Earth
We’ve just mentioned boza. When Bulgarians say boza, they cannot refrain from telling you about banitsa. What you really need to know about banitsa is that it is probably the most scrumptious pastry you have never tasted. Enough said, here’s more.
Lyutenitsa – Sweet Lord, I Wish I Have Tried This Earlier
Lyutenitsa is that wondrous spread on which books have been written, stories have been told, and articles have been compiled.
Lyutenitsa, dear reader, is so addictive that once your taste receptors are enchanted by its mouth-watering taste, you’ll be salivating like a little boy over an ice-cream cone.
Spread lyutenitsa on any type of cracker, crisp bread, or toast, and you will be torpedoed into a world of unexplored culinary orgasms.
Yoghurt – the Source of Longevity
There shouldn’t be a person on this planet that does not know where yoghurt originally stems from.
You guessed it right! It’s Bulgaria – the Sacred Land of Yoghurt.
Irrespective of its name, this phenomenal probiotic product boasts an impeccable ancestry. It has been around for over 4,000 years.
For that matter, it is one of the things that make us, Bulgarians, extremely proud to call ourselves Bulgarians. Our country is not only the inventor. It’s also the producer of the healthiest variety of yoghurt on a global scale. This is mainly thanks to the bacteria Lactobacillus that is native to Bulgaria.
If you are taking my word with a grain of salt, just listen to this: Bulgarian Yoghurt has already taken over Asia and the United States.
In Japan, over 45% of the yoghurt hails from Bulgaria. Over 30% of Bulgarian yoghurt exports went to China in 2016. What’s even more peculiar, the first Chinese reality show took part in the Bulgarian mountains. Chinese people learnt why people in a Bulgarian village were mostly centenarians.
Atanas Valev, a Bulgarian agriculture engineer and an avid yoghurt enthusiast, has made the organic Bulgarian yoghurt “Trimona” penetrate into the vast American market. Nowadays, it is on the shelves of 300+ shops in New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Pennsylvania, and others.
Nature – Where We All Came From
Imagine a valley dotted with roses. Their mystical fragrance seeps into your senses slowly. You start breathing deeply and feeling every petal.
Now imagine a purple field. Does it have a smell? Lavender is an aromatic flower. It is usually attributed to France. However, recently Bulgaria superseded the French Republic to become the world’s largest producer. Rose-lavender is a marvellous combination, isn’t it!?
Bulgaria produces the purest and finest lavender, rose, and chamomile, all of which are widely used in the cosmetics industry. A testament to that is the fact that the United States highly appreciates and imports them. Visagenics, a California-based cosmetics company, is the biggest organic producer and supplier of Bulgarian essential oils. The company provides retail packages for its most boutique oils for the general public in the U.S.
Bulgaria is teeming with essential oil-bearing herbs that are seen as nature’s healer. Thanks to the wondrous Bulgarian nature, there are at least 20 different varieties, so if you happen to explore Bulgaria’s mountains in summer, pick some to prepare a wonderful herbal tea.
Mountains – Where Even Gods Contemplate in Silence
Speaking of mountains, Bulgaria is home to several staggeringly beautiful ones. First of all, there’s the Balkan range (Stara Planina) that separates the country in two.
Then come the stupefying Pirin Mountains, the astonishingly vast Rhodope Mountains (the best yoghurt is produced there), and the stupendous Rila Mountains (the highest peak on the Balkans – Moussala is there).
The Bulgarian mountains are an excellent city getaway in summer for hikes and in winter for skiing. The most popular winter resorts are Bansko (in Pirin), Borovets (in Rila), and Pamporovo (in the Rhodopes). Stara Planina also hosts a couple of ski slopes, but it’s better for a summer trek, especially the famous Kom-Emine that ends at the sea, which teleports us to the next thing – the seaside.
The Black Sea – Where Mermaids and Dolphins Mingle
Bulgaria’s shores – around 380 km (236 mi) of which 130 km (80 mi) golden and white sandy beaches – are washed by the Black Sea. Between May and October, the Black Sea Coast is a very important tourism spot.
Summer’s average air and water temperatures are respectively 28 °C (82 °F) and 26 °C (~79 °F), which makes up for a magical stay. If you add to that the fact that there are over 300 hours of sunshine in July and August, then you’ll come up with your next destination.
Warning: Unless you are a party animal and you love cheap alcohol, I’d recommend you stay away from the notorious Sunny Beach. Instead, you can visit Nesebar whose old town is a UNESCO heritage site.
Hot Mineral Waters – the Spa Relax Everyone Deserves
What do Bulgaria and Iceland have in common? No, Bulgaria is not an island.
Alright, I will give you a hint – hot water.
Yes, Iceland has countless geysers, but a geyser in Sapareva Banya, southwestern Bulgaria, is the hottest in Europe. Its temperature is a jaw-dropping 103 °C (217 °F).
But that’s not all. Bulgaria is the runner-up (behind Iceland, obviously) when it comes to abundance and diversity of hot mineral springs.
Not satisfied enough? Here’s one more thing. Velingrad in Southern Bulgaria is known as “The Spa Capital of the Balkans”.
I bet you a $20 bill that it will be “The Spa Capital of Europe” in the near future.
Velingrad is at an altitude which is between 750 and 830 metres (2,461-2723 ft). This altitude is believed to be the best one for our bodies to acclimatise themselves to the surrounding environment, to relax, and then to revitalise.
What’s even more impressive about this amazing town is that it is the only European Spa region that neither has harmful substances in the air nor in the water. Throw in the fact that there is a negative air ionisation every day for at least 8 years (helpful for rejuvenating our body cells much faster) and you will start googling Velingrad.
I am serious – go Google or read my article to get convinced, as there are plenty of other things to do there besides dipping your hiney in the hot water.
Customs – Laughter, Scary Faces, and Fire Dancing
We have myriads of traditions in Bulgaria, but two are really must-mentioning – Kukeri and nestinarstvo.
Kukeri in Pernik is a real must-see if you find yourself in Bulgaria in winter. I just got off the phone with an American friend and she told me that she knew about them for some time now. This video on Kukeri and Surva will explain the next paragraph and the image after it.
It’s not only about myriads of people making unbearable noise. It’s about team spirit, it’s about traditional costumes, it’s about strength and resilience to dance and jump for 5-6 hours in subzero temperatures. It’s about courage and audacity to chase away evil spirits!
Nestinarstvo is a fire ritual that originally takes place in some Bulgarian villages in the Strandzha Mountains. These mountains are in the south-east of the country, near the Black Sea coast.
The ritual includes barefoot dancing on smouldering embers which is done by nestinari. The sound of a bagpipe or the beat of a sacred drum accompanies the ritual. While listening to the goosebumps-giving musical accompaniment, the dancers reach a religious trance state. This is a good explanation of why the embers don’t burn their feet.
Here’s a bonus to those two – horo or Bulgarian folk dances. It is usually a line dance in which the performers join hands and go around in circles, listening to the upbeat music. The unique thing about the dance is that the beats do not follow or stick to any exact rational proportions.
Music – the Most Magical Beats You Have Never Experienced
As we are on the topic of horo, let’s shed some light on Bulgarian music. Its most remarkable feature is its uniqueness when it comes to the beat. As I just said, they do not follow any rational proportions but are rather characterised by an irregular metre.
Local and foreigners alike refer to it as the “Eighth Wonder”. The enthralling Bulgarian music and their irregular beats enchant every single visitor!
Kaba Gajda or crafts Kaba Gajda is a variety of pipes which is so hypnotising people watch and listen in awe. Don’t believe me? Watch the video below provided by Traveler-Diary.
History – Immerse Me in Interesting Facts, Please
I know history can be boring when presented in an inappropriate way, so I’ll keep it short yet interesting.
Peculiar fact: Bulgaria is the only country in Europe that has not changed its name ever since it saw its inception in 681 AD.
Preto Bulgarians have come to the fertile lands on which contemporary Bulgaria thrives today from Central Asia. Then, they mixed with Slavic people and Thracians. This is why Bulgarian women are so gorgeous.
International Relations – When Diplomacy Meets Finesse
Bulgaria is in Eastern Europe. The Black Sea washes her shores. Its position is very beneficial because many commercial routes pass through it.
It has always been an important part of history, having been involved in both World Wars. In this regard, it is one of the two countries that saved all its Jews during the Second World War genocide, which brings us to why I wanted to compile this section.
Since it saved all its Jewish population, Bulgaria enjoys impeccable relations with Israel.
I am not going to delve deeper into every foreign relationship we maintain, but there’s one that is worth mentioning – China.
Bulgaria was the second country to recognise the People’s Republic of China. For this reason, the Eastern European country enjoys stupendous relations with the Asian Titan that recently surpassed the U.S. economy in GDP.
Sports – Tennis and Volleyball, for the Win
In recent times, Bulgaria has not been doing its best in the field of sports, but two of them are worth mentioning.
First of all, the Bulgarian volleyball team is among the top 8 in the world.
And secondly, have you heard of Grigor Dimitrov? Yes, he is the guy dating Nicole Scherzinger, and he is Bulgarian!
If we take into account that the government has almost completely neglected investments in sports, then even these two facts are a huge success.
Technological Boom – Now and Growing
Sofia, the Silicon Valley of Eastern Europe
Bulgaria’s capital – Sofia – is an ancient city. Its old Roman name is Serdica and further to being surrounded by the Vitosha Mountains, recently it won the title of the Silicon Valley of Eastern Europe. Lately, the Bulgarian capital has seen an influx of foreigners, flocking to Sofia to look for a job in the IT industry.
In this regard, a company worth mentioning is Telerik. It was sold to the American giant Progress for around $250 million – the largest deal of its kind in Central and Eastern Europe. Swarms of other foreign and Bulgarian companies focus their businesses in Sofia. Consider yours, too.
If you are ready for an all-encompassing climax, get yourself to booking your vacation immediately.
PIN the image below to come back as I am going to expand the article further.
Should you like to testify our acquired knowledge, check out my quiz on Bulgaria. I promise you that you will be put to the ultimate challenge.
Have you been to Bulgaria? What made your senses orgasm?