WHAT is so interesting about Bulgaria?

Bulgaria is a country with a rich past.  The early Bulgarians, the Thracians, were fierce warriors (Spartacus was a Thracian warrior) but were also known for their exquisite gold work. The Empires of the Macedonians, Greeks, Romans, and  Byzantines were strong influences in early Bulgaria.  In the late 7th century the Bulgarian Empire emerged and dominated the Balkan peninsula until the 14th century.  With the arrival of the Ottoman Turks in the late 1300’s, Bulgaria lost most of its glory until the April Uprising in 1876 and the intervention of the Russian Empire.  Unfortunately, Bulgaria was on the wrong side in WWI and WWII.  It was Soviet occupied and under Communist rule from 1946 until the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.  Today, Bulgaria is part of the EU and making progress.  Interestingly, some of the rural people we encountered almost yearned for the return of the Communist years and resurgence of factories and factory jobs. 

Bulgarian facts:

              Eureka!  There’s gold in those Bulgarian hills.  

Thracian gold is the oldest known worked gold in the world and dates back 6,000 to 7,000 years.  These golden leaves are so thin and delicate!

  Note:  A tiny bead was recently discovered (August, 2016) at a pre-historic settlement in southern Bulgaria, that dates back to 4,500-4,600 BCE  and may be the oldest known worked gold in the world. (Reuters link).    

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Bulgarians indicate YES by shaking their head side to side, and, you guessed it, indicate NO by nodding up and down.  It’s very confusing.

Thracian wine was mentioned in Homer’s  Illiad, so Bulgarian wine making has been around for centuries.  It’s very good! 

Hmmm…maybe there’s a connection to the wine and the confusing yes and no????  It works for me!

TIP: don’t forget to pack some bubble wrap to take home a bottle of this fantastic wine!

The Cyrillic alphabet was developed in the 9th century for the Slavic-speaking people of the Eastern Orthodox faith (Encyclopedia Britannica) and is still in use today in Bulgaria.   Cyrillic became the third recognized alphabet of the EU when Bulgaria joined in 2007.

It helps to have an understanding of the Cyrillic alphabet because many street signs and maps do not have the English translation as this one does, including the street to the first hotel.  I was lost before the tour even started, but luckily, the Bulgarian pedestrian I stopped spoke English.

The gaida, or bagpipe, is Bulgaria’s national musical instrument.  I never would have guessed that!  

 Rose oil - Bulgaria produces about 70-80% of all the rose oil in the world.  One gram of rose oil needs 1000 rose blossums.

(Hope this cream works!  At least I smell good!)

Mysterious Stone Horseman - Madara Rider

Created around 710 CE, the Madara Rider is a stone carving on a vertical cliff face.  It is basically inaccessible, adding to the mystery of  how did they do that?   The rider celebrates a victory over a lion lying at the horse's front feet while the hunting dog comes up from behind.  Time and natural erosion makes it hard to see the detail. A huge vertical split in the stone threatens to destroy this amazing piece of history and art.


Bulgarian art, sculpture, and architecture was influenced not only by the Thracians, but by the Greeks, Romans, and Ottoman Turks.  Beautiful and intricate gold jewelry, pottery, marble and stone carvings and much more can be seen at the Archaeological Museums in Sofia, Nessebar, and Varna.  Not included in the tour, but a visit to the Archaeological Museum in Sofia is a must.  You can also find historical and cultural sculpture in the streets of Sofia, Plovdiv, and Varna.  You even find sculpture reading a book!  I love it!


© Phyllis Nethercot 2016