Cities – a few of many destinations in Bulgaria.
Sofia is Bulgaria’s capital and its largest city. Founded thousands of years ago, today the city continues to develop as the country’s cultural and economic center. At present, the city has a population of 1,250,000.
Sofia is located in the western part of the country, on The Sofia Plain and on the lower slopes of Mount Vitosha. The city’s average altitude is 550 meters above sea level, the climate is moderate and continental, characterized by cold winters and relatively cool summers. The average temperature in January is 1 degree below zero Centigrade, and the average July temperature is 20 degrees Centigrade.
The city is located at a strategic crossroads. The route from Western Europe to Istanbul passes through Sofia via Beograd and Skopje, then through Plovdiv to Turkey. Sofia also connects The Near East and The Middle East, lying between the banks of The Danube and the shores of The White Sea on the one hand, and between The Black Sea and The Adriatic on the other.
Sofia is relatively close to the capitals of most Balkan countries: Ankara is 1,012 km; Athens is 837 km; Beograd is 374 km; Bucharest is 395 km; Zagreb is 762 km; Ljubljana is 897 km; Sarajevo is 549 km; Skopje is 239 km; Tirana is 553 km.
Plovdiv is the second largest city in Bulgaria and an administrative center of Plovdiv County. It is situated in the Upper Thracian Plain (Gornotrakiyska Nizina), on the both banks of the Maritsa river. The population of the city is about 350,000 people. The climate is transitional–continental with mild winters and hot summers. The average temperature in January is +1°С, the average temperature in July is +24°С.
The city is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country and a cultural and economic center of southern Bulgaria. There are many accommodation options here – from luxurious hotels to hostels. The main street of the city offers excellent opportunities for entertainment and shopping; the restaurants options are numerous.
Burgas is one of the largest cities in the country. It is situated on the Black Sea shore, in the Burgas Bay, at a distance of 400 km from Sofia and 130 km from Varna. Burgas is an administrative center of the area with the same name. The city population is more than 230,000 people.
The Burgas port is the largest cargo port in the country. The airport which serves international flights is situated at a distance of 10 km north-east from the city.
The Burgas climate, highly influenced by the sea, is temperate continental, with average summer temperatures of 26.4 С, and the average sea water temperature during the summer is 24.7 С.
As a large economic, cultural and tourist center, Burgas can offer diverse accommodation options – luxurious hotels, cozy small family hotels, rooms, guest houses, etc. The night life, especially in the summer season, also offers a lot of opportunities – discotheques, bars, casinos. Besides the ones on the central streets of Burgas, catering establishments and bars are also located along the sea shore and the Marine Park. Other marine towns such as Chernomorets, Pomorie, Nesebar and Sozopol, as well as multiple camping sites are situated near Burgas.
he city of Varna is situated in the North-Eastern part of Bulgaria, on the Black Sea shore. Varna is the third largest city in Bulgaria and the largest one on the Black Sea shore with population of about 330 000 people. Because of its history and its economical and cultural significance, it is often called the Sea Capital of Bulgaria.
The average January temperature in Varna is +1.7 °С, the average July temperature is +22.8 °С, and the average annual temperature is +12.2 ° С, which makes it very appropriate for holiday sea tourism during the warm months of the year.
The town was established in the 6th century BC under the name of Odessos by emigrants from the town of Milet in Asia Minor. For a short time it turned into a polis and one of the most important ports and commercial centers on the Black Sea.
The city offers practically indefinite possibilities for accommodation. The hotels are numerous and diverse in categories and prices. Accommodation is also possible in the nearby resorts – Zlatni Pyasatsi, St. Konstantin and Elena and Riviera. There are a few accommodation bureaus in the city which are related to one another with an updated information transfer. The options for catering and entertainment are also rich – seashore restaurants, pizzerias, snack bars, beer-houses, catering and fast food establishments, clubs and discotheques. Make good use of the fact that there are multiple restaurants in the town, offering a diverse variety of sea food.
Sunny Beach is situated on the Black Sea and is straight-out the most popular holiday resort in Bulgaria. The influx of tourists increases substantially each year and rightly so! For the party-minded youth there are lots of clubs and bars, as well as plenty of opportunity to lounge on the 8 km long sandy beach. All along the beach is a spacious boulevard with excellent restaurants and a market during the daytime. In the evening the most thrilling clubs open their doors, with Flowerstreet in the beating heart of it.
Right behind the boulevard there are roughly 600 hotels, most of which are very tidy and some even brand new. Still there are many other activities in Sunny Beach. And strange as it may seem, Sunny Beach is extremely affordable!
The city of Sozopol is located on a scenic bay along the southern Bulgarian coast, about 35 km south of Burgas.
The city, which has a population of 5,000, is one of the oldest on the Bulgarian Black Sea Coast and one of the country’s most popular seaside resorts. The romantic atmosphere of the city’s beautiful old town attracts visitors from all over the world.
The city is divided into the Old Town and the modern section. The Old Town is justly renowned for its romantic atmosphere, thanks to its narrow cobbled streets and venerable old houses. Sozopol’s modern section is filled with hotels, dining establishments, and other pleasant diversions. There are many kinds of accommodation available, from luxury hotels to small family hotels, from guest houses to bungalows. There are also quite a few campgrounds close at hand: The Gradina (Garden), The Zlatna Ribka (Golden Fish), Kavatsi, Veselie (Good Times), and Smokinya (Fig Tree). Sozopol’s restaurants offer typical Bulgarian Black Sea fare, along with a variety of specialties.
Many sports activities are possible at the city’s beaches, including jet skiing, surfing, beach volleyball, boating, and fishing.
The Ropotamo Nature Reserve is a short distance south of Sozopol, on the river of the same name. There visitors may take riverboat trips to view the region’s rich assortment of birds and plant life.
The city of Ruse is situated on the highest right bank of the Danube river, at a distance of 320 km from Sofia, 200 km from Varna and about 300 km from Plovdiv. The population of the city is about 180 000 people. This is one of the largest cities in the country – an important cultural, commercial and industrial center.
The close proximity of the river Danube had always had a great significance for the development of the city from antiquity to the present day.
Even today the Danube river is a basic factor for the development not only of Ruse, but for all of Bulgaria. The Danube Bridge by Ruse has a strategic importance because the crossing of the river by automobile and railway transport in the eastern part of the Bulgarian peninsula had been performed only through it. A number of cruise companies organize travels along the Danube and some of them include passing through the Bulgarian territory in their schedules.
Ruse offers various categories of accommodation places, catering and entertainment establishments. You can find more information regarding the landmarks and the events in city and accommodation places in the Tourist Information Center which is situated on the central square.
Veliko Turnovo, the medieval capital of Bulgaria, is brought to you with more than 7000 years of history. The houses, stacked one above the other, situated on the slopy hills of the town show a remarkable, unique architectural style. The bridges, unexpectedly flying over the river, palaces and towers, spectacular museums, ancient columns with writings left by our proud rulers, monasteries with unique murals and the Arbanassi fortress-houses.
The nights are filled with the constant voice of the river, the glitters and dazed lights, playing on the fairy face of the town and the noise of the energy-filled stormy student’s life.
From its rich historical value, to its thriving modern nightlife and lush natural surroundings that provide many excellent opportunities for outdoor recreational activities, Veliko Turnovo offers you everything you could ever want for the perfect holiday.
Bulgarian cuisine is a representative of the cuisine of Southeastern Europe with some Turkish and Greek influences, but it has some unique elements. The relatively warm climate and diverse geography produce excellent growth conditions for a variety of vegetables, herbs and fruits, Bulgarian cuisine is particularly diverse.
Famous for its rich salads required at every meal, Bulgarian cuisine is also noted for the diversity and quality of dairy products and the variety of wines and local alcoholic drinks such as rakia, mastika and menta. Bulgarian cuisine features also a variety of hot and cold soups, an example of a cold soup being tarator. There are many different Bulgarian pastries as well such as banitsa.
Certain entries, salads, soups and dishes go well with alcoholic beverages and the alcohol of choice for some is Bulgarian wine.
Restaurants serving international cuisine have also made a presence in the country, offering various options such as Chinese, French, Italian, and international contemporary.
Popular local dishes
The most popular Bulgarian salad is the shopska salad, which is a mix of tomatoes, cucumbers, onion, raw or roasted peppers (preferably roasted), and sirene. Traditionally it is dressed only with salt, sunflower or olive oil and vinegrette. Another popular salads are the snow white salad, the shepherd salad and the lyutenitsa.
As a main course you can have moussaka (a rich oven-baked dish of potatoes, minced meat and white sauce), gyuvetch, sarmi (rolls with vine or cabbage leaves), drob sarma (lamb liver and lung with rice), kavarma (minced meat with tomatoes), mish-mash (fried peppers, onion and eggs).
Another thing not to be missed when travelling Bulgaria is the Lutenitsa, which is a red pepper, aubergine and tomato purée, normally eaten on bread. If you cant fınd it homemade, go for one of the vareities wıth chunks in it.
Traditional milk products
There are only two native kinds of cheese: the yellow-colored Kashkaval (Кашкавал) – more or less akin to the Dutch Gouda – and the more popular white Sirene (Сирене) – a kind of Feta cheese, similar to Greek Feta in taste. Originally made from sheep milk, it is available from cow or goat milk, or mixed.
The native Bulgarian kiselo mlyako (yoghurt) contains Lactobacilicus Bulgaricus, a bacterium which serves as the basis for active culture “plain” yoghurts in other countries. Normally made from cow or sheep milk, it can also be prepared from buffalo milk, with a remarkably stronger taste.
Being a staple, and quite favourite around the country, Bulgarian yoghurt also is an ingredient to many dishes, the most famous one being Tarator (Таратор), a cold soup made from yoghurt, water, cucumbers, garlic, dill and walnuts . A drink called Ayran – a yoghurt-water mixture with salt- is also very popular.
There are more than six hundred mineral water springs around the country, so this is something you’d better taste and drink. In some regions tap water is not safe to drink.
Ayrian (yogurt, water and salt) and boza (millet ale) are two traditional Turkish non-alcoholic beverages that you can also find in Bulgaria widely.
Grape growing and wine production have a long history in Bulgaria, dating back to the times of the Thracians. Wine is, together with beer and grape rakia, among the most popular alcoholic beverages in the country.
Some of the well-known local wine varieties are Mavrud, Pamid, Gamza (red dry), Melnik, Dimyat, Misket, Muskat, Pelin, Kadarka (red sweet) and Keratsuda (white dry).
Beer (bira: бира) is consumed all around the country. Excellent local varieties like Kamenitza, Zagorka, Ariana, Pirinsko and Shumensko, as well as Western European beers produced under license in Bulgaria like Tuborg, Heineken and Amstel, are readily available mostly everywhere.
Rakia (ракия) is the Bulgarian national alcoholic drink and is served neat, usually at the beginning of a meal with salads. It is powerful (40% vol), clear brandy that can be made from grape, plum or apricot. In some villages people still distill their rakia at home; it is then usually much stronger (>50% vol).
Another quite popular drink is mastika (мастика) (47% vol), a drink closely related to Greek Ouzo and Turkish Raki. It is usually drunk with ice, with water in a 1:1 mixture.
Menta (мента) is a peppermint liqueur that can be combined with mastika.
Things you should know:
Bulgarians are incredibly friendly and very interested in talking to foreigners. Bulgarians tend to be far more open than some other Eastern Europeans and engaging in dialogue with these people is much advised and worthwhile. In smaller towns, especially in the Rhodopes, people may invite you for lunch or even to sleep over. Often it is a pleasant gesture to give someone a “Dobar Den” when walking past a quiet stall or past a person. Kak ste (hows it going) will usually suffice for the younger generation.
As a rule of thumb for most countries worldwide, you should avoid topics involving politics and foreign relations, and on some occasions football (soccer) as well. If you are pulled in to such a conversation, try to stay neutral. Remember that your own knowledge of local situations is unlikely to be as good as a Bulgarian’s!
For certain people, Macedonia is a sensitive subject to talk about, but feel free to ask your questions, provided you do not discuss it with those more likely to take offence (i.e. nationalists and skinheads). Many Bulgarians feel that Macedonia belongs to Bulgaria, but unless you know the subject and the people you are talking to, just asking questions is the best option.
Most of the Bulgarian people do not feel anger or resentment towards Russians (unlike a number of people from other former Eastern Bloc countries), and Bulgarians tend to have a much better perception of Russians, however caution may sometimes be needed in discussing issues regarding Turkey. Likewise, discrimination against Turks are widespread.
Bulgarians don’t really do chit chat, so trying to make conversation with someone at a till in a shop will probably result in odd looks (either from not understanding or not wanting to engage) or they will just ignore you. Likewise Bulgarians are quite impatient and will often honk their car horn at you if you walk in front of a car, especially in winter in the mountains as they try to keep a grip on the road.
Bulgaria is generally a safe country, and people are quite friendly. You should however use common sense when you are outside of the main tourist areas, i.e. don’t show off that you have money, don’t dress too touristy, watch out for your belongings. If in Sofia, try to avoid dark streets at night. Stepping in a pothole is a much greater danger in Bulgaria than getting robbed.
- Practise shaking your head when saying da (yes) and nodding your head when saying ne (no).
- Learn some Bulgarian and at least the Cyrillic alphabet. It’s easier to get around.
- Find out about Bulgarian wine and food and the history of Cyrillic. Bulgarians will be delighted when you show an interest in the things they’re immensely proud of.
- Be aware that Bulgarians still feel pain about the 500 years under the Ottoman Turks.
- Get to know who Vassil Levski was and what phrases like ‘April Uprising’ and ‘Batak massacre’ refer to.
- Have heaps of patience; it’s not worth shortening your life getting mad at the bureaucracy or lack of punctuality.
- Try boza at least once.
- Be modestly dressed when visiting places of worship.
- Enjoy what Bulgaria has to offer (e.g. beauty of nature)
- Fight with anyone, even if you think you’re right; it might be a mutri (underworld type) and they’re always right and armed.
- Say Cyrillic came from the Russians!
- Openly display your homosexuality. It’s not quite accepted by the majority of Bulgarians.
- Openly display your wealth, unless you want to lose lots of it fast.
- Cringe visibly when you see a Bulgarian eating chicken hearts. Just pretend it’s chocolate hearts.
Trust the ‘green man’ at traffic lights. Always check for colour- blind drivers driving through red lights.
- Buy a flashy car or leave your car in a quiet street. It may disappear very soon.
Push your business partner to ‘make up his mind’, before he’s had time to build a relationship with you.
Try to replicate 100 per cent your lifestyle at home here. Have a go at something different.