Bulgarian history

king boris meets people

BULGARIA'S LAST MONARCH

On 3 October 1918, Bulgarians felt anxious. The country had just emerged from three wars it had fought for "national unification" – meaning, in plain language, incorporating Macedonia and Aegean Thrace into the Bulgarian kingdom. It lost them all, one way or another. Thousands of men had been killed, significant chunks of land were forfeited, and an influx of refugees overwhelmed the larger cities. More was to come, as the treaties ending the Great War were yet to be signed.

Tue, 11/29/2022 - 11:18
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thracian gold wreath

FIRST KINGS OF EUROPE

Who were the first kings of Europe? Homer heroes such as Agamemnon are the first to pop up in the minds of educated Westerners, but hierarchical societies on the continent predate the ancient Greeks. Millennia before them, people in southeastern Europe went on the long and often tortuous transition from simple farming communities to complex political organisations.

Sat, 10/29/2022 - 13:30
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Kardzhali Dam is a preferred spot for picnic, photos and some water fun

ALL AROUND KARDZHALI

When you have a long weekend ahead and the weather looks good for a trip, heading to Kardzhali is a great option. The Rhodope mountains are beautiful – pleasant and refreshing in all seasons – and this city is the perfect base to explore some interesting sites.

Kardzhali itself is hardly an attraction. It is a relatively new city dominated by faceless Communist and post-Communist architecture. Besides its Regional History Museum, located in a beautiful building initially constructed in the 1920s for a Muslim religious school, there is nothing more to see.

Sun, 08/28/2022 - 15:43
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The monument at Petrova Niva area is the focal point of the August commemorations of the 1903 uprising

WHAT HAPPENED AT PETROVA NIVA?

Men dressed in early 20th century military uniforms, patriotic songs and speeches, lots of banners and grilled meat stalls: if you crave attending a mass event after the end of the Covid-19 travel restrictions, consider visiting Petrova Niva in the third weekend of August.

Marked with a sombre stone monument at a picturesque bend of the Veleka river, Petrova Niva is connected to a heroic and traumatic event in Bulgarian history, the St Elijah-Transfiguration Uprising.

Wed, 07/27/2022 - 13:42
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centre of bulgaria

WHAT IS KARLOVO?

Great changes often spread from inconspicuous places, and Karlovo is a case in point. This town at the southern foot of the Stara Planina mountain range looks quiet and quaint now: some old, Revival Period houses huddled between newer construction lining a long street that funnels much of the traffic on the Sofia-Burgas road. You might think that nothing of importance has ever happened in Karlovo, but the first impression, as most first impressions, is wrong.

Tue, 06/28/2022 - 16:58
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sozopol from air

SOZOPOL WITHOUT TEARS

Should I visit Sozopol? There is hardly a place that divides opinion more than this town on the southern Bulgarian Black Sea coast. Yes, by all means do go to Sozopol, will urge some of your Bulgarian friends. They will then lose themselves in nostalgic memories of strolling the quiet lanes of the town, the charm of the traditional houses under the balmy summer or early autumn sun, the buzz and energy of the Apollonia Arts Festival, the pleasure of sunbathing on golden beaches and jumping into the sea from the picturesque rocks around.

Wed, 04/27/2022 - 13:17
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rila monatery from the air

WINTER IN RILA MONASTERY

As the largest and most famous monastery in Bulgaria, and also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Rila Monastery can appear a little overwhelming if you visit in high season or during major Christian festivals. The crowds that gather in the picturesque yard, with its toy-like painted church and the striped arches of the galleries, can obliterate any feeling of holiness, or the tranquility that is usually associated with a monastic institution of such fame.

Fri, 02/25/2022 - 12:06
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communism bulgaria political prison belene.jpg

DARK TALES IN BELENE

Belene is a backwater of a town on the Bulgarian bank of the River Danube. It is inhabited by less than 8,000 people. Yet, for more than one reason, its name is known to all Bulgarians.

To some, it is the location of a planned nuclear power plant whose failure to materialise illustrates how corruption and incompetence in post-Communist Bulgaria can ruin what was to become a major power engineering project. To others, it is synonymous with the most atrocious crimes of the former Communist regime.

Tue, 12/28/2021 - 19:13
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palace remains

BULGARIA'S FIRST CAPITALS

If power and the economy were gravity, the gravitational centre of modern Bulgaria would be Sofia, where the population and the important agencies of the state, economy and culture are located. If we go back to the Middle Ages, when Bulgaria was still young, the country's centre of gravity would be elsewhere – in the northeast, close to the city of Shumen. There, the remains of Bulgaria's first capitals, Pliska and Preslav, still survive – next to an astonishing piece of medieval art, the Madara Horseman.

Tue, 12/28/2021 - 12:30
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woodrow willson monument bulgaria sofia

WOODROW WILSON COMES TO SOFIA

Seen from a US standpoint, the 28th American President is usually being put in the "upper tier" of US leaders despite criticism of his propagation of racial segregation. Democrat Woodrow Wilson, who served two terms in 1913-1921, successfully led the United States through the Great War. His foreign policy came to be known as Wilsonianism. He was the leading architect of the League of Nations project.

Wed, 10/27/2021 - 12:41
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nesebar from air night

BIRD'S EYE VIEW OF NESEBAR

Looking for some peace and quiet on the Bulgarian Black Sea coast in summer is a natural aspiration, even in a year of pandemic and reduced international tourism like 2021. But there are places by the sea where peace and quiet in summer are not to be found. Even in a "slow" tourist summer, they are abuzz with local and foreign visitors; lively and vibrant, sometimes vulgar and often irritating.

Nesebar is one of those places.

Thu, 08/26/2021 - 15:30
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mausoleum alexander of battemberg

FORGOTTEN MAUSOLEUM

The stories of what happened to the bodies of those who ruled Bulgaria post-1878 are as poignant as some of their deeds. King Ferdinand (1887-1918) was buried in 1948 in Coburg, Germany. Ferdinand had abdicated following his disastrous leadership of the Kingdom of Bulgaria through the Great War, and settled in his native Germany. His son, King Boris III (1918-1943) was buried inside the Rila Monastery church, but soon after the 1944 Communist coup his remains were exhumed and lost - or destroyed.

Sat, 07/31/2021 - 18:01
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stara planina

FROM START TO FINISH

Bulgaria has plenty of mountains and peaks that challenge even experienced mountaineers, yet one of its greatest outdoor adventures is not just conquering some 2,900-metre-high summit. It is trekking along the ridge of the Stara Planina, the mountain range that divides Bulgaria from west to east, known also by its more poetic name, the Balkans.

Mon, 05/31/2021 - 11:29
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The mansion of the wealthy Kordopoulov family looms over the rest of Melnik, surrounded by the town's emblematic sandstone cliffs

(RE)DISCOVERING MELNIK

What is Bulgaria's smallest town? Bulgarian children learn the answer early in school. However, the reason both local and foreign tourists visit Melnik, population 194, is not its size. They cherish Melnik, in southwest Bulgaria, for its well-preserved Revival Period architecture, strong local wine and surreal surroundings of white limestone pyramids. Its location is just off the E79 route from Sofia to Greece, a short drive from Bansko.

Mon, 05/31/2021 - 11:18
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Monument to Hristo Botev in his native Kalofer

WHO WAS HRISTO BOTEV?

Every 2 June, at exactly noon, the civil defence systems all over Bulgaria are switched on. The sirens wail for a minute. A minute when many people stop whatever they are doing and stand still.

The sirens are the noisiest part of the commemorative events for the death of Hristo Botev (1848-1876), arguably the greatest poet Bulgaria ever produced. He died, along with many of his fellow revolutionaries, in a battle with the Ottoman forces, while trying to start an uprising in Bulgaria's northwest.

Mon, 05/31/2021 - 11:06
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