We, Bulgarians, usually identify ourselves as such with the "I am a Bulgarian Youth" poem by Ivan Vazov. Later on, unless you go on to become a member of a nationalist party, you don't feel any particular need to remind yourself of "I am a Bulgarian." Such a statement, despite its straightforwardness, could invoke a measure of uncertainty, like the invisible steps on the front cover of this book. It is not because you could be something else than a Bulgarian, but because the affirmation presupposes a previous agreement between yourself and your compatriots about what it is that makes you Bulgarian and what makes Bulgarians a community.
This is a difficult task that quickly entangles you in bookish definitions that will likely obfuscate rather than illuminate the issue of who you are.
The Valley of the Roses: until recently, the picturesque valley stretching between the ranges of the Stara Planina and the Sredna Gora mountains was known by this name, at it was the centre for the production of the expensive attar of roses.
Perched on an outcrop of rock above the Chaya River in the Rhodope, Bachkovo Monastery is a place packed with all the hallmarks of Bulgarian-ness. Its mediaeval ossuary preserves the only mural portrait of a Bulgarian king. The last patriarch before Bulgaria fell under the Ottomans, Evtimiy of Tarnovo, is believed to have been exiled and to have died there. The fortress-like complex is one of the finest architectural creations of the Bulgarian national revival period, and some of the frescoes are by Zahariy Zograf, the most prominent Bulgarian artist of the 19th Century.