Bulgaria is a land of mountains, hiking trails, ski resorts for the winter and beach resorts on the Black Sea. A blend of Western and Eastern cultures, it contains the second oldest occupied town in Europe and a relatively urban lifestyle. Frequented by Eastern European tourists, the West is only now discovering this beautiful country. Whet your appetite with these 36 facts about Bulgaria and begin to plan your own visit.

Historical facts about Bulgaria

Fact 1. Human activity in the land that is Bulgaria was present during the Paleolithic era. Animal bones carved with man-made markings have been discovered in the Korarnika cave that are assumed to be some of the earliest examples of humans’ symbolic behavior. The Hamangia, Vinča, Varna cultures were all prehistoric societies organized and living in Bulgarian lands.

Fact 2. The Varna invented gold working and were some of the first gold smelters. They produced the jewelry, coins and weapons of what is now known as the Varna Necropolis treasure found among 290 graves. This treasure is the oldest golden one in the world and is over 6,000 years old.

Fact 3. Bulgaria is one of the oldest countries in Europe and even pre-dates the Roman Empire. Founded as the Republic of Bulgaria in the 7th century, it lies at the intersection of two important trade routes — one from eastern and northern Europe to the Mediterranean Basin and one from central and western Europe to the Middle East. People and trade goods from Greece, Rome and Byzantium often traveled through Bulgaria throughout its history. The new state established the First Bulgarian Empire.

Fact 4. Paganism was abolished, the Cyrillic alphabet was adopted and a cultural golden age took place during the First Bulgarian Empire. Ended by Byzantine conquest in 1018, Boris II’s reign prevented discontent and revolts by retaining the local nobility’s rule and easing their tax burdens. Later Ivan Asen I and Peter IV led an uprising in 1185 and re-established a Bulgarian state, laying the foundations of the Second Bulgarian Empire with Tarnovo was its capital.

Fact 6. Conflicts with its neighboring countries prompted Bulgaria to be Germany‘s ally during both world wars. Bulgaria sustained territorial losses in World War I and, though aligned with the Axis powers during WWII, refused to send its Jewish population to concentration camps and saved them instead. (They were only one of two countries who did; the other was Denmark.

Fact 7. They failed to achieve peace with the Allies and wouldn’t expel German forces when asked to by the Soviets. Consequently they were invaded by the USSR and Bulgaria became a socialist state in the Eastern Bloc.

Fact 8. Bulgaria remained a communist country until the fall of those governments in eastern Europe in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The era of post-communism led to a difficult transition into a democracy with a market-based economy.

Fact 9. Bulgaria is a member of the European Union, the Council of Europe, and NATO. It is a founding state member of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). It has also three times taken a seat at the UN Security Council.

Fact 10. Bulgaria is the only country in the Europe whose name has not changed since the original establishment of the country (in 681 AD).

Fact 11. The national instrument is the bagpipes, called the gaida in Bulgaria. There are only three nations in the world that employ the bagpipes in their traditional music. They are Scotland, Ireland, and Bulgaria.

Fact 13. The oldest golden treasure in the world was found from the Eneolithic period in a necropolis (graveyard) near Varna in 1972. Over 6,000 years old, it attracted the attention of scientists from all over the world. At present, 294 graves have been explored and documented and within them 3,000 golden items found. There is great diversity among them: 38 different types of items made with gold as well as copper articles and flint items, stone, silver and clay articles. These artifacts are on display in the Archaeological Museum in Varna and are frequently shown in other museums in the country and even abroad.

Fact 14. Other treasures found throughout the centuries in the country include the Valchitran Treasure (1925) of 13 vessels, the Panagyurishte Treasure (1849) of nine vessels made of pure gold, the Rogozen Treasure of 165 silver vessels dating back to the 4th century BC and Thracian king Teres’ golden mask (2004) in the Valley of the Thracian Kings. This mask may now be seen in the Archaeological Museum in Sofia.

Fact 15. According to Mensa, Bulgarians are 2nd internationally in IQ scores as well as SAT scores. Among Mensa’s smartest people in the world, the most clever woman is Bulgarian Daniela Simidchieva, who achieved an IQ score of 200.

Fact 16. Notable Bulgarian-connected inventors include John Vincent Atanasoff, who invented the first electronic digital computer from 139-1942; Peter Petro, the Bulgarian who invented the first digital wristwatch.

Fact 18. Famous female sports figures include: 100 meter hurdler Yordanka Donkova, whose world record time has been unbroken for 27 years now and who set four other world record times; high jumper Stefka Kostadinova whose world record has stood for 28 years, one of the oldest in modern sports, and who has set seven other world records, four indoors and three outdoors.

Fact 19. Famous male sports figures include: footballer Hristo Stoichkov, who became the first Bulgarian player to win the Ballon d’Or; English Channel marathon swimmer Petar Stoychev who set a new world record for a crossing in 2007; sumo wrestler Kaloyan Mahlyanov who became the first European to earn Japan’s ‘ozeki’ title; and Dan Kolov, the first wrestler in the world with only two losses and 1500 wins.

Fact 20. Sofia is Bulgaria’s capital city as well as the country’s largest city. It is thenation’s economic hub city and is home to more than one million Bulgarians, three times as many as the country’s second and third largest cities, Varna and Plovdiv.

Fact about Sofia – Bulgaria’s capital

Fact 21. Sofia was founded approximately 7,000 years ago at the crossroads of those two important trade routes previously mentioned. It is the second oldest city in Europe.

Fact 22. Sofia is a city with a vibrant city center; beautiful parks; many restaurants; nightclubs and bars; mineral springs ; architectural monuments; over 250 historic landmarks and many places of cultural interest.

Fact 23. Located at the base of Mount Vitosha, the mountain is a perfect day trip from Sofia for hiking and enjoying Bulgaria in all four seasons. Only 30 minutes away, Pancherevo Lake offers rowing, fishing and picnicking.

Tourism and places of interest

Fact 24. There are nine natural and historical objects on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites as well as cultural traditions, including: the Thracian tombs in Kazanlak and Sveshtari, the Rila Monastery, the Boyana Church, the Madara Rider, the Pirin National Park, the Rock-hewn Churches of Ivanovo, the Sreburna Nature Reserve, the ancient city of Nesebar, and Thracian ritual fire-dance called Nestinarstvo.

Fact 25. Many British, German, Romanian and Russian tourists enjoy theinexpensive resorts and beaches Bulgaria has to offer. The coastal resorts of Sunny Beach and Golden Sands; the winter resorts of Borovets, Bansko, and Pamporovo; hiking in the Rila mountains and the attractions of the national capital of Sofia are the most popular destinations for visitors.

Fact 26. The ancient Roman influence on Bulgaria culture can still be found in many of the cities throughout the country. Visitors enjoy viewing the Roman baths in Varna, ruins in Sofia, and the Roman theater in Plovdiv is the mostly intact and that is still used as a venue for concerts and plays today.

Fact 27. An ancient March 1st tradition celebrates the passing of winter.Bulgarians exchange Martenitsi bracelets; these white and red woven bracelets are worn during March until the wearer sees either a blooming tree or a stork. Then they are tied to the trees to welcome springtime. This celebration is called Baba Marta (“Grandmother March”). It is not uncommon to see some of these bracelets left in trees into the summertime.

Fact 28. In addition to birthdays, “Name Days” are also celebrated in Bulgaria. A Name Day (also known as “Saints Day”) is celebrated by people named after a particular Saint on their Saint’s birthday. Many Bulgarians value their “Name Day” as much or more than their birthday.

Interesting Facts

Fact 29. The Bulgarian Air Force developed the first air-dropped bomb in military history during the first Balkan War. Lieutenant Radul Milkov and Lieutenant Prodan Tarakchiev used it on October 16, 1912.

Fact 30. The Bulgarian Air Force pilot Rayna Kasabova was the first woman ever to participate in a military flight in the history of the world.

Fact 31. Bulgarians take their first name, traditionally, from their paternal grandfather. Their surname comes from their father’s name, with the suffix changing depending upon gender (-ova for girls and –ov for boys). Depending upon your generation, you might be named the same name for both name and surname: i.e. Ivana Ivanova.

Fact 32. Other notable Bulgarians include FIDE World Chess Champion Veselin Topalov and Bulgarian-born writer Elias Canetti, who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1981.

Fact 33. The roses grown in the “Rose Valley” Kanalak region of Bulgaria produce most of the world’s rose oil (70-85 percent), a component in most perfumes. It takes 1,000 rose blossoms to produce one gram of rose oil, which is used in making some of the world’s most expensive and popular French and other perfumes.

Fact 34. The Rila Cross is a carved wooden cross with 140 microscopic Biblical scenes on it featuring more than 1,500 figures. Even the largest of them is no bigger than a grain of rice.

Fact 35. In 1976 UNESCO declared the calendar of the ancient Bulgarians to be the most accurate in the world.

Fact 36. Bulgaria joined the EU in 2007, Cyrillic became its third official alphabet.

Bulgaria is beautiful sand golden beaches; historic ruins and contemporary city life. Come and discover for yourself its fascinating blend of nature and history as you discover new facts about Bulgaria for yourself.