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Overview of Bulgaria

Bulgaria occupies the northern part of the Balkan Peninsula bordered by the Danube and the Black Sea, representing a border between Western and Eastern cultures. It has a surface area of 110,912 km², with an average altitude of 470 m. The Danube is the natural frontier with Romania in the North, Turkey is found in the South-East, Greece in the South and Macedonia and Serbia in the West. In the East, its access to the Black Sea is assured by a coastline of 378 km.

The climate

The climate is temperate continental, mild and suitable for travel in any season. Winter offers exceptional snow. January is the coldest month of the year with an average temperature of 0 °. The average annual temperature is 10.5 °. Summers are hot, with an average of 30 °. In the east, the influence of the Black Sea makes the climate warmer in summer and autumn long and mild. Farther west, the summers are hotter and  winters are harsher , while fall and spring are short. Bulgaria is also the same latitude as Marseilles, Toulouse and Rome. To check the weather forecast - click HERE.

The relief

The Balkan Mountains (or also Stara Planina) are an extension of the Carpathians and cuts the country in two. They pass through the center of Bulgaria, from the Serbian border to the coast of the Black Sea. The culmination of this mountain, Botev Peak, dominates the Rose Valley at an altitude of 2376 m. The south is occupied by a mountain range composed of three mountain ranges, the Rila, dominated by the peak Moussala at 2925 m, Pirin with its peak Vihren at 2914 m. and Rhodope - larger and more hilly (the main summit - the Grand Perelik to 2191 m.) It forms the natural border between Bulgaria and Greece. The population and economic activities are concentrated in the plains. North of Stara Planina, the Danube Plain is the granary of Bulgaria, while in the South, the Plain of Thrace has other agricultural specialties ,not forgetting the famous Valley of Roses, which provides three quarters of the world's production of rose oil. The mountains hide one of the country's largest resources - the water. There are 1600 sources of drinking water, more than 500 rivers, 336 lakes shape the landscape of the country. Finally, it is worth mentioning the 4,300 caves, of which 2000 are still unexplored. The government wants to protect the nature, and has created a large number of parks which are listed as natural heritage sites by UNESCO. The country's flagship species, the brown bear, lives quietly in the mountains to the delight of nature lovers.

The capital

The capital of Bulgaria since 1879 is Sofia(or the city of wisdom), a city which bears the imprint of at least two thousand years of history: remains of Roman and medieval ruins stand alongside mosques, buildings of Austro-Hungarian style rise next to monumental buildings from the communist era. In 1879 the population of Sofia was 12,000 inhabitants, while today, it is over 1.2 million.

The main cities in Bulgaria

Plovdiv (339,000 inhabitants), Varna (313,000 inhabitants), Burgas (192,000 inhabitants), Rousse (161,000 inhabitants), Stara Zagora (143,000 inhabitants), Pleven (121,000 inhabitants), Sliven (100,000 inhabitants), Dobrich (100,000 inhabitants).

The administrative organisation

The country is composed of 9 provinces: Burgas, Grand Sofia, Haskovo, Lovetch, Montana, Plovdiv, Razgrad, the city of Sofia and Varna, which form 28 administrative regions, each managed by a governor and a regional administrator. It is further divided into 262 municipalities, run by a mayor and a municipal council, elected by the population and provided with a budget adopted by the municipal council.

The population

The population of Bulgaria is 7.8 million inhabitants, in constant decline since 1992 linked to emigration and a negative growth rate (-5.5% in 2001). The average life expectancy is 71 years. The population density is 75 inhabitants / km2. The principally urban population (69%) is composed of 85.8% Bulgarians, 9.7% Turks, and 3.4% Gypsies. The active population represents 3,643,213 people, a 2% decrease from 1989.

The religion

The religion Orthodox Christian is considered the traditional religion in Bulgaria and the most represented, practiced by the quasi-totality of Bulgarians (86%). The 9.7% Turkish Muslims gather in the mosques. The third ethnic group of the population of Bulgaria is composed of Gypsies, whom we call Roma, which means ‘man’ or ‘person.’ Their population in the world is estimated at 10 million, the majority of which are found in the Balkans. In Bulgaria it is difficult to define their religious affiliation. Some are Orthodox Christians, others Muslims. Jews and the Catholics are a minority; there is only one synagogue in Bulgaria (in Sofia) and a single Catholic church (St. Paul in Roussé).

The language

The official language is Bulgarian. The Cyrillic alphabet is used, named after its creator, a Bulgarian monk of the 9th century (Saint Cyril and his brother Saint Methodius). Russian continues to be the second language of the country, even if it lost its importance after the end of the Eastern Bloc. Turkish is still used in our days by the Muslim population in Bulgaria. English is slowly becoming the second or third language for young Bulgarians. Hotel, restaurant and tourist office personnel usually have a good mastery of English as well. German is probably the second language in the tourist zones. Bulgarians of a certain age speak French reasonably well, in particular the inhabitants of large cities where French high schools are present.

The currency

The national currency is the Lev, tied to the Euro at a fixed rate of 0.51€ per Lev. The Bulgarian bank cards are up to date, foreign cards are accepted by money distributors and certain hotels or stores. It is, however, the use of cash that remains the most common practice. Checks are inexistent in Bulgaria, only traveller’s checks can be cashed.

The Time difference

The time difference in Bulgaria is an hour more than continental Europe and two hours more than Great Britain (GMT+2). The time changes in summer and winter take place at the same time as in the rest of the European Union.

Political organisation

Bulgaria is a republic endowed with a unicameral parliament. The legislative power is in the hand of the National Assembly, which counts 240 seats into which the members are elected by direct suffrage by proportional representation for a period of 4 years. The assembly elects a counsellor of the ministers who is advised by the Prime Minister. This council helps the president, who in his role of Chief of State, exercises the executive supreme power and is equally elected by direct suffrage for a mandate of 5 years. The judiciary power is represented by the Supreme Court, of which the president is named for a mandate of 7 years by the President of the Republic and by the Constitutional Council composed of 12 judges named and elected for a term of 9 years.

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