General facts

Area: 110 994 sq. km

Population: 5.56 million (July 2005 est.)

Geographic Location
Located in the south-east of the Balkan Peninsula, Bulgaria borders Romania to the North, the Black Sea to the East, Turkey and Greece to the South and Serbia and Macedonia to the West. The river Danube forms the country’s northern frontier and offers quick access to Central Europe. A crossroads location between Europe and Asia facilitates transport flows through the country.

Landscape
Bulgarian landscape is extremely diverse. The North is dominated by the vast lowlands of the Danube plains, the South by highlands and elevated plains. The average altitude of Bulgaria is 470 m and overall, lowlands prevail. There are eight mountains in Bulgaria, which rise more than 2 000 m above sea level. The highest peak (Moussala 2 925 m) can be found in the Rila Mountains. Along the Black Sea coast to the East of Bulgaria, the 130 km of good, wide beaches are among the country’s main tourist attractions.

Climate
A continental climate with hot summers and cold winters made the country a popular beach resort while offering good skiing in the winter. A Mediterranean influence can be felt in the valleys of the South-Western Rhodopi Mountains, where dry summers and mild winters prevail. The influence of the Black sea is limited to a narrow strip of land (200-300 km) in Eastern Bulgaria.

People
Bulgaria’s population has declined by 2% since 1994 to 7.93 million. A falling birth rate and net emigration of almost 1/1000 population have contributed to the decline. The country has a relatively homogeneous ethnic structure, with ethnic Bulgarians constituting 86% of the population. Bulgarians are the most genuine and hospitable of people. As a nation they are well-educated, intelligent, intellectual and seem to have an endless source of knowledge on practically any topic.

Language
The Bulgarian language belongs to the South Slavic group, along with Serbo-Croatian, Slovene, and Macedonian A number of dialects remain in common speech.

Bulgarian is the official language, using the Cyrilic alphabet. Some ethnic Turks speak Turkish as their mother tongue, but generally have Bulgarian as a second language. Russian, previously a required subject in school, is also widely spoken. English is now the most widely studied second language, followed by German and French.

Religion
Some 85% of the population claim affinity to the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, while Muslims make up a further 13% of the population. The Communist regime discouraged religion, however religious freedom has now been re-established and religious holidays are openly celebrated.

Education
The literacy rate in Bulgaria is very high - 99% for men and 97% for women - and the country still boasts a strong education system. Particular strengths include computer programming and electronics.

History and Culture
The territory of Bulgaria has been inhabited since the earliest times of history - the Stone Age and the Copper Age. The Thracians were the first to settle in this region. In the second half of the VII century the proto-Bulgars, a people of Asian origin, settled on the territory of present northeastern Bulgaria. Forming a union with the Slavs they founded the Bulgarian state which in 681 was acknowledged by the Byzantine Empire.

The state was conquered by the Ottoman Empire in 1396. For nearly 5 centuries Bulgaria was under Ottoman rule. In 1878 the April Uprising broke, which was the first organized attempt to overthrow Ottoman rule. The uprising was cruelly crushed and drowned in bloodshed, but managed to attract the attention of the big European countries to Bulgarian national issues.

In the early forties Bulgaria’s policy was in favour of Germany and its supporters. In 1946 Bulgaria was proclaimed a Republic. The Bulgarian Communist Party came to power. The political parties that did not join the Fatherland Front were banned, enterprises and banks were nationalized, the arable land was forcefully included in co-operative farms.

November 10-th, 1989 socialist`s marks the beginning of democratic changes in Bulgaria. A new Constitution was adopted in 1991, the political parties were restored, property seized in 1947 is being reinstated, privatization and arable land reinstatement have begun.

Georgy Parvanov has been President of the country since autumn 2001. Prime Minister - Sergey Stanishev.

Political Situation and Institutions
Bulgaria is a Parliamentary Republic and the Legislature is the basic power within the country. The Constitution provides for a multi-party, parliamentary system and free elections on the basis of universal suffrage. The National Assembly is vested with the legislative power and exercises parliamentary control. Its mandate is for a term of four years.

The President serves as Head of State, and is directly elected once every five years for a maximum of two terms. The President is the Supreme Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Bulgaria as well. Minorities’ rights are protected. All Bulgarians regardless of ethnicity have the right to stand for local or national elective office and participate in decision making.

Currency
The country’s currency is the Bulgarian Lev. The exchange rate is announced every day. Money can be exchanged in banks and 24-hour change bureaus.

Credit Cards
Visa, MasterCard, JCB, Diners Club, American Express, Access, Airplus.

These can be used both on ATMs and for payment of all standard services in hotels, restaurants, night clubs, shops, car rentals, plane tickets, etc.

Medical Service
Free first aid and consultation in emergencies.

Local time
Winter time - GMT + 02:00 hours
Summer time - GMT + 03:00 hours

Daylight saving time - from last Sunday of March to last Sunday of October
Weekend - Saturday, Sunday

National Holidays

1 January - New Year
3 March - Liberation Day
1 May - Labour Day
Late April/May - Easter
6 May - St. George's Day (Day of Bulgarian Army)
24 May - National Culture Day
6 September - Union Day
22 September - Independence Day
1 November - Day of National Revivals
24 December - Christmas Eve
25 December - Christmas
26 December - 1st day of Christmas

Shopping hours

  • Offices - Mon-Fri 9 am - 5:30 pm
  • Banks - Mon-Fri 9 am - 3 pm
  • Shops - Mon-Fri 9 am - 7 pm; half-day Saturday
    But more of the shops stay open until 8pm on weekdays and 5 pm on Saturdays.
    Few shops (except for grocery stores) are open on Sunday.

Electricity
220 Volt / 50 Hertz - Western-style appliances need adapters for the country's twin-prong plugs, as well as voltage converters (for US applicances only)

Communications Network
Bulgaria has a developed domestic and international communications network. The country is served by three international airports and two commercial Black Sea ports. Sofia Airport is the largest and handles most international traffic, while Varna and Burgas airports service domestic and international charter flights. The two Black Sea ports need reconstruction. Two major east-west highways afford easy access to all regions and form part of a European transport corridor providing the most direct overland routes from Western Europe to Turkey and the Middle East.

Speed limits - Right hand drive

  • residential areas - 50 km/h
  • country roads - 90 km/h
  • motorways - 120 km/h





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