The region of Blagoevgrad is located in South-Western Bulgaria and borders on Greece, Macedonia and four other districts – Smolyan, Pazardzhik, Kyustendil and Sofia. It embraces parts of the Rhodopes and the Rila Mountain with the highest summit on the Balkans – Mount Musala (2925 m). It also covers the Pirin, Ograzhden, Vlahina, and Belasitza mountains.
Two large rivers - Struma and Mesta, flow through the region forming picturesque valleys. The beautiful nature of Blagoevgrad region is considered a big resource that will have in future bigger meaning for the development of the region.
The climate in the most southern regions ranges from continental and alpine to mediterranean.
The nature resources of the region of Blagoevgrad are wood, coals, ore, mineral springs (40 percent from the general capacity of the country), building materials - granite, marble. The agricultural land is 38.8 percent and the forests - 52 percent.
The age structure in the Blagoevgrad region is younger than the average in the country. Due to the developed infrastructure and clean nature and the favorable economic development as well, it is considered one of the best areas to live in and ranked third position in the context of quality life style.
Blagoevgrad region comprises of 14 municipalities (Bansko, Blagoevgrad, Belitza, Gotze Delchev, Garmen, Kresna, Petrich, Razlog, Sandanski, Satovcha, Simitli, Strumiani, Hadzhidimovo, Yakoruda), including 280 towns with administrative center the city of Blagoevgrad.
There are two centers for higher education in the area - the ‘Neofit Rilski’ South-Western University and the American University in Bulgaria both located in Blagoevgrad.
The advanced educational network in the area is an important priority. The number of schools in the region is 182. Annually, Blagoevgrad attracts approximately 10 000 college students from the all across the country and abroad.
On the north-western slopes of Rila mountain, 35 km away from Blagoevgrad is situated the oldest Park - reserve with coniferous vegetation - Parangalitza. 16 km to the northwest is located the village of Stob, also popular for the Stob pyramids - exceptionally beautiful rock formations. In Blagoevgrad, there is a big stadium, swimming pools, a sport complex with a hostel and tennis courts.
The sport infrastructure in the region is relatively well developed. In Blagoevgrad area is located one of the best ski - resorts in Bulgaria - Bansko.
Except for its new tracks and hotels, the city is known as an ethnographic central city as well, it has allowed in the years its authentic appearance. Bansko offers all amenities for year-round tourism and a relaxation.
Burgas Province (also transliterated Bourgas) is located in Southeastern Bulgaria, on the southern Black Sea coast. Its capital is the city of Burgas. It is the largest province by area and fourth by population. It comprises of 11 municipalities: Aitos, Burgas, Kameno, Karnobat, Malko Tarnovo, Nesebar (Nessebar), Pomorie, Primorsko, Ruen, Sozopol, Sredets, Sungurlare and Tsarevo.
The geo-strategical situation of the region is a factor of national importance well acknowledged by several countries in Europe, Asia and Africa. Here goes the crossing of both traditional and newbuilt axes of economical and political interests as follows: Europe-Near East-Asia; Europe-Middle East-Asia; Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and Western Europe.
Burgas region is an important "Entrance/Exit" area. Around 74 % of the annual import/export of the country runs exlusively through the Port of Burgas. Main factors influencing the territorial localizations are: availabale nature key-factors of economic importance such as ores and minerals used as a raw material for the industrial development and in the construction industry; a wide ground variety considered to be an important precondition for agriculture development; Black Sea coastal zones, thermal mineral springs, conditions for recreation and rural tourism in the regional uplands, evaluated as a developing factor of tourism and health resort work; availability of highly skilled labour experienced in main production branches of the regional economy; good level of technical, social and market infrastructure.
Burgas is a successor of the Ancient Greek city of Pyrgos, founded by colonists from Apolonia as a military and observational post against the other important settlement in the region — Mesembria.
Later on, during the rule of the Ancient Romans, Burgas was known as Deultum, and was established as a military colony for veterans by Vespasian. In the Middle Ages, a small fortress called Pirgos was erected on the place and was most probably used as a watchtower. It was only in the 17th century that a settlement named Ahelo-Pirgas grew in the modern area of the city. It was later renamed to Bourgas and had only about 3,000 inhabitants, most of them Greeks at the time of the Liberation.
Later, it became a major centre on the southern Bulgarian Black Sea Coast and a city of well-developed industry and trade.
Burgas, unlike many other Bulgarian cities, was not much affected by Communist-type urbanization and has kept many of its 19th and early 20th century architecture. Today Burgas also holds annual national exhibitions and international festivals and has a vibrant student population of over 6,000 that add to the city's appeal.
Varna Province is located in northeastern Bulgaria. It comprises 12 municipalities:
Aksakovo (some of the villages - Botevo, Dobrogled, Dolishte, Ignatievo, General Kantardzhievo, Kichevo, Klimentovo, Krumovo, Kumanovo, Lyuben Karavelovo, Novakovo, Osenovo, Voditsa, etc.), Avren (including Benkovski, Bliznatsi, Bolyartsi, Dobri Dol, Dabravino, Kitka, Priseltsi, Ravna gora, Sadovo, Sindel, Zdravets, etc), Beloslav (including the town of Beloslav and the villages of Ezerovo, Strashimirovo, and Razdelna), Byala (including the town of Byala and the villages of Dyulino, Goritsa, Gospodinovo, etc.), Dalgopol (including Dalgopol, Boryana, Komunari, Krasimir, Lopushna, Medovets, Partizani, Sladka Voda, Tsonevo, Velichkovo), Devnya (with the villages of Kipra and Padina), Dolni Chiflik (Bardarevo, Detelina, Golitsa, Goren Chiflik, Grozdyovo, Krivini, Nova Shipka, Novo Oryahovo, Pchelnik, Rudnik, Solnik, Staro Oryahovo, Shkorpilovtsi, Venelin, and Yunets), Provadiya (including the villages of Barzitsa, Blaskovo, Bozveliysko, Chayka, Cherkovna, Chernook, Dobrina, Gradinarovo, Hrabrovo, Komarevo, Krivnya, Manastir, Nenovo, Ovchaga, Petrov Dol, Ravna, Slaveykovo, Snezhina, Staroselets, Tutrakantsi, Venchan, Zhitnitsa, and Zlatina), Suvorovo (Banovo, Chernevo, Drandar, Izgrev, Kalimantsi, Levski, Nikolaevka, and Prosechen), Valchidol (Brestak, Cherventsi, Dobrotich, Esenitsa, General Kiselovo, General Kolevo, Iskar, Izvornik, Kaloyan, Krakra, Oborishte, Radan Voyvoda, Shtipsko, Stefan Karadzha, Strahil, Voyvodino, and Zvanets), Varna (including the city of Varna and the suburban villages of Kamenar, Kazashko, Konstantinovo, Topoli, and Zvezditsa), Vetrino (including the villages of Belogradets, Dobroplodno, Gabarnitsa, Mlada Gvardiya, Momchilovo, Nevsha, Neofit Rilski, Sredno Selo, Vetrino, and Yagnilo).
The province's territory is 3,820 square kilometres. It borders the Black Sea and covers parts of the hilly Danubian Plain (including parts of the Frangen Plateau, South Dobruja, the Provadiya Plateau, Ludogorie, and the Avren Plateau), Eastern Stara Planina, the Varna—Devnya valley with the lakes (limans) of Varna and Beloslav, and the Kamchiya river valley. Other rivers include Provadiya, Devnya, and Batova, and the largest artificial lake is Tsonevo.
The Black Sea coast is hilly and verdant, mostly cliff, with a couple of rocky headlands (Cape Galata, Cape St. Athanasius), several expansive sand beaches, the largest of which, at the mouths of the rivers Kamchiya and Shkorpilovska, is nearly 13 km long and up to 200-300 m wide, and many small cove beaches. Agricultural lands cover 60% of the area, with fertile chernozem soils mostly in the north and west; forests—28.1% (with some of the oldest oak massives in the nation), mostly in the south; and urban zones—6.8%.
Natural resources include large deposits of rock salt, limestone, silica, and clays, all extensively utilized in local chemical, cement and glass manufacturing and construction; silica is also exported. Significant deposits of medicinal fango (mineral mud) are found in Lake Varna. The province abounds in thermal mineral waters. There are also natural gas reserves; the offshore Galata gas field, a relatively minor project with planned cumulative production of 2 billion cubic meters, is expected to provide up to 15% ot the nation's gas consumption for its lifetime. Manganese ore deposits are also found.
The climate inland is temperate, with cold, damp winters and hot, dry summers, and akin to Mediterranean along the Black Sea coast, with milder winters and cooler summers.
The area has been populated at least since the Neolith and was a major centre of an Eneolithic culture with unique skills in metallurgy and seafaring, with a developed social structure and religion (Varna Necropolis, site of arguably the oldest man-made gold treasure in the world).
By the first millennium BC, is was inhabited by Thracians who dominated it throughout classical antiquity; by the end of the period they were largely Romanized. In the 6th century BC, an ancient Greek trading colony (apoikia), Odessos (Varna), was founded, becoming an enduring contact zone between Thracians and Greeks. In the 4th century, the province was included in the empire of Philip II, Alexander the Great and his diadochus Lysimachus.
By the first century AD, it was conquered by the Roman Empire. Under Emperor Diocletian, Marcianopolis (Devnya) became the centre of the Roman province of Moesia Secunda of the Diocese of Thrace; during Emperor Valens' wars with the Goths (366-369), this city was temporary capital of the empire. Both Marcianopolis and Odessus (the Roman name of Odessos) were major early Christian centres; it is believed that Saint Andrew founded the local Christian church and his disciple Ampliatus served as bishop at Odessus.
In the 6th century, Slavs' migrations altered the ethnic composition of the then Byzantine province, and in 680-681 it became the heartland of the First Bulgarian Empire, whose capital was perhaps initially near Varna, before it moved to Pliska. Two of the most significant scriptoria of the Preslav Literary School were located at Ravna (near Provadiya) and Varna.
The latter two cities were major fortresses and trade emporia of the Second Bulgarian Empire as well. The peasant war of Ivailo in the late 13th century started from the region, which at the time was plagued by Tatar raids and was finally subdued by the Ottomans in 1389. In 1444, the Battle of Varna was fought, as were several ground and naval battles of the Russo-Turkish wars of the 18th and 19th century.
Under the Ottomans, the population became extremely diverse, with significant number of Turks and other Muslim peoples arriving from Asia Minor, the steppes north of the Black Sea, and the Caucasus, along with Orthodox Christian Gagauz, Armenians, and Sephardic Jews from Thessaloniki, while many Bulgarians from the region were forcibly relocated to Asia Minor and, in the wake of the Russo-Turkish wars, up to 250,000 eastern Bulgarians were transferred to Russian Bessarabia and Crimea.
Compact Bulgarian population persisted throughout the Provadiya Plateau, Devnya Valley, and Eastern Stara Planina. Villagers from places such as Chenge (modern Asparuhovo, municipality of Dalgopol), Gulitsa (modern Golitsa, municipality of Dolni Chiflik), and neighbouring Erkech (modern Kozichino, Burgas Province) later colonized and returned the Bulgarian ethnic character to dozens of villages throughout northeastern and southeastern Bulgaria, including much of Varna province.
After the liberation of 1878, with the exodus of most Turks and Greeks and the migrations of Bulgarians from other parts of Bulgaria, mostly Stara Planina, as well as North Dobruja, Asia Minor, Bessarabia, and later from Macedonia and Eastern Thrace, ethnic diversity gradually gave way to Bulgarian predominance.
The province in currently second only to Sofia in foreign direct investment; its GDP per capita is higher and its unemployment lower than the national averages. Per capita income is fifth highest in the nation (2007). The economy is service-oriented; it is responsible for over 30% ot the nation's total revenue in tourism (2004). (See also the list of coastal resorts, beaches and locales below.)
It is also an important communications and transportation hub with the Port of Varna on the Black Sea and inland waterways, the International Airport of Varna, the Varna railway ferry terminal, parts of several railway lines (including the oldest one in Bulgaria, Rousse-Varna, opened 1866) and junctions (Sindel, Razdelna, Komunari), and portions of two of the nation's motorways (Haemus and Cherno More). Varna is the easternmost destination of Pan-European transport corridor 8 and is closely connected to corridors 7 and 9 via Rousse.
In June of 2007, Eni and Gazprom disclosed the South Stream project whereby a 900 km-long offshore natural gas pipeline from Russia's Dzhubga with annual capacity of 30 billion cubic meters is planned to come ashore possibly at Pasha dere, near the Galata offshore gas field, en route to Italy and Austria.
Manufacturing is concentrated mostly in the Varna-Devnya Industrial Complex and Provadiya. Agriculture (notably wheat, fruit, wineries) and forestry are also of economic significance. The province is a major education and international culture centre with five universities, several other higher learning and research institutions, numerous museums, performing arts institutions, and hosted international events.
Veliko Tarnovo is a province in the middle of Northern Bulgaria. Its capital city, Veliko Tarnovo, is of enormous historical significance as it is known as the capital of Medieval Bulgaria.
Other towns in the province include Gorna Oryahovitsa, which is within 10 kilometres of Veliko Tarnovo, Svishtov, set on Danube River, and Suhindol, the hometown of Lovico — an internationally recognised label for fine wines and spirits. Another notable place is the village of Arbanasi, set between Veliko Tarnovo and Gorna Oryahovitsa. The combination of old style and modern architecture, as well as its churches and monasteries, present the spirit of Bulgaria. Veliko Tarnovo region is divided into the following municipalities: Elena, Gorna Oryahovitsa, Lyaskovets, Pavlikeni, Polski Trambesh, Strashitza, Svishtov, Suhindol, Veliko Tarnovo and Zlataritsa.
Veliko Tarnovo is one of the oldest settlements in Bulgaria, having a history of more than 5 millennia, as the first traces of human presence dating from the 3rd millennium BC are on Trapezitsa Hill.
During the Middle Ages, Veliko Tarnovo grew quickly to become the strongest Bulgarian fortification between the 12th and 14th century and the most important political, economic, cultural and religious centre of the empire. In the 14th century as the Byzantine Empire weakened Tarnovo claimed to be the Third Rome based on its preeminent cultural influence in the Balkans and the Slavic Orthodox world. The city flourished and grew for over 200 years. Тhe political upsurge and spiritual development were interrupted in 1393 on 17 July, when after vigorous resistance to a 3-month siege Veliko Tarnovo had been seized and the whole Bulgarian Kingdom had been destroyed by the invader - The Ottoman Empire. The Medieval Bulgaria, towns and villages, monasteries and churches, were burn to ashes. Veliko Tarnovo, known in the Middle Ages as Tarnovgrad, was the location of two uprisings against Ottoman rule, in 1598 (the First Tarnovo Uprising) and 1686 (the Second Tarnovo Uprising), both of which failed to liberate Bulgaria.
Tarnovgrad, along with the rest of present-day Bulgaria, remained under Ottoman rule until the 19th century, when national identity and culture reasserted themselves as a strengthening resistance movement. The idea of the establishment of an independent Bulgarian church and nation motivated the 1875 and 1876 uprisings in town. On 23 April 1876, the April Uprising marked the beginning of the end of the Ottoman occupation. It was soon followed by the Russo-Turkish War (1877–1878). On 7 July 1877, Russian general Joseph Vladimirovich Gourko liberated Veliko Tarnovo, ending the 480-year-rule of the Ottoman Empire. In 1878, the Treaty of Berlin created a Principality of Bulgaria between the Danube and the Stara Planina range, with its seat at the old Bulgarian capital of Veliko Tarnovo.
On 17 April 1879, the first National Assembly convened in Veliko Turnovo to ratify the state's first constitution, known as the Tarnovo Constitution, the key result of which resulted in the transfer of Parliament from Tarnovgrad to Sofia, which today remains the Bulgarian capital.
In deference to the city's past, Tsar Ferdinand Saxe-Coburg Gotha chose the St Forty Martyrs Church in Veliko Tarnovo as the place to declare the complete independence of Bulgaria on October 5, 1908.
In 1965, the city, then officially known as Tarnovo, was renamed to Veliko Tarnovo (Great Tarnovo) to commemorate its rich history and importance.
Vidin is one of the smallest regions in Bulgaria and is situated in the north-western part of the country. To the north its limits meet the banks of Danube River and coincide with the state border between Bulgaria and Romania, while to the west they coincide with the national border with Serbia. The district encompasses the Vidin lowland from the Danube's curve and stretches to the northern slopes of the Western Balkan Mountain. Its location is of major importance for the region's economical growth. The international route E-79 connecting the Baltic and the Mediterranean passes through the region. The river port of Vidin is the second biggest after Rousse and is a very important transport junction. It is located approximately 200 km north from Sofia, 43 km from the Serbian border and approximately 100 km north from Montana. The whole province includes a total of 11 municipalities – Vidin, Belogradchik, Kula, Boynitsa, Bregovo, Chuprene, Dimovo, Gramada, Makresh, Novo selo and Ruzhintsi. Vidin is the biggest town in the province and is also the administrative centre. In the past, the medieval fortresses 'Baba Vida' and 'Kaleto' near Vidin were used for defense because of their key strategic location. They are still well preserved and turned into open museums for tourists from all across the country and abroad.
In the opposite part of Vidin region is located the beautiful and peaceful town of Belogradchik. Situated some 50 km south from Vidin along the mountain ridges 'Ventza' and 'Vedernik', the town is most popular for the exceptional phenomenon called the Belogradchik Rocks. There is also a medieval fortress near the town. It is believed to have been built by the Romans as part of their warning and intruder prevention system. What is most peculiar about the place is that only two walls were constructed. To the north-east and to the south-west two 90-meter stone massifs secured the fort and protected it from invaders.
Another fascinating place to visit in Vidin region is the Magoura (also spelled Magura) cave. It is located in the area of Rabisha Dam near the villages of Rabisha and Tolovitsa. Although the cave is relatively small it should not be underestimated as a tourist sight. It is most famous for the fact that there have been found many wall paintings dating back to the IX-VIII century B.C.
Furthermore, the ‘Chuprene’ National Park is located on the territory of the province. It is situated just outside the village of Chuprene (75 km south from Vidin) and its balanced biosphere spreads on more than 15 hectares of land. ‘Chuprene’ National park is also under the protection of UNESCO.
Nowadays, the regional administration of Vidin district has started numerous initiatives to improve the local economy along with highlighting the exceptional sightseeing places and natural resources. Vidin is one of the very few regions that have remarkably well-developed infrastructure. Duty-free zones along the border between Bulgaria and Serbia provide a living for many people in the area. And soon, with the construction of the second bridge over the Danube River, the province will gain even further importance to the national economy.
Vratsa (also Vratza) is a province of north-western Bulgaria, neighbouring Romania. Its main city is Vratsa, and there are nine more municipalities - Borovan, Byala Slatina, Hayredin, Kozloduy, Krivodol, Mezdra, Miziya, Oryahovo, and Roman.
The region is bordered to the north by the Danube, and to the south by Sofia Province. It has an area of more than 3 600 sq.km and a population of over 235 000 inhabitants.
The regional road system consists of 1277 km of the republican road system. Predominating are the 4th class roads. Their maintenance and control are under the responsibilities of the municipalities. The rehabilitation of these roads is a priority of the regional policy. Mezdra is a key railway station connecting the major cities in Bulgaria. The telecommunication network consists of 4 regional post stations - Vratsa, Byala Slatina, Mezdra and Kozloduy, and 116 local post offices. They offer universal post services including express mail and international courier services. The water supply system was envisaged to be improved and sewerage was mostly built, but there is a program for modernization all over the province, including the smaller villages. The nuclear power plant in Kozloduy, in the northern part of the province, is the major supplier of electricity in Bulgaria.
The administrative town Vratsa is about 116 km from Sofia. The distance to the major cities is as follows: Vratsa - Varna 414 km, Vratsa - Plovdiv 217km; Vratsa - Pleven 108 km; Vratsa - Burgas 416 km. The international road E79 passes through the province. The major European port and ferry complex Oryahovo-Bechet, on the river Danube, is situated in Oryahovo municipality.
The natural peculiarities of Vratsa Province contribute to the development of agriculture, lumber industry and electricity production. The main projects are related to the development of the transport infrastructure, water supply and sewerage, agriculture - vegetables, cattle breeding, silk-worm breeding, mushroom cultivation, development and strengthening of the existing industrial plants, development of alternative forms of tourism - rural, ecotourism, cultural, religious, spaeology, mountaineering, hang gliding etc. The long-term strategy for the regional economy is to promote small and medium enterprises as an alternative way to develop the industry.
Because of the close distance to the capital Sofia (site of the main universities in Bulgaria), only one local centre of New Bulgarian University, one pedagogical college - branch of the Veliko Tarnovo University and one medical college exists in the province. The vocational schools have their main disciplines mostly in agricultural techniques, mechanics and electrotechnics, chemical technologies, civil engineering and construction, language school and mathematical secondary school.
In the surroundings of Vratsa - 12 kilometres inside the mountain there is a modern centre for recreation with facilities such as sauna, fitness suite and others. Within the territory of the province is the Vrachanski Balkan Natural Park that offers excellent opportunities for recreation; there is Vrachanski Karst reserve, the cave Ledenika of international importance, and the Vratsa Gorge near the town of Vratsa. Currently, the following protected natural attractions and historical monuments are located on the territory of the State Forestry Board Vratsa: Vrachanski Karst reserve - including the beautiful rocky forms of the Vratsa Mountain; the Natural Park Vrachanski Balkan - covers part of the State Forestry territory of the Stara Planina mountain; Ledenika cave, a national tourist attraction; Ponora cave in the region of Chiren village; Vratsata gourge of the Leva river by the town of Vratsa; the Gods Bridges - a natural rocky bridge and the karst spring in the Chiren village region; Borovanska mogila - an ancient Thracian fortress; Botev pat memorial; the highest waterfall Skaklya, with a height of 141 metres.
The town and the surrounding area is an ancient region found by the Thracians. Vratsa was called Valve ("door of a fortress") by the Romans due to narrow passage where the main Gate of the city fortress was located. Nowadays, this passage is the symbol of Vratsa and is presented on the Town's Coat of Arms. Later, after the fall of Rome, Vratsa became part of Byzantium. At the end of the 6th Century AD, Vratsa was populated by the South Slavic tribes. Even if they came from Pannonia and Dacia on the North, the town reimained under Byzantine rule.
In the 7th century, the Bulgarians and the Slavs found the Bulgarian State and the Slavic Vratsa became part of it. The city grew into important strategic location because of its proximity to the South State border. The name of the city was changed from Valve to the Slavic Vratitsa, which has the same meaning and is the source of the modern name. Vratsa became famous for its goldsmith's and silversmith's production and trade, high-quality earthenware and military significance.
In the 8th century, the Bulgarian army captured Sofia, which led to the decreasing of Vratsa's importance because of the better strategic position of Sofia, its more developed economy and larger size. But Vratsa was again key for the resistance against the Byzantine, Serbian and Magyar invasions in the Middle Ages.
Gabrovo is a province in central northern Bulgaria, with the town of Gabrovo as an administrative centre. The region is well known for producing leather articles and textiles and as the home of Humor and Satire, which opened on Aprils Fool’s Day 1972 in recognition of the position traditionally occupied by the town in the Bulgarian humour. People in every country tell jokes about the supposed miserliness of a particular community, and in Bulgaria the butt of the jokes has always been Gabrovo.
The administrative centre, Gabrovo, is situated at the foot of the central Balkan Mountains, in the valley of the Yantra River, and is also noted for its Bulgarian National Revival architecture. Gabrovo is also known as the longest town in Bulgaria, stretching over 25 km along the Yantra, yet reaching only 1 km in width at places. Near Gabrovo is located the geographic center of Bulgaria - Uzana.
The area around Gabrovo, inhabited since the Neolithic, gained economic importance after Veliko Tarnovo became capital of the Second Bulgarian Empire in the 12th century. Craftsmanship and trade prospered due to the proximity to both the capital and the Balkan passes. Medieval Gabrovo was a small pass village of about 100 houses.
According to the most widespread legend, Gabrovo was founded by a young blacksmith called Racho, close to whose fireplace a hornbeam rose, so the settlement acquired its name.
After the Ottoman invasion of the Balkans in the 14th century, the demographic position of Gabrovo changed significantly, as it was the only settlement in a considerably large geographic area and an attractive place for Bulgarians fleeing from the conquered capital and neighbouring fortresses. It turned from a village into a small town (palanka) and began to develop as an economic, cultural and spiritual centre. During Ottoman rule, the rich tradesmen spent plenty of resources for the small town's public planning. The first Bulgarian secular school, the Aprilov Gymnasium, was founded in Gabrovo in 1835 with the aid of Vasil Aprilov and Nikolay Palauzov. Gabrovo was officially proclaimed a town by the Ottoman authority in May 1860.
Shortly before and after the Liberation of Bulgaria in 1878, Gabrovo developed as a centre of industry on the basis of its economic traditions. Joint-stock companies emerged, factories were constructed and connections to the large stock exchanges were created.
Internationally known as a centre of humour and satire, Gabrovo has two theatres, the Racho Stoyanov Drama Theatre and the puppet theatre, a House of Humour and Satire that serves as a cultural institute, a centre, museum and gallery to popularise comic art. There is also a cinema, Aleko Cinema, and a number of museums and menorial houses both in the town and around it, most notably the Etar Architectural-Ethnographic Complex and the Museum of Education at the Aprilov Gymnasium. A planetarium is also in operation. Gabrovo is twinnned with the Belgian town of Aalst and Mogilev in Belarus.
The places of interest in the town of Gabrovo include House of Humour and Satire and Aprilov High School. As to the region in general, must-see places are the architectural reserve Bozhentsi, the Ethnographic Complex Etara, Dryanovo Monastery and Sokolski Monastery. Uzana, a local winter resort is some 22 km away. Hiking is widely available in the Central Balkan National Park. For admirers of historical tourism Shipka Memorial is also a popular destination.
The region of Dobrich is located in North-eastern Bulgaria. It covers part of the Danubian plain and the area called Dobrudzha. Varna and Shoumen regions are situated to the south and south-west, while Silistra province neighbors the Dobrich region to the north-west. The limits of Dobrich district also coincide with the state’s border between Bulgaria and Serbia, while to the east it meets the waters of the Black sea. The region can be described as rural with flat hills and wide, even valleys. Compared to other Bulgarian provinces, Dobrich is not as rich in water resources as the other ones. The small lagoon lakes of Shabla and Durankulak are of utmost importance to the region, as they are an important nestling place for many birds. The Shabla lake is also one of the few places where the yellow-pond and water lilies grow. Climate is moderate, continental with usually dry summers and snowy winters. The town of Dobrich is not only the administrative centre of the province, but is also the main agricultural centre for the whole northern part of Bulgaria. It is located approximately 30 km east of the Black sea coast and about 500 km away from Sofia. It is also the eighth most populated town in the country. The province consists of 8 municipalities – Balchik, Dobrich, General Toshevo, Kavarna, Krushari, Tervel, Shabla. Just as many Bulgarians towns, Dobrich has an ‘old district’ of renaissance buildings located in the very heart of the city.
It is believed that the first settlements in the area have been established during the 2nd-4th century BC. Numerous ruins and necropolis have been discovered not only all across the region, but also in the town centre of Dobrich.
Throughout the centuries, the area has developed as a handicraft and agricultural centre popular for the leather, woolen and coppersmith products and the production of wheat, rye, barley, oats, and linseed. After the liberation of the town from the Ottoman Empire in 1878, the town of Dobrich was named after a medieval ruler Dobrotitsa. The whole Southern Dobrudzha was transferred under Romanian rule after the Balkan Wars and remained until 1940. Until September 19th 1990 the town bore the name Tolbuchin, a Russian military commander.
The Dobrich region is well developed economically in the fields of industry, construction, agriculture, trade and tourism. Some of Bulgaria`s largest companies in the food processing, clothing and footwear, car battery and high voltage equipment industries are based here, partly because of the region`s highly skilled workforce.
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Kardzhali (also Kardjali) is a province in southern Bulgaria, neighbouring Greece with the Greek prefectures of Xanthi and Rodhopi to the south and east. Kardzhali Province area is 3209 sq.km.
The administrative center, the town of Kardzhali, is located in the low eastern part of Rhodope Mountains, on both banks of the Arda River between the Kardzhali Dam to the west and the Studen Kladenets dam to the east. The town is 260 km southeast of Sofia. It has a crossroad position from Thrace to the Aegean Sea — part of European transportation route 9.
The area of Kardzhali has been inhabited since the Neolithic. Plenty of artifacts have been found during the archaeological excavations comprising ceramics and primitive tools. Most of them are now exhibited in the local museum of history.
Later Thracian tribes settled in the area developing a highly advanced civilization. They built many sanctuaries dedicated to the gods of Sun and Earth. Near the village of Nenkovo (northwest of Kardzhali) an artificial cave was found in 2001. It has the form of a woman's womb. Exactly at noon, when the sun is highest on the sky, a ray of light comes in through a stone slit forming a falitic shade in the cave. According to the Thracian beliefs this is the conception of the new Sun god. This cave is considered a complex astronomic facility as the ray of light comes in the cave in a single day in the year.
There are many stone castles and palaces the Thracians built in the region — Perperek, Ustra, Vishegrad. The most magnificent is Perperikon where a residence of a Thracian king was situated. The place is getting more popular as archaeological works are in progress and new artifacts are being discovered.
During the Byzantine period Kardzhali was the centre of a Christian eparchy — Achridos. The Monastery of John the Precursor was built in the 6th-8th century and is now a monument of medieval architecture.
The name Kardzhali is mentioned for the first time in Ottoman documents. It comes from the name of the Ottoman army leader Kardzha Ali, who conquered the region in the 14th century. Its old Bulgarian name, mentioned until the 17th century, was Žerkovo (Zherkovo). The town developed because of its position on the trade roads during the Ottoman rule. However, it remained a small town with almost no industry. During the 18th century Turkish brigands used this remote town as a hide-away and supply point, and the town was named after their leader.
Kardzhali and its area became part of the autonomous province of Eastern Rumelia under the stipulations of the Berlin Congress of 1878, but after the reunification of the Principality of Bulgaria and Eastern Rumelia in 1885, was ceded back to the Ottoman Empire. Ottoman rule ended during the First Balkan War, with its liberation by the Bulgarian General Vasil Delov on 21 October 1912. The day has been celebrated yearly, since 1937, as a municipal holiday through concerts and commemorative events.
Formerly Kardzhali was a tobacco processing center, but for economic reasons some of the communist era industrial plants are no longer operative. The large deposits of lead and zinc ore in the area make the town an attractive location for the metallurgy and machine building industry. Retail trade and services constitute the largest share of local production. The abundance of cultural and natural sights in the area also make it a promising area for tourism.
Some of the most interesting sightseeing places are the Thracian town of Perperikon - located near the city Kardzhali on a rock high above the valley. It is interesting for the fact that it is cut in the rock and represents the period of highest achievements and power of the Thracians.
The monastery of John the Precursor from 11th century - located in the Vesselchane Quarter of the town. It was renovated in 2000 and a new bell tower was built. The Kardzhali Museum of History - one of the most extensive exhibitions in Southern Bulgaria. This includes pre-historic tools and ceramics from the Thracian cities of Perperikon and Tatul, Christian icons and ethnographic exhibits. It is located in the old konak (the Turkish town-hall built around 1870) with its period exterior architecture. Five kilometers from Kardzhali, near the village of Zimzelen, is a small badlands, where a series of white pillars have eroded out of the volcanic tuff which are referred to as the "Kardzhali Pyramids". Ensembles have been given names based on resemblances. One is known as "The Mushrooms" and another as the "Stone Wedding".
There are two large dams on the Arda River. Studen Kladenez Dam is on the east and Kurdzhali Dam is on the west. The city is sandwiched between the two dams. Upper part of Studen Kladenez Dam is now up to the old bridge inside the city. The concrete wall of the Kurdzhali Dam is only about two kilometers upstream from this bridge. The reservoir of the Kurdzhali Dam was recently seeded artificially with European perch. The fish were taken from the Ovcharitsa dam.
The first historical moment of the dam was in the 1970s, when it was artificially seeded with sheatfish. Nowadays there are 100 kg representatives. Later, 45,000 carp were introduced into the dam as well.
Kyustendil region occupies parts of South-western Bulgaria and extends on area of more than 3 000 sq.km. The population is approximately 170 000 people organized in 9 municipalities – Kyustendil, Sapareva Banya, Dupnitza, Bobov Dol, Rila, Kocherinovo, Nevestino, Boboshevo and Treklyano.
It borders on the regions of Sofia and Pernik to the east, on Blagoevgrad district to the south, while to the west, its limits coincide with the state borders between Bulgaria and Macedonia, and Bulgaria and Serbia. The district includes parts of several cross-border mountains, which altogether form the so-called “Kyustendilsko kraishte” (Kyustendil Corner-land). To the south, the territory of the region reaches the ridges of the Osogovo, Vlahina and Rila Mountains. The Kyustendil province also includes the Dragovishtitsa and Bistritsa river valleys, which additionally diversifies the terrain.
Kyustendil region is most popular for its fertile valleys and the Bobov Dol coal mines. Mild climate and favorable soil composition are the key prerequisites which have enabled this area to develop a successful agriculture in the context of Bulgaria's economy. Kyustendil has deep traditions in growing various vegetables, but is most famous for the considerable fruit growing.
The region has also exceptional nature resources. There are numerous thermal mineral springs in the towns of Kyustendil, Nevestino and Sapareva Banya. The mineral water of Sapareva Banya reaches up to 103 °C and is among the hottest in Europe. The Stob pyramids and the 70-meter-high waterfall of the Golemi Dol River near the village of Kamenichka Skakavitsa attract many adventurous hikers and tourists who have the desire to explore and conquer the heights of the Rila Mountain and the frozen waterfalls of Skakavitsa.
As far as the economy is concerned, the region falls into cross-border relations with the Republic of Macedonia and Serbia. Dupnitza is often referred to as the business capital of the region. It is popular for the pharmaceutical production outlet which is one of the biggest in Bulgaria.
One of the greatest symbols of Bulgarian faith and religious devotion is situated in Kyustendil province. The Rila Monastery, nestling in the heart of the Rila Mountain only 120 km south from Sofia, is the most impressive monuments from the Bulgarian Renaissance period. Internationally renowned for its unique architecture, mountainous setting and legendary history, the monastery is a must-see for every Bulgarian and foreign tourist. Situated 1147 meters above sea level on the steep slopes of the narrow Rilska river valley, the monastery has sustained the wear and tear of time becoming an important centre of Bulgarian language, culture, education and spiritual growth. The monastery is believed to have been built by the disciples of Ivan Rilski shortly after his death. Ivan Rilski was a hermit who lived in the tenth century (during the reign of Tsar Petar) in a cave just 2 km from today's monastery. The cave is considered to have been St. Ivan Rilski's original hermitage. Since its establishment, the monastery has been one of the most respected centres of Christianity – generous donations were made by Bulgarian tsars from 1210s to 1380s. Later, despite the destructions done by the Ottoman invasions, the monastery started its revival in the beginning of the fifteenth century thanks to donations provided by the Russian Orthodox Church. In the XVII and XIX century, the recovery and renovation of the monastery was done with donations from wealthy Bulgarians from all over the country.
As an architectural monument, it has the outward appearance of a fortress, but the inside reveals splendid black-and-white patterns and bold red stripes of the graceful arches and balconies. The monastery's church has a solid iconostasis which is almost 10 m wide and has massive gold carvings most of which made by Zahari Zograf.
Nowadays, the monastery has a museum with a rich collection of manuscripts, documents, jewelry and a library with more than 16 000 books and is included on the UNESCO’s List of World Heritage.
The monastery is a starting point for hiking routes to Mount Mayovitsa (2975 m) and Mount Mousala (2925 m), which is also the highest peak on the Balkans.
Lovech region is situated in the central part of Northern Bulgaria and includes a total of 8 municipalities – Lovech, Troyan, Teteven, Lukovit, Ugarchin, Yablanitsa, Letnitsa and Apriltsy. It covers the northern slopes of the Central Balkan Mountain, the Devetashko plateau, several hill areas and river valleys and covers more than 4000 sq.km area of land. The population of the region is approximately 170 000 people. The administrative centre of the district is Lovech - a town located along the river banks of Osam River.
The region has good transport connections with the southern Bulgarian regions through the Troyan Pass.
Lovech was established as a settlement during IV-III century BC by the Thracian tribe ‘Meldi’ who called the town Melta. Later, during the Roman rule, the region was of great significance to the empire because of the ‘Via Trayana’ route connecting the Aegean Sea and the Danube River. During the Ottoman rule, Lovech suffered two burn-downs but despite all, it managed to be one of the richest Bulgarian towns, as well as an important commercial and cultural center. Furthermore, it was also home of revolutionary impulses and free spirits. For example, the head commandment of the Bulgarian Secret Revolutionary Committee operated in the town of Lovech. One of the greatest misfortunate events in Bulgarian history – the capture of Vasil Levski by the Turkish police, took place at the Kukrinsko Hanche, near Lovech. Nowadays, the biggest museum in honour of Vasil Levski is open for everyone in the old part of Lovech – the “Varosha” architectural and historical protected area.
Lovech is also renowned for the exceptional ‘Covered bridge’ built across the Osam River by the self-taught builder Kolyu Ficheto. The bridge is an exceptional part of the Bulgarian Architectural heritage, because of the unique features – it was constructed with no nails and joints, theoretical calculations and no cement. The bridge was built for two years, from 1872 to 1874, bringing together the two parts of Lovech, but was burned down in 1925. In 1931 it was rebuilt according to the original plans. Today its floors are still the primary connection between the two parts of Lovech and one can walk through the small souvenir and craftsmen shops.
The town of Lovech and its adjacent area offer many sport and leisure opportunities. The Lovech zoo is the second biggest zoo in Bulgaria. Just outside the town one can find the Stratesh Park, also known as the Park of Lilies. Several hiking routes start near Lovech. The ‘Krushuna’ eco-path with a starting point near the village of Krushuna leads the hikers through the Devetashko plateau to one of the marvelous waterfalls of the Balkan Mountain.
In addition, several caves attract hikers and tourists – the ‘Devetashka cave”, which is among the biggest in Europe – more than 1 500 meters long with 11 underground lakes. “Saeva Dupka” cave, despite only 400 m long, attracts people because of its unique phenomenal cave forms and species.
The Lovech region also includes parts of the Central Balkan National Park, which are full of karst springs (for example the Glavna Panega near the village of Zlatna Panega), caves (the Tabashka cave, the Vassil Levski cave, and the Prohodna cave near Karlukovo).
Montana is a province in northwestern Bulgaria, bordering Serbia and Romania. Its main city is Montana, while the other municipalities are: Berkovitsa, Boychinovtsi, Brusartsi, Chiprovtsi, Georgi Damyanovo, Lom, Medkovets, Valchredram, Varshets and Yakimovo. The town of Montana is located 50 km south of the Danube, 40 km northwest of Vratsa and 30 km east of the Serbian border. It is situated on the river Ogosta, north of Stara Planina, surrounded on the south and east by uplands.
The climate of the region is temperate continental, with a cold winter and hot summer. The average temperature is -2°C in January and 25°C in July. In the last 15-20 years, temperatures reaching up to 35-40°C in the summer are not uncommon.
The region around Montana became part of the Roman province of Upper Moesia in 29 BC. Around 160, the military camp that was most likely founded on the remains of an older Thracian settlement, acquired city rights under the name of Municipio Montanensium. The city developed and urbanized after a Roman model and became the second most important settlement in the province after Raciaria (modern-day Archar). A fortress was built on top of the hill over Montana, as well as public and residential buildings, temples, baths and theatres. Montana became a typical imperial settlement, where the local romanized population coexisted along Italic and Anatolian settlers. The base of the town's economy were the big landowners of Italic origin and their villas and mansions, where the locals served to obtain agricultural production and gold from Ogosta's river valley. A stratum of Greek settlers, who engaged in craftsmanship and money-landing existed in the town during the period. The patrons of Montana in the spirit of Hellenism were Diana and Apollo. Later on, between 440 and 490, the northwest of modern Bulgaria was devastated by the raids of the Huns under Attila and the Goths. Slavs and Avars delivered the final strike on the Greco-Roman culture in the region, and the Slavs that settled in the area called the town Kutlovitsa. During the time of the First and Second Bulgarian Empires, the settlement recovered and became the centre of an eparchy. During the Ottoman invasion, the settlement was destroyed and became deserted. Between 1450 and 1688, the town was resettled by Turks because of its strategic location, and went through another period of blossoming as a typically Oriental town. One mosques, fountains, and other new buildings were erected. The Turks' suppression of the 1688 Chiprovtsi Uprising solidified the position of Kutlovitsa as a Turkish ethnic area in the 18th and 19th centuries]].There was also a Roman Bath left over the Middle Ages. After the Liberation began a massive wave of migration towards Kutlovitsa and a period of economic blossom. An electric station, a train station, a post office and a hospital were built, a fair and a community centre emerged.
The region is located in the central part of Southern Bulgaria and borders on the regions of Sofia, Plovdiv, Blagoevgrad and Smolyan. Covering more than 4500 sq.km, the lands are mainly forests, and only approximately 30 % agricultural. The population is about 290 000 people. Pazardzhik district includes a total of 11 municipalities – Batak, Belovo, Bratsigovo, Lesichovo, Panagyurishte, Pazardzhik, Peshtera, Rakitovo, Septemvri, Strelcha and Velingrad.
The infrastructure of the province is just as diverse as its land surface – the Trakia highway (part of the E-80 route) and the international CE-70 railway run through the plains of the district. On the other hand, roads to numerous towns and villages become more curved and narrow when entering the mountain ridges. Similar variety can be observed also in regards to the climate can also be made for the climate - mild continental (warm winters and hot summers) in the valleys, and sub-zero winter temperatures in the mountains.
The whole region includes parts of the Western Rhodopes, Rila and Sredna Gora Mountains and benefits of the water resources. Several water dams have been built along the Batak River, the Maritza River crosses the Pazardzhik fields and provides perfect agricultural conditions, the thermal mineral springs of Velingrad, Bratzigovo Banya and Rakitovo make the region one of the best places for spa and balneological treatments. There are 78 mineral water springs in Velingrad and the adjacent area. Also the biggest karst spring and lake are situated within the town limits of Velingrad. This, together with the numerous marble mines, make the Chepino valley (where Velingrad is located) simply an exceptional part of Bulgaria’s natural treasures.
Some 40 km to the east from Velingrad one can visit cave Snezhanka, located only 5 km away from the town of Peshtera. The cave is one of the most picturesque places in Bulgaria. Although it is only 145 m long, there are several chambers in the cave. There is a stone figure reminding of Snow White formed out of the white sinter in the center of one of the chambers. That is why, when it was discovered, cave was named after the fairy-tale character.
The history of Pazardzhik district is just as rich as its natural resources. Proofs that the Rhodope Mountain and especially the land around Batak have been inhabited since the Old Stone Age were found by several archeologists. It is also a well-known fact that the Rhodope Mounatain was considered sacred by the Thracians. Remains of Thracian, Roman, Byzantium and Slav fortresses, mines and bridges have been found all across the Western Rhodopes. Several Thracian burial sights have been found in the area around Sredna Gora Mountain. One of Bulgaria’s most iportant and impressive historical discovery - the Panagyurishte Gold Treasure, was made here in 1449. It is a ceremonial and religiously related set of 4 rhytons (ancient cups, shaped as a bull's horn), 3 magnificent decanters in the form of a female head, a vial (shallow dish plate) decorated with small human heads and acorns, and an amphora (similar to a vase), decorated with characters of the Greek mythology and handles, shaped as centaurs. It is believed that this set of gold vessels has been created upon request of a Thracian leader by the craftsmen of Lampsak. That was a Black Sea coastal town, a Hellenic colony (Ancient Greece), which nowadays is part of Turkey. The unique treasure is one of the most important discoveries. It reveals so much about the Thracians and its relations with the rest of the Ancient cultures, and yet it leaves many unresolved issues and even brings more questions to a new level of understanding. Today, an exact replica of the treasure can be seen in the Panagyurishte Historical Museum.
Furthermore, Panagyurishte has also played essential part in the fights for Bulgaria’s liberty. The decision for strating the April Uprising has been made during the Revolutionary Committee’s meeting in the Oborishte area, outside the town Panagyurishte. The very start of the Uprising was also announced on April 20th in Panagyurishte.
Another town in Pazardzhik region is also subject of historical interest. During the Ottoman slavery the Batak village was one of the places which managed to captivate Christians’ faith and traditions. In the past that area was renowned for the wood-processing workshops which even supplied the Ottoman ship construction industry. However, nowadays Batak is associated mainly with the April Uprising of 1876. In that time Batak gained dark and blooded popularity among the western nationalities because of the defeat which the locals had to bear. What came after the April Uprising was a reckless slaughter of more than 5 thousand people not including the 2000 people killed in the St. Nedelya Church, which was supposed to be their last fortresses of hope and faith, but turned out to be their tomb. Nowadays, the church has been established as a museum where anyone interested can learn more about the April Uprising of 1876.
Another town in Pazardzhik district has also played essential part in the fights for Bulgaria’s liberty. The decision for strating the April Uprising has been made during the Revolutionary Committee’s meeting in the Oborishte area, outside the town Panagyurishte. The very start of the Uprising was also announced on April 20th in Panagyurishte.
In the context of modern understanding, Pazardzhik region has not only historical importance. Although there is not much agricultural land in the province, it is used the best way possible. Most of the towns have well modernized industrial outlets. From the production of spirits in Peshtera through the textile workshops in Panagyurishte to the marble mines in Velingrad, the region has a working economy and supports comprehensive business relations with companies in Bulgaria and abroad.
Pernik Province is a province in western Bulgaria, neighbouring Serbia. Its main city is Pernik, and the other municipalities are Breznik, Kovachevtsi, Radomir, Tran, and Zemen.
Industry is of vital importance for the economy of the province. Pernik is the major manufacturing centre, one of the largest in the country with the "Stomana" steel complex; heavy machinery (mining and industrial equipment); building materials and textiles being the most important. There is an enormous plant for heavy machinery in Radomir which produces excavators and industrial equipment, but is currently not working with full capacity.
The administrative town has a population of 91,883 (2006) and lies on both banks of the Struma River in the Pernik Valley between the Viskyar, Vitosha and Golo Bardo mountains.
Originally a Thracian fortress in the 4th century BC, and later a Roman settlement, Pernik became part of the Bulgarian Empire in the early 9th century as an important fortress. The name Pernik is thought to have originated from that of Slavic god Perun with the Slavic placename suffix –nik (or –ik) added, and was first mentioned in the 9th century. The medieval town was a key Bulgarian stronghold during Bulgarian tsar Samuil's wars against the Byzantine Empire in the 11th century, when it was governed by the local noble Krakra of Pernik, withstanding Byzantine sieges a number of times. The city was occupied by Stefan Nemanja, who was Grand Prince of Raska between 1190-1191.
From 1396 until 1878 the district was under Ottoman rule. Until after the Liberation of Bulgaria Pernik was a small stockbreeding village, consisting of several scattered hamlets. In the 20th century Pernik developed rapidly as a centre for coal mining and heavy industry. During the Communist rule of Bulgaria it was called Dimitrovo between 1949 and 1962 after Bulgarian Communist leader Georgi Dimitrov. As the first miners' quarters were built on the terraces of the Struma River, the beginning of the miners' settlement of Pernik was set, one kilometre to the east of the village of the same name. It is a town since 1929, and since 1958 — a regional centre. The coal output reached its apogee at that time. Pernik has been an energy centre of Bulgaria for a few decades.
Pleven Province is located in central northern Bulgaria, bordering the Danube river, Romania and the Bulgarian provinces of Vratsa, Veliko Tarnovo and Lovech. Pleven region embraces a territory of 4,333.54 sq.km and a population of more than 310 000 people. The administrative center is the city of Pleven. The district consists of 11 municipalities: Belene (with the town of Belene and the villages of Byala voda, Dekov, Kulina voda, Petokladentsi and Tatari), Cherven bryag municipality (Breste, Glava, Gornik, Deventsi, Koynare, Lepitsa, Radomirtsi, Rakita, Reselets, Ruptsi, Suhache, Telish, Cherven bryag and Chomakovtsi), Gulyantsi (towns and villages - Brest, Gigen, Iskar, Gulyantsi, Dolni Vit, Dabovan, Zagrazhden, Kreta, Lenkovo, Milkovitsa, Somovit and Shiyakovo), Dolni Dabnik municipality (Barkach, Gorni Dabnik, Gradina, Dolni Dabnik, Krushovitsa, Petarnitsa, Sadovets), Dolna Mitropoliya (Baykal, Bivolare, Bozhuritsa, Bregare, Gorna Mitropoliya, Gostilya, Dolna Mitropoliya, Komarevo, Krushovene, Orehovitsa, Pobeda, Podem, Riben, Slavovitsa, Stavertsi and Trastenik), Iskar municipality (Dolni Lukovit, Iskar, Pisarovo, Staroseltsi), Knezha (Brenitsa, Enitsa, Knezha, Lazarovo), Levski municipality (Asenovtsi, Asparuhovo, Bozhurluk, Balgarene, Varana, Gradishte, Izgrev, Kozar Belene, Levski, Malchika, Obnova, Stezherovo and Tranchovitsa), Nikopol (Asenovo, Batsova mahala, Vabel, Debovo, Dragash voyvoda, Evlogievo, Zhernov, Lozitsa, Lyubenovo, Muselievo, Nikopol, Novachene, Sanadinovo, Cherkovitsa), municipality of Pleven (Beglezh, Bohot, Brestovets, Brashlyanitsa, Bukovlak, Varbitsa, Gortalovo, Grivitsa, Disevitsa, Koilovtsi, Kartozhabene, Kashin, Laskar, Mechka, Nikolaevo, Opanets, Pelishat, Pleven, Radishevo, Ralevo, Slavyanovo, Todorovo, Tuchenitsa, Tarnene and Yasen), and Pordim municipality (Borislav, Valchitran, Zgalevo, Kamenets, Kateritsa, Odarne, Pordim and Totleben)
The area of Pleven has been inhabited since the Neolitic period. Traces of human settlement near the city of Pleven date from the 5th millennium BC. Furthermore, numerous archaeological findings, among them the largest golden treasure found in Bulgaria, evidence for the rich culture of the Thracians, who inhabited the area for thousands of years.
In the beginning of the new era, the region became part of the Roman province of Moesia, and a road station called Storgosia arose near present-day Pleven on the road from Oescus (near modern Gigen) to Philippopolis (now Plovdiv). It later evolved into a fortress. One of the most valued archaeological monuments in Bulgaria from the period is the Early Christian basilica from the 4th century discovered near the modern city.
During the Middle Ages, Pleven was a well-developed stronghold of the First and the Second Bulgarian Empire. When Slavs populated the region, they gave the settlement its contemporary name (Pleven is derived either from the Slavic word "plevnya" ("barn") or from "plevel", meaning "weed", which share the same root). Later on, during the Ottoman rule, Pleven, known as Plevne in Ottoman Turkish, preserved its Bulgarian appearance and culture. Many churches, schools and bridges were built at the time of the Bulgarian National Revival. In 1825, the first secondary school in the town was opened, followed by the first girls' school in Bulgaria in 1840, as well as the first boys' school a year later. Pleven was the place where the Bulgarian national hero Vasil Levski established the first revolutionary committee in 1869, part of his national revolutionary network. The city was a major battle scene during the Russo-Turkish War of 1877–1878 that Russian Tsar Alexander II held for the purpose of the liberation of Bulgaria. The joint Russian and Romanian army paid dearly for the victory, but it paved the path to the defeat of the Ottoman Empire in this war, and the restoration of Bulgaria as a state. It cost the Russians and Romanians 5 months and 38,000 casualties to liberate the town after four assaults in what was one of the decisive battles of the war. The events of the Russo-Turkish War proved crucial for the development of Pleven as a key town of central northern Bulgaria. The town experienced significant demographic and economic growth in the following years, gradually establishing itself as a cultural centre of the region.
Nowadays, the region is a major centre of oil processing, metalworking, machinery construction, light and food industries. After 1989 Pleven found itself in an economic crisis, with many of the major enterprises (such as the Plama oil refinery) closing or practically ceasing to work. However, the late 1990s and early 2000s saw a revival of light industry and the development of branches such as knitwear and store clothes production. Tourism, which had attracted many people from the Soviet Union prior to 1989, and had experienced a slump in the following years, is on the rise again. Other economic branches have also improved in the 2000s.
The city has seen a number of major foreign investments in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Particularly noticeable is the mass construction of hypermarkets, with two Billa stores, a Praktiker outlet and a number of technology hypermarkets being opened as of 2006. In 2005, the investments in the economy of Pleven amounted to around 250 million leva (around €125 million).
The city of Pleven and the whole region is also often referred as an important centre of sports in Bulgaria, with many noted Bulgarian sportspeople having been born and/or trained in the town, including Tereza Marinova and Galabin Boevski. The sports school in Pleven is considered as one of the most prominent in the country.
Pleven is famous for its Kaylaka (where the ruins of the Storgosia fort can be found) and Skobelev parks. The latter is home to the Pleven Panorama and is situated on the original location of the battle during the Russo-Turkish War.
Plovdiv region includes parts of the Upper Thracian Plain, the Rhodopes, Sredna Gora, the Sub-Balkan valleys and Stara Planina, with its highest peak Botev (2, 376m). The main rivers in the province are Maritsa, Stryama, Pyasachnik. There are numerous dams, the most important of which is Pyasachnik. Mineral springs are abundant, there are several major spa resorts- Hisarya, Narechen, Banya and minor spas at Klisura, Asenovgrad, Kuklen, Rosino, Krasnovo, Stoletovo and others. There are many natural landmarks, especially in the Central Balkan National Park, including the spectacular waterfall Raysko Praskalo, the highest in the Balkans.
The province's capital is the city of Plovdiv, other towns include Karlovo, Sopot, Klisura, Kalofer, Hisarya, Saedinenie, Rakovski, Brezovo, Stamboliyski, Krichim, Perushtitsa, Sadovo, Parvomay, Asenovgrad, Laki, Katunica, Yiagodovo.
Plovdiv is one of the oldest cities in Europe, a contemporary of Troy and Mycenae, and older than Rome, Carthage or Constantinople. Archaeologists have discovered fine pottery and other objects of everyday life from as early as the Neolithic Age, showing that in the end of the 7th millennium B.C there already was an established settlement there. In 4th century BC the city was a centre of a trade fair (called panegyreis). In 342 BC, it was conquered by Philip II of Macedon, the father of Alexander the Great, who renamed it Philippopolis or "the city of Philip" in his own honor. Later, it was reconquered by the Thracians who called it Pulpudeva (a translation of Philipopolis).
In 72 AD it was seized by the Roman general Terentius Varo Lukulus and was incorporated into the Roman Empire, where it was called Trimontium (City of Three Hills) and served as metropolis (capital) of the province of Thrace. It gained a city status in late 1st century. Thrimontium was an important crossroad for the Roman Empire and was called "The largest and most beautiful of all cities" by Lucian. Although it was not the capital of the Province of Thrace, the city was the largest and most important centre in the province. In those times, the Via Militaris (or Via Diagonalis), the most important military road in the Balkans, passed through the city. The Roman times were a period of growth and cultural excellence. The ancient ruins tell a story of a vibrant, growing city with numerous public buildings, shrines, baths, and theatres. The city had advanced water system and sewerage. It was defended with a double wall. Many of those are still preserved and can be seen by the tourist. Today only a small part of the ancient city has been excavated.
As to the economy of the province, it is of great importance. The agricultural production is intensive and efficient with high levels of irrigation. The major crops are fruit (apples, plums, pears, cherries), grapes, melons and watermelons, vegetables (tomatoes, peppers, carrots, cabbage, potatoes), wheat, rice, barley and others. Industry is very well developed: ferrous metallurgy near Plovdiv; thriving electronics industry in Plovdiv, Saedinenie, Voivodinovo, Radinovo and other villages in the area; agricultural machinery (tractors) in Karlovo, weapon and military plants in Sopot, Karlovo, Plovdiv; chemical industry in Plovdiv, Asenovgrad; food industry is developed almost everywhere, most notably in Plovdiv and Asenovgrad (wines). Tourism is a growing industry with the rich cultural heritage of the province and the numerous mineral springs which are of international importance.
Razgrad Province is a region in northeastern Bulgaria. The district is geographically part of the Ludogorie region. Its main city is Razgrad, and it also includes the municipalities Isperih, Kubrat, Loznitsa, Samuil, Tsar Kaloyan, and Zavet. The population of Razgrad Province is ethnically mixed, with no ethnic group constituting an absolute majority according to the 2001 census. The biggest river flowing through the area is Beli Lom. Some of Razgrad's landmarks include the Varosha architectural complex from the 19th century, the ethnographic museum and several other museums, the characteristic clock tower in the centre built in 1864, the St Nicholas Church from 1860, the Momina cheshma sculpture, the Mausoleum Ossuary of the Liberators (1879-1880) and the Ibrahim Pasha Mosque from 1530. The mosque is said to be the third largest one in the Balkans,excluding Istanbul - its reconstruction has still not been completed, having begun in Communist times.
In 251, the town was the site of the Battle of Abrittus, during which the Goths defeated a Roman army under the emperors Trajan Decius and Herennius Etruscus. The battle is notable for being the first occasion of a Roman emperor being killed in a battle with barbarians.
Rousse Province (also literated Ruse) is situated in the northeastern part of Bulgaria. The province includes a total of eight municipalities – Rousse, Byala, Ivanovo, Tzenovo, Borovo, Slivovo Pole, Dve Mogili and Vyatovo, and has the regions of Silistra and Razgrad neighboring on the east, Targovishte on the southeast and Veliko Tarnovo on the west. Its northern border reaches the Danube’s riverside and merges with the national border with Romania. The district's administrative centre is the city of Rousse, the largest Bulgarian city along the river banks of the Danube River. Rousse is also most popular for its bridge across the Danube River since it is the only cross-over point between Bulgaria and Romania.
The Rousse region is an important Bulgarian and European transport junction. It combines all means of transport available. Two of the Pan-European transport corridors cross the district. The port of Rousse is Bulgaria's biggest river port and represents both river and marine transportation. The Danube Bridge, which as of January 2007 is free of customs control at Gyurgevo's and Rousse's border checkpoints facilitates all means of land transportation. And last but not least the crossroad of the E-70 road and several national roads and railways extend across the region. The closest international airport is Bucharest (Romania), which is approximately 100 km from the city of Rousse. Varna Airport is also a convenient option (200 km), though smaller. Bulgaria's capital city, Sofia, is around 320 km from Rousse.
The region favors the benefits of the Yantra and Rusenski Lom rivers flowing through the region, providing very good conditions for agriculture.
There are several protected nature areas across the Rousse region – the Rusenski Lom Nature Park (a marvelous valley of the Rusenski Lom River), the exceptional rock formations near the villages of Pisanets and Mechka, and the 'Orlova Chuka' cave near the town of Dve Mogili. The latter is the second longest cave in Bulgaria and believed to have been inhabited by humans thousands of years ago.
There are also about 250 Thracian grave mounds dating back to the IV century BC. A fascinating silver treasure was found in 1974 in one of the graves near the village of Borovo.
Ancient remains of Roman fortresses along Danube's river bank were found near the villages of Krivina, Marten, and Rousse and add up to the historical value of the region.
The region's list of historical sights also includes the Ivanovo cliff churches, which are part of UNESCO's List of World Cultural Heritage.
The history of the Rousse region has been strongly related to transport. Back in 1886, Bulgaria's first railroad was built, connecting the ports of Rousse and Varna.
The city of Rousse is also popular for its architecture. Being border town during the 18th and 19th centuries, it not only gained wealth and developed long-standing trade relations, but was also strongly influenced by the European culture and lifestyle. A present example for this cultural interaction is the city's architecture reminding of Vienna. Unlike many other Bulgarian cities, Rousse has managed to preserve many of those distinctive buildings, most of them located downtown on Alexandrovska Street.
Silistra Province is a province of Bulgaria, known for its pelicans and apricot brandy. Silistra region is a traditionally agricultural province, mainly because of its fertile soil. Besides the administrative centre Silistra, other municipalities are Alfatar, Dulovo, Glavinitsa, Kaynardzha, Sitovo, and Tutrakan. The district borders with the regions of Rousse, Razgrad, Shoumen and Dobrich. To the north it borders with Romania. The town of Silistra is a port city, the last port along the Danube river.
Initially, the Romans built a fortress in 29 AD on the site of an earlier Celtic settlement and kept its name, Durostorum (or Dorostorum). It became an important military centre of Misia and grew into a city at the time of Marcus Aurelius. In 388, Durostorum became the seat of a Christian bishopric and a centre of Christianity in the region, and Roman general Flavius Aëtius was born in the town in 396. After the Roman Empire was split, the town became part of the Byzantine Empire. Later on, around the end of the 7th century, the town was incorporated in the First Bulgarian Empire and the bishop of Drastar was proclaimed the first patriarch of Bulgaria. In 976, Tsar Samuil restored Bulgarian rule in the region until 1001, when it was once again incorporated within the bounds of the Byzantine Empire. In 1186, after the Vlach-Bulgarian Rebellion, the town became part of the Second Bulgarian Empire until the Ottoman conquest of Bulgaria in 1396. During Ottoman rule, Silistra was part of Rumelia Province and was the administrative centre of the Silistra sanjak. This sanjak was later upgraded to become the Silistra Province that stretched over most of the western Black Sea littoral. The town was captured by Russian forces numerous times during several Russo-Turkish Wars. In 1878, following the Russo-Turkish War of 1877–1878, Silistra was liberated and became part of the Kingdom of Bulgaria.
In May 1913, after unsuccessful Bulgarian-Romanian negotiations in London, the two countries accepted the mediation of the Great Powers, who awarded Silistra and the area in a 3 km radius around it to Romania at the Saint Petersburg Conference. Following the Second Balkan War, the Treaty of Bucharest (1913) granted Silistra and the whole of Southern Dobruja to Romania. The town and the adjacent area has been part of Bulgaria, ever since the Paris Peace Treaties were signed in 1947.
Sliven is a province in central Bulgaria. Its main city is Sliven, while other municipalities are Kotel, Nova Zagora, and Tvarditsa. The administrative town is situated at the foot of the unique rock massif "Sinite Kamani" (The Blue Rocks), very close to mineral springs. The town is famous for its clean fresh air, clean water sources, mild winter and cool summer.
Sliven is the only Bulgarian town that has never changed its Slavonic name, though it is one of the oldest settlements in Europe. Here lived Thracians, Romans, Slavs, and Ancient Greeks. The first Roman settlement on this place - Tuida ( The 3rd century BC) was a famous trade centre. Sliven was mentioned as a big town for the first time in 1153 by the Arab traveller Idrisi.
The 'Sinite Kamani' Nature Park located in the area is famous for its nature landmarks. Halkata – the arc-shaped rock garland, possessing, according to the legends, magic force - is one of the symbols of the town of Sliven. The forms that the nature has sculptured in the cave Zmeevi dupki – Zmejat, Orelat and Vladishkija tron are amazing. The ancient beech forest in the vicinity of the Kushbunar spring in the region of Karandila is quite picturesque. The specific climate and lay conditions of the nature park determine the great diversity of flora and fauna. The plant species are more than 1000, about 900 of which are representative of high species. The invertebrate animals are represented by 235 species – eight species of fish, nine species of amphibians, nineteen species of reptiles, 165 species of birds and 34 species of mammals. The lay is of typical mountain type – steep and ravine slopes and at sea level between 290 and 1181 meters above the sea level. The north and northwest winds, the wind called bora, famous also as the wind of the town of Sliven and the night breeze are typical for the region. Through the park flow many rivers and their beds form numerous shoots, pools and waterfalls.
The economy of Sliven has centered around industry since the early 19th century. In 1834, Dobri Zhelyazkov established the first factory in Bulgarian lands, thus starting industrial development in Bulgaria. Sliven was one of the largest industrial centers in Bulgaria, playing an important role during the Bulgarian National Revival. It has long-lived traditions in textiles, machine-building, glass-making, chemical production, and the technical аnd food industries. Following the beginning of communist rule in Bulgaria in 1944, most industries were nationalized and much industrial building and development was spurred. Industry continued to develop until the fall of communism, at which point much of the previously built industry stagnated; many plants and factories were shut down and there was little development. In contemporary times, Sliven has experienced a surge in economy with increased investment, banking establishments and new industries have began to emerge. The dairy industry, which has long been present, continues to grow and thrive. The wine industry, with companies such as Vinprom and Vini Sliven and about a dozen others, continues to grow as grapes are easily grown due to the climate conditions. In terms of heavy industry, Sliven is home to a 3MM plant which produces machinery used to cut metals. The city also produces electric lights and electrical machines. Light industry in sliven is mostly devoted to textiles with many companies making wool clothing, socks, and food.
As to the cultural life of Sliven town and region, the dramatic theater is one of the main venues for various performing arts.
There are many buildings in the city built in the National Revival Architecture style, including the Hadzhi Dimitur House-Museum. It is in the south western part of the town and shows visitors a complex of a native memorial home and an old traditional inn. The Dobry Chintulov Memorial House Museum is on the North side of Sliven; it was the home of the Bulgarian revival teacher and poet Dobry Chintulov. The city's main theater is located at the main city square. It is named after the Sliven native Stefan Kirov who was a prominent actor and director.
The region currently includes 49 municipalities, some of which are Blatets, Bozhevtsi, Byala, Gavrailovo, Izgrev, Kaloyanovo, Kermen, Krushare, Staro Selo, Vaglen, etc.
Smolyan region (also Smolian, Smoljan) is a province in Southern Bulgaria. It borders Greece and is situated in the heart of the Rhodope Mountains. The district's economy is largely based on tourism, mining, timber and machine industries and livestock raising. The main crops of the region are potatoes (about 30% of the national production), rye and barley; but sheep, pigs and cattle are of greater importance for the agriculture. In the eastern parts of the province are located more than 20 lead and zinc mines, which form one of the most extensive ore deposits in the Balkans. The dence coniferous forests are prerequisite for well developed timber industry in Dospat, Smolyan, Devin. In Smolyan there are big plants producing machine tools and other machinery, while textile industry is mainly developed to the east in Nedelino, Zlatograd, Madan and Rudozem. There is also a synthetic rubber plant in Madan.
Nowadays, tourism is the backbone of the economy, especially in winter due to the excellent ski resorts of Pamporovo and Chepelare; having been completely renovated and modernised. The only factory for skiing equipment is located in Chepelare and employes 400 people. The mineral springs in Devin and Beden are very popular among tourists. The beautiful, unspoilt nature and the spectacular gorges, rock bridges and caves attract many people from around the country as well as foreign tourists, while the numerous dams are popular with campers and fishermen.
The administrative center is Smolyan, and other municipalities are: Banite, Borino, Chepelare, Devin, Dospat, Madan, Nedelino, Rudozem and Zlatograd.
According to archaeological evidence, the area around Smolyan was first settled in the 2nd-1st millennium BC. It acquired its name from the Slavic tribe of the Smolyani that settled in the region in the 7th century. Part of the Byzantine and Bulgarian Empires during the Middle Ages, it was ruled by the 14th-century Bulgarian feudal lord Momchil along with the whole Rhodopes for a while before being entirely subjugated by the Ottoman Empire. Smolyan remained under Ottoman rule for five centuries, a township of the Ottoman Gümülcine sanjak in Edirne vilayet between 1867 and 1912. It was known in Ottoman Turkish as Paşmaklı or Ahiçelebi.
The area was occupied by the 21st Sredna Gora Regiment led by Vladimir Serafimov in 1912, during the First Balkan War. The modern town of Smolyan was formed by the merger of three existing villages — Ustovo, Raykovo and Ezerovo — in 1960.
Pamporovo ski resort is set in the southern Rhodope Mountains at an altitude of 1620 meters above sea level. The highest peak in the area, Snezhanka, at 1928 m, is several hundred meters above the resort. Pamporovo is around 260 km away from Sofia, 85 km south of Plovdiv, 15 km north of Smolyan, and 10 km south of Chepelare.
The resort has 25 km of ski-runs and 38 km of cross-country skiing tracks served by 18 lifts with a total capacity of 8500 persons per hour. Four snow-levelling machines and six snow cannons guarantee skiers comfortable and enjoyable downhill rides. More than 100 highly qualified ski instructors, fluent in various languages, are available to aid both beginners and intermediate skiers as well as snowboarders.
The winters in Pamporovo tend to be mild, but have around 150 days of snowfall each year. This combination allows for a long skiing season at the resort. Pamporovo is renowned for its large number of sunny days during the winter, often topping 120 days from December to May.
Sofia Province borders on three sides to the city of Sofia, but does not include it. Because of the large area and population of Bulgaria's capital, the city has been marked as a separate province. The district has a territory of 7 059 sq.km and has 273 240 inhabitants. It includes 22 municipalities: Anton, Botevgrad, Bozhurishte, Chavdar, Chelopech, Dolna Banya, Dragoman, Elin Pelin, Etropole, Ihtiman, Godech, Gorna Malina, Koprivshtitsa, Kostenets, Kostinbrod, Mirkovo, Pirdop, Pravets, Samokov, Slivnitsa, Svoge and Zlatitsa. The landscape has mainly mountainous features. To the north are the southern slopes of the Balkan Mountains and to the south rises Rila with the highest mount on the Balkan peninsula - Mount Musala. There are also several smaller mountains and spacious valleys. One of the most prominent ski resorts in Bulgaria, Borovets, is located just a few kilometers from Samokov, in the heart of Rila Mountain.
The region is a well-developed industrial area. Mining and metallurgy are the backbone of the economy with the largest copper refinery in South Eastern Europe in Pirdop and important copper mines at Chelopech and Etropole. Machinery is well developed in Botevgrad (buses, car components, electronics), Pravets (computers), Etropole, Samokov, Elin Pelin, Ihtiman, Slivnitsa, Godech. The centre of food, sugar & chocolate industry is Svoge. This is also the birthplace of bass/baritone opera singer and musician Boris Damianov.
Elin Pelin, known previously as Novoseltsi, is situated in in the Sofia Valley, with the slopes of the Balkan Mountains to the north and Sredna Gora to the south-southeast, 24 km southeast of the capital. The area has been inhabited since antiquity. A Slavic settlement was founded in the Middle Ages and existed until the early Ottoman rule of Bulgaria.
The town of Elin Pelin (then Novoseltsi) became a local cultural and trade centre during the Bulgarian National Revival. Its importance continued to grow with the construction of the Sofia–Septemvri) railway line and the establishment of the Izida ceramic factory, the first in the country. Despite everything, Elin Pelin is most popular for being the birth place of the noted Bulgarian writer Elin Pelin. It was renamed in his honour in 1950 and was proclaimed a town in 1960.
Koprivshtitsa is one of the most popular historic town in Bulgaria. It lies on the Topolnitsa River among the Sredna Gora mountain. It was one of the centres of the April Uprising in 1876 and is known for the well-preserved authentic Bulgarian architecture and for its folk music festivals, making it a very popular tourist destination.
Koprivshtitsa is one of the characteristic Bulgarian towns, still preserving the atmosphere of the Bulgarian National Revival period of the 19th century. The town is huddled in the mountain folds 111 km east of Sofia. It boasts 383 architectural monuments from the 18th century, most of which have been restored to their original appearance. It was here that the first shot of the April Uprising against the Ottoman occupation was fired in 1876.
Another popular town in Sofia province is Samokov. Situated between the mountains of Rila and Vitosha, it is among the best areas for winter sports. Samokov and Borovets attract large number of tourists, both Bulgarian and foreign, all year round.
Pravets (also Pravetz or Pravec) is located approximately 60 km from Sofia. Surrounded by mountains, with mild climate and rare winds, it is mostly associated with its (now closed) computer manufacturing plant and with the birthplace of Bulgaria's last communist president, Todor Zhivkov. The first microprocessor factory in Bulgaria was situated in Pravets. These computers, which were also the first in Bulgaria, were named Pravets-82 and will remain popular also for their yellow and black keyboards. Today, the town is famous for the branch of the City University of Seattle campus and two prestigious high schools.
Sofia is the capital and largest city of Bulgaria, with a population of more than 1,350,000 people. It is located in western Bulgaria, at the foot of the Vitosha mountain, and is the administrative, cultural, economic, and educational centre of the country. One of the oldest cities in Europe, the history of Serdica-Sredets-Sofia can be traced back some 7000 years ago - prehistoric settlements were excavated in the centre of the present city - near the royal palace, as well as in outer districts such as Slatina and Obelia. The well preserved town walls (especially their substructures) from antiquity date back before the 7th century BC, when Thracians established their city next to the most important and highly respected mineral spring, still functioning today. Sofia has had several names in the different periods of its existence, and remnants of the city's millenary history can still be seen today alongside modern landmarks.
Sofia's development as a significant settlement owes much to its central position in the Balkans. It is situated in western Bulgaria, at the northern foot of the Vitosha mountain, in the Sofia Valley that is surrounded by mountains on all sides. The valley is the largest one in the country with territory of 1,186 square kilometres and average altitude of 550 metres. Three mountain passes lead to the city, which have been key roads since antiquity, connecting the Adriatic Sea and Central Europe with the Black and Aegean Seas.
A number of low rivers cross the city, including the Vladaiska and the Perlovska. The Iskar River in its upper course flows near eastern Sofia. The city is known for its numerous mineral and thermal springs. Artificial and dam lakes were built in the last century.
As to the historic past, Sofia was originally a Thracian settlement called Serdica, possibly named after the Thracian tribe Serdi. Around 500 BC another tribe settled in the region, the Odrysi, known as an ethnos with their own kingdom. For a short period during the 4th century BC, the city was ruled by Philip of Macedon and his son Alexander the Great.
Serdica expanded, as turrets, protective walls, public baths, administrative and cult buildings, a civic basilica, an amphitheatre - the City Council (Boulé), a large Forum, a big Circus (Theatre), etc. were built. When Emperor Diocletian divided the province of Dacia into Dacia Ripensis (at the banks of the Danube) and Dacia Mediterranea, Serdica became the capital of Dacia Mediterranea. The city subsequently expanded for a century and a half, it became a significant political and economical centre, moreso - it became one of the first roman cities where Christianity was recognized as an official religion (Еmperor Galerius). So it was only very natural that Constantine the Great called Serdica (Sardica) "My Rome". Serdica was of moderate size, but magnificent as an urban concept of planning and architecture, with abundant amusements and an active social life. It flourished during the reign of Byzantine Emperor Justinian I, when it was surrounded with great fortress walls whose remnants can still be seen today. The city was destroyed by the Huns in 447 but was rebuilt by Justinian and for a while called Triaditsa. For more than four centuries Sofia was a capital of the Ottoman province of Rumelia. In the 16th century Sofia's appearance became more Oriental with many mosques, fountains and hamams (bathhouses). During that time the town had a population of around 7,000 which rose to 55,000 by the mid 17th century.
Sofia was taken by Russian forces on 4 January 1878, during the Russo-Turkish War, 1877-78, and became the capital of the autonomous Principality of Bulgaria in 1879, which became Kingdom of Bulgaria in 1908. It was proposed for capital by Marin Drinov and was accepted as such on 3 April 1879. By the time of its liberation the population of the was 11,649. For a few decades after the liberation the city experienced a large population growth mainly from other regions of the country.
Later on, during World War II, Sofia was bombed by Allied aircraft in late 1943 and early 1944, as well as later occupied by the Soviet Union. As a consequence of the Russian occupation with the approval of the Allied countries USA, Great Britain, France, Bulgaria's government, which allied the country with Germany, was overthrown by a communist revolution. Like Prague, Warsaw, Bucharest etc. Sofia became a capital of the Communist-ruled People's Republic (1944). The country did not lose territory, but lost vital and important connections with Bulgarian population abroad and all over the world. During that time the population of Sofia expanded at high rates, as a great push has been given to the industrial development of the city - many new large factories and manufacturing plants were built in and around the city. That led to the creation of many new neighbourhoods and expansion of the public transport network.
Nowadays, the historic sites together with many new modern facilities form Sofia's most preferred places of interest. The Sts. Cyril and Methodius National Library (which houses the largest national book collection and is Bulgaria's oldest cultural institute), the Sofia State Library, foreign cultural institutes, the nearly nine-acre amusement park adjacent to the Sofia Zoological Garden (founded in 1888) are all important parts of Sofia's cultural life. Sofia currently enjoys a booming film industry as the filming ground of several international film productions. Vitosha Boulevard, also called Vitoshka — ranked as the world's 22nd most expensive commercial street — represents numerous fashion boutiques and luxury goods stores and features exhibitions by world fashion designers. Sofia's geographic location, situated in the foothills of the weekend retreat Vitosha mountain, further adds to the city's specific atmosphere.
Stara Zagora is region is situated in the southern part of Central Bulgaria. Its administrative center is Stara Zagora, while other towns include Chirpan, Kazanlak, Radnevo, Gurkovo, Maglizh, Nikoaevo, Bratya Daskalovi, Galabovo, Opan, Pavel Banya and Shipka.
Stara Zagora is a cultural centre of particular importance to Bulgaria as it is an ancient Thracian, subsequently Greek, Roman and Byzantine metropolis. The oldest Neolithic remains were found in Stara Zagora. The famous film of BBC The History of Europe starts with the Neolithic museum in Stara Zagora. It shows the remains of the first homes of the people in Europe. It is believed that it was founded by the Thracians under the name Beroe (meaning iron) about 6th-5th century BCE. Later on, under the Roman Empire, the town was renamed to Augusta Trajana in honour of emperor Trajan. After that, at the time of the Byzantine Empire, it adopted the name Irinopolis after Byzantine empress Irene. The fortifications around the town were reconstructed because of fear of Bulgarian attacks, but Irinopolis and the whole Zagore region were reincorporated into Bulgaria in 717. The land was bestowed on khan Tervel as a Byzantine gift in acknowledgement of the Bulgarian help to fight back the Arabs besieging Constantinople. The region was the first Bulgarian territorial gain south of Stara Planina. The town acquired the name Boruy. In 1122 and 1028 Stara Zagora (Beroya) was the site of battles between Byzantine Empire and the Bulgarian army.
In 1371 the region was conquered by the Ottomans. After the Liberation of Bulgaria from Ottoman rule in 1878, it became part of autonomous Eastern Rumelia before the two Bulgarian states finally merged in 1886 as a result of the Unification of Bulgaria.
Nowadays, the region is has a well-developed economy, mainly occupied in production industry. The biggest power plant in Bulgaria, the "Maritsa-Iztok", is located in the province. The biggest brewery is also situated in Stara Zagora. Producing more than 5 different brands of beer, both Bulgarian and foreign, it holds 30% of the beer market in the country. It is also one of the biggest employers in the area. Furthermore, one of the biggest wineries in Bulgaria is also situated in Stara Zagora. Producing some of the most prominent brands of wine and exporting large quantities every year, the winery is one of the most prosperous at the moment. Stara Zagora's industrial zone includes also a large number of production outlets of food industry. The town of Kazanlak is world's famous for the production of rose oil. It is the center of area with longstanding traditions in producing rose, peppermint, lavender, basil and calendula oil, with the first factory opened in 1820. The town celebrates every year a Rose Festival during the first weekend of June, starting with a crowning ceremony of a Rose Queen on Friday evening, and ending with a grand parade through the main streets on Sunday at lunch.
In October 2004, Stara Zagora Province was claimed to have a great quality of life comparable to that of Greater Zürich (Switzerland) by fDi Magazine, produced by the renowned Financial Times Group, judgment based on the region's low-cost, newly built accommodation and rich cultural heritage.
Targovishte is a region in Bulgaria with a population of over 46 000, and is located approximately 170 m above sea-level. The administrative center is the town of Targovishte. It is situated at the southern foot of the low mountain of Preslav on both banks of the Vrana River. It is 339 km north-east of Sofia, 41 km west of Shumen, 25 km north-west of Veliki Preslav, 24 km north-east of Omurtag, 100 km north-east of Veliko Tarnovo, 36 km south of Razgrad, and 35 km south-east of Popovo.
The town and the whole region was a famous ancient market area. In the 18th and 19th centuries it became a famous marketplace for animals and craft products called Eski-Djumaia. Industrial development began after the Second World War. Factories producing car batteries and machines for the food industry were opened; later, furniture and textile industries developed. One of Bulgaria's largest wine production factories is located there. The town is a cultural center. In 2000, ruins of an ancient Roman town called Missionis were found near Targovishte.
The human life was bubbling in these parts already in the Neolithic period. Remains of thracian settlements as well as the Old Roman ones where discovered in the vicinity of Targovishte. Also found were an early Byzantine settlement and a fortress dated back to V - VI cent. B.C. The favourable geographic location, the climatic and natural facts troughout centuries defined this region as a preferable living area which was densely populated also in the Middle Ages at the time of the 1 and 2nd Bulgarian Kingdoms.
The old name of the settlement - Eski Djumaya - emerges for the first time in a 1573 Ottoman tax register. From XVII on, it became an administrative centre and the place where the most popular trade fair in the European part of the Ottoman Empire used do be held. It was here where the merchandises and cultures of Austria, Germany, England, Russia, the Near East and the Arabic world got in close touch.
After its liberation from the Ottoman rule during the Russian - Turkish war /1877 - 1878/, cherishing its traditions, the town assumed European pattern of social and economic development.
The region is situated in the central part of Southern Bulgaria and extends on more than 5 000 sq.km and with a population of more than 270 000 people. Haskovo region includes a total of 11 municipalities - Haskovo, Dimitrovgrad, Svilengrad, Lyubimetz, Harmanli, Simeonovgrad, Mineralni Bani, Madzharovo, Ivailovgrad, Toplovgrad and Stambolovo. The region is of significant importance to the entire economy of the country because of the proximity to the national border with Turkey and Greece. The district is crossed by a transcontinental road (E80) connecting Europe with Asia and the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea. Haskovo is close to Plovdiv Airport (75 km) but is also within relatively easy reach to the Sofia International Airport (225 km) via the Trakia highway.
The territory of Haskovo district includes parts of the southwestern ridges of the Sakar Mountain and the eastern slopes of the Rhodopes, with the Maritza River flowing through the lowlands. The region favors a mild climate influenced strongly by the Mediterranean, which along with the fertile soil are prerequisites to successful agricultural development. Lyubimetz municipality, for example, is famous for growing the best water-melons in Bulgaria and most of the municipalities across Haskovo district have longstanding traditions in growing vegetables (tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, etc.) and tobacco.
Haskovo has a rich history dating back since ancient times. Remains from the Neolithic period have been found near the villages of Bulgarin, Dinevo, Pyasachevo and Bolyarski Izvor. The numerous gravestone mounds, sanctuaries, fortresses and dolmens which have been found in the Sakar Mountain and the Eastern Rhodope ridges speak for the strong presence of the Thracian culture across the region. Several Thracian tombs have been discovered in the region. Two of them are the monumental tomb near the village of Mezek and the Thracian tomb near Aleksandrovo, renowned for the exceptional wall paintings. Furthermore, remains of road networks, bridges, sanctuaries and fortresses from the Roman Empire can be seen across the whole region. The area also keeps the memory of one of the most eminent battles in Bulgarian history. In 1230 near the village of Klokotnitsa the Bulgarian troops led by Tsar Ivan Asen II defeated the Byzantine army of despot Theodore Comnin. The strong influence of the Ottoman Empire has additionally diversified the cultural characteristics of the region. Orthodox rock churches dating back to the dawn of Christianity can be seen in this region along with mosques from the early ages of the Ottoman occupancy.
Nowadays, the region has a modern look and infrastructure. During the years the locals have developed good economic relations and long-standing market traditions with Turkey and Greece. Agriculture and trading with agricultural products have been a major source of income for centuries. Later, during the 1970s when the government started major industrialization, the region explored and developed chemistry and textile industry and expanded the tobacco production. Despite the economic crisis in 1990s, Haskovo managed to overcome the collapse relatively fast and currently has modern working and profitable industry. The town of Dimitrovgrad is also well-known for the production of artificial fertilizers and chemical products. It is also popular for its flea market – the biggest in Bulgaria. The specific location of the region also influences the economy – logistics, transport services (some of Bulgaria’s biggest international transport companies operate from Haskovo), wholesale and retail companies.
The beautiful and modern county of Shoumen (also spelled Shumen) is situated in the central part of North-Eastern Bulgaria. There are numerous interesting places that are worth visiting. The beautiful nature can turn into a perfect place for you to take a rest from the hustle and bustle of the town. There are also a lot of prerequisites for the development of the economy in the region.
The administrative center of the district lies in the middle of the Shumen province. It borders to the south with the municipality of Veliki Preslav and Smyadovo, and to the north – with the municipalities of Caspichan and Hitrino. The town of Shumen itself is sited on an important transport junction. The whole region is renowned for its rich historic and cultural heritage, a factor of significant importance for the development of cultural tourism.
The largest city in the region is Shoumen – a town of rich history, where you can visit interesting cultural and architectural monuments, among them the exceptionally beautiful houses – museum of influential Bulgarians from the period of National Revival, many other museums and galleries. Near the town is the impressive monument complex, called “The Fathers of the Bulgarian State”, and the Shumen fortress. The remnants of the second capital of the First Bulgarian Kingdom – Veliki Preslav, which are now to the south of the modern town and the Preslav's gold treasure, now exhibited in the historical and cultural museum “Veliki Preslav”, are of particular interest to the tourists. The imposing remains of the old city were discovered only 2 kilometres away from the modern town of Veliki Preslav. The old city was the capital of Bulgaria for almost a century in the times of its supremacy and the Golden Era of the Bulgarian culture. The capital city sprung up systematically. It has the same construction of the gates, the towers and the walls like the ones in Pliska, the first capital city. As with the town of Veliki Preslav, the modern town of Pliska is very close to the remains and the imposing construction of the first-ever Bulgarian capital city. The capital had three concentric defences all around it. The capital city of Veliki Preslav is forever linked with the flowering of the medieval Bulgarian culture, the so called Golden Age.
The vicinity of Madara is under the protection of UNESCO - this is a place full of mysticism and secrets. Long ago it was the main sanctuary of the ancient pagan Bulgarians, living in the times of the First Bulgarian Kingdom. The world-famous Madara rider is situated in the archaeological reserve of “Madara”, just 1.5 km to the east of the town of Madara, in the Shumen region.
The unique rock relief is carved as a symbol of the might of the Bulgarian State during its khan's period. Around the figure of the rider numerous inscriptions were carved too. Some 17 kilometres to the east of the town of Shumen along the highway Sofia – Varna beautiful and grand rocks attract the attention. They enclose the plateau over the village of Madara and give its unapproachable look.
Yambol is a region in south-eastern Bulgaria, neighbouring Turkey to the south. The province has an area of 3336 sq.km and, and a population of over 150 000 people. Yambol region is divided into 5 municipalities - Bolyarovo, Elhovo, Straldzha, Tundzha and Yambol. One of the biggest rivers in Bulgaria, Tundja (the fourth of its size with an earth embankment), flows through the district, and mineral water wells are found near the village of Stefan Caradjovo. The territory of the region covers the middle part of the river valley, the Bakadjitsi, parts of the Svetiliiski, Derventski and Manastirski uplands, with the hilly plain relief predominating 100-150m above sea level. The northern areas of Tundja valley are characterized by a trans-continental climate, while the southern parts have a typical continental/Mediterranean climate. Yambol province is also popular for the wood resources which include elm, willow, poplar and oak trees.
The area has a rich history. Archaeological findings in the area date back to the year 6000 BC, to the time of Roman Emperor Diocletian's reign when the castle, called Diospolis, was built on the location of the present modern town of Yambol. The best preserved historical sites, dating back to the fifteenth century, are the bazar "Bezisten" and the mosque "Esky Djamia", which have been restored and are functioning at present. Other historical sites of interest are the prehistoric tumulus by the village of Drama, the remains of Yambol Mediaeval castle and the Monastery of the middle Ages in Voden.
Yambol is also home to the ancient settlement of Kabile, a national archaeological reserve and a nature preserved site, being the most important Thracian settlement in Bulgaria. In modern study of ancient Thrace it has already been proved that Kabile was the most prominent political, economic and religious centre from the first millennium BC. The archaeological investigations of the ancient city that have taken place in the last thirty years have revealed a great number of artefacts (stone inscriptions, coins, ceramic ware and remains of building activities) dating from times over a millennium long history. Most of the discovered artefacts have already been published and used as a data for archaeological and historical studies.
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