Bulgaria, or the Republic of Bulgaria (Република България) is a mountainous country in the Eastern Balkans, on the western shore of the Black Sea. It sits between Romania in the north, Serbia and Macedonia in the west, and Greece and Turkey in the south.
The climate of Bulgaria is classed as continental. Warm in the summer, cold in the winter, wet when it rains and dry the rest of the time. Bulgaria has a long history, already old when the Romans arrived, known to the ancient Greeks, home of the Thracians and with archaeological finds dating back to the Neolithic period some 9000 years ago.
Christianity arrived in the middle of the 9th Century and took over from paganism. The Christianisation wasn’t simple due to Bulgaria’s location between the Roman church in the west and Byzantium to the south, both of which had competing flavours of Christianity on offer. The upshot was that lots of people were killed and Bulgaria adopted the Eastern Orthodoxy of the Greeks and Byzantines. At the end of the 14th Century, Bulgaria was subjugated by the Ottoman Turks and spent the next five centuries under Islamic rule, the Christians were allowed to continue being Christians for the most part, but there were some forcible conversions, especially in the Rhodope mountains, and anyone unwilling to become Muslim was put to death by the Turkish soldiers. After the liberation from Ottoman rule at the end of the 19th Century, the Christians conducted forced conversions of Muslims to Christianity in the same areas. During Communism when any form of religious belief was seen as mere superstition, all Turks and other Muslims in Bulgaria were forced to adopt Bulgarian names and refrain from Muslim observances. Today around 8% of the population is Muslim.
At the end of the 19th Century when Bulgaria regained its independence, The Bulgarian language, which had remained dormant throughout the occupation due to Turkish being used as the language of trade and governance, required modernisation. Although it had survived the occupation in the villages, it was still a predominantly medieval language and was brought up to date by borrowing words from other languages, chiefly Russian, presumably because of their shared Slavic identity and culture, and mutual use of the Cyrillic alphabet. Bulgarian didn't have the words to describe all the new things found in the late 19th and early 20th Century, so lots of German words for technical items were imported into the language. Borrowings were also made from French, English, Romanian, Turkish, Italian and even Spanish to produce the modern Bulgarian language as it is used today. There are of course loanwords from other languages contained within modern Bulgarian but the aforementioned languages are the main sources.
Due to its history and geographic location, Bulgaria is home to a very diverse culinary tradition. Salads are very popular as well as dairy products. Meat is mainly pork and chicken, cows being mostly reserved for dairy production and not for eating. On St. Nicholas’s Day it is customary to eat fish. Freshwater fish, mainly carp, accounts for over 90% of the fish consumed in Bulgaria, saltwater fish from the Black Sea does not feature highly in the national cuisine. Lamb is eaten on St. George’s Day which is celebrated on May 6th. Banitsa, made from filo pastry, eggs and white brine cheese is very popular as a fast food, as is pizza and kebabs. Soups are popular too, bean soup, tripe soup, mushroom soup, lentil soup and tarator, a cold soup made with yoghurt and cucumber, flavoured with garlic, dill and crushed walnut. Yoghurt is both produced and consumed in huge quantities and exported all over the world. Other staple foodstuffs are rice, maize, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, melons, marrows, mushrooms and honey. This list is by no means exhaustive, the soil and climate are such that it is possible to grow almost anything with little effort. Wheat, barley, sunflowers, maize, oilseed rape, tobacco, strawberries, raspberries, apples, pears, apricots, peaches, grapes and more are all grown commercially, both for domestic consumption and export. Potatoes are not grown on a large scale due to the Colorado beetle, but they are grown in vegetable gardens all over the country for home use. Beer is produced in several regional breweries and is very good. Rakia, a form of raw brandy is produced domestically and commercially from fermented apricots, plums or grapes depending on the region and/or availability of fruit. Vodka, whisky, mastika and menta are produced commercially. Wine, both red and white is made all over the country, both domestically and commercially, as it has been for thousands of years, and Bulgaria was for a time the second largest producer of wine in the world, but production has fallen since the collapse of the iron curtain.
TL;DR - Conclusion.
Bulgaria is a great place to visit, the people are friendly, the weather is nice, the country has everything that you might require from a holiday destination, seaside or countryside, Bulgaria has an amazing variety of landscapes - all within reasonably short distances of each other. Food, drink and accommodation are all at very reasonable prices. From sunbathing to skiing, horse riding to mountain biking, if you require something that isn’t available in Bulgaria then you had best stay at home because nowhere has what you are looking for. As for getting there, flights to Sofia or Bucharest are really cheap if booked well in advance, flights to Burgas or Varna are a little more expensive but not a great deal more. Onward travel to your final destination is cheap compared to UK ticket prices, the trains are really cheap but also really slow. The cities and bigger towns have regular coach services between them, and for shorter distances, just take a taxi. Taxi travel is much much cheaper than in the UK.