Capital | Sofia
Population | 7,148,785
Area | 110,910 SQ KM
Official Language | Bulgarian
Holidays | National Day (day of Liberation) 3 March; the Unification of Bulgaria 6 September; Independence Day 22 September
Currency | Leva (BGN)
Time Zone | UTC+2 / UTC+3 (summer time)
Best Time to Visit | April to mid-June (spring) – and in 863 to help saints Kiril and Metodii create the Cyrillic alphabet
Connecting with the Culture| Skiing down Bulgaria’s affordable snowy peaks; Sipping full-bodied aromatic coffee in a Sofia café; Walking through the strikingly beautiful Rila Mountains, encountering deer, wild goats, eagles, and falcons among the forest of fir trees and beechwoods; Basking in the beach at Burgas on the Black Sea coast; Sampling a glass of dark red wind at Melnik in the a centuries-old wine bar cut into the rocks; Reflecting and contemplating life at revered Rila Monastery, a significant symbol of national identity.
Read | Bulgarian Rhapsody: The Best of Balkan Cuisine by Linda J. Forristal – an informative cookbook with delicious recipes and snippets of Bulgarian culture and history.
Listen | to Orthodox chants sung by a 100-strong choir at the Aleksander Nevski Church, Sofia
Watch | Under the Same Sky, an award-winning film of the Sofia International Film Festival directed by Krasimir Krumov, about a 15-year old girl who goes to search for her father.
Eat | kyopolou, baked eggplant with garlic and walnuts, a Varna specialty
Drink | a glass of red wine, a tradition in Bulgaria since the 6th century BC
In a Word | Blagodarya, mersi (thank you)
Characteristics | Monasteries; feta; rose petals; ancient ruins; hearty meat and vegetable stews; kooky festivals; traditional fire-dancing.
Surprises | There are over 160 monasteries; rose oil is a major export; Bulgaria is the world’s fifth-largest exporter of wine.