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OTHER ITA SITES:
Bulgarian Culture – Unveiling A Hidden Gem
With all the new buildings popping up along the coast of Bulgaria, it may surprise those interested in visiting the area, for either business or pleasure purposes, that it is in fact steeped in history and extremely rich culturally.
The history of Bulgaria dates back over 13 centuries, in fact Bulgaria’s tourist board has proudly declared the country the oldest civilization in Europe! In the very early days, Bulgaria was influenced by many of the ancient civilizations including central Asia, Greeks, Romans and the Ottoman Empire, all of which occupied the country at some point in its history. As well as being occupied for most of its history, Bulgaria was also on the losing side in both the First and Second World Wars. After the Second World War ended, Bulgaria was largely influenced by the Soviet Union and became something of a province of the larger country.
Todor Zhivkov, the leader of the Bulgarian Communist Party, ruled the country for 27 years during this post Second World War period and the country spent this time under the communist regime. As a result, most industries were nationalised and the Orthodox Church was also quashed.
As with many countries suffering from post-communist unrest, Bulgaria also encountered many difficulties dealing with the social and economic crises that it was suffering. This unrest peaked during 1996 and 1997; however, international powers joined to assist Bulgaria and, on March 29, 2004, Bulgaria became a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), with full EU membership due in 2007.
Many of the ancient customs date back for centuries and have been developed over the years. Today, visitors can have a taste of the festivals and celebrations that the locals will have enjoyed for hundreds of years.
Colour and nature are two of the underlying themes of Bulgarian culture. Traditionally, Bulgars believed that nature was all powerful and that they should worship the strength and mystical nature of the elements.
Fire dancing is one of the oldest of the rituals and involves individuals completing a dance on burning embers. It is thought that the ritual ensures that those taking part remain in good health for many years. The dancers also wear brightly coloured costumes as a symbol of wealth and prosperity.
Another very popular festival is the Festival of Roses that is celebrated in the town of Kazanluk, in the Rose Valley. This festival is celebrated on the first weekend of June and is thought to symbolise new beginnings. Today, the festival resembles more of a modern day beauty pageant and for weeks before the festival itself, there are many rounds of competition to determine the final beauty queen winner. Throughout the weekend, visitors are treated to a wide range of shows from actors, circus performers, writers and singers.
Another festival that celebrates new beginnings is the Kukeri Carnival. This takes place in the area of Pernik and is celebrated during early spring. Those taking part in the festival dress up in colourful masks and hold ribbons and tassels. It is thought that partaking in this carnival ensures that evil spirits are kept away.
Anyone interested in historical monuments should certainly make sure that they visit Bulgaria. Despite the fact that Bulgaria only actually accounts for 2 percent of Europe in terms of geographical size, it is home to 30,000 historical monuments, 330 museums, 160 monasteries and 36 culture reserves. More than enough to keep an average visitor busy!
Due to the varied history of the country it is hardly surprising that the typical foods are also an eclectic mix of Greek, Turkish and Slavonic cuisine. Throughout Bulgarian dishes, the main ingredients tend to be milk, yoghurt, cheese, potatoes, apples, grapes, and beans. In terms of meat, pork, beef and lamb are popular, with chicken and fish also readily available.
Bulgarian culture is incredibly rich and varied, which makes this one of the most interesting destinations to visit. Embrace the customs and enjoy the diverse mix of people and cultures that you are unlikely to find in any other part of the world!
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