Bulgars are a proud and resilient people whose ancient culture is captured in poetry, music, rituals and costumes. The country has a lot to offer, from stunning mountain scenery and beaches to modern cities, a well established wine industry and some of the best skiing in the world. There is plenty of history to discover too. The country was the cradle of Eastern Christianity, resisting the attempts of both Ottoman and Communist rule to eradicate religion. Many Bulgarians today still identify as religious and the church is an integral part of society. The family is the fundamental social unit and extended families often consist of several generations. The culture is also influenced by the many neighbouring cultures which have shaped the region over the centuries. This diversity is reflected in the cuisine which is a mixture of Turkish, Greek and Slavic dishes.
The country is a relatively safe place to live, although there is an ongoing problem of organised crime and gangs in some regions. Tourism is a major industry and the government has been taking measures to make it safer for tourists, such as increased police presence and better roads. It is still a good idea to be aware of your surroundings and keep valuables out of sight.
Located in the heart of Europe, Bulgaria is a member of the European Union and has a stable economy with low unemployment. The GDP per capita is above the average for the EU and the standard of living is high.
Food is a big part of the bulgarian culture, and there is something for every taste! Whether you are adventurous and looking for exotic dishes like shkembe chorba or tarator, or preferring more traditional fare such as boiled beans or cabbage rolls, you will find it in the many small shops and open markets.
The most famous cured meat is lukanka, made with a mix of minced pork and veal and heavily spiced with salt, black pepper, hot or sweet red peppers, cumin, nutmeg and coriander. The sausage is then packed into a casing made from cows or pigs’ intestines and pressed, to develop its characteristic flat shape. The dish is very popular and can be found in most restaurants, served with potatoes or bread on the side.
Boiled beans are a staple of the Bulgarian diet and can be served with a variety of different meats and vegetables. A classic is bob chorba, which consists of beans and a selection of vegetables including carrots, peppers, onions and tomatoes and herbs such as summer savory or spearmint. The dish can be a meal in itself, but it is particularly good when paired with a grilled piece of meat and a cold beer!
If you are a meat lover, then try the mekitsi, which is similar to a donut and is often sprinkled with sugar, but there is also a savory cheese version. Another delicious treat is lyutenitsa, which is essentially mashed up roasted peppers with onions and garlic, mixed with yogurt for extra flavor.