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Our Insider's Articles about Bulgaria
Part of the Balkan peninsula, Bulgaria has been shaped by the Ottoman empire and communism, two forces that controlled it for over 600 years, but today it’s forging its own identity. Independent as of 1991, the country is romantically underdeveloped, with remarkable mountains, lakes, beaches, and therapeutic hot springs. Think Orthodox churches surrounded by mountain flowers, a horizon of snow-capped peaks for a backdrop, women wearing head scarves and priests with untrimmed beards, black cassocks, and “chimney-pot” style caps.
Below are tips to help guide you on your trip through Bulgaria. Bulgaria is popular among travelers because of good exchange rates, reliable transportation, wine-related tourism, and budget skiing, but it is far from overrun. It was the land of the Thracians, and archeological museums display their ancient tombs and massive gold treasures.
Some of the best museums are located in the capital city of Sofia and the city of Plovdiv. The medieval old town of Plovdiv is filled with winding, cobblestone streets, and a Roman amphitheater has been incorporated into daily life. Bulgaria is part of the European Union but the official currency is the Bulgarian Lev. Bulgarian is the official language, and you will find English spoken in larger cities. The biggest challenge is reading signs written using the Cyrillic alphabet, and it is worth taking a crash course, which can take just a few minutes. As of May 2011, U.S. travelers do not need a visa if visiting for less than 90 days. Most important sights include the beaches on thee Black Sea Riviera, the Bansko and Borovets ski resorts, the Rila Monastery, the Palace and Botanical Gardens of Balchik, and the many Thracian tombs, especially the Kazanluk tomb and the Sveshtari tomb.