Bulgaria, one of the larger Balkan countries, shares borders with Romania, Serbia, Macedonia, Greece, and Turkey (as well as the Black Sea acting as its lengthy eastern coastline).  It is perhaps the least-known among the countries in that region, whose history dates back to the Roman Empire, when a town then called “Serdica” (now Sofia – the country’s capital) – became the administrative center of the Roman province of Dacia Mediterranea (the Roman era territory simply known as “Dacia” is present-day Romania, just north of Bulgaria).  Sofia’s size was expanded during the Byzantine era under the rule of both Constantine the Great (306-337 AD) and Justinian the Great (527-565 AD).

Afterwards, Bulgaria was dominated by the Ottomans in 1396 (bringing Islam into a mostly Christian Orthodox country).  Such rule continued for nearly 500 years, until the Russo-Turkish War (1877-78), when Russian forces and local (Bulgarian) volunteers forced the Turks out of the country.  A principality of Bulgaria was created after that conflict.  The country, which was an autonomous Ottoman province by the early 20th century, formally declared its independence in 1908.  After Bulgaria lost territory in an earlier conflict with Greece, Serbia and Romania (1913), it entered World War I in 1915 as part of the Central Powers (Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Ottoman Empire).  As a loser of that conflict, Bulgaria lost territory to Serbia, Greece, Romania and the newly-formed state of Yugoslavia.

Bulgaria (under authoritarian rule by the 1940s) sided with the Axis Powers (including Nazi Germany) during World War II, resulting in the Russians invading the country in 1944.  After the end of that conflict, Bulgaria became a part of the Soviet Bloc, and remained so until free elections were held in 1990 (creating a parliamentary democracy).  Bulgaria joined NATO in 2004, and became part of the European Union in 2007.  Over the years, tourism has become a growing part of Bulgaria’s economy (generating 13.6% of the country’s GDP, with over 21 million visitors in 2014 – many of whom were from nearby countries – Greece, Turkey and Romania).  The country not only has a variety of historic sites, but resorts by the Black Sea, and winter destinations as well.

Note:   although Bulgaria is a member of the European Union, it does NOT use the Euro as its official currency.  Instead, it uses the Lev (BGN), which is equal to 100 stotinki (st.).  This explains the pricing in this travel profile.  Exchange rate:   1 Euro = 1.95 BGN;   US$1 = 1.75 BGN