My name is Darina and I'm a Bulgarian. I'm one of the creators of www.learn-bulgarian.net, which was launched a few years ago. Since then and to this day I am working on creating interactive, modern-day resources to help you learn Bulgarian.
The beginning of the year is a good time to start learning or to continue improving your Bulgarian. To support you, we have a little gift for you. We created 2 short lessons with common phrases and words related to the new year that you can use these days when speaking to your Bulgarian friends and family. Continue reading
What motivates people to learn the Bulgarian language? In the past 4 years we conducted several surveys with Learn Bulgarian Easily students and visitors. Today we pulled all the data together to show you why people want to learn Bulgarian and where they are coming from:
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On 3rd of March Bulgarians celebrate their national holiday annually. There are fireworks and celebrations and no one has to go to work. But what happened on this day? What do Bulgarians celebrate?
The slaughter at Batak by Antony Piotrovski
Before the Russo-Turkish war of 1877-1878 the Balkan peninsula was almost entirely part of the Ottoman empire. Bulgarians were under the Ottoman reign for nearly 500 years. But they never stopped wanting to be free.
The April rebellion of 1876 proved how desperately did the Bulgarians want freedom. The rebellion started on 20th April in Koprivshtitsa earlier than planned due to a leak of information. Once started, the rebels spread the news to the other regions. Todor Kableshkov, a noted Bulgarian rebel, sent to Panagyurishte the famous “Blood letter”, written with a dead Turk’s blood and informing the recipients that the revolution has started.
A lot of towns fought but the rebellion was crushed. And it was not only the rebelling men that were hanged and punished. In Batak, the Turkish army atrociously slaughtered the local women, children and old men who took refuge in the church and burned to the ground a lot of the rebelling villages.
From first sight it looked like the rebellion did not help in any way. But in fact, it was this desperate act that attracted the attention of Europe. The Bulgarian cause for political independence found supporters in the face of Victor Hugo, Lev Tolstoy and Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Russia was especially supportive of the Bulgarian cause, Britain – of the Ottoman empire. The great European political powers started shifting for or against the Ottoman empire. The majority’s decision was pronounced by the German chancellor Otto von Bismarck: “There is no place for Turkey in Europe”.
The war started. The Russians divided their army into 3 detachments – West, Ruschushki and Front. While the West detachment besieged Osman pasha and his men in Pleven, the Front detachment went South through Shipka pass. As a reaction, the Turkish sent Siuleiman pasha’s army to Shipka pass. Their goal was to help Osman pasha’s army. The Russian army did not have a strategic reserve for this move and as a result, the success of the war was entirely dependant on the battle at Shipka pass.
The Battle at Shipka
The Battle of Shipka
The battle at Shipka pass was one of the most epic battles in Bulgaria’s 1300-year history. The Front detachment, whose goal was to keep the pass included the whole Bulgarian army of volunteers. The famous Bulgarian author Ivan Vazov expertly retells what the army went through in an unequal fight against the ever coming Turkish hordes in his poem “The volunteers at Shipka”.
According to his account, the Bulgarian-Russian army was outnumbered. At a certain point the bullets were over, so they started using trees and stones, and eventually – their dead fellow man’s bodies.
This desperate fights kept the pass and the Russian army managed to advance almost until Tsarigrad. They were forced to accept a peace agreement because the British minister Benjamin Disraeli threatened to send UK army to help the Turkish.
The Peace Treaty
Treaty of San Stefano and Berlin
On 3rd of March, 1878 a peace treaty was signed in San Stefano between Russia and the Ottoman empire. The treaty created an autonomous tributary Bulgarian kingdom with christian government and the right to have an army. After 500 years Bulgaria was free again. However, not for long.
The neighbouring states as well as Great Britain and France were alarmed by this new player on the European stage. As a result, the San Stefano treaty was superseded by the Treaty of Berlin. Bulgaria was divided to Principality of Bulgaria, the autonomous province of Eastern Rumelia, and Macedonia, which was given back to the Ottomans.
Even though it took Bulgaria a few more years to get back its provinces, the treaty of San Stefano is the historic moment in which Bulgaria was proclaimed a free autonomous country. And this is what Bulgarians celebrate – the freedom they have and the lives of the brave men who made this freedom possible.
Recently I found an interesting old advertisement of Bulgarian chocolate. It is from the blog Stara Sofia, which is devoted to the history of the Bulgarian capital, specifically after the liberation and before the communist regime. Here is the history nugget for today:
Here is what the advertisement says:
The only factory in Bulgaria for cocoa, chocolate and all kinds of candies
Recommends its produce, by the Governmental Laboratory and found – pure – natural and unlike the falsified European ones. The latest medical science states: “The chocolate is required for recovery of the health which is upset by one reason or another, because it contains all needed elements for renewing of the blood, if up to 200 grams are used daily.”
Prices are most advantageous, available for everyone.
Selling in big and small quantities. If desired it can be sent to the countryside too.
Isn’t that an amusing advertisement? According to the science from 1904 you can eat up to 200 grams of chocolate a day and it will only benefit your health. But this, of course, is only for the good Bulgarian chocolates, not the false European ones.
This peculiar ad inspired me to learn more about the time period and the chocolate. And I decided to share it with you.
Chocolate making was Velizar Pehev’s chosen trade after being an officer in the Bulgarian army. After a confrontation with King Ferdinand he lost his job. Even though he thought the European chocolates “fake”, Velizar learned to be a chocolatier in France, where he worked for a year in a chocolate factory. He was careful to learn and had the habit of taking notes all the time, which made his coworkers suspicious. They thought he was a spy for another factory and reported him to the boss. Pehev explained that he wants to introduce chocolate in Bulgaria and his honesty put him in his mates’ good graces. When he returned, he took with him some of his coworkers, who helped him establish his business. But more about him later, let’s get back to chocolate.
At the beginning of the 20th century, chocolate was a novelty in Bulgaria. It was considered a luxury and a lot of spiritual leaders at the time were declaring it to be “disgusting” and “food of the Devil”. The people who were brave enough to try this temptation often had to ask the chocolate maker “How do I eat this, with the shiny paper or not?”.
In the book My home town Sofia, Rayna Kostentseva shares her childhood memories. One of them is the reaction of her family when her godmother gave her chocolate for the first time:
“What can this wonder be!” I was thinking and everyone around me kept guessing. I unfolded carefully one of the blocks, trying not to tear the picture on it. “Ha! Black” I cried, extremely surprised. “Little soaps” added my mother. I decided to lick one to make sure they really were soaps. When my tongue touched the block, I felt bittersweet taste. “This is for food, mama!” I called as if I have discovered America. “It cannot be!” my mother protested. “Don’t eat, wait until I try it first so you don’t poison yourself.” When she tried the “soap”, she immediately threw it and went to wash her mouth. “This is cat’s poo, get it out of here!” When my godmother first ate one of these black “soaps” and explained what they were, I started eating them devouringly. After this case, my mother never tried chocolate in her life again.
So, when Pehev was starting his business, it was a risky and difficult venture. Despite the mistrust of banks, lack of market, competition from imported products and problems with deliveries, Bulgarians liked the chocolate and Pehev’s business flourished. Velizar became the main producer of chocolate in Bulgaria, making 2/3 of all cocoa products in Bulgaria. In the 30s, the chocolate made by Pehev took the first place in the international fairs in Bern, Paris and Vienna.
Pehev expanded his production and opened a modern-day factory in Svoge in 1922. After Velizar’s death in 1927, his son took over the business. The communist regime forcefully took over all private businesses and the factory in Svoge was no exception. The government renamed the factory “Republica” and continued production of sugary foods. If you go to Bulgaria today, you can try the Republica (Република) bars which are still sold in every store.
After the communism, Kraft Foods bought the factory and started producing chocolate Svoge (Своге). Their famous advertisement with the catchphrase “Bulgarian (chocolate), from Svoge” implied quality Bulgarian chocolate. It is, however, made with a Swiss recipe, so the old tradition of over-patriotic company’s advertisements continues.
Despite the foreign recipe Svoge is considered a very Bulgarian chocolate and I advise you to try it on your next visit. If you have a sweet tooth try also Suha pasta Balkan (суха паста Балкан) which at a certain point was also produced in Pehev’s factory.
In Bulgarian folklore Talasuhm is an evil spirit which haunts and protects buildings, bridges and fountains. It can take the appearance of a dog or a cat or even other domestic animals.
There are two ways a talasuhm can come into existence. One is when a person or a person’s shadow are built into a bridge, fountain or a building.
The ancient Bulgarians believed that a big building needs a sacrefice in order to be completed. The builders used to either add soemthing living in the foundations or built someone’s shadow. The animal or person’s shadow was then measured, its measurement put in a box which was then buildin the foundations of the building. It was believed that the man, woman or animal who’s shadow was built will die in 40 days and the shadow will be turned into a talasuhm – protecting the building forever.
There are many old stories about people who died after their shadow was build which indicates how strong this belief was. The following story is worthy of our Bulgarian Horrible Histories series apart from the lack of historic evidence.
Legend tells us that the building process of Kadin bridge (Kadin Most, Koprivshtitsa | Кадин мост, Копривщица) was very difficult because whatever the builders did during the day was carried away by the violent waters of Struma river. The builders decided that in order to finish their project a sacrifice has to be made – one of their wives. They agreed that the first of their wives who comes at morning to bring them food will be sacrificed. Struma, the wife of the master builder Manol came first that day. She was buildin the foundation of the bridge. Thus the name of the bridge – Kadin comes from the old Turkish word for “wife”.
The other way a talasuhm is created is by burying a treasure. The spirit comes to life when a sacrifice is made over the place where the treasure is buried. On certain holidays (Christmas, Gergiovden, Eniovden) blue flame burns over the buried treasure showing its location. The loot can be taken then if flour or cinder are sprinkled over the place. At morning, according to the kind of footprints in the flour it will be known what kind of sacrifice is needed for the talasuhm to release the treasure – animal or human. If no sacrifice is given the treasure hunter must fight the talasuhm until dawn, when the spirit looses its power.
If you are interested in Bulgarian folklore, feel free to also check the article about the alluring Samodiva.
If you plan to visit Bulgaria and stay for a few days in Sofia, don’t miss the Free Sofia Tour. This tour is exactly what it sounds like: it is free and it is in Sofia.
Free Sofia Tour runs twice a day, every day, at 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. Bulgarian time, regardless of the weather and/or holidays. The tour guides are young enthusiasts who will show you around the most beautiful and interesting parts of the city centre, while telling you about Sofia’s history.
The meeting point for the tour is always the same. Here is a map that will help you get there:
If you want to reach the meeting point by subway, get off at Serdika subway station. Then pass by St. Nedelya church down the street until you reach the courthouse with the big iron lions in front of it. The meeting is by the left lion (if you are watching towards the courthouse).
If you go by taxi, simply tell them to drive you to “Sveta Nedelya” church (Tsuhrkvata Sveta Nedelia). Then all you need to do is cross the street and walk towards the lions.
I hope these instructions will be helpful. If you happen to be visiting Varna or Plovdiv, there are similar free tours there as well.
So if you have already seen Sofia’s centre, do tell: How did you like it?
In our previous article about Bulgarian sea resorts we presented you with some of the largest and most popular Black sea vacation places in Bulgaria. In this article we will show you some smaller sea resorts which, however, have a big history. All of those settlements have been founded in ancient times and have some of their former glory preserved. Those are towns where you can find both golden sand beach holiday and a cultural trip to the past.
View of the town Photo by PL Przemek
Sozopol is one of the oldest Bulgarian towns, its first settlement dating back to the Bronze Age. The current town was founded by Greek colonists in the 7th century BC and was initially called Antheia. Soon the town was renamed Apollonia, because the city temple dedicated to Apollo used to contain a famous colossal statue of the Greek god.
Apollonia was located on an islet which is now connected to the mainland with a narrow piece of land. Its inhabitants, mostly Greek, lived by fishing and agriculture. The town soon established itself as a trade and cultural center, having strong relations with the ancient Greek cities. During the 1st century AD, the name Sozopolis began to appear in written documents and coins.
Houses in the old town of Sozopol Photo by Martyr
During the centuries, Sozopol was part of the Byzantine, Bulgarian and Ottoman empires. After the Bulgarian independence war in the 19th century, Sozopol became part of the new Bulgarian kingdom.
Sozopol is located 53km south of Burgas. It is a major seaside resort famous with its golden beaches and the Apollonia art festival which takes place every September. The buildings of the old town are preserved in 18th-19th century Bulgarian style but there are also some remains from the ancient Greek era. In fusion with the ancient atmosphere, Sozopol offers a lot of modern and comfortable hotels.
Fortification in front of Nesebar
Until the Middle Ages, Nesebar was known as Menebria (by the Thracians) and Mesembria (by the Greeks). It was originally a Thracian settlement which later became a Greek colony. Mesembria became an important trading center and a rival to Apollonia. At the 1st century BC, the town fell under Roman rule, but managed to keep its autonomy.
Church of John the Baptist, Nesebar Photo by Gérard Janot
During the Middle Ages Nesebar was often fought over by the Byzantine and Bulgarian empires. The Bulgarian variant of the name, Nesebar or Mesebar, was first attested in the 11th century. The Turks captured the town in the 15th century. Nesebar reunited with new Bulgarian kingdom in 1885, after the independence war.
Nesebar, or “The Pearl of the Black Sea” contains many historic sites such as an ancient acropolis, temple of Apollo and part of the defensive ancient wall. There are over 40 churches in Nesebar, wholly or partly preserved. The town’s rich history and abundance of historic buildings made it part of the Unesco’s World Heritage Sites.
We’ve decided to share a mini-lesson of the Bulgarian Alphabet with you. This video is part of our Bulgarian language course called QuickStart Bulgarian. Because it is a beginner course, QuickStart Bulgarian’s first lesson teaches the Bulgarian alphabet, how to read it, as well as explanation related to some challenging letters and specifics. The following video is the “fast mode” of the Bulgarian alphabet, or simply the alphabet without shown examples.
May 24 is the Bulgarian education and culture, and Slavonic literature day. It is also known as the day of St. Cyril and Methodius, in honor of the brothers who created the Cyrillic alphabet. It is a public holiday in Bulgaria, celebrated with an abundance of cultural events.
Cyril and Methodius were canonized as saints for their extensive work for the christianizing of the Slavs and the creation of the first Slavic alphabet. They are also known as “Apostles of the Slavs”.
In a nutshell, Cyril and Methodius were born in Thessaloniki in the 9th century. With the help of their uncle, Cyril received his education in the university of Mganaura (the most prestigious school in the Byzantine empire, where the children of the aristocracy got their education) and Methodius received a job as a manager of an area near Thessaloniki.
Cyril’s education and his ability to speak both Arabic and Hebrew made him appropriate for several missions in the Middle East. Then in 862 the prince of Moravia requested from the Byzantine emperor to send missionaries to evangelize his Slavic subjects. Cyril and Methodius were sent for this mission. During their mission they developed the Glagolitic alphabet, with the tasks of translating the Bible in Slavonic. The Glagolitic is the first alphabet used for the Slavonic language.
After the death of his brother, Methodius continued his work among the Slavs with the help of his disciples. However, the new Pope forbade the use of Slavonic for liturgy in the Church and Methodius found himself in an uncomfortable position; he had to flee to the First Bulgarian Empire.
The Glagolitics was based on the Greek letters and was difficult for daily use. St. Clement of Ohrid, a disciple of Cyril and Methodius, simplified the Glagolitic and thus the Cyrillic alphabet was born.
In memory of Cyril and Methodius, the national library of Bulgaria in Sofia bears their names. A statue of the two brothers is situated in front of the library in their honor. Also, the first modern Bulgarian university, the University of Sofia, bears the name of St. Clement of Ohrid.
The Black Sea (or Cherno more; Черно море) is the natural Eastern Bulgarian border. Some say it was called “black” because in ancient times it was very inhospitable and difficult to navigate in. If sailors were caught in a storm, they usually died because of the absence of islands in the sea at which to harbor. The sea waters also appear very black during a storm or when there is a fog over it. The reason for this “black” appearance is that the deep waters do not mix with the upper layers of water. As a result the deeper layers of water do not receive any oxygen, making over 90% of the deeper Black Sea volume anoxic water. This lessens the amount of living microorganisms in the sea, making it appear black.
Despite its hostility to sailors, the Black Sea is very hospitable for tourists, providing perfect sand beaches and an abundance of sea resorts. There you can find both modern and luxury resorts as well as small historic villages and charming little towns. In the next section, you can get to know the best Bulgarian sea resorts and what they can offer.
(Zlatni Piasuhtsi; Златни пясъци)
Golden Sands is the oldest of the three biggest Bulgarian sea resorts (Golden Sands, Sunny Beach and Albena). It is located just 17 km away from the city of Varna, in a natural park with the same name, in which you can see some unique costal plant species.
Golden Sands is famous with its golden-like fine sand and its wide and long beach. At times, the beach reaches 100 m width and is 3.5 km long. Sunbathing is possible from May to October, as the calm and clear water stays warm even during the night in the summer season, sometimes reaching up to 25 degrees C.
According to the local legend, the lovely beach was created when pirates dug their treasure there. The land decided to take the gold and turn it into fine sand.
Golden Sands also has some thermal mineral water sources which are used for medical purposes. As a result the resort offers medical and fitness centers in which you can use the healing thermal waters all year round. In those centers over 100 kinds of medical services are offered, such as healing of arthritis, osteoarthritis, stress, chronic pharyngitis, bronchitis, asthma, etc.
(Sluhnchev briag; Слънчев бряг)
Sunny Beach is the biggest and most popular sea resort in Bulgaria. It is located in a bay in a half-moon form, turned towards East. It is situated 30 km away from the city of Burgas and 3km away from Nesebar, south from the last uplands of the Balkan mountain.
The shore line is 8 km long, with fine golden-yellow sand, clear water and fresh air from the mountain. There is an abundance of popular night clubs and bars and other kinds of entertainment such as concerts, music festivals, sports, beach competitions as well as the high tech Aqua Park. The sunbathing season is from May to September.
The fast development of the resort in the past few decades made it the biggest in Bulgaria, being able to accommodate over 300 000 people. The overdevelopment creates some infrastructure problems. Sunny Beach is no longer good for a quiet family vacation, however, the people who prefer more dynamic atmosphere and night life will love the resort.
Albena is located in the northern Bulgarian sea cost, 30 km away from Varna. The resort was purpose-built in the early 70s. There are a lot of modern hotels there, built in a way that gives them a good prospect of the sea and enough sunshine. Albena offers almost 15 000 beds and over 100 restaurants.
Albena is extremely popular with foreign tourists, approximately 90% of the visitors are foreigners. It is friendly for all age groups and offers diverse entertainment options. From the cultural tourism, Balchik palace and its gardens, to the variety or sports and tournaments, Albena offers dynamic and yet calm holidays.
Albena’s beach is covered with fine sand with velvety feel and is 3.5 km long. The resort has won a prize for the ecological purity of the whole territory. The air has a high amount of oxygen due to the nearby natural resort Baltata.
All of the mentioned resorts are reachable by car or bus. There are buses from any major Bulgarian city. The closest airports are in Varna and Burgas.