About Sofia

About Bulgaria

In the heart of the Balkan Peninsula, Bulgaria boasts a long and rich history. Thracians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Slavs and Bulgarians inhabited this country, left behind monuments and enriched this cultural treasure. Bulgaria's geographical location at the crossroads between Europe and Asia is reflected in the rich and long history of Bulgarian culture, architecture, cuisine, customs and traditions.

During its 1300-year history, of which 300 were under Byzantine domination and 500 for Ottomans, Bulgaria recorded many darker times but never renounced its national identity and heritage.

After the Second World War, during which Bulgaria declared a "symbolic war" in the United Kingdom and the United States (but failed to fight its forces and refused to deport the Jewish population to the Nazi death camps), it gained reputation as the most powerful ally of the Soviet Union that mimics Soviet politics.

The dismissal of longtime leader Todor Zhivkov from the function of November 10, 1989 began the current period of political and economic transformation. The first round of negotiations between the Bulgarian government and the European Commission to sign the European Association Agreement began in 1992 and was signed and ratified in the following year. In 2000, the European Council adopted a decision on formal negotiations with Bulgaria on association. The country joined the European Union on 1 January 2007, a monumental step that will bring Bulgaria a lot of change in the near future.

Population: 7,707,495 (in 2001), Area: 110,910 km2, Capital: Sofia, Location: European Borders: Greece, Macedonia, Romania, Yugoslavia, Turkey, Main Language: Life expectancy: 67.72 years, 74.89 years (women) Currency Unit: 1 lev (BGN) = 100 stotinki, main export: electricity, gas and water; Food, beverages and tobacco; Machinery and equipment, basic metals, chemical products, refined petroleum, nuclear fuel, Annual average income: 1 700 USD, Internet domain: .bg, International code: +359

About Sofia

Sofia has a history that goes back thousands of years. Through the centuries, many nations have inhabited it and added to its rich and diverse history. Numerous Neolithic villages have been discovered in the area, while a chalocolithic settlement has been recently discovered in the very centre of modern Sofia.

The Thracian Serdi tribe settled here in the 7th century BC and gave the first recorded name of Sofia -- Serdica. The Byzantines called it Triaditsa and the Slavs - Sredets. The modern city of Sofia was named in the 14th century after the basilica St. Sofia. (In Greek, the word "sofia" means wisdom.) In the 3rd century AD, the Romans built strong walls around Serdica, their capital of Inner Dacia and an important stopping point on the Roman road from Naisus (present Nish, Yugoslavia) to Constantinople.

Today there are many archaeological sites in Sofia, that display the city's diverse history - the castle gates and towers of Serdica, public buildings and streets thousands of years old. A large part of the ancient city of Serdica is underneath important modern buildings. The ancient city council (bulefteris) is hidden under the Sheraton hotel, while a number of basilicas are below the Hall of Justice. The Roman thermal baths are under the Sofia Mineral Baths and a Roman residence with elaborate mosaics is below the Rila hotel.

After the Hun invasion in 441 AD, the town was rebuilt by the Byzantines. The Slavs gave Sredets a key role in the First Bulgarian Empire, then in 1018 the Byzantines retook Triaditsa. At the end of the 12th century, the Bulgarians returned and Sredets became a major trading centre of the Second Bulgarian Empire. The Turks captured Sofia in 1382 and made it the centre of the Rumelian beylerbeyship. The city declined during the feudal unrest of the 19th century, but with the establishment of the Third Bulgarian Empire in 1879, Sofia once again became the capital of Bulgaria.

The city's image rapidly changed from its Oriental roots, to reflect its new European tone. Today many streets, buildings, parks, and even whole neighbourhoods preserve the architectural style from the turn of the century. Between 1879 and 1939, the population of Sofia grew from 20,000 to 300,000. Today, Sofia is home to over 1,250,000 people.