Why Bulgaria?

Republic of Bulgaria is a country in the Balkans in south-eastern Europe. Bulgaria borders five other countries: Romania to the north (mostly along the River Danube), Serbia and the Republic of Macedonia to the west, and Greece and Turkey to the south. The Black Sea defines the extent of the country to the east.

With a territory of 110,994 square kilometers, Bulgaria ranks as the third-largest country in Southeast Europe (after Romania and Greece). Several mountainous areas define the landscape, most notably the Stara Planina (Balkan) and Rodopi mountain ranges, as well as the Rila range, which includes the highest peak in the Balkan region, Musala. In contrast, the Danubian plain in the north and the Upper Thracian Plain in the south represent Bulgaria's lowest and most fertile regions. The 378-kilometer Black Sea coastline covers the entire eastern bound of the country.

The emergence of a unified Bulgarian national identity and state dates back to the 7th century AD. All Bulgarian political entities that subsequently emerged preserved the traditions (in ethnic name, language and alphabet) of the First Bulgarian Empire (632/681 - 1018), which at times covered most of the Balkans and spread its alphabet, literature and culture among the Slavic and other peoples of Eastern Europe, eventually becoming the cultural center of the medieval Slavs. Centuries later, with the decline of the Second Bulgarian Empire (1185 - 1396/1422), Bulgarian territories came under Ottoman rule for nearly five centuries.

The Russo-Turkish War of 1877-1878 led to the re-establishment of a Bulgarian state as a constitutional monarchy in 1878, with the Treaty of San Stefano marking the birth of the Third Bulgarian State.

Bulgaria functions as a parliamentary democracy within a unitary constitutional republic. A member of the European Union, NATO, the United Nations and the World Trade Organization, it has a high Human Development Index of 0.840, ranking 61st in the world in 2009. Freedom House in 2008 listed Bulgaria as "free", giving it scores of 1 (highest) for political rights and 2 for civil liberties.

Geographically and in terms of climate, Bulgaria features notable diversity, with the landscape ranging from the Alpine snow-capped peaks in Rila, Pirin and the Balkan Mountains to the mild and sunny Black Sea coast; from the typically continental Danubian Plain (ancient Moesia) in the north to the strong Mediterranean climatic influence in the valleys of Macedonia and in the lowlands in the southernmost parts of Thrace.

Bulgaria overall has a temperate climate, with cold winters and hot summers. The barrier effect of the Balkan Mountains has some influence on climate throughout the country: northern Bulgaria experiences lower temperatures and receives more rain than the southern lowlands.

Bulgaria comprises portions of the separate regions known in classical times as Moesia, Thrace, and Macedonia. The mountainous southwest of the country has two alpine ranges - Rila and Pirin - and further east stand the lower but more extensive Rhodope Mountains. The Rila range includes the highest peak of the Balkan Peninsula, Musala, at 2,925 metres (9,596 ft); the long range of the Balkan mountains runs west-east through the middle of the country, north of the famous Rose Valley. Hilly country and plains lie to the southeast, along the Black Sea coast, and along Bulgaria's main river, the Danube, to the north. Strandzha forms the tallest mountain in the southeast. Few mountains and hills exist in the northeast region of Dobrudzha. The Balkan Peninsula derives its name from the Balkan or Stara planina mountain range running through the centre of Bulgaria and extends into eastern Serbia.