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CULTURE OF BULGARIA

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Culture of Bulgaria

For more than 13 centuries Bulgarians have been creating unique literature, art and music. Bulgaria has given the world men of great achievements, unparalleled in history. In the 9th century, the brothers Cyril and Methodius, recognized as the patrons of Europe, created the Cyrillic alphabet.

Bulgarian literature began in the second half of the 9th century AD with the translations by St. Cyril and St. Methodius of religious works from Greek into the vernacular, now known as Old Church Slavonic. From this period until the Turkish conquest of Bulgaria (1396), Bulgarian literature consisted mainly of similar translations of the Gospels, lives of the saints, sermons, and other religious material. Historical chronicles were also written. During the Turkish and Greek ecclesiastical domination (1396-1878), Bulgarian literature virtually ceased to exist.

The 19th century marked a revival of Bulgarian literature. It had its origin in historical works such as Istoria Slaviano-Bolgarska (History of the Slavic-Bulgarians), written in a form of ecclesiastical Slavonic mixed with popular language by a monk, Paisij, about 1762. After 1830, a movement in Bulgaria for freedom from Turkish rule and Greek church domination, the establishment of Bulgarian schools and printing establishments, and the publication of Bulgarian grammars and other educational works all played a part in producing a new Bulgarian literature. Before 1878 writers were concerned with social and political questions, above all with national independence, rather than with literary style or the problems of the inner life of the individual. The most important writer of this pre-liberation period was the revolutionary poet Christo Botev. The principal writer of the next period was Ivan Vazov, one of the most prolific as well as one of the most popular of Bulgarian writers and the one who scored a success in English translation, with his novel Under the Yoke (1893; trans. 1912). Other important writers of this period were Stoyan Mikhaylovski and Aleko Konstantinov. The former was a pessimistic philosopher, disillusioned with politics; the latter was a satirist who characterized the Bulgarian peasant in Bai Ganyu (Uncle John, 1895). In the post-liberation period, writers increasingly emphasized technique and form, as well as harmony and rhythm of language. Important writers of this third period are the short-story writers Dimiter Ivanov, who wrote under the pen name of Elin Pelin, and Yordan Yovkov; both are noted for their interest in peasant life and the countryside.

Bulgarian literature after 1944 adhered closely to the requirements of Soviet socialist realism. The work of some talented current writers, including the poets Blaga Dimitrova, Lubomir Levchev, and Pavel Matev, nevertheless reveals a fresher point of view and may signal a movement toward greater artistic freedom. The prose of Jordan Radichkov is especially interesting. He handles historical themes, always a Bulgarian favorite, with unusual finesse, and his short novel Khradriatyat chovek (A Brave Man, 1967) has earned wide popularity. Elias Canetti won the 1981 Nobel Prize for literature for his novels and plays about individuals at odds with society. Born in Bulgaria, Canetti wrote in German and kept homes in London, England and Zurich, Switzerland.

Crafts

Pottery manufacturing became one of the traditional Bulgarian crafts as early as the first century BC. Influences by the Roman traditions in pottery production, it was mixed with various Slavic decorative traditional elements and appeared to be a unique composition of widely spread and some completely new decorative methods. Later in the 9th and 10th centuries the Preslav ceramics, well-known until today after the name of the country capital of the time - Preslav - were manufactured. Well decorated and painted it has also been used for many church interiors and many full-sized saint figures exist even now.

A legacy that blends century-long tradition with a flair for beauty and original taste Pottery covered the whole range from kitchen utensils (pots and baking dishes) to tableware (bowls and dishes), ritual vessels (wedding jugs) and farming items. The decoration depended on the shape and purpose of the piece. Wedding and ritual vessels had the richest decoration. Linear multicoloured patterns on bare or wholly glazed clay ware the favourite technique. Relief rosettes, flowers and animal figures were also popular. The glazing varied in colour. Pottery is one of the richest legacies of the Bulgarian people. 

Cuisine

Because of its geographical position and long history Bulgarian cuisine is a mixture between the best parts of the Slavonic, Greek and Turkish cuisines. National specialities include: Shopska salad (sliced tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and parsley topped with grated sheep's cheese); and tarator ( a cold soup of chopped cucumber, walnuts and yogurt) perfect for hot summer days. White sheep's cheese baked with eggs is another favorite. Other typical items on the menu include kebapcheta (minced meat rolled into sausage shapes and grilled), kavarma (individual casseroles of pork or veal, onions and mushrooms), shishkebab, stuffed vine or cabbage leaves and moussaka. Yogurt too, tastes better in Bulgaria, its country of origin.

Many Bulgarian products and dishes are known in various parts of the world. Bulgarian dishes and drinks have their devotees even among the most refined gastronomers and tasters. Bulgarian yogurt is an industry, and the Great Roasted Red Pepper - an attraction. Anyone who has tasted a Bulgarian apple, already knows why Eve was tempted by this fruit.

World heritage

Boyana Church
The Boyana church is one of the few examples of medieval art in Bulgaria that have survived to date. What is more, the small church is one of 9 sites in Bulgaria, inscribed on UNESCO's World Heritage list for its cultural value.
The Boyana church lies in the suburbs of Sofia, in the ex-village and current quarter of the capital city, Boyana, and was originally built during the late 10th century-early 11th c. At that time, the church lay within a fortified settlement, the so-called Boyana Fortress (10-11th c.). Later on, the church was rebuilt and expanded twice - first in the middle of the 13th century and then - in the middle of the 19th century, though the output of the last stage did not carry any remarkable value.


Nessebar
The present-day town is the successor of a Thracian fishermen's settlement named Menabryia (meaning literally "the town of Mena"), the foundation of which dates back to the 2nd century BC. Later it remained the only Doric colony along the Black Sea coast, as the rest were typical Ionic settlements. The Greeks named it Messembria (which was later transformed into Nessabar by the Slavs), and it grew into a big and well-fortified town-state. The town benefited from natural protection from both the land and the sea. Remains suggest the existence of aqueducts, a sewerage system, fortified wails, an amphitheatre and numerous cult edifices (including an impressive temple of Apollo) at that time. The town became a popular commercial centre as a variety of goods from the Aegean and the Mediterranean regions were traded there and it also minted its own coins in the 5th century BC. Two centuries later, it founded its own colony called Navlohos near Obzor. The whole land between Nessebar and Obzor used to be a granary that supplied the two colonies with food as well as goods of exchange. In the 1st century BC the town surrendered to Marcus Lukulus' legions and was subjected top Roman domination, during which the construction of a second colony of Messembria began and was finished. The second colony, built to the south of Nessebar, was named Anhialo (present-day Pomorie).


Sreburna Biosphere Reserve
The Srebarna Nature Reserve is a freshwater lake adjacent to the Danube river and extending over 600 ha. It is situated 16km to the west of Silistra and is the breeding ground of almost 100 species of birds, many of which are rare or endangered. The reserve is one of the stops on the international bird migration route, Via Pontica, which explains the large bird population there. The total number of bird species, including those that migrate or take shelter every winter, comes up to 221. Among the most interesting bird species are the Dalmatian pelican, which has its only colony in Bulgaria in Srebarna, the great egret, night heron, purple heron, glossy ibis and white spoonbill. In additional to rare birds, the reserve is populated by 44 mammal, 23 fish, 10 amphibian and 11 reptile species. In turn, its flora is represented by about 300 different types of plants.


Ivanovo Monastery
The caves were inhabited by monks from the 13th century to the 17th century (some of the most popular and preserved ones being the Gospodev Dol Chapel and the Buried-Under Church). As if striving to be closer to God, hermit monks started to settle here in the 13th century, digging cells, churches and chapels into the rocks. During the apogee of the religious complex, the rock churches are believed to have been about 40, while the cells of monks - about 300. Unfortunately, most of these are no longer preserved.


Pirin National Park
The Pirin National Park occupies a large part of the beautiful Pirin mountain at an altitude of 1,008-2,914m. Century-old woods, giant peaks, dreadful abysses of circuses, emerald lakes, fragrant edelweiss fields, and clear rivers represent the natural habitat of wild goats, deer, bears, wild cats, wolves, and more.


Thracian Tomb of Kazanluk
The Thracian tomb of Kazanlak was discovered by accident in 1944 beneath a huge mound. It is located near remains of the historical city of Seutopolis, the capital of the Thracian king Seutes III, and is part of a large Thracian necropolis. The tomb is made of bricks, while the entire building is covered with stone pieces from the outside. It has a narrow corridor and a round burial chamber. What makes it a part of the world's cultural heritage are its murals representing Thracian burial rituals and culture. These paintings, covering 40 square meters, are Bulgaria's best-preserved artistic masterpieces from the Hellenistic period.


Madara Rider
The Madara Rider represents a sculpture of a horse-rider triumphing over a lion with its spear. What makes it unique is the fact that the sculpture is carved into a 100m-high cliff. The name of the sculpture comes from the nearby village of Madara, situated about 15km to the east of Shumen. According to historical documents, Madara was the main sacred place of pagan worship during the First Bulgarian State. The inscriptions beside the sculpture, discovered many years after the original finding of the sculpture, tell of events that happened during the period of 705-801 AC.


Rila Monastery
The monastery is believed to have been founded by a hermit, John of Rila, in the 10th century, during the reign of the Bulgarian Tzar Peter (927-968). St John of Rila, whose mummified relics are exhibited for pilgrims in the main church, in fact lived in a cave about half-an-hour walk away from the present-day monastery complex. The monastery itself is considered to have been built by his scholars, who came to the place to be taught by him.


Thracian Tomb of Sveshtari
The Thracian tomb of Sveshtari was discovered in 1982 near a village of the same name, situated in northeastern Bulgaria, 7km away from the town of Isperih. This tomb, built in the first half of the 3rd century B.C. has a unique architectural design, colorful half-human, half-plant caryatids and impressive wall paintings. The 10 female figures carved in the walls of the central chamber and the decoration of the lunette in its vault are the only ones of their kind found in the former Thracian lands.

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