Posts tagged ‘Bulgaria’

Dear Sofia

Sofia is a beautiful city. I was lucky enough to be given a tour of the city, visiting its churches and historical monuments and given a crash course on its very facinating history. Attending a Christian Orthodox mass was amazing, especially with the beautiful choir and ornate artwork everywhere. The city has a clash between pre communist and communist era architecture and this gives it a flare that I find interesting.

Sofia has a history that goes back thousands of years. Through the centuries, many peoples 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 center 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, 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.

After the Hun invasion of 441, 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 center of the Second Bulgarian Empire. The Turks captured Sofia in 1382 and made it the center 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. Rapidly the city’s image changed from an Oriental, to a European one.

The Bulgarians are proud of their rich culture and historical importance in Europe. However, after some discussions with people, there seems to be a bit of unease with the fact that Bulgaria will be joining the European Union later this year with the potential of the erosion of its individuality.

I will certainly be back in this great country.

April 10, 2006 at 10:58 am Leave a comment

Hanging Out With the Gypsies

Our trip to Bulgaria was very interesting. One of the items that struck me was the high number of gypsies we encountered. I do not know the whole story nor will I pretend to understand their issues but through conversations with regular Bulgarians, I understand that they are an underclass in Eastern European society and are seen as only being able to do two things: play the fiddle and pick pocketing. I view this as extremely biased and unfair to them. This kind of attitude certainly does not give them many chances to climb out of that mould. I have even read in the papers there that most gypsy children are placed in low schools for the mentally handicapped. This is a sad story in this beautiful part of the world.

The gypsies I encountered were very friendly and open, even though I was not able to communicate with them very much; they seemed to be genuinely happy that an outsider gave them some friendly attention. We witnessed a gypsy wedding in the town of Sliven and stopped by a crew of vineyard workers on our way back to Sofia. I will do a bit more research on the history of these interesting people.

April 3, 2006 at 10:56 am Leave a comment

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