Bulgaria is less than half the size of the UK, so it’s easy to travel across the country, and its population is a mere 7.5m. When the Communist system collapsed in 1990, Bulgaria turned its attention to Western Europe and has now embraced democracy and opened its arms to tourists and foreign investors. Already a member of NATO and since 2007 also of the EU, Bulgaria is modernising fast and is due to become part of the euro zone in 2009 (Bulgaria’s currency is currently the lev, which is tied to the euro).
Much of Bulgaria’s heavy industry disappeared with Communism, and the country began to concentrate on exporting food and natural products. As a result, food and wine in Bulgaria is excellent. Bulgarian food centres around salads, which resemble Greek salads, and specialities include pastries, pancakes, yoghurt and honey.
At the crossroads of ‘east’ and ‘west’ and bordering Europe’s longest river, the Danube, Bulgaria has a rich and colourful history. Its many architectural splendours include the remains of Roman amphitheatres, Thracian tombs and Turkish fortresses, and over 150 monasteries.
Perhaps Bulgaria’s biggest attraction is the low cost of living and property, which is the cheapest in Europe. This is beginning to change, however. Property values in Bulgaria have been increasing rapidly in many areas – up to 35 per cent in 2004/05 – and are expected to rise by around 25 per cent per year leading up to EU membership in 2007. The highest rises tend to be in the coastal areas, where there’s increasing development for tourism.
Despite being a small country, Bulgaria has a varied climate due to the mountains and valleys crossing the country. There are essentially two climatic zones. The northern part of the country has a continental climate, with cold winters and warm summers, while the south-west and the Black Sea coast in the east have more of a Mediterranean climate, with hot summers and mild winters. The two zones intersect along the Balkan Range, which runs through the middle of Bulgaria from east to west.
There are four distinct seasons in most areas. Summers tend to be dry and not too hot, with temperatures rarely rising above 30ºC (86ºF) and low humidity. While there can be long, hot spells, these are often interrupted by storms, with hail and heavy rain. Away from the coast it can become oppressively hot at the height of summer, i.e. in July and August. Further inland the weather is cooler, with warm summers in Sofia. Along the coast there can be occasional cold snaps owing to north-easterly winds. If you’re after the maximum amount of sun, the Black Sea coast and south-western valleys of the Rhodopes mountains should be on your shortlist.
Winters across the country can be cold, with an average temperature for this period of 7ºC (45ºF) and strong winds and storms. Snow is frequent in winter and even occasionally in spring, often remaining until June in the higher mountains.
Earthquakes & Flooding
Be aware that large areas of Bulgaria can experience earthquakes. The two most earthquake-prone areas are the borders of the ‘North Bulgarian Swell’, a geological feature with the town of Gorna Oryahovitsa in the Veliko Tarnovo region at its centre, and the ‘West Rhodopes Fault’, running from the Rila and Pirin mountains to Plovdiv. Strong tremors also occur in the north-east along a fault line in the Razgrad region and in the southern region of Plovdiv.
In 2005 and 2006, low-lying areas along the River Danube were affected by flooding, including the towns of Lom (in Montana), Nikopol (in Pleven), Pleven, Ruse and Vidin. As well as the Danube, the rivers Iskar, Vit, Osam and Struma all breached their banks. The floods were caused by a combination of a mild winter and an extremely wet spring. Unfortunately the areas most affected are some of the poorest parts of the country, with poor quality, marshy land.
This is an extract from Survival Books’ Living in Bulgaria. Click here to find out more and buy a copy online.
This article is an extract from Buying a Home in Bulgaria.
Click here to get a copy now.