1. We’ve been around since 681.
Sometimes people forget how old Bulgaria truly is. Our country was founded in 681 by Khan Asparukh, which makes us more than 1,300 years old. We’ve had not one but two Great Bulgarian Empires, accessing three seas and ruling over almost the entire Balkan peninsula between the 7th and 11th centuries AD.
2. We listen to Valya Balkanska.
Bulgaria has given a lot to the world’s music scene. From Valya Balkanska’s haunting performance of Izleznal e dedo haidutin, accompanied by a traditional bagpipe — which was played in space, by the way — to Vasko Vasilev’s exquisite violin recitals and Lili Ivanova’s soulful, velvety voice, we have many talented musicians who have gained international fame.
3. Who invented yogurt? Oh, that’s right, it was us.
Рачелът е местен специалитет, познат още от османско време. Върви перфектно с нашето кисело мляко. Нарязвате тиквените толумбички на малки парчета, а със сиропа от рачела карамелизирате фъстъци в тиган. После поливате с фъстъците киселото мляко и за разкош слагате няколко сухи листа от рози. "Rachel" is candied pumpkins, a typical speciality of our region from the times of the Ottomans. It goes very well with our yoghurt. Cut the pumpkin in small pieces and then use the syrup to caramelise a few peanuts in a pan. Add the peanuts to the yoghurt and top it up with a few dried rose petals. #rachel #candiedpumpkins #bulgarianyogurt
Yeah, it wasn’t Greece or Turkey. This creamy, heavenly food was brought to the world thanks to lactobacillus bulgaricus, a bacteria native to our land, without which your granola breakfast would suck.
4. And the Cyrillic alphabet was us too.
Our brothers Kiril and Metodii invented the alphabet in the 9th century AD (First Bulgarian Empire, what up!). This is the one that is so widely used in Eastern Europe and still baffles the rest of the world with its intricate symbols.
5. Alexander the Great was born here.
I’m not necessarily talking about the rugged warrior with chiseled abs from the movie, I’m referring to the ultimate conquistador born in 356BC in the land of…today’s Bulgaria, obviously.
6. We’ve got killer cuisine over here.
Fresh, local produce, puffy pastries, juicy meats and creamy cheeses — it’s all hands down probably the best food anyone could ever eat. And if you come across someone who even dares to disagree with that statement, look up how to make kashkaval, lukanka, lyutenitsa, banitsa, or kachamak with chopped liver and some roasted pig, and then force feed it to them.
7. We come from ancient Slavic tribes.
Many of the tribes that comprised Bulgaria were the Slavyani, and were known as wonderful craftsmen and artists. (Plus, they were famous for their looks.) Even today archeologists are still trying to figure out how the Slavs created their sophisticated golden jewelry, ceramic pots and elaborate crypts.
8. Computers wouldn’t exist without Bulgaria.
The inventor of the first digital computer, John Atanasoff, has a direct Bulgarian heritage tied to his father’s town of Yambol. Every Bulgarian knows John and is uberly proud to have a compatriot who has invented such groundbreaking technology.
9. We have the 7 Rila Lakes. Instagram it.
The 7 lakes of Rila are one of our most beloved natural wonders, spread out gracefully atop Sofia’s mountainous and rough terrain, looking picture-perfect on a warm, spring day. Each lake has its own, unique shape; one looks like a kidney, another is kind of like a tear, and a third is just known as “the eye.”
10. We’d all give up our lives for freedom like Botev did.
Bulgaria has gone through some tough times, no doubt. First we were enslaved by the Byzantine Empire, then we fell under Ottoman rule, but we’ve given birth to many fierce patriots too — who fought for Bulgaria’s sovereignty atop the treacherous Buzludzha and organized sophisticated guerilla troops all over the country. One of them was Hristo Botev. His job description: poet and revolutionary leader who became one of the most emblematic Bulgarian heroes, proving that our love for the homeland has no boundaries.
11. We have Kostadinova’s high jump on lockdown in the book of world records.
With an astonishing high jump of 2.09 meters in 1987, Stefka Kostadinova is an all-star world champion, whose record is yet to be beat. Bulgarians love to brag about our roster of powerful sports figures such as Hristo Stoichkov, Grigor Dimitrov, Ivet Lalova and Gundi.
12. Nobody can outrun Ivet Lalova.
Deemed “the fastest white woman alive,” Ivet is our pride and joy on the track. Homegirl is so tough, she suffered an injury in 2005 and had to put her career on hold till 2007, only to claim the gold at the 2012 European Athletics Championship.
13. Todor Zhivkov is our symbol of progress.
It takes a lot of strategy and a sound mind to rule a country for 40 years, and to rule that country well. The former Bulgarian president led us to times of prosperity between 1949 and 1989 and is still well-respected and loved.
14. If you want to learn about travel writing, look now further than our Aleko Konstantinov.
We are wanderlust-ers by heart and have always been so. The writer Aleko Konstantinov travelled to Chicago and back as his character Bay Ganyo, creating a best-seller, an all-time-classic, and brilliantly humoring our nation while bringing to light our sincere and adorable social clumsiness. His writing also probably contributed to the fact that Chicago now has the largest concentration of Bulgarian immigrants in the United States.