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>> Bulgaria >> Bulgarian heritage
Bulgarian cultural, historical and nature heritage
Bulgaria has a long millenaries history. In the country you have the unique possibility to discover and enjoy more than 40 000 historical sites. 7 from these sites are inscribed in the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage. In Bulgaria you are the chance to visit many sites from different time: prehistorically, Thracian monuments, Greek and Roman sites, Bulgarian monuments, more than 120 picturesque monasteries and many architectural reserves. The nature of Bulgaria is very rich and diversified. There are 3 national parks, 11 natural parks, 89 natural reserves and 2234 natural sites. These conditions allow Bulgaria to support a biota that includes 94 species of mammals, more than 400 birds, 36 reptiles, 16 amphibians, 207 Black Sea and freshwater fish, an estimated 27,000 insects and other invertebrate species, between 3,550 and 3,750 species of vascular plants, and more than 6,500 nonvascular plants and fungi. Bulgaria thus ranks among the most biologically diverse countries in Europe.With more than 400 birds species Bulgaria is one of the best places for birdwatching in Europe. Endemic plant species constitute about 5 percent of the total flora, a high proportion compared with other, larger European countries. The available information on invertebrate taxa indicates that 8.8 percent of all non-insect species and 4.3 percent of insect species are endemic. Bulgaria is maybe the richest country in the thermal and mineral waters. In all the country are discovered and exploited 550 sites with 1600 mineral sources. More of these sources are the base for the development of the SPA centers. Some of these centers are exploited in the past centuries from the Romans.
Although Bulgaria has relatively small territory (110 912 sq. km), it has rich biological diversity due to its highly varied climatic, geological, topographical and hydrological conditions. These conditions allow the existence of a fauna, which includes 94 spices of mammals, 400 birds, 36 reptiles, 16 amphibians, 207 Black Sea and freshwater fish, about 27 000 insects and other invertebrates. Approximately 13% of the fauna is represented by endemic species, where about 4% are insects. Two of the biggest bird migration routes are passing though Bulgaria - Via Pontica and Via Aristotelis. The Bulgarian brown bear population is the biggest in Europe - about 800 specimens. The flora is represented by between 3 500 and 3 750 species of vascular and more than 6 500 nonvascular plants and fungi. Woods take more than 27% of Bulgaria territory. Approximately 5% of the flora is represented by endemic species, 285 plants are Balkan endemits and 270 plants are Bulgarian endemits. There is a great number of relict plant species. The oldest tree in Bulgaria is 1650 years aged, its trunk thickness is 7, 45 m and it is 23, 40 m high. The highest tree in Bulgaria is the Baikusheva Mura with 62 m height and 360 years of age. Thus Bulgaria ranks among the most biologically diverse countries in Europe.
Bulgaria has a tradition of nature conservation and a history of protected areas creation and management. The first national protected area, Silkosia reserve was established in 1931. Bulgaria's Vitosha Nature Park was the first "park" established in the Balkan Peninsula in 1934. Today, the United Nations recognizes 86 percent of Bulgaria's protected areas and has listed two, Srebarna reserve and Pirin National Park, as UNESCO world heritage sites.
The national protected areas system has six management categories: · National Parks (3), including Pirin, Rila, and Central Balkan · Natural Parks (10) · Reserves (55) · Maintained Reserves (35) · Natural Landmarks (457) · Protected Localities (175).
Strandja Nature Park
Strandja is the largest protected area in Bulgaria. The park is the only location in Europe preserving since the Tertiary and until this day vegetation typical of the Caucasus, Colchis and the Asia Minor Black Sea coast. The oldest protected area in Bulgaria Silkosia reserve falls into Strandja Nature Park boundary. The park has four other reserves.
· Established in 1995 · Area: 115,837.8 hectares · 5 reserves totalling 5,479.5 hectares · Woodlands cover 83,780.9 hectares · IUCN Category 5
Rila National Park
Established in 1992, Rila is the largest of Bulgaria's National Parks. Approximately 60 % of its total area lies at altitudes above 2,000 meters and its highest peak, Mussala (2 925 meters) is the highest on the Balkan Peninsula. Four reserves - Parangalitza, Skakavitza, Ibar and Central Rilski - comprise about one-fifth of the Park's territory. There are 140 lakes in the park and some of the largest rivers in the Balkans have their sources here.
· Established in 1992· Area: 81,046 hectares · Highest peak: Mussala (2,925 m); · 90% of ecosystems are natural · Woodlands cover 52.5% of territory · 4 reserves totalling 16,222 hectares· IUCN Category 2
Pirin National Park
Established in 1969, the Pirin National Park is a World Cultural and Natural Heritage Convention site. The largest part of its territory lies above 2,000 meters and it has scores of peaks above 2,000 meters and 113 caves.
· Established: in 1969 · Area: 40,333 hectares· Highest peak: Vihren (2,915 m); 75 peaks above 2,000 meters· Two-thirds of ecosystems are natural · Woodlands cover 43% of the territory · 2 reserves totalling 6,015 hectares· 113 caves · IUCN Category 2
Central Balkan National Park
Established in 1991, Central Balkan National Park has nine reserves that comprise one-third of its territory: Boatin, Tzarichina, Kozya Stena, Steneto, Stara Reka, Djendema, Northern Djendem, Peeshti Skali and Sokolna. The Park is famous for its many waterfalls, one of which, the Raisko Praskalo is the highest in Bulgaria at 125 meters. The deepest cave in Bulgaria, Raichova Dupka, is also located in Central Balkan National Park. Central Balkan National Park became a member into the PAN Parks European Network.
· Established in 1991 · Area: 71,670 hectares · Highest peak: Botev (2,376 m); 5 peaks above 2,000 meters · 70% of ecosystems are natural · Woodlands cover 52.5% of territory · 9 reserves totaling 20,020 hectares · Dozens of natural caves and waterfalls · IUCN Category 2
The Annotated Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance in Bulgaria
The Convention on Wetlands came into force for Bulgaria on 24 January 1976. Bulgaria presently has 10 sites designated as Wetlands of International Importance, with a surface area of 20,306 hectares.
Atanasovsko Lake. 1,404 ha. Partially Maintained Reserve. Situated on the southern Bulgarian coast, Atanasovsko Lake is one of the four lakes of the Burgas wetland complex surrounding the city. The wetland has a highly recognized significance for biodiversity and as a resource pool for various products utilized by people. It is a shallow hyper-saline lagoon associated with salt marshes, reedbeds, a complex of salt pans and settling pools surrounded by a dike and a freshwater canal. This is one of the two salinas in the Black Sea region and demonstrates rare and representative examples of wetland habitats. A hot spot for biodiversity with many red-listed species of plants and animals, it is a well-known bottleneck site for migratory birds with around 60,000 raptors and 240,000 storks, pelicans and cranes passing over the site and often landing in large numbers for staging - the highest numbers in Europe of migrating White Pelicans (Pelecanus onocrotalus), Dalmatian Pelicans (Pelecanus crispus), Marsh Harriers (Circus aeruginosus), and Red-footed Falcons (Falco vespertinus) have been recorded here, and the site is a very popular destination for birdwatchers, photographers, scientists and bird ringers from nearby and abroad.
Belene Islands Complex. 6,898 ha. Reserve, Natural Monument, Natural Park. A group of one big (Belene) and nine smaller islands located along 16km of the River Danube, on the country's northern boundary with Romania. The main part of the islands is covered with seasonally flooded riverine forest of Alnus spp., Salix spp. and Populus spp., diversified by several marshes and streams, and the site is a particularly good representative example of a natural riverine wetland complex in the Danube River catchment. The site has exceptional biodiversity values and hosts several rare species of plants as five globally threatened species of birds - Pygmy Cormorant (Phalacrocorax pygmeus), Ferruginous Duck (Aythya nyroca), White-tailed Eagle (Haliaetus albicilla), Corncrake (Crex crex) and Aquatic Warbler (Acrocephalus paludicola). It is one of the most important breeding grounds along the Danube River for mixed colonies of herons, egrets, ibises and cormorants (6,000-9,000 pairs in the 1980s) and offers suitable stopover sites for about 20 migratory species of birds.
Durankulak Lake. 350 ha. Protected Landscape. A slightly saline, coastal lake in an advanced state of nutrient-enrichment, supplied with water by two springs. The area is important for several species of breeding birds and numerous species of wintering and staging birds. A diverse algal flora consisting of over 70 species is present. Various rare and endemic fish species occur at the site.
Ibisha Island. 372 ha. Partially Maintained Reserve. An island located in the River Danube along the country's northern boundary with Romania. It has significant importance for the conservation of water bird fauna and rare habitats. The whole island is covered with seasonally flooded riverine forest of Alnus spp., Salix spp. and Populus spp., and the Ramsar site also includes a part of the river and its bank. The wetland is recognized as a Ramsar site for its importance for preservation of a rare forested wetland habitat within the Danube catchment and conservation of a rich assemblage of breeding rare water birds - mixed colony of Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo), Pygmy Cormorant (Phalacrocorax pygmeus), Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax), Squacco Heron (Ardeola ralloides), Purple Heron (Ardea purpurea) and Spoonbill (Platalea leucorodia).
Lake Shabla. 404 ha. Protected Area. Two brackish, coastal lakes connected by an artificial canal. The lakes overlie an horizon of sand 4-5m thick deposited on top of a rich peat layer; evidence of a long marsh period. An internationally important area for the endangered Red-breasted Goose (Branta ruficollis), providing wintering habitat for over 75% of the world population and up to 180,000 wintering White-fronted geese (Anser albifrons). The site supports various species of breeding birds and endemic birds and the endangered plants.
Poda. 307 ha. Partially Protected Area. A marshy wetland and adjacent sea bay located on the outskirts of the city of Burgas on the Black Sea coast. Although naturally formed as part of the Burgas-Mandra firth, the coastal wetland has deteriorated due to human interference in 1960s and later evolved into a mosaic of different habitats - freshwater, brackish, saline and hyper-saline pools, and flooded areas overgrown with aquatic vegetation. The site has outstanding significance for biodiversity conservation, and more than 260 rare, vulnerable and endangered species of plants and animals have been recorded, among them 8 globally threatened bird species. Poda is an important breeding ground for some waterbirds (a mixed colony of glossy ibises, spoonbills - the only place along the Bulgarian coast where the spoonbill breeds - and five species of herons and egrets) and a valuable stopover site for migratory birds, and it hosts numerous winter concentrations of waterbirds.
Pomorie Wetland Complex. 814 ha. Partially Protected Area. Located on the Black Sea Coast, a wetland of particular significance for biodiversity and as a resource pool for various products utilized by people. The major part of the site is a shallow coastal hyper-saline lagoon connected to the Black Sea by an artificial canal. Other associated wetland types are estuaries (River Aheloy), salt marshes, sand dunes, reedbeds, salt pans, etc. The wetland has been designated chiefly for its uniqueness, as one of the two coastal hyper-saline lagoons in the Black Sea region converted into salinas. It supports many nationally and internationally red-listed plant and animal species - some 240 bird species have been recorded, including four globally threatened ones, and some that are adapted to the hyper-saline conditions. It is an important stopover site for migratory birds and offers suitable conditions for wintering birds.
Ropotamo Complex. 5,500 ha. Partially Reserve, Natural Monument, Maintained Reserve and Protected Area. The site, on the southern Bulgarian Black Sea coast, represents a diverse mosaic of various habitats - river downstream and estuary, seasonally flooded riverine and broad-leaved deciduous forests, small freshwater and brackish lagoons, sand dunes, rocky shores and fjords, a sea bay, sea inlets. The site provides refuge to many nationally and internationally IUCN red-listed species of plants and animals, among which are seven globally threatened species of birds and two plant species, eight invertebrate species and seven mammal species. Rich endemic and relict flora and fauna are recorded in the site.
Srebarna. 1,357 ha. World Heritage Site, Biosphere Reserve, Maintained Reserve. The site was extended from 600 ha to 1,357 ha in 2002. The major part of the site is the freshwater oxbow lake Srebarna (the last extant oxbow lake along the Bulgarian bank of the Danube), including an adjacent part of the River Danube and the river island Komluka covered by seasonally flooded forest of Salix sp. and Populus sp. The lake is an eutrophic wetland densely overgrown with emergent and submerged aquatic vegetation, sustaining both representative and rare wetland habitats. It is a biodiversity hot spot with some 2,748 taxa recorded, among them many red-listed plant and animal species, including some globally threatened species, and hosts more than 50,000 migratory and wintering waterbirds.
Vaya Lake. 2,900 ha. Partially Protected Area. The wetland, of very high significance for biodiversity (especially birds), is a shallow freshwater/brackish liman with associated marshy areas and extensive reedbeds (the largest in the country); fish farm basins, adjacent to the lake, are heavily overgrown by aquatic vegetation. In the site have been recorded several IUCN red-listed species of animals - 5 invertebrates, 4 fish, 4 amphibians, 3 reptiles, 5 birds and 3 mammals. Situated along the second largest migration path of birds in Europe, the "Via Pontica", the site is an important stopover and staging site for a large number of waterbirds, raptors and passerines. Yearly during migration and wintering more than 20,000 (up to 100,000) waterbirds congregate there, including Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo), Pygmy Cormorant (Phalacrocorax pygmeus), Dalmatian Pelican (Pelecanus crispus), White-fronted Goose (Anser albifrons), and White-headed Duck (Oxyura leucocephala).
World Heritage Sites in Bulgaria
The World Register of Historical Sites, established by UNESCO, includes seven cultural sites and two nature reserves.
The Rila monastery
St John of Rila, a hermit canonized by the Orthodox Church, founded Rila Monastery in the 10th century. His ascetic dwelling and tomb became a holy site and were transformed into a monastic complex, which subsequently played an important role in the spiritual and social life of medieval Bulgaria. Destroyed by fire at the beginning of the 19th century, the complex was rebuilt between 1834 and 1862. The monument is a characteristic example of the Bulgarian Renaissance (18th-19th centuries) and symbolizes an awareness of a Slavic cultural identity following centuries of occupation.
Situated on a rocky peninsula on the Black Sea, the more than 3,000-year-old site of Nessebar was originally a Thracian settlement (Menebria). At the beginning of the 6th century B.C., the city became a Greek colony. The city's remains, which date mostly from the Hellenistic period, include the acropolis, a temple of Apollo, an agora and a wall from the Thracian fortifications. Among other monuments, the Stara Mitropolia Basilica and the fortress date from the Middle Ages, when this was one of the most important Byzantine towns on the west coast of the Black Sea. Wooden houses built in the 19th century are typical of the Black Sea architecture of the period. Situated on a peninsula in the Black Sea, connected with the mainland by a narrow isthmus, this is a town with a history going back more than millennia.
Extending over an area of 27,400 ha and lying at an altitude of 1,008-2,914 m in the Pirin mountains, in south-west Bulgaria, Pirin National Park has a limestone Balkan landscape, with lakes, waterfalls, caves and pine forests. The rugged mountains, with some 70 glacial lakes scattered throughout them, are home to hundreds of endemic and rare species, many of which are representative of the Balkan Pleistocene flora. The mountains also have diverse and unique landscapes of great aesthetic value.
Srebarna Nature Reserve
The Srebarna Nature Reserve is a freshwater lake adjacent to the Danube and extending over 600 ha. It is the breeding ground of almost 100 species of birds, many of which are rare or endangered. Some 80 other bird species migrate and seek refuge there every winter. Among the most interesting bird species are the Dalmatian Pelican, Great Egret, Night Heron and Purple Herons, Glossy Ibis and Spoonbill.
The Boyana Church - Sofia
Located on the outskirts of Sofia, Boyana Church consists of three buildings. The Eastern Church was built in the 10th century, and then enlarged at the beginning of the 13th century by Sebastocrator Kaloyan, who ordered a second two-storey building to be erected next to it. The frescoes in this second church, painted in 1259, make it one of the most important collections of medieval paintings. A third church, built at the beginning of the 19th century, completes the ensemble. This site is one of the most complete and perfectly preserved monuments of east European medieval art. It is one of the most important and valuable antiquities of exceptional historical and artistic significance
Thracian Tomb - Sveshtari
Discovered in 1982 near the village of Sveshtari, this 3rd- century B.C. Thracian tomb reflects the fundamental structural principles of Thracian cult buildings. The tomb has a unique architectural decor, with polychrome half-human, half-plant caryatids and painted murals. The 10 female figures carved in high relief on the walls of the central chamber and the decoration of the lunette in its vault are the only examples of this type found so far in the Thracian lands. It is a remarkable reminder of the culture of the Getes, a Thracian people who were in contact with the Hellenistic and Hyperborean worlds, according to ancient geographers.
Thracian tomb - Kazanlak
Discovered in 1944, this tomb dates from the Hellenistic period, around the end of the 4th century B.C. It is located near Seutopolis, the capital city of the Thracian king Seutes III, and is part of a large Thracian necropolis. The tholos has a narrow corridor and a round burial chamber, both decorated with murals representing Thracian burial rituals and culture. These paintings are Bulgaria's best-preserved artistic masterpieces from the Hellenistic period.
Rock Monasteries - Ivanovo
In the valley of the Roussenski Lom River, in north-east Bulgaria, a complex of rock-hewn churches, chapels, monasteries and cells developed in the vicinity of the village of Ivanovo. This is where the first hermits had dug out their cells and churches during the 12th century. The 14th-century murals testify to the exceptional skill of the artists belonging to the Tarnovo School of painting.
The horseman of Madara - Madara
The Madara Rider, representing the figure of a knight triumphing over a lion, is carved into a 100-m-high cliff near the village of Madara in north- east Bulgaria. Madara was the principal sacred place of the First Bulgarian Empire before Bulgaria's conversion to Christianity in the 9th century. The inscriptions beside the sculpture tell of events that occurred between A.D. 705 and 801.