Religions in Bulgaria

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DECYPHERING RILA MONASTERY

Black-and-white striped arches, technicolor murals of saints and sinners and high mountain peaks filling the horizon: a visit to Rila Monastery is one of Bulgaria's most memorable experiences, and not only because of its UNESCO World Heritage Site status. This place unites stunning landscapes, spirituality, formidable art and architecture, and some interesting stories. It is hardly a surprise that both Bulgarian King Boris III and Irish journalist James Bourchier wished to be buried here, in 1943 and 1920 respectively.

Thu, 12/03/2015 - 14:22
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BULGARIA'S ABANDONED SYNAGOGUES

At the end of the Second World War, Bulgaria was the only European country whose Jewish population was bigger than before the war began. Still, by the early 1950s, Bulgaria's 49,000-strong Jewish population has shrunk to about 8,000. Fearful of their future under the new Communist regime, with its repression and nationalisation of businesses and properties, the majority of the Bulgarian Jews decided that they would rather live in the nascent State of Israel.

Mon, 06/01/2015 - 12:48
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WILLOW SUNDAY OR FLOWER DAY

If your first visit to Bulgaria happens during the Sunday before Easter, a curious sight will attract your attention: long, patient queues form in front of churches in busy cities, quiet villages and popular monasteries. People wait until they eventually reach a table where a priest – sometimes solemn, but usually indifferent – distributes bunches of willow twigs.

Wed, 03/25/2015 - 15:32
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CHURCHES OF ARBANASI

Comfortably spread out on a narrow plateau overlooking the dramatic landscape of Veliko Tarnovo, the traditional village of Arbanasi is something of a conundrum. It is an architectural heritage site, yet it is filled with mansions and hotels in dubious "traditional" style, all built in the past 15 years.

Wed, 02/18/2015 - 14:15
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ARMENIAN BULGARIA

In the colourful ethnic and cultural mosaic that is Bulgaria, the Armenians occupy a special place. As inhabitants of the larger cities, they have given to this country a number of prominent entrepreneurs, intellectuals and people of arts and letters. Unlike other minorities, Armenians are considered almost as brothers by Bulgarians, because of common traits in their history, particularly under the Ottomans. Armenian restaurants are never empty and many Bulgarians envy the supposed proverbial entrepreneurship of the Armenian.

Mon, 11/17/2014 - 14:06
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OTTOMAN BULGARIA

As you travel through Bulgaria you will inevitably be confronted by remnants of its Ottoman past: mosques, water fountains, bridges, forts, baths and public buildings. It would be strange if you were not – Bulgaria spent 500 years under Ottoman domination. It began with the invasion at the end of the 14th Century, which brought chaos to the Balkans and destroyed the Second Bulgarian Kingdom, and ended for the different parts of the Balkans inhabited by Bulgarians between the 1878 San Stefano Peace Treaty and the 1912-1913 Balkan Wars.

Fri, 10/17/2014 - 10:45
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GYPSY BRIDES MARKET

Socialising with strangers in bars, hanging out with friends and colleagues, going on blind dates, having a dating site account: finding a partner in modern Bulgaria is like anywhere else in the West, but there is a community where people meet prospective spouses in a much more traditional way.

Every year, the Kalaydzhii, a distinct group of Bulgaria Gypsies, organise a Brides Fair.

Wed, 04/02/2014 - 12:37
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14 FEBURARY DILEMMA

The question "What to do on St Valentine's Day?" can be frustrating. For those in a relationship, there is the what-to-buy-this-year horror, while for some singles there is the feeling of loneliness. The anti-globalists become incensed at the heart-shaped mania that is taking over the world and the cynics point to the billions of dollars generated by the sales of romantic lingerie, chocolate and holidays. It is hard to deny that most of the red or pink trivia sold everywhere before 14 February – plus the music on the radio and the movies on the TV – are outrageously kitschy.

Mon, 02/24/2014 - 16:23
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RIBNOVO WEDDINGS

Muddy streets, soulless buildings and stunning Rhodope landscapes: at first glance, Ribnovo is like every other Pomak village in the western part of the mountains. However, Ribnovo is like no other village in the Rhodope, or indeed in Bulgaria. What gives the village vitality and a sense of colour, even in the dullest months of the year, are its people.

Wed, 11/27/2013 - 14:37
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PLOVDIV TEMPLES PART 3

Strolling through the maze of cobbled streets and old buildings on the three hills that comprise the historical core of Plovdiv is an easy way to experience the long and at times turbulent past of the city. The stones under your feet are slippery and worn out by generations of citizens. Grander and smaller ancient Thracian and Roman buildings appear here and there, rubbing stones with medieval fortifications and the grand mansions of the 18-19th centuries with their bay windows, bent eaves and colourful walls.

Tue, 11/27/2012 - 18:28
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PLOVDIV TEMPLES PART 2

Plovdiv's claim to be the Bulgaria's most diverse and cosmopolitan city can be spread not only over the peoples who used to live, or are still living, in it. The diversity covers also the heavens above. A short walk round the historical core of the city leads you to temples of many different religions and denominations.

Some of them have been here for centuries, other have resurfaced after long periods of sometimes forced hibernation. And, of course, there are the recent "immigrants."

Tue, 11/20/2012 - 14:12
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PLOVDIV TEMPLES PART 1

Inhabited since Neolithic times, Plovdiv claims to be one of Europe's oldest cities. As the millennia passed, people were not the only inhabitants of the seven hills by the Maritsa River and their environs. Gods also lived here, brought and nurtured by generations of worshipers. Among them are the long forgotten deities of long forgotten Neolithic peoples, the enigmatic Thracian Rider and a local deity with the name of Kendrisos, plus a host of divine immigrants, including the Greek Apollo and Asclepius, the deified emperors of Rome, and the Semitic Baal and Sabazios of Asia Minor.

Mon, 09/10/2012 - 12:51
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THE RED CHURCH

Leaving aside St Sofia in the capital and what has remained of the metropolitan church in Nesebar, traces from the early Byzantine era in Bulgaria are scarce and little known. They do exist, however: forgotten remnants of the time when the Eastern Roman Empire was trying to hold back the invasions of the Barbarians in the Balkans. Most are nothing more than low crumbling walls, almost invisible in the undergrowth and interesting only to archaeologists. Others, however, despite time, neglect and the depredations of those seeking second-hand building materials still pose a striking sight.

Thu, 06/07/2012 - 11:32
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DEMIR BABA TEKKE

If you are looking for a place in Bulgaria that combines nature, architecture and spirituality, Demir Baba's tekke will be among your top choices.

The saint's stone tekke, or shrine, lies at the foot of the cliffs of Kamenen Rid. Dense woods rustle around Demir Baba's tomb, an object so exquisite that from afar it looks like a toy that you could hold in your hand.

Mon, 04/02/2012 - 13:32
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BOYANA CHURCH

Shivering in the biting cold of the Boyana Church, you look at the 13th Century portrait of Desislava and you wonder if this image, painted 100 years before Giotto revolutionised medieval art, is truly the earliest Renaissance portrait in the world, or has Desislava (and the tourists around you) fallen victim of hype?

Mon, 01/30/2012 - 10:52
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SOFIA'S TEMPLES PART 4

Religion is part of everyday life in the capital city of Bulgaria – and part of the city landscape. Sometimes it stands apart in the impressive bodies of cathedrals or tall minarets. Other times it blends in with the surroundings in an inconspicuous gray building, with small notices inviting passers-by to come in and listen to an Evangelist sermon or get some White Brotherhood literature. Diversity is just below the surface in a complex mix of cultural and ethnic influences. To get to know Sofia's temples is to dip into the millennia-old history of Bulgarian lands.

Tue, 09/28/2010 - 10:19
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Sofia Central Synagogue

SOFIA'S TEMPLES, PART 3

They are all over Sofia; some with shining domes, some old and crumbling, and some housed in inconspicuous grey buildings. Through the many places of worship in Sofia you can trace back the history of the city for nearly two millennia, although many were only built during the last 150 years and bear the marks of wars and Communism.

Tue, 07/20/2010 - 14:20
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sofia church.jpg

SOFIA'S TEMPLES PART 2

They are all over Sofia; some with shining domes, some old and crumbling, and some housed in inconspicuous grey buildings. Through the many places of worship in Sofia you can trace back the history of the city for nearly two millennia, although many were only built during the last 150 years and bear the marks of wars and Communism.

Wed, 04/07/2010 - 12:34
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St Alexandr Nevskiy Cathedral.jpg

SOFIA'S TEMPLES, PART 1

They are all over Sofia; some with shining domes, some old and crumbling, and some housed in inconspicuous grey buildings. Through the many places of worship in Sofia you can trace back the history of the city for nearly two millennia, although many were only built during the last 150 years and bear the marks of wars and Communism.

Wed, 03/10/2010 - 14:32
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