Bulgaria is one of Europe’s earliest inhabited areas. The Danubian plain of Bulgaria is thought to be one of Europe’s earliest inhabited areas, evidenced by cave remains from the Second Paleolithic area (100,000 – 40,000 B.C.) The Magura cave contains ancient rock paintings, and was occupied by hunters as early as 2700 B.C. The recently discovered Varna Chalcolithic Necropolis by the Black Sea, has graves that contained effigies wearing gold trinkets worked with incredible amounts of skill. They may be the oldest gold jewelry ever discovered and have led archaologists to suspect that Bulgarian metalworking techniques may have developed ahead of those of the other civilizations in the Near East.
Sofia: The highest capital in Europe
Sofia lies at 545 meters (1903 feet) altitude in a plain almost entirely surrounded by mountains. Mount Vitosha, just south of Sofia, is easily assessable from the city. Many inhabitants flock to its slopes on weekends, and peaceful villages are scattered near its base. Arriving in Sofia via airplane offers dramatic views on a clear day.
The city was founded by the Serdi, a Thracian tribe who settled in it more that 3000 years ago and called it “Serdica”. It was of strategic importance because of its position on the Roman road to Constantinople.
The center of Sofia today is a combination of old historical sites, unchanged local markets, and the modern conveniences of a capital city, including good restaurants, hotels, and shopping. A stroll through the center area reveals traces of Thracians, Greeks, Romans, Goths, Byzantines, Turks and Bulgarians. More than 250 sites are protected, and hot mineral fountains flow in the center of the city. The impressive Alexander Nevski Orthodox Cathedral, the gold domed Russian Church, The Sofia Synagogue (The largest in E. Europe), and the Banya Bashi Mosque are all within a short walk from each other.