ARTICLES 
BULGARIAN HISTORY SEDUCES TOURISTS
Sofia Morning News (27 June 2004)
Bulgaria, one of the richest European countries in historical vestiges, seeks to make tourists discover its inheritance.
But it butts against a lack of funds and poor infrastructures.
"Bulgaria is one of the richest European countries in ancient and middle-aged monuments. Located at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, it has kept traces of civilizations Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Slavic and Islamic ", the director of the national historical museum, Bozhidar Dimitrov, underlined.
However, about 90 percent of these monuments are abandoned. To restore them and revive them, it is necessary to invest, in particular in the infrastructures, so that they can be visited, he added.
The country has about 40,000 cultural sites, of which seven were registered by UNESCO with the world inheritance of humanity, including the Rila monastery (Property for sale near the Rila Monastery), in the south. Two of oldest churches in Europe, which have never halted service, The Saint George and The Sainte Sofia, are located in the Bulgarian capital.
Built when Rome was just adopting Christianity in the 4th century, the churches have been preserved in the form of mosques all along the Ottoman domination from 14the till 19th century.
Bulgarian capitals of the 7th century, Pliska and Preslav, constitute "a contribution to European civilization, because they are built out of stone at one time when the majority of the cities were made out of wood", Prof Dimirov indicated.
Some 250 Christian-orthodox monasteries, rich in murals, including 200 monasteries dug into the rock by hermits during 14-15th centuries, can contribute to develop religious tourism, the prominent historian pointed out. Bulgaria counts also some 3,000 fortresses from the Middle Ages.
The recent discovery in the mountainous chain of Rhodopes (southern Bulgaria) of a sanctuary devoted to Dionysus, the Greek god of wine, raised the veil on Thracian tribes, who inhabited the south-east of Europe a thousand years before Christ till the 3th century.
For several years now, tourism in Bulgarian East is on the rise, but this passion relates to practically only the seaside resorts of the edge of the Black Sea and the ski resorts in the mountains of the south.
The sites being inside the country and visited at communist times by the tourists of the ex Eastern block have been abandoned for over a decade, a local historian pointed out.
Deputy Economy Minister Dimitar Hadzhinikolov was pleased with the EUR 12 M recently granted by EU aid program for building routes of cultural tourism and the opening of a purse of cultural tourism in the old Bulgarian capital of Veliko Tarnovo in June.
One of greatest dangers to religious and cultural tourism are hundreds of plunderers provided with sophisticated equipment who excavate illegally the Thracian tumuli, as well as other historic sites, and export illegally their lucky finds.
Bulgaria is an exotique destination placed in the heart of Europe, there are sites where a tourist has never put the feet, according to the president of Bulgarian Association of Alternative Tourism, Lybomir Popyordanov.
If the French enjoy visiting villages and observing authentic craft industry, the Japanese prefer the Rose Valley (Property for sale in Rose Valey and Kazanlak), huddled in the outskirts of the Balkans Chain.

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