21 June - 07 July 2013
Sofia is the capital and largest city of Bulgaria. Sofia’s history spans 2,400 years. It occupies a strategic position at the centre of the Balkan Peninsula. It is situated in western Bulgaria, at the northern foot of the Vitosha mountain, in the Sofia Valley that is surrounded by mountains on all sides. The valley has an average altitude of 550 metres. Three mountain passes lead to the city, which have been key roads since antiquity, connecting the Adriatic Sea and Central Europe with the Black and Aegean Sea. A number of low rivers cross the city, including the Vladaiska and the Perlovska. The Iskar River, in its upper course, flows near eastern Sofia. The city is known for its numerous mineral and thermal springs.
Its ancient name Serdica derives from the local Celtic tribe of the serdi who established the town in the 5th century BC. It remained a relatively small settlement until 1879, when it was declared the capital of Bulgaria.
The current name Sofia was first used in the 14th-century Vitosha Charter of Bulgarian tsar Ivan Shishman or in a Ragusan merchant’s notes of 1376; it refers to the famous Holy Sophia Church, an ancient church in the city named after the Christian concept of the Holy Wisdom. Although Sredets remained in use until the late 18th century, Sofia gradually overcame the Slavic name in popularity.Sofia’s development as a significant settlement owes much to its central position in the Balkans.Sofiais the 15th largest city in the European Union with a population of around 1.3 million people.
Sofiaconcentrates the majority ofBulgaria’s leading performing arts troupes. Theatre is by far the most popular form of performing art, and theatrical venues are among the most visited, second only to cinemas. The oldest such institution is the Ivan Vazov National Theatre, which performs mainly classical plays and is situated in the very centre of the city.
Bulgaria’s largest art museums are located in the central areas of the city. The National Art Gallery holds a collection of works mostly by Bulgarian authors, while the National Gallery for Foreign Art displays exclusively foreign art, mostly from India, Africa, China and Europe. The crypt of the Alexander Nevsky cathedral holds a collection of Eastern Orthodox icons from the 9th to the 19th century. Other museums are the National Historical Museum with a collection of more than 600,000 items; the National Polytechnic Museum with more than 1,000 technological items on display; the National Archaeological Museum, the SAMCA [Sofia Arsenal Museum for Contemporary Art] and the Museum of Natural History.