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BULGARIA - THE PEARL OF THE BALKANS
Location and area
Bulgaria is situated on the Balkan Peninsula whereat the Balkan, nearly 600 km long and almost 2400 m high mountain, divides the South from the North part of the country. Bulgaria occupies the eastern middle part of the whole Balkan Peninsula. It borders on 5 countries and on the Black Sea to the east. Bulgarian neighbouring countries are Serbia and Macedonia (west), Romania (north), Turkey and Greece (south). Bulgaria has a territory of 111.000 square kilometres which is slightly larger than Tennessee, almost so big as Cuba and twice and a half bigger than Switzerland.
The most important of the 16 Bulgarian mountains is the Balkan (Stara Planina) with its highest peak Botev and with 32 passes, the most famous among them is Shipka. Northerly from the Balkan begins the Danube plain, in the south is the high plateau of Sofia, the "Rose Valley" and the Trakia lowland. The southwestern part of the country is occupied by the Vitosha Mountain, with its 2290 m high peak Cherni Vrah (Black Peak), the Rila Mountain, with Musala (2925 m) - the highest peak in the Balkan Peninsula, the Pirin Mountain (Vihren peak - 2915 m), the 1604 m high Sredna Gora and and the Rhodopes (Goliam Perelik peak - 2191 m). 27,6 % of the territory is mountainous, 41 % - rolling and 31,4 % - flat. Forests occupy 27 % of the country. Besides Danube, which is the northern border of the country, the other 2 main rivers are Iskar (368 km) and Maritsa (322 km) which flow from Rila through Bulgaria. Danube has 10 tributaries (Iskar among them), and 7 rivers empty into the Black Sea.
A major part of the country is covered with fat lands (black earth, brown and grey forest soil). The land for agricultural use in Bulgaria is about one third of the whole territory, and most cultivated are the original steppe lands in the North and North-East (Danube plain and Dobrudja), which have became the granaries of the country.
The plant and animal species reflect the border and crossing location of Bulgaria. To the north of the Balkan and in the mountain regions predominates the Middle European vegetation and in the south it becomes more Mediterranean. In the most south part occur olive, myrtle, cypress and evergreen oak bushes. 25 % of the forests consist of coniferous trees, situated mainly in Pirin and Rila Mountains (pine, fir, larch). Deciduous forests take the major part of the woodlands.
The climate in Bulgaria is temperate continental tending to Mediterranean. Mean annual precipitation is about 635 mm but this conceals a wide variation. The four seasons: spring, summer, autumn and winter are clearly differentiated. Average day temperatures (centigrade) in the country:
The population of Bulgaria numbers 7,9 million. Bulgaria has a population density of ca. 71,2 persons per sq km (Germany - ca. 229, Switzerland ca. 154, England ca. 376). 85 % are orthodox christians, 13 % - muslims, other - 2 %. Bulgarians make up 88 % of the total population, 8 % are Turks, 2 % are Gypsies (Roma) and 2 % are Romanians, Armenians and other nationalities.