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Bulgaria - Overview

Bulgaria is located in south-eastern Europe. It has borders with Greece, Romania, Turkey, Macedonia and Serbia, and a Black Sea coastline on the Black Sea. The interior is very mountainous, with lowlands in the north and south-east of the country.

Previously a satellite of the Soviet Union, Bulgaria first held democratic elections in 1990, after the collapse of communism. Since then it has experienced much political instability, economic difficulties and other problems including a high level of corruption and organized crime, but is undergoing many reforms and hoping to achieve EU membership in 2007.

The capital city of Sofia is Bulgaria's main government, business, shopping and entertainment centre, and has a large number of ancient ruins and historical buildings. The city owes its origins to the presence of mineral water springs. An interesting feature here is the yellow paving in the administrative district.

Other main cities in Bulgaria include Plovdiv, the second largest city; Varna, a coastal resort with a very lively nightlife; Vratsa, a scenic city in the north-west of the country which is a commercial and business centre as well as a tourist attraction, and Bansko, a medieval town in the mountains which is now a winter sports resort and a popular expatriate area of residence. Burgas, on the Black Sea, is another popular expat destination.

Expatriates from western Europe, especially the U.K., have recently been moving in fairly large numbers to Bulgaria, attracted by the low cost of living, scenic countryside and low property prices. Bulgarian real estate is rapidly increasing in price and is currently thought by many to be a good investment.

However, foreign residents complain of high levels of pollution in areas away from the coast, unattractive urban areas with drab communist-era buildings, frequent power cuts and water shortages and a lack of good quality healthcare. Those living in the rural areas and coastal resorts seem to be more satisfied with their surroundings.

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