When saying "Dobro utro!" ("Good morning!") to a Bulgarian, you'll see they are a generally friendly though fairly formal and reserved society. They tend to be quiet, but much of this is a gentle humility that covers their strong national identity and powerful resolve. Traditional and with a love for sharing their heritage, Bulgarians are known for hospitality. People in Bulgaria extract a deep pride from the country's history and rich culture. Folk songs and dances, stories and folklore, Bulgarian holidays, national costumes and traditional rituals still take their place at the center of Bulgarian life. Family is another fundamental part of life for Bulgarians, who form large familial networks to support one another. Elders and those of position are respected and held in high regard.

Bulgarian is the main language spoken throughout Bulgaria, where they use the Cyrillic alphabet. The second most widely understood language is Turkish. Many Bulgarians, especially of the younger generation, speak and understand basic English. Other languages you might hear include Russian, German and Serbo-Croatian.

Most people in Bulgaria belong to the Bulgarian Orthodox Church. Other worldwide religions are also represented in smaller numbers, including Muslim, Protestant and Roman Catholic.

Bulgarian folk music forms a soundtrack for daily life in Bulgaria, revered and appreciated as an age-old art form that fuses Eastern and Western influences, from Oriental to medieval Eastern Orthodox tonalities. To create it, Bulgarians use a wide range of fascinating traditional instruments.You might need to do a little practice before you travel to Bulgaria, where they shake their heads side to side to mean "yes" and nod up and down for "no." It might be less confusing to rely on the words "da" for yes and "ne" for no. Bulgarians often use "ciao" to say good-bye (instead of "dovijdane") and "merci" to say thank you (instead of "blagodarya"). Most Bulgarians are named after a saint and traditionally celebrate their "name days." When a particular saint's day corresponds with a family member's name, a large celebration ensues, usually over a meal shared and enjoyed together. When paying for something in a restaurant or shop, do not expect to always get the correct change, as Bulgarians tend to "round up."

The tight-knit extended families in Bulgaria have done a fabulous job of passing down their beloved Bulgarian recipes generation by generation -- much to the delight of visiting gourmands! Highly diverse in its offerings, Bulgarian cuisine pleases the adventurous palette. Classic Bulgarian dishes show a Turkish and Greek influence that is ommon in Balkan foods. But Oriental dishes such as moussaka and baklava also find room at local tables, alongside unique concoctions that take cues from central and western European cuisines. Each region of Bulgaria brims with new culinary temptations that reflect the environment: seafood along the coast, vegetables in the plains, and dairy products in mountain areas. Fresh and local, in-season produce grown from the temperate climate means Bulgarian cooks love to play with herbs, vegetables and fruits. Dishes tend to rely on natural flavors and the finest seasonal ingredients. Nosh on a variety of healthy salads, breads, stews, and grilled meats, with pork being the most common, followed by fish and chicken. In the spring time, savory lamb dishes appear on Bulgarian menus as well. Yogurt is a popular staple, as is a Bulgarian white brine cheese called "sirene" that might be tossed into salads or baked into pastries. Slow-cook methods are the norm, so take your time over a meal and enjoy the hard-earned flavors! Bulgarians are skilled grape growers, and wine production has a long history here. Wine and beer are made to be sampled, but rakia, served neat, is the Bulgarian national alcoholic drink. Be sure to try at least a sip of this strong, clear brandy made from grapes, plums or apricots during your Bulgarian journey.

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