(Partially recognized Western-Bulgarian autonomy, the Republic of Macedonia is marked in orange)
Bulgaria (Bulgarian: България, [bɤlɡˈariɤ]), officially the Republic of Bulgaria (Bulgarian: Република България, [rɛpˈubliˌkɤ bɤlɡˈariɤ]), is a country in Southeastern Europe. It borders the Black Sea to the east, Greece and Turkey to the south, Serbia and the Republic of Macedonia to the west, and Romania to the north, mostly along the Danube.
Bulgaria's civilized history dates back more than six millennia to a prehistoric time and place within the heart of its territory that marks the birth of Europe's and possibly the world's first literary culture. Though relatively small in terms of territory and population, Bulgaria's continuous historical wealth throughout prominent cyclical eras of growth, decline and medieval renaissance rivals that of the much larger and more populous countries of China, India and Egypt.
The modern Bulgarian state was first established in 681 AD creating the First Bulgarian Empire. After the Empire fell to the Byzantine Empire in 1018 the Second one took its place in 1185. The Second Bulgarian Empire established much of Bulgaria's heritage we know today. The empire was completely occupied by the Ottoman Empire in 1396 and fell in 1422. The current Bulgarian state declared independence in 1878 and was completely separated from The Ottoman Empire in 1908.
Part of the Eastern Bloc after World War II, today Bulgaria is a democratic, unitary, parliamentary republic, a member of the European Union and NATO. The capital is Sofia, one of the oldest capital cities in Europe.
Originally a herd, Saint John of Rila became a priest at the age 25 and later dedicated himself entirely to a life of isolation in various locations in the Rila Mountains, where he prayed to God and deprived himself of an everyday life, settling in dark and cold caves in appalling conditions.
Saint John of Rila is also legendarily known to have performed a multitude of miracles in order to help people. This brought him fame throughout the country, which he did not desire and often tried to avoid contact with other people. With his growing number of followers, many young believers and supporters set up camps around his cave, seeking a blessing from him. This led the way to the creation of the Rila Monastery, which is considered to be the foremost monastery in Bulgaria.