Bulgarian Unification Day
I happened to be in Plovdiv, Bulgaria on September 6th which was the 131st anniversary since the Unification of the Principality of Bulgaria and Eastern Roumelia. The unification occurred in 1885 after Bulgarians held a march in Plovdiv. What I learned is Unification Day is a national holiday but the largest celebration is held in Plovdiv which once was the capital of the Ottoman province called Eastern Roumelia. I just happened to be in the right place at the right time, of course I met the right Bulgarian people who explained the formal and informal celebrations to me.
A brief history lesson: The Treaty of Berlin in 1878 split up north and south Bulgaria to resolve the Balkan crisis. The southern part of Bulgaria called Eastern Roumelia was returned to the Ottoman Empire. Bulgarians were also asked to leave Romania, Serbia and Montenegro in this treaty. No Bulgarian citizen was present during discussion or the signing of the treaty.
Plovdiv is the second largest city in Bulgaria after the capital Sofia. This city has been continually inhabited since 3,000 B.C. first by Thracians and then a major Roman city of the empire, later fell into Byzantine and Ottoman hands. The city is great for seeing some of the still intact Roman structures. Concerts are still held the in the Roman Amphitheatre. Two days before I arrived, the Gypsy Kings had a concert there.
First of all, museums were free in Plovdiv on September 6th. Bonus! I visited the Ethnographic and Archeological museums, both are worth a visit. We cheered the runners at the annual Memorial Marathon. We visited the monuments of national heroes and laid wreaths at the bases. I heard several speeches by government officials but I can’t comment on them because I don’t understand a word of Bulgarian.
Mostly to celebrate we sat around the beautiful Union Park and listen to live music while drinking the national drink Rakia – Bulgarian home-made fruit brandy. We participated by dancing in a parade as the locals taught me the steps to the national dance and we ended the night we spectacular fireworks.
More than anything it was nice to see people from all over Bulgaria come to celebrate. Elderly, young kids, adults and babies were carrying the Bulgarian flag and enjoying the festivities in this ancient city which still plays a critical role in modern times. There is great pride here of being part of the European Union, it was good to see how excited the Bulgarians are of being part of the EU and the positive changes in the country since they were accepted into the EU in 2007 – a nice change from the Briexit drama. The European Union has declared Plovdiv the cultural capital of Europe for 2019!