Sofia has been the country’s capital since 1879. Its current population is 1.27 million though it is believed to expand to about 2 million people over weekdays. Nonetheless, it is Bulgaria’s largest city and the 12th largest within the European Union. Sofia’s development has followed the country’s historical ups and downs.
Ruins from the 7th century BC evidence Thracian tribe settlements built at the present-day city center. Most probably the location was favored by Thracians because of the abundance of mineral hot water (still running today) and the bountiful and protective mountains to the south (the Vitosha Mountain).
Today Sofia is the country’s heart concentrating Bulgaria’s governance, major universities, cultural institutions and businesses. National Historical Museum, Bulgarian Natural History Museum, Museum of Earth and Men, Ethnographic Museum, National Museum of Military History, National Polytechnical Museum and National Archaeological Museum all are worth visiting. In addition, there are Sofia City Art Gallery, Gallery of Modern Arts, Bulgarian National Gallery of Arts, as well as numerous private art galleries.
Sofia city symbol is often perceived to be Alexander Nevski Cathedral with its golden domes and Neo-Byzantine architecture. It is both a temple to host holy celebrations and a historical monument tightly weaved into the nation’s spirit. Christianity became Bulgarian’s formal religion in 9th century AC with the Bulgarian church being the earliest Orthodox Church to use Slavic language in its masses. In its crypt the Cathedral houses a museum that is claimed to hold the largest collection of Orthodox icons in Europe.
Two prominent Bulgarian academic institutions are represented in ECIS 2013 Organizing Committee, namely, the Bulgarian Academy of Science (BAS) and the University of Sofia (SU).
BAS is the oldest institution of the country being established several years before proclaiming independence of the Bulgarian state. It was founded in 1869 under the name of Bulgarian Literary Society with a mission inter alia to align Bulgarian people to the developed European nations. Its present-day name dates to 1911. In 1913 BAS joined Union of Slavonic Academies and Scientific Communities and in 1931 – International Council of Scientific Unions. It continues to be the leading scientific institution of Bulgaria.
St. Kliment Ohridski University of Sofia (SU) is the first higher educational institution in Bulgaria, formally established under Decree of the National Assembly in 1888. Its history embodies centuries of cultural and educational tradition. Today SU is the largest and most prestigious educational and research centre in the country.