Balkan Peninsula is flat, fertile and endowed with plenty of water. No wonder it has been occupied by many throughout the history. But it is the Ottomans everybody here in Eastern Europe, loves to hate. Even in their folk stories and songs, Villains, those who chase after chaste women and behead heroes, are Turks.
Bulgaria was the first of Balkan countries that fell to the Ottomans, some 60 years before Istanbul fell to Sultan Mehmet II, and this is where you hear how bad it was to be under Ottoman yoke. The most over was the religious discrimination: Christians were not allowed to wear the color green, churches were forbidden to have belfries, they were subject to poll taxes, and one out of every five boys, usually the most promising, was selected to be trained as a devoted warrior for the Sultan: the janissary.
But getting independence in 1876 didn’t really mean peace and prosperity for the Bulgarians. In our way to Veiliko Tarnova, we see a memorial to 65,000 Bulgarian fighters killed in Balkan wars of 1912-1913 --not counting many thousands civilians – and this was before the WW1 started in, [drum rolls, please] Balkans!