We believe that it is suitable to start that section so essential to all Bulgarians with that fine excerpt from a book most important for the development of Bulgarian literature and the preservation of Bulgarian spirit - "About the Letters", by Chernorizets Hrabar (his name could be translated as The Brave Man in a Black Outfit, or The Bold Monk, since monks were referred to as Wearing black clothes):
"If you asked the Greek Bookmen: "Who created your letters and translated your books, and when?" you would see that few bookmen knew about it. But if asking the Slavonic first-year pupils: "Who created your alphabet and translated the books?", all pupils would answer: "St. Constantine the Philosopher, called Cyril. He invented our alphabet and translated the books together with his brother Methodius." And if you asked: " When did that happen?" They would answer that it was during the reign of the Greek King Mikhail, the Bulgarian prince Boris, the Moravian Prince Rostislav, the Blatenian Prince Kozel, in the year 6363 from the creating of the world (i.e. 855)."
The two brothers, Sts. Cyril and Methodius (or Constantine and Methodius) - known as the Apostles of the Slavs, were born in Thessalonica, in 827 and 826 respectively. Though belonging to a senatorial family, they renounced secular honours and became priests. They were living in a monastery on the Bosphorus, when the Khazars sent to Constantinople for a Christian teacher. Cyril was selected and was accompanied by his brother. They learned the Khazar language and converted many of the people.
Soon after their Khazar mission, came the invitation of the Moravian Prince Rostislav, who sought missionaries able to preach in the Slavonic vernacular (people's) language, and thereby check German influence in Moravia - the Moravians wished a teacher who could instruct them and conduct Divine service in the Slavonic tongue. On account of their acquaintance with that language, Cyril and Methodius were chosen for their work. In preparation for it Cyril invented a new alphabet and, with the help of Methodius, translated the Gospels and the necessary liturgical books into that new South Slavonic language. They went to Moravia in 863, and laboured over the translations for four and a half years.
The immediate success aroused the hostility of the German rulers and ecclesiastics. Cyril died in Rome, 4 Feb., 869. Methodius went to Constantinople and with the assistance of several priests he completed the translation of the Bible and ecclesiastical books into Slavonic. The enemies of Methodius did not cease to antagonize him. His health was worn out from the long struggle, and he died 6 April, 885, recommending as his successor Gorazd, a Slav who had been his disciple. Methodius' influence in Moravia was wiped out after his death but was carried to Bulgaria, Serbia, and Russia, where the Southern Slavonic language of Cyril and Methodius (and their alphabet, known as the Cyrillic alphabet) is still the liturgical language of churches and they all use, with variations, that same alphabet as the basis of their languages.
Canonical recognition of the Slavonic alphabet came in 879 when the Slavonic books were sanctified by Pope Johann VIII. For centuries on, Europe had only one Patron acknowledged by canon law - Saint Benedict. Then, in 20th century - in 1979, Pope John Paul II proclaimed the creators of the Slavonic alphabet, the Bulgarian Sts Cyril and Methodius, to also be Patrons of Europe.
The Old Bulgarian language was the basis of Russian, Serbian, Slovenian, and Croatian variants and gained the significance of a universal literary Slavonic language. The modern Bulgarian literary language is characterized by dropping off the case forms, by the use of the definite article, by nine tenses, four moods, etc.
Before your visit to Bulgaria be fully prepared for reliance upon the Cyrillic alphabet. Some hotels will use English and some restaurants will have translated English menus but you should always remember that the Bulgarian language is the official language and the Cyrillic alphabet is the official alphabet. Having no knowledge of Bulgarian grammar or the Cyrillic alphabet you will become reliant upon someone else to help you around to read the Bulgarian words on signs, in advertising and newspapers. If you can assert your independence, you will enjoy your visit much more. Bulgarians are pleased to assist one who makes some effort.
This table of the Bulgarian Cyrillic alphabet, the pronunciation help and the sidebar notes do not pretend for a linguistic-study status. Very often local accents and dialects vary and are somewhat dependent upon the individual and the locale. You should bear in mind that this information should be used as it is intended - just as a helper to familiarize you with the Cyrillic alphabet.
There are many words which you will see in Cyrillic that would have an English pronunciation, such as "PECTOPAHT" (restaurant), "HOBO" ("novo" is the Bulgarian word for "new"), "HE" ("ne" is the Bulgarian word for "no"), "CHEK" (Bulgarian for "snack" ... as in "snack bar") and thousands more. Don't be confused by them.
As important as the correct sound of each letter is the pronunciation of the word, including correct placement of the stress. For example the Bulgarian word for "restaurant" is "PECTOPAHT" ... in English, phonetically, we say "rest-raunt", but in Bulgarian, it becomes "rest-o-'rant" with the stress upon the final syllable. All letters in Bulgarian are pronounced (there is no silent ones). Since we do not attempt here to write a linguistic review but just to brief you on some landmarks, we assume the possibility of misusing or misinterpreting certain aspects