Issue 68

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IZMIR

When planning a holiday on the Turquoise Coast of Turkey, Izmir is rarely the first choice. Or the second. Or the third. In fact, it is not even on the Wikitravel suggestion list for Mediterranean Turkey. The idea of postponing even for a day the bliss of swimming in the crystal waters of Fethiye, to name just one major resort not too far away, for the dubious pleasure of being stuck in the congested traffic of Turkey's third biggest city is indeed far from tempting. What is more, if you discount the villas in the Karşıyaka neighbourhood, there is hardly any old architecture in Izmir.

Wed, 06/27/2012 - 11:54
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BRIDGE AT BYALA

Every day thousands of people pass by one of Bulgaria's most remarkable old bridges which spans the Yantra River near Byala, in the region of Ruse. Few, however, pay any attention to the elegant 19th Century structure. The bridge is close to the main road to Ruse and Bucharest, but the new bridge over the Yantra there is so awkward that it has witnessed many sometimes lethal accidents. Extreme caution is recommended, so most drivers never pay any attention to the surroundings.

Thu, 06/07/2012 - 11:43
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HIDDEN WATERFALL

Travellers don't expect to find a waterfall in the middle of the rolling hills of the Danube Valley, and yet, surprisingly, it is there – hidden amid karst crevices and known only to a handful of people.

The waterfall in the village of Hotnitsa is one of these unexpected sights. In fact, it is one of the two reasons for the relative fame of this village in the Veliko Tarnovo region. The other is the large colony of British expats, which accounts for some 10 percent of the Hotnitsa population.

Thu, 06/07/2012 - 11:38
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THE RED CHURCH

Leaving aside St Sofia in the capital and what has remained of the metropolitan church in Nesebar, traces from the early Byzantine era in Bulgaria are scarce and little known. They do exist, however: forgotten remnants of the time when the Eastern Roman Empire was trying to hold back the invasions of the Barbarians in the Balkans. Most are nothing more than low crumbling walls, almost invisible in the undergrowth and interesting only to archaeologists. Others, however, despite time, neglect and the depredations of those seeking second-hand building materials still pose a striking sight.

Thu, 06/07/2012 - 11:32
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WHERE IN BULGARIA ARE YOU?

Some of those are just rocks off the Black Sea coast, others are in the Danube river. None of them are easily accessible unless you have your own boat. Still, some are at least interesting. For example, the St Anastasia island - formerly known as the Bolshevik, in the Bay of Burgas, was used as a place of pilgrimage, then a prison, then a weekend getaway spot; and now there are plans to convert it into a tourist attraction.

Thu, 06/07/2012 - 11:24
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ISMAIL ARAMAZ

We sit on the porch of one of Sofia's most elegant residences and sip some sweet Turkish tea. The large house, located next to Sofia University and overlooking the remnants of the much reviled and intermittently painted-over Red Army Monument, was built in 1903 for the Sirmadzhiev family. It was acquired by Turkey for its embassy a few years later. Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the "Father of modern Turkey," worked here as a military attaché when Bulgaria attacked Turkey in the Balkan Wars of the 1910s.

Sun, 06/03/2012 - 14:48
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THE BOY WHO WAS KING

When Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha established his political party in 2001 and was subsequently elected prime minister of Bulgaria, most people did not see anything strange about that.

Many said he was simply regaining his rightful place as the de facto executive power in Bulgaria, after having been sent into exile in 1946, aged nine, when he was the king of Bulgaria.

Sat, 06/02/2012 - 15:04
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QUOTE-UNQUOTE

The reforms in the civil service are an attempt to punish those who do not kowtow to the government.

Meglena Kuneva on plans to relocate some of the administration out of Sofia

In the course of three years since we are in power the median life span has increased by a year.

Prime Minister Boyko Borisov speaking at a government session

Bulgarian democracy is not in danger because it does not exist.

Journalist Toma Bikov

Sat, 06/02/2012 - 15:00
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BUKHARIN'S FOX*

The great leader's daughter drowses by the aviary. It is a Sunday afternoon in early autumn and visitors wander through the halls dressed in green and gold. Cheers erupt at intervals from the activity room, where the Packers game plays on the big screen television. The birds in the aviary flutter from branch to branch – canaries, parakeets, finches, lovebirds.

Sat, 06/02/2012 - 14:24
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ALL THE PRESIDENT'S EGGS

Plevneliev, Boyko Borisov's handpicked head of state, was visiting Italy for 24 May, the day of celebration for the two Greek monks, Cyril and Methodius, who had been employed by the Byzantine emperor in the 9th Century to devise a new alphabet to consolidate Constantinople's hold over non-Greek-speaking Slavs.

The egg in question is reminiscent of the huge Fabergé eggs manufactured for the Russian tsars.

Sat, 06/02/2012 - 13:02
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DOUBLE-EDGED SWORD

A phalanx of EU ambassadors, including those of the UK, Germany, France, The Netherlands and current EU president Denmark, lining up in a concerted show of support for a piece of domestic Bulgarian legislation and the political party (GERB) that introduced it? The American ambassador sending strongly-worded press releases to assert his unequivocal support for a Bulgarian law? Just stopping short of saying "... or else!"

Wed, 05/30/2012 - 06:03
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GOD BLESS

Anyone who has spent a reasonable amount of time in Bulgaria will have identified two major aspects of life here. To begin with, few things, if any, are really what they seem. And next, despite all protestations, declarations and proclamations to the contrary, despite small gestures and acts performed by politicians of various hues designed to create the impression otherwise, Bulgaria remains staunchly in Russia's sphere of influence ‒ at least in spirit, if not in real politics.

Tue, 05/22/2012 - 07:18
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FACELESS PRESIDENT

If we are to assume that Rosen Plevneliev won last year's presidential election in a free and fair ballot (a fact disputed by a number of organisations and observers who reported widespread fraud, buying of votes and a manipulative media environment), then we should be asking what he has achieved, or failed to achieve, in the five months he has been in office.

The answer, to put it succinctly, is nothing.

Sun, 05/20/2012 - 13:57
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