HIGH BEAM

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WHO WAS LYUDMILA ZHIVKOVA?

Her father's daughter who imposed her own mediocrity on Bulgaria's culture? Or a forbearing politician who revived interest in Bulgaria's past and placed the country on the world map? Or a quirky mystic? Or a benefactor to the arts?

The assessment of Lyudmila Zhivkova, Communist dictator Todor Zhivkov's daughter, is more contentious than is customary for the public figures of Communism. What she did to Bulgarian culture in the 1970s continues to leave its imprint on public and social life, and even on the standpoints from which the nation views itself.

Thu, 05/02/2019 - 11:27
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CATHOLIC BULGARIA

In 1199, Pope Innocent III wrote a letter to Bulgarian King Kaloyan to offer an union. Bulgaria had just freed itself from two centuries of Byzantine domination and actively sought international recognition of its political and religious independence. Even by the standards of medieval communications Kaloyan was slow to respond. He wrote back to the pope three years later, when it emerged that the Byzantine emperor would not recognise him as king.

Thu, 05/02/2019 - 08:59
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RHODOPE IN FULL BLOSSOM

The Rhodope mountains have an aura of an enchanted place no matter whether you visit in summer, autumn or winter. But in springtime there is something in the Bulgarian south that makes you feel more relaxed, almost above the ground. It could be the clean air and the smell of firs, the magnificence of the green peaks fading away in the distance or the picturesque traditional villages that are so often depopulated, a bitter-sweet sight. It could be the sublime nature of gorges, river meanders, oddly shaped rocks, or the locals with their trademark friendliness and mesmerising music.

Thu, 05/02/2019 - 08:50
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BIZARRE BULGARIA

There are many ways to categorise and promote Bulgaria's heritage: traditional towns and villages, Thracian rock sanctuaries, nature, sun and fun on the seaside, and so on and so forth. But there is a number of places that defy being so easily pigeon-holed. Some of them were created by nature, others are manmade, their age ranging from the prehistory to the recent past. What unites them is that the first reaction they provoke in the viewer is "That looks weird. How did it come to be?".

Wed, 05/01/2019 - 08:21
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KARLOVO

Karlovo is one of those places where size does not equal importance. Tucked between the Stara Planina and the Sredna Gora mountain ranges looks fairly unimpressive now, but in the 19th and early 20th centuries it produced a disproportionate number of men and women who influenced this nation's history.

Wed, 03/27/2019 - 09:20
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SILENCE OF SHARDS

Pavlikeni, a town in north-central Bulgaria, is hardly famous for its attractions, and yet this small, quiet place is the home of one of the most interesting ancient Roman sites in Bulgaria: a villa rustica, or a rural villa, with an incredibly well-preserved pottery manufacturing site.

It was discovered by pure chance.

In 1971, while searching for gold, a group of local treasure-hunters stumbled on the remains of an ancient villa rustica. Instead of gold, they found thousands of broken pottery shards.

Wed, 03/27/2019 - 09:00
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BULGARIAN EASTER

How to celebrate like locals without getting lost in complex traditions

Easter in Bulgaria, which this year falls on 28 April, is one of the best times to get to know the country and its culture. The weather is generally good, spring is in full bloom and travelling outside the big cities is a pleasure.

To make the best of the Bulgarian Easter, you should have some understanding of how do Bulgarians celebrate it.

Wed, 03/27/2019 - 08:27
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BULGARIA'S TOP 10 SMALL TOWNS

Small-town Bulgaria is a diverse place. Some of the towns are well known to tourists while others are largely neglected by outsiders. You can find them all over this country, both in the mountains and on the plains, from Bulgaria's sea coast to its western border. What unites them is the feeling of genuine discovery, the charming details, a boon for anyone tired of the bustle of the larger cities.

 

Tryavna

Mon, 02/25/2019 - 17:47
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BORDER ZONE VILLAGE

Of the many villages in Bulgaria that can be labeled "a hidden treasure," few can compete with Matochina. Its old houses are scattered on the rolling hills of Bulgaria's southeast, overlooked by a mediaeval fortress. At night, the horizon glows with the lights of Edirne, in Turkey.

Matochina is close to Svilengrad, but few people visit, mainly due to inertia. The village is on the border with Turkey and still preserves an atmosphere of isolation: under Communism only permit holders were allowed to visit.

Mon, 02/25/2019 - 17:22
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WHO WAS GEO MILEV?

Poet who lost an eye in the Great War, changed Bulgarian literature - and was assassinated for his beliefs

For most foreigners, their only contact with Bulgaria's poets are the monuments of the 19th-century revolutionary Hristo Botev that have been erected all over the country, and Sofia's most beloved sculpture, the Slaveykovs, father and son, in the eponymous square.

Mon, 02/25/2019 - 07:39
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SEEING DEVIL IN DEVIL'S BRIDGE

In previous times, when information signs of who had built what were yet to appear on buildings of interest, people liberally filled the gaps with their imagination. When they could not explain the origins of a majestic church, a massive earth bank or even a whole city in ruins, they invented legends about supernatural creatures whom they held responsible. For some reason, predominantly Christian Europe often saw the Devil as the most probable builder of certain churches, and particularly of bridges. There is the Devil's Footstep in Frauenkirche in Munich.

Sun, 12/23/2018 - 11:25
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URBEX BG, PART 2

If anything defines the modern Bulgarian landscape, it is the abundance of recent ruins left from the time when Communism collapsed and the free market filled the void left by planned economy. Dozens of factories, cooperative farms, mines, monuments and infrastructure projects have now become a treasure trove for the urban explorer. 

Sun, 12/23/2018 - 11:24
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VILLAGE WHOSE CHURCH STAYS OPEN

The villages in Bulgaria that are abuzz with life are generally located around cities in the plains, like those surrounding Plovdiv. Their houses were mostly built after the 1960s, so more often than not they do not offer much for the curious visitor to see, besides the ubiquitous memorial to some local Communist and a few stalls with fresh homegrown produce.

Sun, 12/23/2018 - 11:24
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GHOSTS OF VILLA ARMIRA

Spread on the easternmost slopes of the Rhodope, Ivaylovgrad is still largely defined by its past as a border outpost. In the Middle Ages, Bulgarians and Byzantines disputed control over the nearby Lyutitsa fortress. Under Communism, the town was deep in the border zone. Entering it without a permit was impossible, as NATO members Greece and Turkey were a stone's throw away. In the 2010s, the border here was frequently crossed by refugees.

Sun, 12/23/2018 - 11:23
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URBEX BG: ABANDONED RUINS INCREASINGLY ATTRACT URBAN EXPLORERS

Yet the sombre aura of desolation and utter despair exuded by modern ruins can be evocative. They simultaneously frighten, disgust and enchant. When walking around spaces that were abandoned mere decades before, we begin to reflect on the people – almost our contemporaries – who used to live and work there, and who then left, leaving behind a soiled rag here, a rusty bed or a desecrated image of a once powerful party leader there. Who were these people? What did they experience there? Such places remind us of the fragility of our own civilisation.

Wed, 11/28/2018 - 08:48
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SVESHTARI TOMB: UNESCO-LISTED THRACIAN SITE PRESERVES RARE ARTWORKS

One place, however, reveals more about Thracian history than anywhere else in Bulgaria. Situated on some hills along the bends of the Teketo River, Sboryanovo Reserve offers a glimpse of a Thracian city and citadel, plus several necropoli and shrines, and reveals astonishing building skills, gold treasures and important information about the religion, economy and social life of the Thracians.

Wed, 11/28/2018 - 08:33
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BULGARIA'S BEST SCENIC DRIVES

These include, but are not limited to, bad or non-existent asphalt, unpredictable and uncared-for potholes, confusing signage, maniacal drivers and traffic cops that contribute to the problems rather than try to solve them. Yet anyone who is even remotely interested in looking at the world from the window of a car will instantly know that driving through Bulgaria's lesser and off-the-beaten track roads is absolutely the best way to take in the natural and cultural beauties of this country and to experience a first-hand interaction with its people.

Thu, 10/25/2018 - 14:18
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HOW TO SURVIVE BULGARIA'S ROADS

Bulgarian drivers and their behaviour on the road are the stuff of urban lore. You will be hearing horror stories about them. Some of those may be true, others may not. Driving in Bulgaria is more dangerous compared to Wyoming, but absolutely a piece of cake if you have survived southern Italy. One thing that cannot be disputed about driving in this country is that it is be a memorable adventure.

Thu, 10/25/2018 - 14:13
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MONASTERY IN THE SKY

Seen from afar, St George's Monastery near Glozhene, by the Hemus highway, appears to challenge the laws of both physics and common sense. The compact monastic complex of wooden residential buildings with drooping eaves stands on the top of a narrow rock pillar.

Reaching the monastery is also a challenge. Signage in Yablanitsa, the nearest town, is non-existent and the GPS will send you to a dead-end. The road itself is a narrow band of crumbling asphalt clinging on to the steep slopes. Pray that you do not meet an oncoming car. In snow, it is impassable.

Thu, 10/25/2018 - 14:05
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BULGARIA'S STRANGE ROCKS

The human penchant for spotting visual patterns in seemingly chaotic landscapes, preferring false positives to false negatives, has been crucial for survival. For thousands of years, the ones who lived long enough to pass their genes to the next generation were the ones able to spot the lion hidden in the bush. Even when there was no lion at all.

Thu, 09/06/2018 - 15:00
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