Issue 105

THE IMPORTANCE OF HAVING CONFIDENCE

A fan of the arts, Xavier Lapeyre de Cabanes accomplished in a few months what various Communist and non-Communist functionaries, dating all the way back to Lyudmila Zhivkova in the late 1970s, had hoped for: bring a Bulgarian exhibition to the Louvre in Paris. Using his par excellence skills and contacts, M. de Cabanes was instrumental in putting together a large display of Thracian art at the Richelieu wing, through at the end of July 2015.

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WHO WERE THE THRACIANS?

These people were the Thracians.

Today their name is barely known to anyone outside southeastern Europe. The Thracians built for eternity – especially tombs and shrines – but they lived in the moment and, underestimating the importance of writing down their deeds, they left next to nothing about their history, faith and beliefs. And so, bar the fascinating sites and treasures they created, the life of the Thracians remains more or less a mystery.

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TOP 5 PRISTINE BEACHES

Theoretically, Bulgaria's seaside coast is exclusively state property – beaches are free to visit, and building on them is prohibited. However, as anyone who has happened to visit the Bulgarian Black Sea coast knows, theory and reality often collide. Hotels are built right on the beaches, and the sand is parcelled up into plots dotted with parasols and loungers or patches rent by hotels and taverns. Dunes and forests, which are the habitats of rare species, are being legally registered as agricultural land and hence become suitable for development.

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ARAPOVSKI MONASTERY: LESSER KNOWN GEM OF REVIVAL PERIOD

Yet, the country is dotted with many monastic complexes, which form the backbone of local tourism and religious life.

The Arapovski Monastery, about 12 km east of Asenovgrad, is one of these. Unlike most Bulgarian monasteries, Arapovo is not located at some hard-to-reach-but-picturesque corner of a mountain. Instead, it is on the fertile plain at the foot of the Rhodope.

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CABLE CARS OF GEORGIA

Two young girls are munching bean-paste khachapuri by an array of old graffiti drawn with a pencil on the crumbling walls of a funicular station. The wooden benches look prehistoric, but a flat screen TV on the wall is on, broadcasting a Turkish TV soap. A handful of other people wait for the arrival of the next car on Chiatura's main cable car line.

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THE COMPUTER PROGRAMMER, An excerpt from a novel

The number of clients I had was growing, and so were my apprehensions about how I was going to manage.

"Hello," the Computer Programmer said and took off his jacket, which looked like an oversized piece of kids' clothing. His red boxers were peeking out over the belt of his jeans. "I've come to you with a specific question."

I felt a sudden urge to explain what a psychotherapist's job was, and that he was neither a fortune-teller nor a TV game show contestant, which is why he couldn't be expected to give answers that were either right or wrong.

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LET'S DISCUSS IT

When asked about the things which she doesn't like in Bulgaria, Athena Lao points to a flaw in local mentality. "There are a lot of inefficiencies and frustrations that are completely avoidable and fixable, but some Bulgarians' first impulse is to shrug their shoulders and say nothing can be done, 'because it's Bulgaria'," says the young American from Athens, Georgia. She arrived in Blagoevgrad, in Bulgaria's southwest, in 2012 for a one-year tenure as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant after she graduated in Classical Languages and Literature from Harvard University.

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WHAT'S IN A PAIR OF GLOWING EYES?

The Bulgarian public was gripped for about a week, which is in itself remarkable as news like this usually lives for two-three days. Does the monument reflect historical truth or is it but a contraption of a surly man wearing a Hungarian crown? Is it heroic enough or is it just plain kitsch? Do Samuil's eyes glow in the dark sufficiently strong or are they underlit? Or should they glow at all? Does Bulgaria of the 21st Century need to erect monuments to long-gone kings instead of, say, spend a few leva on paving the roads in central Sofia?

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QUOTE-UNQUOTE

When we don't do repairs – why don't you do repairs?! When we do repairs – why do you do repairs?! They are never satisfied.

Construction Minister Lilyana Pavlova on the massive traffic congestion on the Trakiya Motorway

When Tsvetan Tsvetanov was interior minister, Bulgaria turned into a Big Brother state.

Supreme Cassation Court Justice Lozan Panov

Idiots and assholes.

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