Issue 117

CRISIS AS AN OPPORTUNITY

What doesn't kill you makes you stronger may sound like a cliché but Vassil Christov, CEO of Fibank, Bulgaria's largest locally owned commercial bank, has seen it in real life. In 2014, there was a run on the bank. After a nightmarish week, the institution managed to recover and now is restructured and healthier than ever. It has repaid the state liquidity support, has grown and invested in new technologies. Mr. Christov has been on the Managing Board of Fibank since 2010, and in 2012 was distinguished as Banker of the Year.

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QUOTE-UNQUOTE

On my Facebook page there were many comments about my mother.

Lazar Lazarov, the manager of the Road Infrastructure Agency, on the increased prices of road vignettes

Boyko Borisov is our subordinate. We decide, he obeys.

Valeri Simeonov, co-chairman of the Patriotic Front

In the Black Sea I want to see ships, yachts and tourists; peace and love.

Prime Minister Boyko Borisov

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C IS FOR SOFIA, A STANDS FOR BURGAS

Number plates usually reflect the year of the first registration, or the province where the car's owner resides, or sometimes they give out nothing at all except a unique combination of letters and numbers detectable by the traffic authorities and the police.

Theoretically, they should give out meaningful information in Bulgaria as well. But try to find out what an Y stand for on a local number plate and then think of the TX on another, and you are bound to see that not even number plates in this country are produced the way things are done elsewhere.

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HAIL TO THE SUN

Bulgaria, however, is also the home of a feast that is unique to it yet in the best case scenario is no older than 35 years.

On the night of 30 June and 1 July, people gather by the sea. They spend the night drinking and listening to music, and when the sun begins to rise, they play Uriah Heep's song July Morning. Everyone is happy.

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BULGARIA'S HURTING PRIDE

"In Bulgaria, there is no homophobia," reads the bold text of a poster near the Red Army monument in Central Sofia featuring two young men in an embrace against the backdrop of a Communist-era apartment block. A man in his 70s sits peacefully in the midst of the brightly-coloured youth, and holds a rainbow flag, while two teens perched on the monument kiss.

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PROTESTANT PLOVDIV

Plovdiv is famed for its Roman remains, its old mosques and colourful 19th century Revival Period houses, its tasty food and modern vibe. Yet, there is more of interest in the city, a pleasant surprise that at a first glance seems out of place: a Gothic-style church rising from one of Plovdiv's hills, Sahat Tepe.

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KOPRIVSHTITSA

The surrounding landscape is all high slopes, lush forests and meadows. Beautiful 200-year-old mansions line cobbled streets. Old stone bridges span the local river. Charming old water fountains, their worn inscriptions still legible, are here, there and everywhere. Koprivshtitsa's history is also captivating, as this was where the April Uprising of 1876 began.

To make things even better, the local food is great.

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TUNISIAN TALES

Bonjour, Madame!, the fine old gentlemen sitting in the cafés on Avenue Habib Bourguiba, the central street of the Tunisian capital, Tunis, greet me. The morning is fresh with the scent of warm sea meeting warm land. The elegant fin-de-siècle façades on the avenue stand next to modern high-rises, while the narrow side streets are already abuzz with the first shoppers hurrying to the covered market.

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THE INSTRUMENTARIUM MODEL OF THE CITY, An excerpt from a short story

I used to think that I was Leno's main passion, then that I could be Leno's main passion, displacing the City from his heart and mind, and even from the pages he wrote. But that was "before" and it was short-lived. Rather quickly, I realized that it was the exits, these invisible, unattainable points, that inspired his desire. None of them could be found on my body or person. We both realized this early on. But Leno held on to me: he wanted me by his side, nevertheless. I did not spend much time pouring over the letter.

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EUROPEAN SULTANAS OF OTTOMAN EMPIRE

A beautiful princess is given by her brother, the king, as wife to the very man who is conquering their lands: The story of Bulgarian princess Tamara Maria and her marriage to Ottoman Sultan Murad I in 1371, as part of a treaty with her half-brother King Ivan Shishman, is a powerful one. It gave rise to a novel, Tamara Shishman and Murad I, written by Anna Ivanova Buxton in 2013.

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HOT PROPERTY SUMMER

In the recent months some of my friends – all people with stable business and professional realisation – talk only about one thing: the property they plan to buy. They have different tastes, families and preferences, but they are united in one thing: they want their new home to be in a luxury residential complex.

The intensified interest in gated communities and holiday properties are the two trends that define the real estate market of 2016.

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FOUND IN TRANSLATION

Will ever machine be a better translator than man? The question challenges the imagination. In the past few years, we have been witnessing breakthrough progress in this respect, but for now, and for many years to come, the answer is a definite no. Machines can know all the words in the world, a task that a man would never achieve, and yet, they still miss the crucial talent to understand the meaning, to break through the idioms, and to end up with a coherent translation.

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PET'S BEST FRIEND

Having a pet is one of the great joys of life. Be it a dog, a cat, a parrot, a guinea pig or something else, it becomes equal member of the family or a beloved and needed companion in the single household. Their antics, quirks and peculiarities make us smile and we are eager to share these with our friends and relatives. Their presence soothes in dark times and the trust and unconditional love we see in their eyes are sometimes enough to lift our mood. They grow up with us, they teach our children care and responsibility, they forge strong memories in our lives.

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ERIC RUBIN

With a significant career in the US State Department, spanning over 30 years and including posts in countries as varied as Honduras, Thailand, Ukraine and Russia, Eric Rubin, America's new ambassador to Bulgaria, is not a man who beats about the bush. Concise and to the point in the telltale American way, he is no newcomer to the former East bloc. In fact he remembers vividly his first visits to Bulgaria in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

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