Issue 121

MYTHS TRIUMPH OVER COMMON SENSE

If Jung and Freud were to meet in Bulgaria and hold one of their notorious disputes, Jung would probably win: mythology would get the upper hand over analysis.

Notwithstanding the sometimes very complicated details of the daily twists and turns of Bulgarian politics under GERB, they can be summed up with what some Western commentators describe as Post-Truth Politics: a strongman leader at the top tells myths to his audiences and is then able to get away with it for a long, long time because voters are led by emotions rather than facts.

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IN THE COUNTRY OF SAD SOUVENIRS

The trouble is that most of it is obviously ugly, kitschy, smelly, or all of the above. There are the crude fridge magnets and the decorative plates and coffee mugs with amazingly incompetent representations of local and national tourist sites. There are the decorative glass bottles filled with a concoction you are told is Rakiya (well, it might be, but just don't drink it).

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PAVEL KOYCHEV'S ART BY THE HIGHWAY

This time, the hidden gem of Bulgaria is modern art.

The signs for the Originals Art Gallery lead you to a larger-than-life, white shepherd with a bright yellow cloak, leading his flock to the still waters of a small creek. The Vodna pasha, or Water Grazing, installation by Bulgarian sculptor Pavel Koychev is a mesmerising reflection on contentment and the connection with nature and appeared here first for a short time in 2009.

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MARITSA, ARDA AND TUNDZHA: TALE OF THREE RIVERS

Springing from the most prominent Bulgarian mountain ranges, they carve, wind and splash their way though ravines and canyons and across plains, passing by cities ancient and new, before they finally join together just after the border with Turkey and flow south until they reach the Aegean.

Each of these rivers has its own route and landmarks.

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BULGARIA'S ONLY GERMAN VILLAGE

It starts in Byala Slatina and seems no different to any other road through the Bulgarian countryside. It meanders between fields and from time to time cows wander across it. Byala Slatina itself is not much more exciting. It is one of a series of dull towns north of the Stara Planina whose chief claim to fame is the extreme climate: sweltering hot in summer and freezing in winter. Year-round, you will likely perish of hunger, since only the locals seem to be able to find the restaurants.

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CONFUSINGLY BIG HAPPY FAMILY

Sounds like a nightmare? The truth is even scarier: all those monstrously unpronounceable words refer to your friend's relatives. The above is, in fact, only a small sample of all the baffling kinship terms that exist in Bulgarian. You can probably describe your relationship to extended family members with a modest vocabulary consisting of grandfather, grandmother, father-in-law, mother-in-law, brother-in-law, sister-in-law, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, uncle, aunt, nephew, niece and cousin.

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IVANOVO ROCK CHURCHES

No, this encounter of past and present is not taking place in faraway Cappadocia of worldwide renown for its odd rock chapels, but here in Bulgaria. About 20 kms from Ruse, the bends of the Rusenski Lom River embrace about a dozen churches and monastic cells hewn into the rock. In the 12th-14th centuries they composed one monastic complex. Today, they are a UNESCO World Heritage site.

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ROMAN CITY OF ABRITUS

In July 251, the swamps at an all but forgotten corner in the Balkan realms of the Roman Empire were about to become the witness of a devastating event. Two armies stood against one another, in the summer heat. The legions of Emperor Decius (249-251) and his son and co-ruler, Herennius Etruscus, stood against the army of the Goth leader, Cniva, in the final meeting of a long cat-and-mouse game.

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BEST THINGS TO DO IN NEW YORK CITY IN WINTER

The weather can – and does – get pretty extreme, with temperatures plummeting, snowstorms creating whiteout conditions even in the middle of Manhattan, and airplanes getting landed for hours at the city's airports. However, with a bit of planning and some luck you will actually enjoy NYC in wintertime – that is, if you know where to go and what to expect. Following is a brief, tried-and-tested guide to the main attractions.

Battery Park

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TASTING SOFIA

Recently I witnessed something that until not that long ago would seem strange, but nowadays is completely normal: in a bar, after midnight, two ladies were deep in conversation about the strong points not of a man, car, school, fashion brand or even a summer holiday destination. They were talking about a particular brand of craft beer with enthusiasm, understanding and pleasure.

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MAXIM BEHAR

Maxim Behar is a globally recognised Public Relations and media expert, diplomat and entrepreneur. He is a founder, the CEO and the chairman of the board of M3 Communications Group Inc., the leading Bulgarian PR company and a part of the largest public communications corporation in the world, Hill+Knowlton Strategies. Maxim is also the president of the International Communications Consultancy Organisation.

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