Issue 128

ÉRIC LEBÉDEL: FRANCE'S AMBASSADOR ON MAVRUD, BORDER AREAS AND DIFFICULT-TO-PRONOUNCE BULGARIAN PLACE NAMES

Éric Lebédel (b. 1957), France's ambassador to Bulgaria, is not a newcomer to either the former Soviet bloc nor the Balkans. He has worked in Moscow in the 1980s and in Istanbul in the 1990s. This is not his first visit to Bulgaria either. He had been to this country several times on various short missions before he took up his post as ambassador in October 2016. This is less than a year in total, in a country notorious for being at least challenging to understand by people not well versed in either the language or the culture.

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AMAZING SINEMORETS

Sinemorets, one of the last Bulgarian villages before the border with Turkey, is one of those places.

The village has its fair share of ugly hotels destroying the view and the tranquility, but as it is far from the main hubs of tourist activities on the coast, these abominations are small in scale and leave enough space for true nature to survive, and for you to enjoy it.

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NOT TO AN US COMPANY

Except for his extreme nationalist views, Shopov is also known for his inability to put on a pair of simple headphones.

In  response to a video of the incident, which circulates on YouTube, Shopov explained that he did not put on the headphones properly on purpose because he felt squeamish the cushions had not been changed. He added that a former girlfriend texted him he looked very "sweet" with the headphones.

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VELIKO TARNOVO CHURCHES

In the Middle Ages, Tarnovo was not only a political and administrative capital, but also a major religious centre. In and around it were dozens of churches and monasteries, where priests and monks of all ranks were busy with prayer, philosophy, and writing. The Ottoman invasion of the 14th century brought all this to an end, but some of the churches survived. You will find them clustered around Tsarevets hill, where the main fortress of mediaeval Tarnovo used to be. All of them are now museums.

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THE ART OF ART MANAGING

Art, culture and proper management of creative industries have proven a force for efficient and positive change for local communities. Just think of the excitement when your visit to another town or country coincides with an interesting festival, concert or art show. Remember all the beautiful pictures you have taken and shared of inspiring exhibitions, thought-provoking graffiti art or innovative visual solutions of urban and rural spaces. Look at the coffee mug rack and the shelves at your home, with their beautiful souvenirs that are more than mementos, but true objects of art.

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THE SILENCE OF BULGARIA'S ABANDONED AIRPORTS

Uniformed beauties on calendars for Balkan Airlines, the state air carrier, reinforced that the job as an aspirational one, while for the more practically minded, the profession had another advantage. When local shops lacked essentials like toilet paper, working on an international fight meant having the opportunity to buy foreign luxuries (whisky, perfume, fur coats and Levi's jeans) and sell them for a good profit on the eager Bulgarian black market.

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GOD'S BRIDGE

It is easy to see why people gave such a name to the two stone arches spanning the small brook, and the series of caves near Vratsa. Even when you know in advance that the main stone arch is 20m high, 25m wide and 125m long, you only appreciate the magnitude of the place when you see it with your own eyes.

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IAŞI SURPRISES

Iaşi is one of Romania's greatest, and most pleasant, surprises. Far from popular tourist destinations like Bucharest and the Carpathian mountains, the city is known to Romanians as the heart of their national culture and educational system, but it remains mostly unknown to foreign visitors. The fact that it is close to the border with Moldova, an even lesser known European country, does not help Iaşi's popularity.

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INITIATION, An excerpt from a novel in progress

Prophecies work in reverse. I see them only now. How the heat lightning flashed across my bedroom through the night, cutting my dreams short and sending me spinning in place, face squashed every which way into the mattress though the light persisted blue-electric on the insides of my eyelids. How I woke to my mother reciting my full name, Katherine Leland Katherine Leland Katherine Leland you've done it again, her anger so loud I heard it all the way from the basement, where I found her clutching a t-shirt splotched with ink, the washing machine's mouth gaping open and smelling of burning.

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TASTY SUMMER

Summer is a season when going to a restaurant becomes even more pleasant, because of the open gardens. Let's admit it, an establishment might have wonderful, modern, professional design that inspires the feel of cosiness and comfort, but when the temperatures outside go up, even the most tastefully furnished room looses the comparison with the lush garden.

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