Issue 137

TRANSFORMATION TOWARDS A SMOKE-FREE FUTURE

Probably the most impressive things we experience nowadays when we watch period movies and TV series, like Mad Men, is not the vintage fashion or the dated technology. It is watching all those people smoke. We are living in a world that is rapidly parting with the smell of burning tobacco, and with the health risks it brings. Astonishingly, one of the agents of change is a tobacco company. Philip Morris International is now building a smoke-free future, says George Margonis.

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WHO THE F*CK IS GINKA?

Ginka Varbakova from Pazardzhik, who allegedly had not graduated secondary school, operated a couple of solar power installations plus a few car parks in her native Pazardzhik before the news broke out that she would acquire the assets of CEZ, the Czech-owned electricity distribution company on which millions of Bulgarians depend on for their electricity.

Why CEZ decided to sell its business in Bulgaria remains unclear, but there are reports that the Czechs no longer wanted to be doing business in what is considered the most corrupt country in the EU.

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REBIRTH OF BULGARIAN FASCISM

Who was Gen Lukov? A First World War hero, he was war minister in the 1930s but fell out with the king and retired just prior to the beginning of the Second World War. In 1942 he became the leader of the Bulgarian National Legions Union. He was assassinated by a hit squad of Communists the following year. Under Communism, Hristo Lukov was a non-person. His name was rarely mentioned in the history books because the Communists feared he might be glorified as a symbol of anti-Communism.

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EMBASSY RECIPES

Emma Hopkins OBE was appointed Her Majesty's Ambassador to Bulgaria in May 2015. Since then, she has been exploring Bulgaria, its people, culture, landmarks and, last but not least, its cuisine. She openly professes her love for Bulgarian food and adds with a smile: "I prefer Bulgarian vegetables, because they are more delicious than UK ones."

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FOR A COUPLE OF LIONS' HIDES

Under GERB, Bulgaria's public has become accustomed to scandals of various magnitude that come and go about every second day, sometimes several times a day. Outrageous statements often generated by fake news make headlines for a few hours and electrify the public's attention only to be overshadowed by the next scandal that may be even more outrageous than the previous one.

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BULGARIA'S PARTIZANI MONUMENTS

Made of stone or bronze, these monuments adorn squares and streets, peek over the trees by roads, and form whole, often overgrown compounds.

Some of these monuments are maintained, others have been abandoned and crumbling. Some are in the realistic style known as Stalinist Baroque, popular across the East bloc in the 1940s and the 1950s. Others bear the hallmarks of the peculiar combination of modernism, cubism and sheer extravagance, typical for Bulgarian sculpture in the 1970s and the 1980s.

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YOU'LL TAKE THE HIGH ROAD

The open road is unpredictable, it could take you anywhere and a return ticket is not guaranteed. Georgieff’s road takes us into a realm both familiar and unsettling, of classic Scotland and of another hidden, interior Scotland that takes you by surprise.

This is a realm of broom and mist, ruined castles and time-nibbled remains of crofts, burns and lochs, and oceanic waters that fill and empty and refill the land ceaselessly. And everywhere – the ever-shifting sky of steel-grey. It is a sky you don’t see on the European continent.

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THE TEXTURE OF JOY: A STOWAWAY STORY, An excerpt

In many ways, you could say that Justine never really left Ghana, even with all the ships, even with all his time in Bahia. Calling himself Sankofa was just another thread stitching him back to home. In his kitchen in Salvador, when I visited, there was a plastic container sitting on a shelf next to jars of raw cane sugar and cacao nibs. He tilted it to show me what was inside. "I’m making banku," he explained, as water washed over the fermenting cornmeal dough. "It will be ready in a few days." He still speaks fluent Fante even though most of his days are spent in Portuguese.

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DO YOU SPEAK FOOD?

Recently Sofia has experiences such a number of excellent restaurants, with menus and atmosphere to discover and fall in love with, that your head can easily spin. Moreover, a significant part of these introduce or interpret culinary traditions that until recently were new to the Bulgarian palate. Mediterranean cuisine is not a novelty anymore. The Japanese cuisine has its dedicated fans. Burgers are not associated with international fast food chains anymore, and lovers of the exotic can explore the tastes of India, for example.

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