Issue 14

MY OWN CHOICE: BERTIL ROTH

Having now been an ambassador to Sofia for a couple of years, I am still surprised at the large and utterly varied choice of restaurants that you can find in this capital city. It is also continuously increasing. There are very nice places to be found for all tastes and budgets.

Comments: 0

Read more Add new comment

TEACHER, DRINKER, WRITER, FLY

When Jack Harte's Irish publishers refused to publish his second novel, Reflections in a Tar Barrel, deeming it “sacrilegious”, the writer decided to get drunk. Then he did so again – this time with some Bulgarians in one of those taverns where wine is not only plentiful but also aromatic.

Aside from the predictable hangover, the evening had an unexpected bonus: a contract to publish his novel in Bulgarian signed on one of the tavern's serviettes. Don't imagine the copyright transformed him into an overnight millionaire – it was sold for five crates of Melnik wine!

Comments: 0

Read more Add new comment

WE'VE GOT MAIL

I am told that I should be getting my own doctor, a GP, if I want to be able to use the state health care system. However, I can't find out how to proceed. The Zdravna kasa give me conflicting info and I don't really have the time to go there very often.

Can you help?

Jamie Brown, Sofia

 

Comments: 0

Read more Add new comment

THE CITY WHERE TIME STOPPED

The girl was standing on the rocky headland, by the crimson walls of St John-at-Kaneo Church, and looking at Lake Ohrid at her feet. Her eyes searched for the Monastery of St Naum on the opposite shore. Then they drifted to the left, lingered on the boats in the turquoise water – she had ridden in one of them the previous day – and finally wandered off over the roofs of the old city's houses and churches.

Comments: 0

Read more Add new comment

TAXING TIMES

Two separate World Bank reports recently gave the Bulgarian government and business community ample food for thought. While one praised the country for a year of reforms that have had a positive effect on the domestic business environment, the other sounded strong warnings about the possible long-term consequences of the country's slow rate of productivity growth.

Comments: 0

Read more Add new comment

ALMOST PARADISE, SLIGHTLY POSTPONED

In the way home to dreary Peterborough I didn't have the usual end-of-holiday-blues. Instead, I had a much anticipated goal. We set a moving date for the start of September to coincide with the end of Luke's current project. My research portfolio grew as I enquired about visas and transport: whether to drive or freight-and-fly, acquiring wheels in Bulgaria and, of course, how to ferry my 13-year-old cat there. We also had the inevitable cull of superfluous belongings.

Comments: 0

Read more Add new comment

BUILDING BRIDGES ACROSS CULTURES

While taking in the cool night air wafting gently over the Balkan Mountain and surveying the specks of cloud that hide the stars from his view from time to time, US Peace Corps volunteer Joe Iole is trying to get used to the idea that only 48 hours ago a devastating forest fire was raging on the site where he and his Bulgarian colleagues had made their camp. The disaster managed to destroy a large part of the Central Balkan National Park, but without the joint efforts of Joe and his Bulgarian friends, the damage would have been a lot more.

Comments: 0

Read more Add new comment

VSOP MADE IN BG

They say, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do”, but I was in Bulgaria. What do they do in Bulgaria? They make rakiya! I'd settled in a small Bulgarian village and wanted to become a part of it, so when I was asked if I would like to make some rakiya I jumped at the chance.

Comments: 0

Read more Add new comment

OUR BULGARIAN LIFE

It is estimated that around 50,000 foreigners live in Bulgaria now and the number is set to increase as more and more people adopt the country as their home. Virtually every village in Bulgaria has its token Brit family and some are overrun with them. British expats it seems are discontent with life in damp and drizzly Blighty. The cost of living is too high and property prices are astronomical. Life there has become competitive, stressful and threatening. They feel trapped in the rat race and it's no longer a nice place to end your days or bring up your kids.

Comments: 0

Read more Add new comment

UNDER THE SHADOW OF THE CRESCENT

On your way from Europe to Istanbul along the well-trodden road through Nis, Belgrade, Sofia and Plovdiv, you can easily tell when you have entered the territory of the former Ottoman Empire - toilets begin to stink in western Hungary! The Bulgarians have now been independent for nearly 130 years, but they still bear the scars of 500 years of Ottoman rule and sadness at their long enslavement. While they adjusted to foreign rule, Europe experienced the Renaissance, discovered the Americas and Australia, enlightened its monarchs and developed an industrial society.

Comments: 0

Read more Add new comment

A TOUCH OF STYLE

An aristocrat, politician, publisher, entrepreneur and innovator and - by hereditary entitlement archduke of Austria - Karl Habsburg-Lothringen is a key promoter of business and media links between Austria and Bulgaria. He's currently collaborating with Bulgarian business partners on a plan to channel advertising through the Internet. His first step? He bought the majority stake in ArgentA, a major Bulgarian advertising agency.

Is Bulgaria a lucrative place for investors?

Comments: 0

Read more Add new comment

EU BOOST TO GREENS IN BULGARIA AND ROMANIA

Gathering little public support, ignored, and often under pressure, environmentalists in Bulgaria and Romania had very limited opportunities for influencing their countries' decisionmaking before 2007. But EU membership changed everything, and did it overnight.

The outcome of a bitter fight over the EU's nature preservation programme, Natura 2000, may emerge as the first proof of the new balance of power.

Comments: 0

Read more Add new comment

WHAT'S IN A WORD?

It couldn't have come at a more awkward time. In spite of opposition from The White House and a letter of protest signed by all eight living secretaries of state, a US congressional committee approved a bill terming the 1915-1918 mass killing of Armenians in Ottoman Turkey “genocide”.

Comments: 0

Read more Add new comment

THREE SEAMSTRESSES

"Anybody in my place would have made a great movie with these actresses," says director Lyudmil Todorov. Well, this is Seamstresses, and the actresses are Alexandra Surchadzhieva, Violeta Markovska and Elen Koleva. All three are in their early 20s, like the film's characters - small-town girls heading to Sofia, lured by a job advertisement for... seamstresses. Predictably, the advert turns out to be a hoax.

Comments: 0

Read more Add new comment

PROS AND CONS OF BEING IN A BULGARIAN COMPREHENSIVE

“The predicament faced by teachers here seemed outrageous to me from my very first days in Bulgaria. Apparently, the powers that be don't consider education an asset. For a country to be able to function well, it's essential to prioritise its education system. It's the young, well-educated and qualified people who can shape a country's future,” says Arnaud Joanny, a teacher at Sofia's Alphonse de Lamartine 9th French Language School. “In France, the situation is completely different.

Comments: 0

Read more Add new comment

WAR ON THE ROADS

In the summer Bulgaria became the latest EU country to introduce tougher legislation to curb what many pundits have dubbed the ongoing “War on the Roads”. Under new regulations, drivers who speed will have to pay heavy fines (up to 300 leva, or over £100) and risk having their driving licence suspended for up to three months.

Anyone who has sat behind a steering wheel in Bulgaria will supposedly heave a sigh of relief as – at least theoretically – the new measures might indeed make Bulgarian roads less dangerous. Yet many people have expressed doubts.

Comments: 0

Read more Add new comment

WHAT'S IN A NAME?

Changing street names might be an odd elections tactic, at least seen from a Western standpoint, but Bulgarian politicians won't stop at anything, not even digging up grandpa's grave, to discredit a political opponent. In October, the Sofia City Council, acting on a proposal by a councillor for the ruling BSP, or Bulgarian Socialist Party, passed a resolution to re-rename one of the few pieces of green in central Sofia – the square acre surrounding the Sofia Theatre.

Comments: 0

Read more Add new comment