Issue 141

SØREN JACOBSEN

Before he arrived in Sofia last September, Danish Ambassador Søren Jacobsen had taken diplomatic positions in Turkey and China. Jacobsen has been here for less than a year but has already done something many would consider telltale Bulgarian: he planted tomatoes and herbs in the yard of his residence. Gardening, however, has been a passion that predates Søren Jacobsen's Bulgarian posting.

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WHAT'S IN A (TURKISH) WORD?

In many ways Bulgarians don't care about words. Fed up with partial truths, half-lies and plain nonsense for 45 years of Communism they have come to realise that words don't really mean what they are supposed to. There are many and varied examples from all areas of life to illustrate this. Often Bulgarians would see a sign announcing a shop is "open" whereas the shop is actually very closed.

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OF OFFICIAL NEWS, DEATH BEDS AND MAKING RIPPLES

The BTA, or Bulgarian Telegraph Agency, puts out a dispatch: "We have been authorised to announce, with deep sorrow, that the leader of the Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria, or GERB, and Prime Minister Boyko Borisov, following a lengthy period of sickness and without regaining consciousness… did manage to resume the fulfilment of his duties and showed up for Question Time in Parliament."

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LAST DAYS OF BOLATA

With the exception of some pockets of overdevelopment, the northern Bulgarian Black Sea coast remains a place of relatively unspoiled nature, picturesque beaches and cliffs, historical sites and landscapes to remember. It is the home of rare ecosystems, like the easternmost edges of the great Eurasian steppes. Its location on the Via Pontica migratory route is why in spring and autumn its skies are full with birds, many of them endangered species.

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BULGARIA'S TOWERS

Bulgaria has a number of forts, both genuine ones as in Cherven and recently constructed "restorations" as in Veliko Tarnovo. The country, however, has several examples of a curious type of fortification: the standalone tower.

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TRADITIONAL MUSIC AND DANCE

As you hold this book in your hands, a Bulgarian song travels in outer space. The song in question is "Izlel e Delyu Haidutin," a traditional Rhodope tune sung by Valya Balkanska. It was put on the Golden Record of Voyager 1 and 2 spacecrafts by Carl Sagan, in 1977, in his attempt to acquaint extraterrestrial civilisations with the Earth's culture. Bulgaria's folk music is incredibly varied and, with its compound metres and irregular times, may sound unusual to Western ears. Some of it, like Valya Balkanska's master opus, is slow and heavy.

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BULGARIA'S LESSER WATERFALLS

Bulgaria claims the highest waterfall in the Balkans, the 124.5-metre Rayskoto Praskalo, or Heavens' Sprinkler, in the Stara Planina mountains. In addition to it, this country has some famous waterfalls: in Boyana, just south of Sofia, the Borov Kamak near Vratsa and the Rilska Skakavitsa in the Rila, to name but a few. However, there are plenty of other less-known waterfalls waiting to be discovered. Finding them is a delight in the heat of summer, and you do not need to hike for hours to reach them.

 

Kapinovski

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FAR FROM SUMMER CROWDS IN GREECE

While you speed westwards on the Egnatia Odos highway in Greece towards the port of Igoumenitsa with its ferries, you are passing by places that deserve more than just reading their names on the roadsigns and then forgetting them.

North of the highway you will find several towns deserving of a detour because of their situation and interesting history.

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