Issue 143-144

WHAT'S IN A HORO?

In August, at approximately the same time when the Trade Register went dead and commercial transactions, including property sales, ground to a standstill for about a week, a group of folk dance enthusiasts identifying themselves as "patriots" made an attempt to enter the Guinness Book of Records. They climbed up the Rila Mountain Range and danced what they thought would go down in history as the "longest highland Horo in the world." Some of them got so excited that they stepped into one of the Seven Rila Lakes and danced in the water.

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DIGITAL FUTURE

Artificial intelligence, clouds, big data analysis, Internet of things: until recently such terms belonged to sci-fi novels and movies. Not anymore. Our lives, business, entertainment, healthcare and a lot more is getting increasingly dependent on software and digital experience. Software economy is a thing.

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GOING, GOING, GONE... (BUT NOT QUITE)

What had saved Silistar from becoming an urban jungle in the footprint of Sozopol, Primorsko and so on, had been its remoteness and proximity to the Turkish border. The city councillors of Tsarevo acted to rectify this – and approved a construction plan right in the Strandzha Nature Reserve.

Predictably, some environmentally minded citizens, including Tsarevo locals, protested against what they saw as yet another blow, perhaps the death blow, against the nature of the southern Bulgarian stretch of the Black Sea.

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BULGARIA'S STRANGE ROCKS

The human penchant for spotting visual patterns in seemingly chaotic landscapes, preferring false positives to false negatives, has been crucial for survival. For thousands of years, the ones who lived long enough to pass their genes to the next generation were the ones able to spot the lion hidden in the bush. Even when there was no lion at all.

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ARDA'S MEANDERS

Several large rivers define Bulgaria's geography and historical landscape. The mighty Danube has constituted the northern border of the Bulgarian territories for centuries. The Iskar bypasses Sofia (locals still jokingly declare it to be the deepest river in the world) and then carves its way into the Stara Planina gorge, oft-described in the late-19th century Bulgarian literature. The Maritsa flows through the Thracian Plain: an ancient route used by generations of invaders, merchants, emissaries and empires. Today, the international route E80 runs along much of its course.

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BRIDGE THAT MADE CITY

One of Bulgaria's most impressive off-the-beaten-track treasures lies hidden in plain sight. In the town of Svilengrad, on the borders with Turkey and Greece, cars and pedestrians still cross the River Maritsa by a bride that is six centuries old.

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STARA PLANINA'S FLYING SAUCER

Recently, Bulgaria has become a staple in the Internet lists compiling the oddest abandoned places in the world with a building whose creators hardly imagined, not even in their darkest nightmares, the way it stands now: the Memorial House of the Bulgarian Communist Party at Buzludzha.

The complex of an assembly hall and an huge tower of exposed concrete was built on Stara Planina's Mount Buzludzha in 1981. It was meant to be a celebration of the 90th anniversary of the foundation of the predecessor of the BKP, which had been founded at that mount.

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UNKNOWN ALBANIA

For millennia, Albania was a country impenetrable to outsiders. Guarded by steep and menacing mountains, it allowed Romans and Byzantines, Venetians and Ottomans, Fascist Italians and Nazi Germans to colonise and properly rule only its thin strip of coast and a handful of cities. The rest of the country, hidden behind rising peaks crisscrossed by narrow and dangerous roads, remained isolated, independent, ruled by its own tribes and codes. Communist dictator Enver Hoxha brought his country's isolation to a whole new level.

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IN THE SHADOW OF THE DISEASE, An excerpt from a memoir

The day I was admitted to the hospital, I just lay there and stared straight ahead—a piece of paper had been stuck to the closet, and the closet was blocking half of the window. Out its other half, I could see some thick black branches. The piece of paper said, "Inventory of Items in Room 7." I had the surgery the next day. I put on my regular pants because my cell phone, which I'd put on silent, could fit into pocket. As if I'd be able to inform anyone what was happening to me while I was under general anaesthesia… They did a biopsy and the express results came back in about 20 minutes.

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