Issue 158

WHY BULGARIANS ARE LEAVING BULGARIA

You don't have to be in the construction business, or in any other sort of business for that matter, to see that Bulgaria over the past decade has increasingly experienced workforce shortages in anything from service personnel in the restaurants and the hotels to qualified doctors, nurses, teachers, journalists, web designers and software engineers. A trip through the Bulgarian countryside will reveal some unpleasant sites. Many villages that once thrived have been deserted, with their population in many cases numbering just a couple of elderly folk.

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FACING CHRISTMAS IN YAMBOL

In the dull winter light of 25 December, the grey streets of Kargona neighbourhood in Yambol look drab as usual. This is a suburb of low houses and sidewalks blocked by parked car, bare trees, dust and cheap stores, a defining feature of much of Bulgaria outside hipster cafes and flashy shopping malls in the big cities. Yet, come Christmas, Kargona is like nowhere else in Bulgaria. There are scores of people who would rather celebrate in the streets than stay at home and watch TV, overeat, engage in family arguments or try to mitigate generations-old feuds.

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QUOTE-UNQUOTE

We lost in the places where we did not win.

Finance Minister Vladislav Goranov on the local elections

GERB is like your own spouse. You get fed up with them, for a moment someone younger and blonder looks more appealing, but then you realise that your old partner is good enough, so you return home and you keep quiet.

Prime Minister Boyko Borisov on GERB voters

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FORTIFIED BULGARIA, PART 1

Why there are no old forts and fortresses in Bulgaria on the scale of Romania, Greece, Italy or the Western Balkans is a controversial issue. The sort of answers you will be getting will depend on who does the talking. Some will assert the "Turks" destroyed everything when they ruled over these territories in the 14-19th centuries. Others will, more level-headedly, point out that when the Ottomans were in control the Bulgarians lands were no longer a border zone and consequently forts and fortresses were no longer needed for defence purposes.

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CITY OVER COLD WATERS

As a rule, Bulgarians are not interested in Romania. They would rather go south, with Greece and Turkey being their favourites especially in summer time. Yet, Bulgaria's northern neighbour, which is about three times the size of Bulgaria, holds a plethora of sites and experiences, many of them totally unknown to Bulgarians, that can provide fodder for multiple and very rewarding trips.

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A SUBLIME PORT

I start forgetting things. Sometimes I remember that I'm forgetting but sometimes I don't so I keep a list. I note the consequences because I think that may provide an incentive for me to remember in the future.

   Forgot: to wear sash.

   Consequence: beaten on soles of feet and pay docked for three days as couldn't work.

   Forgot: to salute the Valide Sultan when she returned to the palace after an excursion to the Sweet Waters of Asia.

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THE BEST GIFT

Recently, a 10-year-old girl's wish list to Father Christmas went viral on the Internet. It included a motley crew of gifts: the latest iPhone and some more expensive gadgets, brand sport shoes, toys, make up, jewellery, a live bunny (and some clothes for it), $4,000 cash and... an alarm clock.

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THE RISE OF BULGARIAN WINE

On the verge of 2020, Bulgaria's wine scene is diverse, active, bubbling with new suggestions. Boutique, family and ambitious young wineries combine their passion for wine with their curiosity to discover new local terroirs in the Southwest, Northwest, Thrace, the Black Sea coast. They look for the optimal combination of preserving and reviving traditions and experimenting and openness to international trends.

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BULGARIAN VOTING FUN

The Central Elections Commission, the authority that sets the rules for elections and ensures they are being followed, imposed a fine on bTV, a major private television broadcaster, for airing a report on... the controversial renovation works in central Sofia.

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