Issue 182

KEY TAKEAWAYS FROM BULGARIAN 2-IN-1 ELECTIONS

As the dust settles down after Bulgaria's third attempt in a year to elect a government and as the post-election horse-trading begins, there are several key conclusions to be drawn from Boyko Borisov's dramatic downfall and the emergence of the Changes Continued political party.

Polling agencies are not to be trusted.

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BULGARIA'S TOP 10 FORTS

Castle-wise, Bulgaria is nothing to compare with Scotland – and many other European countries. There is little reminiscent of Transylvania's menacing fortifications, Bavaria's fairy tale confections, or the Loire Valley's romantic châteaux. Fortresses were built in Bulgaria from Antiquity to the 19th century and, although many were lost in war-time destruction and postwar turbulence, the country still has several sites that combine stunning scenery with relatively well-preserved fortifications.

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BALLOT EATING AS LAST RESORT

Ahead of the 14 November general election some parties – notably the DB, or Democratic Bulgaria, and the ITN, or There Is Such a People party – insisted on taking away the good old-fashioned paper election ballots that you had to use a pen to put a cross against your preferred candidate on, and substitute them with "election machines": small and not-very-difficult-to-operate contraptions where you press a series of buttons and then the thing spews out a supermarket-style receipt which you have to fold and put in a ballot box.

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PREFAB SOCIETY

With the mountains for a backdrop and amid large green spaces, uniform apartment blocks line up like Legos. Along the dual carriageway, 7km from the centre of Sofia, the underground comes above ground: Mladost Station.

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QUOTE-UNQUOTE

Borisov's talk is the result of guilty hysteria because he is the reason for the ruinous state of the Bulgarian healthcare system. He had 12 years to reform it, to build a specialised paediatric hospital, to buy medical helicopters and to keep young doctors in Bulgaria.

Bulgarian President Rumen Radev

We are living in the experiment of a majority that does not believe in science.

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WHO WAS FATHER PAISIY?

The Revival Period. Any visitor who has been to Bulgaria for more than a couple of days for business and/or pleasure has heard this combination of words, but what does it mean? It is the name of a singular, and highly idealised, period in Bulgarian history.

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PINNACLES OF LEGEND

We often take landscapes for granted: the mountains and the river valleys we love to look at and explore seem immune to the passage of time, eternal and unchanging, even though we know this is not true. The landscapes that we inhabit are in a constant state of reshaping, albeit happening so slowly that our human eyes cannot mark the changes – incomparably long compared to not only our short lives, but also to human civilisation.

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FINDING GOD'S BRIDGЕ

It is easy to say that the Bulgarian Northwest has been forgotten by God. Economically depressed and depopulated, it has for years consistently topped the EU's least developed regions list. Yet, when you visit the Vratsa region you will find yourself surrounded by stunning, and even sublime, landscapes and natural wonders. Here, the mighty peaks of the Stara Planina mountains hang over the town, enfolding delights for visitors of any shade and persuasion. The undulations of the plain that start from there also hide another treasure: two rock bridges carved by nature.

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THE ART OF CREATING HARMONY

With next year arriving in mere weeks, people who are interested in what their homes and the spaces they inhabit look like, or who are planning a renovation or moving to a new home, office, or business space, are more actively invested in the matter of what the current trends in interior design are. This is understandable.

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THE SEASON OF GIFTS

Gifts are one of the best ways to say "I love you" to the people we cherish. And the best time to do it, outside of special events in life, are the Christmas and New Year's feasts. They combine the feeling of old things ending and the excitement of new ones approaching, the atmosphere of being closer to the people we love, of childhood memories of wondering what was in the boxes under the holiday tree.

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