Issue 193

ALL ROADS I TAKE LEAD TO PLOVDIV

The interview with Dr Bonka Mutafchiyska, a leading dentist with almost 20 years of practice, was not an ordinary one. We wanted to know more about the personality of the founder of the outstanding Mutafchiyska Dent Clinic, in Plovdiv. We invited her for a leisurely walk along Plovdiv's main street. Surprisingly, it was next to impossible to have our planned introductory conversation. Every couple of steps some local would stop Dr Mutafchiyska to say a brief "Hi," to discuss with her some new local problem or an upcoming event.

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WHO ARE VAZRAZHDANE'S VOTERS?

Since the fall of Communism in 1989 and the introduction of multiparty elections the following year Bulgarians have been given a Constitutional right to go to the polls regardless of whether they actually live in Bulgaria or not. Whether this is good or bad is a question that political scientists continue arguing about. Some developed democracies (Italy, France) allow it, others (Denmark) do not. In the case of Bulgaria, the provision was originally implemented in an attempt to ensure voting rights for about half a million Bulgarian Turks.

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FIRST KINGS OF EUROPE

Who were the first kings of Europe? Homer heroes such as Agamemnon are the first to pop up in the minds of educated Westerners, but hierarchical societies on the continent predate the ancient Greeks. Millennia before them, people in southeastern Europe went on the long and often tortuous transition from simple farming communities to complex political organisations.

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BULGARIA'S VERSION OF CANNERY ROW IS IN CHENGENE SKELE

Any chance visitor who has detoured midway from the Burgas-Sozopol highway, on the southern Bulgarian Black Sea coast, will end up in an odd location. As you drive up the bad road to the infamous maritime oil terminal, now the property of Russian giant LUKoil, you will inevitably take in an assortment of buildings – some of them makeshift, others with a more stable construction, but none appearing as if designed by a professional architect. Then you are in for the first big hit, a road sign announcing "Everything away from sea is provincial," according to Ernest Hemingway.

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QUOTE-UNQUOTE

It will be easier for us to forge a British rather than a Bulgarian government.

Solomon Pasi, president of the Bulgarian Atlantic Club

Instead of getting worse, the situation is becoming hopeless.

Former Culture Minister Vezhdi Rashidov just before he was elected speaker of the new National Assembly

Having a government just for the winter sounds like having a girlfriend just for the summer.

Radan Kanev, EMP

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SURPRISE, SURPRISE IN... PERNIK

When you plan a trip in Bulgaria, Pernik is rarely on the list (except for one event, more on this below). An industrial behemoth of the Communist era that fell on hard times after the collapse of the planned economy post-1989, the city is known for its uninspiring urbanscape of factories in different states of dereliction. Its residents now often commute to nearby Sofia – less than 20 miles away, and have the dubious reputation of spending weekend nights in local clubs where fights are de rigueur.

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THE LAND OF HEALTH

Mineral waters are among Bulgaria's greatest natural resources. In the country have been registered 225 hot and cold springs with diverse chemical content beneficial for the treatment of cardiovascular, lung, joint, gastro-intestinal and other diseases. About two third of the mineral springs are in the country's south.

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