Issue 65

MULTIKULTI BULGARIA

Juliana Roth has spent most of her life outside her native Bulgaria, yet she has never lost her connection to the joys and heartaches of this country. She is professor of Intercultural Communication at the Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich, where she is one of the founders of the new discipline that promotes the idea of mutual understanding between cultures in the context of migration and globalisation.

Comments: 0

Read more Add new comment

THE OLD WORLD

No one wants to listen to a man lament his solitary nights – myself included. Which is why, on an early fall morning four months after Gail left, when a woman breezed into my shop with a pinstriped skirt in her arms and said, "On what day this can be ready?" I didn't write a receipt, tell her Tuesday, and move on to the next customer. Instead I said, "Your accent. Russian?"

"Ukrainian."

"Ah. Then perhaps you enjoy Baryshnikov?"

Comments: 0

Read more Add new comment

BULGARIA'S REMARKABLE RAILWAY STATIONS

To a month-long strike, immense debts with little hope for refinancing, and 2,000 jobs axed add the obsolete rolling stock, frequent accidents, possible privatisation and talk of spending "optimisation": in the beginning of the 21st Century the future of the BDZh, or the Bulgarian State Railways, is looking very gloomy indeed.

Comments: 0

Read more Add new comment

WHITHER GOEST THE ECONOMY?

From bad to worse? According to a poll by Alpha Research published at the end of 2011, the majority of Bulgarians consider 2011 to have been "the worst" since the economic collapse of 1997. In that year, a Socialist government allowed a bunch of banks to go bust, three-digit hyperinflation ran wild, the overwhelming majority of Bulgarians lost their life savings and a few select "businessmen" made a fortune by borrowing in leva whilst repaying in hard currency.

Comments: 0

Read more Add new comment

ORTHODOX SPIES

The facts are simple: 11 out of the 15 members of the Bulgarian Orthodox Holy Synod were agents for the Communist-era secret police, according to an official statement by the state agency responsible for the declassification of Communist files. Bulgaria's senior clergy had been almost completely infiltrated by, and become subservient to, one of the most feared organisations of the 20th Century, the local equivalent of the KGB.

Comments: 0

Read more Add new comment

GOURMET ISRAEL

The terrible-food-and-such-small-portions jest from the Annie Hall movie was still at the back of my mind when I sat down to my very first dinner on Israeli soil, in the crowded and lemon grass scented Decks restaurant in Tiberias, on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. A week later, savouring my last dinner in the country, in the nouvelle cuisine Hachatzer in Jerusalem, I fully understood how unfair my initial prejudice had been and how much I wanted to prolong my stay, solely on account of my greed.

Comments: 0

Read more Add new comment

TRANSPORT FOR SOFIA?

"Do I feel lucky today?" This popular movie tag could easily apply when considering whether or not to chance the public transport network in Sofia. The experience can be something of a roller-coaster ride, and depends on so many variables that no two trips are alike.

Comments: 0

Read more Add new comment

UNKNOWN NANSEN

Sofia's streets are generally named after those who have played a significant role in Bulgaria's past, and they often act as a crash course in the country's history. Among the kings such as Simeon I and Ivan Asen, the clerics such as Patriarch Evtimiy and the revolutionaries like Vasil Levski, Hristo Botev and Georgi Rakovski, there are a few foreigners too.

Comments: 0

Read more Add new comment

BLAME GAMES AND CRISIS PR

Instead of asking the uncomfortable questions, most of the media preferred to run after coverage hungry politicians. Even on the very day of the disaster, the reports from Biser were less about the victims and the destruction and more about Prime Minister Boyko Borisov.

Comments: 0

Read more Add new comment

COURTS AND MISDEMEANOURS

We catch them, but they let them go. In plain language this translates as "We did our best but someone else is responsible for the failure," and of course it belongs to Boyko Borisov, the current prime minister, at the time when he was a senior policeman in the government of the Simeon II National Movement. 10 years later it is still very much in currency. It pops up every time the police spectacularly "catch" an alleged criminal but fail to provide enough evidence to stand up in court.

Comments: 0

Read more Add new comment

IN 'EUROPE,' BUT NOT QUITE YET

States on the verge of financial collapse, a currency with a shaky future, hilarious regulations like the infamous standard for the curvature of cucumbers and sinister trade agreements such as ACTA – the first things that pop into your mind when the EU is mentioned are not the most pleasant thoughts.

Comments: 0

Read more Add new comment

HARSH LESSONS LEARNED?

Before 2012 the village of Biser was known only vaguely to Bulgarians as the setting for the romantic poem "The Spring of the White-Legged Girl" by the Revival Period poet Petko Slaveykov. But in February 2012 harrowing images of the bucolic community were not only reaching the rest of Bulgaria but also the wider world. In a brutal winter, that will be remembered across Europe for years to come, Biser for a short time seized and surpassed all other headlines.

Comments: 0

Read more Add new comment

QUOTE-UNQUOTE

He is a coward.

Ivan Kostov, leader of DSB, on Tsvetanov's refusal to stay in the parliament to hear the opposition's criticism about recent cases of police brutality

When the chancellor speaks, I listen. Then in Bulgaria we implement the right decisions.

Prime Minister Boyko Borisov after a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel

Comments: 0

Read more Add new comment

ROMANTICO FANTASTICO

By "tiles" he meant the remains of ancient pottery found at the dig. When one archaeologist said they could not work in wintertime as the soil was frozen solid and harder than the pottery itself, Boyko Borisov retorted: "Put on your padded workcoats... I will bring electric heaters to warm up you and your tiles. If need be, Lili Pavlova will hold an umbrella over you too. But you must be out of here by the end of June." The Lili Pavlova the prime minister referred to was his minister for regional development.

Comments: 0

Read more Add new comment

WE'VE GOT MAIL

This is the first time that I read such a clever and sharp article in Bulgaria. So thank you for that.

I've been in Bulgaria for four months now and everything I read and hear on the Bulgarian TV, radio and newspapers is mostly a panegyric of the government and its policies – when it is not a 15-minute report about the prime minister cutting a ribbon somewhere.

Comments: 0

Read more Add new comment

WHO WAS VASIL LEVSKI?

Assert that you agree with, like, respect, adore and pray to Vasil Levski (1837-1873), Bulgaria's greatest national hero, and you are likely to get away with almost anything. Levski's portrait hangs in classrooms and factories, in police stations and, sometimes, even in private houses. Levski regards us from postage stamps and T-shirts. There is hardly a town or village in Bulgaria that does not have at least one street named after him.

Comments: 0

Read more Add new comment

TWO FOR THE PRICE OF ONE

When the tide of expats flowed into Bulgaria about ten years ago, the newcomers discovered that they weren't the first foreigner to arrive, settle down and feel comfortable in the country following the collapse of Communism. At that time, Eastern Orthodox Bulgaria had already welcomed another vagabond; St Valentine, the Roman Catholic patron saint of romantic love. It was not a big deal, in fact, as all around the world, regardless of their religion, people celebrate their love with chocolates, red satin hearts and teddy bears.

Comments: 0

Read more Add new comment