Issue 78

QUOTE-UNQUOTE

Boyko Borisov’s government fell because the prime minister lived in an imaginary world of highways, inauguration ribbons and sport halls.

Proshko Proshkov, Democrats for Strong Bulgaria

Better go to Heaven without a wristwatch than to go to Hell wearing one.

Plovdiv’s bishop Nikolay on his decision to sell his Rolex watch to pay the electricity bills of the St Marina church

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NO ONE'S BROTHER & TWO-NIGHT STAND

"It's very easy," the Queen replied. "You have to be surrounded by clever and intelligent people." The Queen went on: "Look at David Cameron."

Then she called him in, and said: "David, can I ask you a question. If your mother has a child and your father has a child, but that child is neither your sister nor your brother, who is it then?"

David Cameron thought a second, and replied: "Then it must be myself!"

"Now I've got it," Boyko Borisov said and hurried back to Bulgaria.

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BULGARIA'S INTERREGNUM

Seen from London, Washington and Berlin, Boyko Borisov was a good man. He was autocratic, true - but Bulgaria did need a bit of a strong hand after the perceived licentiousness of the Three-Party Coalition which ruled the country in 2005-2009. With his blunt style and rash manners, Borisov beguiled the West which, gripped in its own economic and political troubles, cared less and less about what happened in an unimportant corner of the Balkans that had neither oil, nor home-grown terrorism, nor nuclear weapons - and where an imminent war was not to be expected.

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AMBASSADOR TERRY STAMATOPOULOS

We have meant to sit down and talk for several months now, but events usually overtook us. They did it this time around, too. Just as we were preparing for the long-overdue interview with Greece's Ambassador to Bulgaria, Terry Stamatopoulos... the Boyko Borisov government collapsed, the prime minister stepped down, and Bulgaria was plunged into the most serious moral, political and possibly constitutional crisis since the middle of the 1990s.

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BEST OF ATHENS

Athens has been on the tourist map for so long that it has lost the air of discovery. In high season, you have to fight with the international crowds to climb up the Propylaea, take a snapshot of the national guard or find a table in a proper restaurant. But Athens is still one of the world cities worth visiting and revisiting – here is a list of some of the places and things which make it what it is. And we won't even mention the evzones.

THE ARCHAEOLOGICAL MUSEUM

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MEGALITHIC BULGARIA

Bulgarian incentive tourism is usually presented to foreigners as a blend of picturesque Revival Period villages and monasteries, Thracian tombs and treasures, and of course Rosa Damascena, the Bulgarian rose. The country, however, is also the home of megalithic monuments often over-looked as they are known mostly to history buffs. But they do make up a strange, yet fascinating heritage: in Bulgaria you can wander Indiana Jones-style around rock shrines and tombs, stone circles and dolmens, and stare at the mysterious outlines of solar circles and rock niches.

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5 CITIES

To centralise or not to centralise was not the crucial question in all the 1,300 years of Bulgarian history. Born in the mighty shadow of glorious Constantinople, Medieval Bulgaria was always striving to create its own shining capital. The 700 years of Byzantine and Ottoman rule did little to ease this attitude, and when freedom was finally achieved in 1878, the matter of the new capital became the focus of attention.

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RUIN, an excerpt

The heat was unbearable. The swelter sucked me in and numbed me, the headstone burned my hand. A pack of dogs crouched nearby. Dulled from hunger and sloth, they were waiting for the funeral to end so they could feast on what family and friends had brought to the graves. Strange looking thanks to accidental interbreeding, these mongrels replayed the whole inexplicability of nature. With elongated snouts and short legs, with guilty eyes and shapeless ears, ugly and sunk in the general misery, they fed on human grief.

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BRIDES FOR SALE

The moveable feast of Todorovden, or St Todor’s Day, is big in Bulgaria's countryside. The saint is considered the patron of horses, so many villages organise horse races, invariably jolly and colourful events.

For the Gypsies of the Kalaydzhii clan, however, Todorovden means more than just a horse ride. On that day, they come from far and wide to the village of Mogila, near Stara Zagora, to marry off their young sons and daughters.

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