Issue 81

NOVI SAD

The view towards the floodlit Petrovaradin Fortress is spectacular and a gentle breeze ruffles the Danube, yet the restaurant at the military club of Novi Sad is half empty. There are no tourists around, as the place is far away from the main attractions.

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VILLA ARMIRA

Vineyards and ghost villages deserted by those who left because of wars, strict border controls and economic hardship, plus a medieval fortress tucked into the easternmost slopes of the Rhodope: there is not that much to see in and around Ivaylovgrad. Greece, which is just across the border, is even less impressive; a patchwork of fields and tiny villages.

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DOLEN

The elderly woman who holds the key to the church in the village of Dolen, in the Rhodope, gets up slowly from her wooden chair and shambles towards the altar. The scant light coming from the high windows falls on her. The theatrical effect attracts the attention of the small group of tourists freezing in the damp room who, in the gloom, have been trying to make out the famous wood frescoes that the church of St Nikola (1834) prides itself on.

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COMICS FOR EQUALITY

A group of Danish hipsters are struggling to figure out why their Finnish friend has left them so abruptly ‒ is she plain rude, was she offended by something they said, or is this just the Finnish way of saying goodbye. An African immigrant saves a Greek girl from a burning house but is chucked out by the prejudiced mother because of the colour of his skin. A group of scientists are quarrelling violently over their opinions.

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LOST IN TRANSITION

A country increasingly difficult to understand even by its own citizens, Bulgaria stands unique in Eastern Europe in at least two respects: it is arguably the least reformed former Warsaw Pact state and – if international surveys and indices are anything to go by – it is populated by the unhappiest people in Europe.

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BAG BOY

My husband loves old-fashioned meatloaf: two parts beef to one part pork, three eggs, a cup of breadcrumbs, a dash of half and half, and a blanket of bacon and ketchup on top.

Back home – in Pennsylvania – the recipe is called Mom's Love.

Here – in south Florida – it's so blasting hot I could fry bacon on our swimming-pool deck. Yet I still decide to make Mom's Love, because I miss home and the way its name sounds like a train that'll never stop: Lackawanna, Lackawanna, Lackawanna.

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OLD CARS, NEW CARS

He is an amateur photographer, passionate about taking pictures with his FED-4 (Russian rangefinder camera, produced from 1964 till 1977). This camera has a sentimental value to me and I still use it from time to time. Of course I will not comment on his photographic skills, probably I cannot be objective enough to do that, since to me all of his photos are nearly perfect.

old cars, new cars

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BLACK SEA ROAD TRIPPING

You may like the bustle and the energy of Sunny Beach or you may hate it, but don't judge the rest of the Bulgarian Black Sea coast by it. While Bulgaria's maritime border is only 378 kms long it's rich and diverse. Venture, and you'll see picturesque cliffs and surreal remains of Socialism, busy cities and still unspoilt beaches, archaeological sites and quirky people, swamps, rare birds and mosquitoes.

The route we suggest is north to south, but you can reverse this, or just do a section of it.

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KAPKA KASSABOVA

Kapka Kassabova was raised in Sofia, and after the fall of the Berlin Wall her family emigrated to New Zealand where she spent her late teens and 20s, graduated in French literature and Creative Writing, and started publishing poetry, travel writing and fiction. She is the author of a memoir about Bulgaria, Street Without a Name (2008, also published in Bulgarian and Swedish) and the novel Villa Pacifica (2011, also available in Spanish).

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ALICIA THE FAT WITCH

Right across the street lived Alicia, the fat old witch. When she had nothing else to do, she would fornicate with the Devil. Loaded with bags and old-fashioned suitcases, she had come all the way from Kazakhstan. Her real name was Alyona Kashcheevna. She knew all sorts of magic and spells, so in no time she managed to ensnare an old widower, Mr Stavros, who used to be a butcher. As soon as darkness fell and the honorable citizens settled in front of their TV sets, Mr Stavros would start clearing his throat suggestively towards Alyona: "Come on, come on!"

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QUOTE-UNQUOTE

The alternative to the BSP are Borisov, Orbán and Berlusconi.

Hannes Swoboda, Leader of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament

The protests in Bulgaria show the Bulgarian society's deep fear of law enforcement.

José Manuel Barroso, European Commission chairman

There is a man who has gone through a major personal catharsis.

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GO, PEOPLE, GO!

TURKS ARE COOL, BUT THE DPS IS NOT
(The DPS, or Movement for Rights and Freedoms, is the Turkish-dominated junior government coalition partner)

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KEEP CALM AND IGNORE VOLEN
(Volen Siderov is the leader of the extremist Ataka party)

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#DANSWITHME
(DANS is the acronym for the National Security Service. The appointment of a controversial MP and media mogul Delyan Peevski to head it sparked off the protests in Sofia)

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