Issue 82

SONIA'S GANG OF BOMBERS, An excerpt

I came downstairs in Ewan the Fatty's penthouse. No sound there. The Fatty had tiptoed out to his workshop. My ears were still ringing from my conversation with Graziella. It was as if I had been scalded by salt water, my teeth were numb and I felt hungover even though I hadn't had too much to drink. I wanted to make myself a cup of coffee and take advantage of my mate's crammed fridge, but that meant I would be late for work.

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TRAVELS INTO TAXIDERMIA

The visitors to the aviary on Veliki Brijun Island, Croatia, move away from the cage housing the big yellow-crested cockatoo and stare at the bright ara parrot in the corner. Koki, the cockatoo, stops munching on his sunflower seeds and climbs the bars of his cage like a musician starting a gig.

"Kako si, Tito?," Koki screams. "Tito, Tito, Tito!"

He taps his beak against the cage bars, just to be sure the humans have got it.

As predicted, the tourists leave the silent ara and stare again at Koki. They smile.

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PURPLE CRAZE

The oil-bearing rose is considered one of Bulgaria's symbols, but it already has a strong competitor, lavender. Every summer for the past several years the fields between the Stara Planina and the Sredna Gora mountains have been turning purple with rows of lavender plants. Spreading towards the background of the mountain ridges, the plants make you dizzy with their overpowering scent and vivid colour.

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IF ORPHEUS PLAYED BAGPIPES

The Rhodope, some insist, are the mountains where Orpheus roamed, charming all things living and non-living with the magical music of his lyre. If that mythical hero were to reappear, he would surely play the bagpipes.

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THRACIAN BULGARIA, PART 1

Three nations are considered the forefathers of modern Bulgarians; the Slavs, the Proto-Bulgarians, and the Thracians. It all began at the end of the 7th Century AD when land-tilling Slavs united with horse-riding Proto-Bulgarians against a common enemy, Byzantium. The lands where Bulgaria was born, however, were not empty, as the remains of the Thracians, the ancient people described by Herodotus as the most numerous after those of India, still lived there.

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KAARE JANSON

As we sit down for a chat with Kaare Jansson, Denmark's ambassador to Bulgaria since 2007, I cannot but think that next to me is a not only a man with a vast experience in international diplomacy and a long-serving ambassador to Bulgaria, but also the doyen of the diplomatic corps in Sofia at the present time. Kaare is an educated historian and in the past we have had many conversations about history, both in the Balkans and in Western Europe.

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TOP 10 BULGARIAN NIGHTMARES

Every person has their own fears and usually these have to do with past experiences, current difficulties and so on. But some types of fears are experienced collectively. These are archetypal fears that, with a bow and a wink to Freud and Jung, may be termed national nightmares. What are Bulgarians most scared of? Are they scared of things that other nations, for example the Belgians, are not? Are the Bulgarians so different from the Greeks and the Turks in the way they fear others and each other?

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QUOTE-UNQUOTE

Previously the protests were about prices, now they are about values.

Former Prime Minister Boyko Borisov

If it were some other country, the ambassadors of France and Germany would already have been kicked out.

Tatyana Burudzhieva, an MP for the Bulgarian Socialist Party

The majority hangs on a single, fragile hair with a bit of dandruff on it.

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THE ROAD AHEAD

Even the chance observer of events in Bulgaria during the past several months cannot but see that the ongoing street protests, whilst being sparked by a number of unthought-over staff appointments by the current fragile parliamentary majority, have been conditioned by events dating back to the previous rulers, GERB. It is temptingly easy to focus on the street rallies of the "intelligent and beautiful," but to get to the larger picture, one needs to remember the runup to the current spate of public discontent – which will in turn explain why Bulgaria is where it's at at the moment.

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MARTINA VRDOLJAK

Martina Vrdoljak was born in 1982 in Zagreb. She graduated the Law Faculty at the University of Zagreb. Her first appointment as a junior diplomat was in Sofia, where she has lived since 2007. Martina likes painting and reading, and is currently on a PhD course in foreign policy and political science.

Your favourite cultural venues in Sofia – and why are they favourites?

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JOKES OF THE MONTH

Teacher asks: "What will happen if a destructible cannon ball hits a indestructible wall?"

Kid answers: "The price of rakiya will go up. Father says whatever stupid happens in this country the price of rakiya always goes up."

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Why don't politicians emigrate from Bulgaria?

Because there is a brain drain, not an ass drain.

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A real conversation overheard at the Sofia street rallies:

Young lady asks: "How many times have you taken part in the protests?"

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