Issue 10

AND GOD CREATED BULGARIAN WOMEN

I'm a great believer in the ancient wisdom: "Just love women. Don't try to understand them!" And that, I've found, goes double for Bulgarian women. But in the Vagabond tradition of courageous and insightful journalism, here goes.

I first experienced the charms of "The Bulgarian Woman" from 15,000 kilometres away. Here's what happened...

When I was given the opportunity, I had a hard time deciding whether or not to move to Bulgaria. What I knew about this country, before actually moving here, would have filled the back of a postage stamp.

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WE'VE GOT MAIL

I took out a subscription to your magazine in order to get to know your country better and to keep abreast of current affairs and developments. I find “Vagabond” very interesting and informative. I would recommend it to any English-speaking visitor or anyone considering investment and other business opportunities in Bulgaria.

One question – I am intrigued by the choice of the name “Vagabond” for your magazine. Is there any particular significance in this unusual name?

Anthony E. Guillaumier, Malta


VAGABOND responds

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OUT OF THE LIMELIGHT

In spite of winning the 2006 Helicon Award for modern prose, Elena Alexieva is honest enough to admit that her dog is her biggest fan. "It doesn't need to read my books to love me," she says. The award for her short story collection, Reading Group 31, briefly placed her in the limelight. But Elena quickly and gladly withdrew from it because, according to her, the Bulgarian spotlight is too small. "It shines like a table lamp and is not worth the effort," she says. Instead, her job as a simultaneous interpreter continues to keep her busy, travelling throughout Bulgaria.

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BIOFUELS BOOST TO BULGARIA

Bulgaria's biofuels industry has only been operating for a couple of years. But already around 25 installations are in place and many firms are lining up to exploit the competitive assets of relatively low-cost farming and labour as well as expected subsidies and incentives. The biofuels industry (fuel deriving from biological material) is now sufficiently big for traders to note an upward pull on the price of that great Bulgarian staple - sunflower oil.

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BULGARIA'S ECONOMY LOOKS UP

Bulgaria's economic future is bright, but it must be prepared to handle the pressures of globalisation, says Michael Deppler, director of the International Monetary Fund's (IMF) European Department. His comments came in the authoritative The Report: Emerging Bulgaria 2007, produced by Oxford Business Group (OBG), the UK-based publishing research and consultancy service.

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AND GOD CREATED BULGARIAN WOMEN

I'm a great believer in the ancient wisdom: "Just love women. Don't try to understand them!" And that, I've found, goes double for Bulgarian women. But in the Vagabond tradition of courageous and insightful journalism, here goes.

I first experienced the charms of "The Bulgarian Woman" from 15,000 kilometres away. Here's what happened...

When I was given the opportunity, I had a hard time deciding whether or not to move to Bulgaria. What I knew about this country, before actually moving here, would have filled the back of a postage stamp.

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LOVE IN ACTION

The international Caritas organisation was established in Europe after the Second World War at a time when coordination among different charities was needed. A bishop, who later became Pope Paul VI, suggested that the Catholic Church's relief, development and social service agencies should unite. In this way Caritas Internationalis was born.

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FACE/OFF

If Adam Smith were alive today, he wouldn't like Bulgaria at all. He would probably hate it. After all, the distinguished and much quoted political economist was a man for whom the worst kinds of government consisted of tyranny, oligarchy and anarchy. So what would he make of 21st Century Bulgaria, a country where political parties increasingly seem to serve the interests of the politicians, not the voters?

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HOW MUCH DOES A NURSE COST?

The five Bulgarian nurses and Palestinian doctor, accused of deliberately infecting 400 Libyan children in Benghazi with the HIV virus, have now been behind bars for eight years. During that time the Bulgarian government has veered between vociferous international campaigns and quiet diplomacy to bring them home. But it was only last April that an MP dared to ask Foreign Minister Ivaylo Kalfin the pertinent question: "How much has the Bulgarian state spent on defending the nurses in Libya?"

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STILL WEDDED TO MOSCOW?

Recent events remind us yet again that Bulgaria can't free itself from the grip of its former Communist era ally. We only have to compare Sofia to Estonia's capital, Tallinn. Until a few months ago both cities had prominent monuments to the Soviet Army.

But now the two capitals look very different. The Estonian government dismantled the monument and moved it - together with the remains of 12 Soviet soldiers buried in its base - to a military cemetery.

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WHO’S TO BLAME?

If you want to find the political party or individual who won Bulgaria's first European parliamentary election, you will need the patience of Job. The only clear winner to emerge from the fog of apathy and confusion on 20 May was Ahmed “The Falcon” Dogan, the leader of the Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS) and a politician well versed at extracting leverage from a crisis. However, the losers were many and varied.

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WHOSE SONG IS IT ANYWAY?

On his visit to Sofia, US President George W. Bush was given the red-carpet treatment accompanied by the fanfare of perhaps the most famous and revered Bulgarian military march. But did anyone tell "Bush 43" that the tune he apparently enjoyed was neither Bulgarian, nor particularly politically correct?

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TO BUY OR NOT TO BUY

As Serbia celebrated a modern day miracle, here in Bulgaria we can at least derive some solace from the fact that the property market is nowhere near as erratic as the voting in May's Eurovision Song Contest!

If you're thinking of investing in Bulgarian property, then you should first establish whether you're investing for capital appreciation, rental income or an amicable marriage of both. This decision will steer you to the most suitable type of investment.

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REST INSURED

So you haven't had time to buy a life insurance policy before arriving here? Sit back and prepare to spend hours in front of the Internet - choosing an insurer is one of the toughest consumer decisions you will face.

The Oxford Business Group claims there are about 30 insurers on the market. Local branches of reputable international companies compete with domestic players. Most companies handle commercial and liability insurance but about a dozen offer life insurance policies.

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BEING TAKEN UP A COUNTRY ROAD

There's been a certain amount of excitement in our street of late and it all centres around one thing: a road. And no, I'm not referring to some earnest debate that we've all been having about better links with our new European neighbours, but a simple tarmac thoroughfare that will save us all a bit of time and inconvenience.

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