Issue 103

NIKOLAY CHAPKANOV

Kukerlandia, the annual exhibition of photography of Kukeri, or mummers, has been taking place in Yambol, southeastern Bulgaria, for the past 10 years. Since its very beginning, Vagabond, Bulgaria's English Magazine, has been a partner to it, giving a special prize to a photographer who excels in photographing what we think is a very interesting Bulgarian folk tradition.

This year the winner of Vagabond's Special Prize is Nikolay Chapkanov, a Sofia photographer, who, in addition to mummers, likes to shoot thunders and airplanes.

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PAINTED CHURCHES OF BUKOVINA

The crowd fills the churchyard, candles flicker in the dark, and the air vibrates with the voices of men proclaiming "Christ is risen!". Midnight has just passed, but those gathered at Humor Monastery are in no hurry to leave. They kiss the hand of the priest, light their candles from his, and exchange the customary Easter greetings with their friends, relatives and neighbours.

Then they leave the monastery, strolling along the alley which in daytime is packed with the stalls of souvenir sellers. They cross the road and enter the cemetery of Humor village.

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HARBINGERS OF SPRING

They are finally home: after flying thousands of kilometres from Africa, the storks have returned to Bulgaria, back to their old nests. Even more have passed through the country, on their way farther into Europe; according to the Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds, about 75 percent of the storks on the continent arrive through Bulgaria.

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DRAMATIC BULGARIA

Bulgaria never quite caught on to the 19th Century European passion for the sublime, known to us mainly from the paintings of Caspar David Friedrich, but the country has its own share of locations which inspire awe and amazement; inviting you to revel in nature and experience a sense of spirituality. Most are the creation of mighty tectonic forces, or rivers and seas scouring solid rock, while others result from more ephemeral natural phenomena, such as mists and rainbows, rain and clouds.

Chepelarska River

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THE UNBULGARIANS: ZOË HOLLIDAY, THE UK

She is 30 years old, has a degree in philosophy and theology, and worked for eight years in green energy before moving to Sofia.

When did you arrive in Bulgaria and why?

I arrived in June last year, specifically for my deployment at the European Voluntary Service. I work three days a week as a coordinator of a refugee project and another two days a week in a foundation for single mothers.

How did you like Bulgaria in the first place?

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THE UNBULGARIANS: MARIO MONTESORO, ITALY

The 50-year old is now the owner, manager and the sole chef of a small Italian bistro, Pesto, in the Central Sofia.

Why did you move to Bulgaria?

I came, because my son lives here. He is also two-and-a-half years old. If I go back to Italy, I will become a Skype father and I don't like it.

Is there something you consider typical Bulgarian?

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MICKEY MOUSE CASTLE BUILDING

On a crisp spring morning, the distant hum of traffic on the Trakiya Highway can barely be heard in the narrow Trayanovi Vrata Pass, in the Sredna Gora mountains. Birds sing, the sky is blue, and early greenery covers the slopes. Until not that long ago, the romantic ruins of an ancient and medieval fortress used to stand there; a labyrinth of still-standing arches and walls, a piece of ancient Rome on Bulgaria soil.

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DEAR VAGABOND

I was invited to offer my perspective on Poets & Writers as well as the wider world of literary magazines, and for six days I got to know some extremely talented writers from Bulgaria, Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States while learning about the literary culture of Bulgaria – first in the capital city of Sofia and then in Sozopol, an ancient town on the Black Sea. Truly remarkable.

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QUOTE-UNQUOTE

You remember what this hospital looked like on the outside; people got sicker instead of healthier when they got in. But now we have something modern, something well done. When they see the modern equipment we have, when they see our cute ministers, they get healthy instantly.

The PM at the inauguration of a new cancer ward

In a few months we will overtake Romania.

The PM on the establishment of a new countercorruption unit in Bulgaria

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YES, PRIME MINISTER

As usual when we quote the prime minister, we render his statements verbatim but with a few notes in square brackets introduced for clarity.

"The economy minister brings in. He is in Paris. Today there is a business forum there and some of our colleagues stayed for it. There is a huge lineup of French companies interested in investing in Bulgaria.

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LITTLE ESCAPES, A short story

He is a completely normal guy. Every week, he reads his horoscope, but it's usually wrong. Most times it says that no major catastrophes, long journeys, love affairs or problems at work await him. In many respects he is completely normal. No nightmares plague him, his wife doesn't cheat on him, his kids are pretty good.

But as a matter of fact, magnetic storms and solar flares sometimes affect him.

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TOP 5 BEACHES

In Greece, the beaches are so many and diverse, that the sheer idea to single out only five of them sounds like a recipe for disaster. Especially if you are the sort of person who has happened to travel in Greece, dividing your attention between the narrow winding road and the golden beaches in coves which appear and disappear with each bend. And yet, some of Greece's beaches deserve special attention. We offer you some of them, in an incredibly subjective selection.

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