Issue 104

THE UNBULGARIANS: KONE YAKU, CÔTE D'IVOIRE

After several months working in a call centre, Kone Yaku is now a model at the National Academy of Arts.

Why did you chose Bulgaria of all places?



I chose it because it looked as if it can be the solution to the problems I had in my country. My all hopes are in Bulgaria now. I trust that the things will turn out in the best possible way, I believe in my bonne chance here. I won two cases in court, so...

Have you experienced special treatment in Bulgaria because you are a foreigner?

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DEULTUM: ROMAN TOWN ON THE OUTSKIRTS OF BURGAS

The bay on whose shore the city stands today was deeper and surrounded by malaria infested swamps.

Living conditions were at least inhospitable. A few people had made their home there from prehistoric to medieval times, in settlements and fortresses away from the coast, moving location as the coastline itself changed. The continuity of usage of the mineral springs in today's Vetren and Banevo neighbourhoods of Burgas is amazing. The healing waters were prized by the ancient Thracians and Romans, by Bulgarian kings, Byzantine emperors and Ottoman sultans.

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SHIROKA LAKA: PICTURE-PERFECT IDYLL IN THE HEART OF THE RHODOPE

Made with stout beams and massive stone foundations, the houses smell of ageing wood and geraniums planted in old earthenware pots. The streets are made of cobbles.

Sadly, the old Rhodope villages are slowly disappearing. Some have been transformed beyond recognition by their inhabitants, who fancy new plastic window frames over wooden ones, and shiny roof tiles over stone slabs. Others are dying out, with their ageing and diminishing inhabitants leaving their abandoned houses to the mercy of the elements.

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SOFIA IN 1970S

Sofia was an intelligence hub where operatives from "fraternal" nations mainly in the Middle East and Africa gathered to "exchange ideas" and plan their operations, under the watchful eye of the KGB and its Bulgarian vassals.

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KEFALONIA: INCREDIBLE PART OF GREECE

Arguably, Kefalonia is one of the best places in Greece to spend your summer vacation. The largest of the Ionian islands, complete with picturesque and idyllic villages such as Fiscardo and Assos, stunning beaches like Myrtos, Antisamos and Xi, and its capital, Argostoli, situated by a picturesque lagoon. Argostoli is also a place of calm central streets and a curiosity, the 19th Century Drapano stone bridge. The island's most imposing historical site is St George's castle, a Byzantine stronghold rebuilt by the Venetians in 1545, which offers amazing vistas of its surroundings.

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THE UNBULGARIANS: RIN YAMAMURA, JAPAN

When did you come to Bulgaria and why?

It was 15 years ago. My mother encouraged me to study puppet and stage design at the National Academy of Theatre and Film Arts in Sofia. I arrived and stayed as there was a strong connection between Japan and Bulgarian in this field. Now I do a lot more than puppet and stage design.

Did Bulgaria surprise you and how?

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BULGARIA'S ABANDONED SYNAGOGUES

At the end of the Second World War, Bulgaria was the only European country whose Jewish population was bigger than before the war began. Still, by the early 1950s, Bulgaria's 49,000-strong Jewish population has shrunk to about 8,000. Fearful of their future under the new Communist regime, with its repression and nationalisation of businesses and properties, the majority of the Bulgarian Jews decided that they would rather live in the nascent State of Israel.

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RISE UP SINGING, An excerpt from a novel

You do get hot summers in Bolton and we had one that year, for weeks on end as I remember it, although it may just have been a fortnight or so. This was a Friday so we had double English that afternoon with Mr Howard. Lisa and Claire had both had a full tab, but Janey and I had just taken half each.

"Who or what do you think is causing the friction here between Jane and Elizabeth?" asked Mr Howard. His hair was aglow and the walls pulsed gently.

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