Issue 111-112

VANGA GOES GLOBAL

As 2015 was drawing to a close and the unravelling conflict in the Middle East (the ISIS, the refugees, the airstrikes, Russia, Turkey, the EU, etc, etc) spiralled deeper into a state that can best be described with expletives, the name of a Bulgarian suddenly hit the international news.

It was Vanga, the blind clairvoyant who died on 11 August 1996.

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BERLIN WALL GETS PAINTED OVER

What they may not have realised, however, is that the renovation was not without its own problems, some of them comical.

To the left of the NDK, near the intersection of Fridtjof Nansen Street and Vasil Levski Boulevard, the passers-by had been accustomed to seeing a standing chunk of the Berlin Wall, a gift from the mayor of Berlin. The chunk, one of a few surviving piece of the Berlin Wall worldwide, was installed in 2006.

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IN GERB'S STRANGLEHOLD

When in a society everyone wants to have full power, it indicates that its members are ready for either tyranny or anarchy, the two opposites of freedom, said Professor Lyubomir Miletich, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Miletich, who was born in Stip, in what is now the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia in 1863 and died in Sofia in 1937, did not live long enough to see what his compatriots, many decades on, would be doing with tyranny, anarchy and freedom.

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THESSALONIKI NOW

Even Bulgarians who love winter will admit this: if you are not on the ski slopes or beside the blazing fire of a traditional guesthouse or restaurant somewhere in the country, the year's coldest season is quite depressing in the big cities. The ice. The slush. The slippery pavements and the chore of clearing frost and snow from your car. The dark clothes Bulgarians unanimously wear. The murky shadows of the side streets at night.

Bulgarians from the big cities have long found a quick solution to the winter blues: Thessaloniki.

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MUZEIKO - BUILDING OF THE YEAR

A few months after its opening, Sofia's Muzeiko, the first museum for children in Eastern Europe, is not only full with visitors eager to learn more about nature, history and space. In December, Muzeiko won the Building of the Year 2015 award in the Educational Infrastructure category. The museum was also a nominee in two more categories, Building Incorporating Green Elements and Concrete in Architecture.

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GREEN AND GOLD

To my father

 

She has no idea if the time she has left is enough. But the desire is stronger than common sense and she starts piling up pillows to hem in the corner of the huge bed where she can sink fully into her thoughts and find peace at last. In the house time has its own clock, slow and different. She hopes nobody is going to look for her.

She falls asleep before she knows it, carried away by shouts and voices distant as the world outside this room. Everything starts from the beginning like the breaking day.

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STABILITY, TRANSPARENCY, EFFICIENCY

The summer of 2014 was a hard one for the Bulgarian banking system, as two local banks became the target of liquidity attacks. Fibank, one of the victims, received liquidity back-up with the approval of the European Commission, and began the implementation of a strict plan for restructuring. Since June 2015, the Finn Jyrki Koskelo, an independent member of Fibank's Supervisory Board, has been one of the forces behind the restructuring process. Several month later, he is happy to say that the bank has done better than the projections had showed.

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DAYDREAMING OF AHTOPOL

In the past decade, it has become increasing hard to love the cities on the Bulgarian South Black Sea coast, even for those who have many pleasant memories connected with them. Nesebar and Sozopol have lost their erstwhile charm as quiet havens of traditional old houses, meandering lanes, fishermen and bohemians. Under a deluge of cheap alcohol tourism from the West, holidaymakers from Russia and Bulgaria have descended on them in search of luxury in the form of beach-loungers, all-white restaurants and atrocious food at even more atrocious prices.

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PONDERING OVER MEANING OF LIFE AT TROYAN MONASTERY

It is not an opinion, but a fact: the Stara Planina around Troyan is one of the most beautiful parts of the mountain range. Covered with thick forest, the slopes tower above you. Cold rivers flow past quiet villages and hamlets, and the hair-raising road to the Beklemeto Pass winds up, and up, and up, until you reach a bald summit at the height of 1,595m, adorned with a menacing monument called the Arch of Freedom.

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BULGARIA'S ONLY OBELISK

North-central Bulgaria is not famed for its historical landmarks. It is a region of rolling hills and soft valleys, of small forests and depressed villages and towns where, even on the brightest days, grey is the predominant colour. It is as if generations of people had concluded that the landscape was good enough for farming, but not inspiring enough for the creation of something remarkable – a city, a temple, a legend.

As with most appearances, this one is not true. Indeed, this region is the home of one of Bulgaria's most curious ancient monuments: an obelisk.

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