Issue 113

BULGARIA'S ODD SCULPTURES

Strange proportions, unusual materials and extravagant designs: quirky sculptures can be found all over the world, and Bulgaria is no exception. In addition to the monumental angular creations of Socialist Realism and the sometimes traditional statues of historical figures, a number of other statues exist in the country, attracting the attention, the ridicule or the fury of passers-by. Many of these somewhat ridiculous monuments, however, were produced with very serious aims in mind. Some of them commemorate a prominent figure, a historical event, or a local curiosity.

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GUESS WHO'S PHONING ME?

During the call, he relayed to her he was cancelling a 13 million leva cleaning and maintenance contract concluded by the airport and an independent firm. Under the contract, the staff cleaners would have been laid off and keeping the corridors and bathrooms of Bulgaria's biggest airport in order was to be given to a company the prime minister now considered dubious.

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FREEWHEELING BULGARIA

There are two ways to interpret Bulgaria's Boyko Borisov's out-of-the-blue announcements that he was terminating a series of public contracts because he had heard rumours that the contracts, concluded under the Public Works and Contracts Act, had not been sufficiently transparent. One is to believe the prime minister that he is serious about fighting corruption and the sort of nefarious practices Bulgaria has gained notoriety for in the EU.

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IRIT LILLIAN: ISRAEL'S AMBASSADOR ON HER FAVOURITE SPOTS IN BULGARIA

After spells as an increasingly senior diplomat in Singapore and France, and a variety of positions at the Israeli Foreign Ministry, Irit Lillian came to Bulgaria last year to take up her first job as an ambassador. From the very beginning, it transpired that she would not be your "ordinary" ambassador who talks about "bilateral relations" and avoids any issue of controversy. Being educated in archaeology, classical studies and Egyptology, and having had a spell as a journalist, Irit Lillian has a much wider view on politics and life than the ordinary foreign office type would.

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TAKING THE SWEET PILL

Sitting in his panorama-view office at the foot of the Vitosha, Nikolay Hadjidontchev, general manager of Teva-Bulgaria, is both excited about the acquisition of Actavis, one of the country's leading pharmaceutical companies, and anxious about the merger's results. Nikolay Hadjidontchev has over 20 years in the pharmaceutical industry and on the consumer goods market. Before becoming the general manager of Teva-Bulgaria in 2011, he was the general manager of Alapis Bulgaria, Actavis Ltd, Roche Bulgaria and Unilever Bulgaria.

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ROMAN DANUBE

A mountain is a better protection than a river, but in 15 AD, when the Romans took over the Thracian lands between the Danube and the Stara Planina mountain, they had no choice: The mighty river, whose upper course they had already mastered, became the frontier of the expanding empire, setting a clear line between the civility of Pax Romana and the unruliness of the independent people on the other side of the river, the Barbarians, as the Romans called them.

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BIRTHPLACE OF BULGARIA'S LAST DICTATOR

You are in an unsightly socialist town where rustic houses are scattered amongst prefabricated housing blocks. Men are repairing Ladas and Moskviches and women are dusting carpets in the patches of green. You head for the town square and discover that it is appropriately covered with the large white slabs to be seen in so many other Bulgarian towns, the result of a 1980s plan by Communist rulers to implement pedestrian zones. But there is something a little out of kilter here. The town is oddly clean and the pavement is not falling apart. There are few stray dogs in the streets.

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FAIRY-TALE CAPPADOCIA

The places everyone should visit before they die fall into three categories: stunning natural landscapes (like the Grand Canyon), sites of astonishing human creativity (e. g. the Giza Pyramids), and Cappadocia.

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WHAT IS SAMOKOV?

Lined with advertisements for winter sports and down-at-heel sellers of local potatoes, the road to Samokov, about 70 km from Sofia, does not promise much excitement in the town itself, but Samokov is a surprise. The town is much more than the producer of famous potatoes, a gateway to the Borovets ski resort or the starting point for a number of treks in the Rila mountains.

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PORTRAIT OF A SEA

We all know how boring the Black Sea is. It lacks the saltiness of the Aegean, the rugged coastline of the Adriatic, and the rich marine life of the Red Sea. Its waters are dead, its fauna has been lost to pollution and overfishing. In short, the Black Sea is dull.

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FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWDS

If you have visited the Bulgarian Black Sea coast in the summer, calm is the last word you would use to describe it. At this season, the resorts and beaches teem with tourists, and suffer from noise and rubbish pollution. In such circumstances, the feeling that you have stumbled into some sort of a hell on earth is inevitable.

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THE PLACE, An excerpt from a work in progress

You can enter by the road from the south, the north, the east or even the west, although the west road, unfortunately, is not very good. Actually, even then it was quite bad and annoying to drive on, with lots of potholes; there would often be fallen trees. There is no reason to think that the road is better now. You cannot be sure what to expect, once you manage to get into the city. Even back then, the buildings had almost entirely lost their magnificence and charm, which was reminiscent of a decent past, and suggested a relatively prosperous future.

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