Issue 119-120

NO VOTE, NO WOE

Less than a couple of months ahead of the presidential election scheduled for 6 November, the ruling GERB refuses to disclose who its nominees are for fear they might be put under pressure by uncompliant journalists and get asked the wrong set of questions. Read this again. You've got it right.

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BULGARIA'S ABANDONED ECO TRAILS

"Danger! Crossing is forbidden!" Makeshift signs adorn the wooden bridges that until not so long ago used to provide a hair-rising and yet fascinating glimpse of the Negovanka River and the rugged rocks of the Emenski Canyon, near Veliko Tarnovo. The path leading to the high point of the trail, the nearby Momin Skok, or Virgin's Jump, waterfall also shows visible marks of decay: planks are missing here and there from the wooden steps, particularly at the most precipitous part of the climb.

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TWISTED WISDOMS

Bulgarians are no exception. Throughout the centuries, they have produced their share of common sense maxims covering all aspects of life, including many virtues. Hard work is endorsed ("The vineyard doesn't need a prayer but a hoe" and "He who doesn't work shouldn't eat") as are hospitality and generosity ("Treat your guest, and forgive your enemy"), and humbleness ("Take a big bite of food, but don't say a big word").

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AGUSHEV KONAK

Between 1825 and 1842, the local Muslim lord Aguş Aga built a sumptuous konak, or residence, for himself and his three sons. High whitewashed walls protected the aga's greatest treasures: his peace, his money and his family.

The building and its three yards, 221 windows, 86 doors and 24 chimneys occupied an acre of land by the Arda River.

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WHAT DOES A BULGARIAN (PSEUDO)PATRIOT BELIEVE IN?

I believe in Bulgaria's history and Bulgaria's tourism.

I believe in Vanga and in Petar Danov. I believe that Mother Russia has always rescued us and goes on loving us.

I believe whatever Bozhidar Dimitrov says. I believe in Sozopol vampires, in the bones of St John the Baptist, in the pithole in Tsarichina, in the treasure of Valchan Voyvoda, in the tomb of Bastet in the Strandzha, in the new ruins, in the foam concrete fortresses, in the plastic dummies replacing destroyed monuments of culture because they stood in the way of organised tourism.

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TUTRAKAN MILITARY CEMETERY

If you chance to pass by on your way from Ruse to Silistra you will see a large military cemetery beside the road. Stop and have look at the rows of graves, the chapel, the old machine guns, and the monument in the shape of a war medal. There is an obelisk, too, with inscriptions repeating the same words in Bulgarian, German, Turkish and Romanian: "Honour and glory to those who knew how to die heroically for their fatherland."

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SOZOPOL

This, however, does not mean you have to avoid this former fishing settlement and current tourist trap. You just have to plan your visit wisely, avoiding the high summer season. September is the perfect time to enjoy Sozopol for the first or the tenth time. Most of the crowds have gone, and the old town with its meandering lanes, traditional wooden houses and rocks pounded by the sea is calmer. The other visitors are mainly actors, musicians, authors and the like who are here for their annual gathering, the Apollonia Arts Festival.

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WHO B*GGERS WHOM IN BULGARIA?

He was speaking in response to a friendly shout by Metodi Bachev, an entrepreneur in the road construction business, whose company, Agromax, is known for rarely failing to win a public bid as long as the GERB are in power. Since 2014 alone it has won 293 million leva in contracts.

Having had a few drinks at a party in the nearby village of Chercniche, Bachev shrieked: "Hey, d’you know that the mayor of Simitli has f*cked Boyko Borisov!"

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KALOFER

It keeps mass tourism confined to the highway, away form the town huddled in the foothills of Mount Botev, once known as Ümrükçal, which means Fist Mount – Stara Planina’s tallest summit at 2,376 metres. Kalofer is a pearl you will fall in love with. But to discover it, you need to make an effort.

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10 THINGS TO DO IN LA

It is impossible for anyone to get to know Los Angeles within a week, a month or, some say, a lifetime. The huge urban sprawl on the West Coast of the United States is home to over 18 million people who make up one of the most diverse metropolises on the planet. With a limited time, however, and a sensible budget, which must include a rented car because the City of Angels has a very modest mass transit system, you can explore some of the highlights – and actually enjoy them even if you get stuck in the rush hour traffic.

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QUOTE-UNQUOTE

This band of criminals is ruling Bulgaria in a way unseen for more than 20 years.

Tatyana Doncheva, leader of Movement 21

The refugees become increasingly aggressive.

Georgi Kostov, chief secretary of the Interior Ministry

The refugees are young, agile and athletic... and sometimes use luxury cars.

Radoslav Sotirov, police commissioner in Elhovo, near the Turkish border

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SOFIA'S MUSEUMS

A museum is a place where one should "lose one's head," architect Renzo Piano said. Whether Sofia's museums will make you lose your head is debatable. The exhibits, captions, and even the museum shops of most of them have changed little in the past 40 years, and audio-guides, multimedia, captivating captions and quality souvenirs, let alone proper publicity, are still novelties.

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NOT TONIGHT, An excerpt from a work in progress

Tonight, there are no lovers walking down the park alleys. There are no kings in the castles, and the princesses die alone – they have no frogs or peas. Tonight, the inkpots are empty, and the words are uncountable. Tonight, all shouts are muffled by unbearable silence. Tonight, the barefoot do not find shoes, and the anthills are too few, too small, and too far away to save lost wanderers. Tonight, children sob softly, mothers behave unreasonably, and fathers – they remain unknown.

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LIGHT OF KNOWLEDGE

Teaching children who are prepared for the tomorrow with all the ups and downs of labor market, changing technologies and professions: modern education, just like modern society, is going through a turbulent period, in which old principles often are hard to apply, and new ones are still in the process of establishment.

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OUTSOURCING FEVER

In 2015, a survey of the American real estate company Cushman & Wakefield ranked Bulgaria 3rd in the world for outsourcing of business processes (BPO) and shared services. The outsourcing sector in Bulgaria is growing with impressive speed. The estimated number of employees in the field is estimated at 40,000, with projections of increasement for up to 60,000 by 2020. Most of the companies are in Sofia, but additional centres are appearing in Plovdiv, Varna, Burgas.

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HOME FOR YOUR SUCCESS

We all know that Google's beginnings (and not only Google's) are in a simple garage. But even the most innovative and perspective company needs proper office that will provide it with all the comforts for its stable growth: excellent location, modern communications and amenities, security, space and opportunities for relaxation for the employees.

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BEATING HEART

Heart is the first functioning organ formed in the human embryo – it appears at the fourth week after conception and from then on, it never ceases to beat, marking each step and each important event of the life of its owner. We cannot live without a heart – it makes us blood to flow in our veins, delivering oxygen to each part of organism, taking away the carbon dioxide produced by the life processes. People have felt how important heart long ago, in the past when words like oxygen and carbon dioxide were still not coined.

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NANCY SCHILLER

Meeting at a children's museum is hardly the right place for a serious conversation about charity, development aid and politics. However, Muzeiko, this country's newest museum, which is also one of the very few purpose-built, is extraordinary museum. Inaugurated in 2015 and paid for in full by the Sofia-based America for Bulgaria Foundation, it is both an academy and a playground for kids who come here to look at spacecraft and weather stations, to explore wildlife and to take in and try to understand bits of the technology that makes our lives what they are today.

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