Issue 142

BULGARIA'S ROMANTIC VILLAGES

Tranquility combined with landscapes untouched by tourism: if you have a longing to visit, Bulgaria will deliver. Here and there isolated and lesser known villages lay scattered over vales and hills, offering the chance to awaken to bird song, spend the long days exploring quiet lanes and traditional houses, and the evenings contemplating the surrounding vistas, preferably with a glass of cold Rakiya.

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HARMAN KAYA THRACIAN SANCTUARY

The rock of the threshing floors. One can easily see why the people from the Bivolyane village gave that name to Harman Kaya. The area's defining features are two large circles in the bedrock, which resemble the threshing floors where people, in the times of pre-supermarket bread, used to separate wheat from chaff.

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WHO WAS STEFAN STAMBOLOV?

Bulgaria's news cycle nowadays consists largely of real and imaginary scandals that grab the public attention for a while before being buried under a heap of new scandals. In July, however, a small event squeezed through the cracks and made some short-lived noise.

The tomb of politician Stefan Stambolov (1856-1895) in the Sofia Central Cemetery was vandalised. Its bronze bust was stolen and the pediment was damaged.

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MAKING THE ROUNDS IN SOFIA AND BEYOND

In 2008 everyone on Sofia Underground stared at whoever tried to surf the Internet on their mobile phones.

In 2018 everyone on Sofia Underground stared at whoever held a newspaper in their hands.

In 2028 everyone on Sofia Underground will be starring at whoever doesn't scratch the numbers of a get-rich-quick lottery ticket.

 


 

Some reporters ask Tsvetan Tsvetanov: "Sir, is it true that everyone in Bulgaria can get arrested? Aren't there any untouchables?"

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PASS OF FREEDOM

There are places in the history of each nation that represent a turning point of events. For the Americans, these are Liberty Bell and Gettysburg. For the British there are Stamford Bridge and Waterloo. For the French there is the Bastille, and for the Germans, the Brandenburg Gate and the Berlin Wall. The Greeks have the Thermopylae, and the Italians the Rubicon.

The Bulgarians have the Shipka Pass.

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BURGAS: GEMS OF MARITIME GARDEN INSPIRE MODERN FICTION

This is the biggest town in the Southeast. It is connected to Sofia via one of Bulgaria's two completed motorways and has an airport that usually needs a second wind in summertime. Burgas itself has few particular sites of interest, but bestselling author Elizabeth Kostova singled one out in her latest novel, The Shadow Land (2017). This is the old Maritime Garden casino, or just The Casino, as everyone in Burgas refers to it.

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LOST CITY OF ANI

Burdened with the robotic directions of Satnav devices, we have lost the ability to feel like explorers. Yet, there are places that, though identifiable on Satnav, still convey the feeling that they are at the edge of the known world.
Ani on the Turkish-Armenian frontier is one such place.

Scattered on the steep bank of the border-defining Arpa Chai river, Ani is what remains of the once populous capital of Armenia. Domed churches of dark grey and red stones sprout from heaps of debris among a barren landscape: otherworldly, surreal, dreamlike.

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I'VE BEEN WRONG BEFORE, An excerpt from a memoir

I went out for a run one lightly rainy morning – on Halloween, actually. Movement kept at bay the dreadful sensation that the island hungered to swallow me up, annihilate my spirit. And so I laced up, pulled the hood of an old sweatshirt over my head, and ran along the road that served the beach house. Relief came only when the road fed into a park, and the park into trails that twisted through the woods. My sneakers splashed mud up onto my shins and calves.

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