Issue 147-148

BULGARIA'S CAVED-IN DEMOCRACY

An Italian writer, Roberto Saviano, who has lived for years under police protection because he was "sentenced" to death by the Neapolitan Mafia, has put it plainly: "In Italy, democracy has a mafia inside. In Bulgaria, the Mafia has democracy inside." There are of course many ways to say this, one of the most popular being the local mid-1990s adage that "every state has a mafia, in Bulgaria the mafia has a state."

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A CENTURY OF EXCELLENCE

In 2019, AIG celebrates its centenary. What started as an American insurance company in Shanghai is now an international giant. AIG arrived in Bulgaria in 1996. Today it is a household name and the centre of innovation including BPO and industry digitisation.

We are talking about AIG's past, present and future with Christina Lucas, General Manager for Bulgaria. Previous posts included roles in Asia and Latin America.

What did AIG achieve in Bulgaria?

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SEEING DEVIL IN DEVIL'S BRIDGE

In previous times, when information signs of who had built what were yet to appear on buildings of interest, people liberally filled the gaps with their imagination. When they could not explain the origins of a majestic church, a massive earth bank or even a whole city in ruins, they invented legends about supernatural creatures whom they held responsible. For some reason, predominantly Christian Europe often saw the Devil as the most probable builder of certain churches, and particularly of bridges. There is the Devil's Footstep in Frauenkirche in Munich.

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URBEX BG, PART 2

If anything defines the modern Bulgarian landscape, it is the abundance of recent ruins left from the time when Communism collapsed and the free market filled the void left by planned economy. Dozens of factories, cooperative farms, mines, monuments and infrastructure projects have now become a treasure trove for the urban explorer. 

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FOR A COUPLE OF SALAMI MERMAIDS

Interestingly, it did not involve some high-profile entrepreneur who was arrested over allegations that will probably not hold water in court or some fragile woman who gets chained by the Bulgarian police. It involved… modern art.

Or, rather, the cocktail party that followed a modern art exhibition.

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VILLAGE WHOSE CHURCH STAYS OPEN

The villages in Bulgaria that are abuzz with life are generally located around cities in the plains, like those surrounding Plovdiv. Their houses were mostly built after the 1960s, so more often than not they do not offer much for the curious visitor to see, besides the ubiquitous memorial to some local Communist and a few stalls with fresh homegrown produce.

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BULGARIA UNDER COMMUNISM: NEW BOOK IN ENGLISH EXPLORES RECENT PAST

A new book, Bulgaria Under Communism, published by Routledge in 2018, fills the gaps for English speakers. Written by Professor Ivaylo Znepolski and historians from the Bulgarian Institute for Research of the Recent Past, the volume covers the most important aspects of Bulgaria as a Communist country. It provides all the background needed for a person unfamiliar with Bulgarian history to understand how and why Communism took over, in 1944. It also explores the profound transformation of Bulgarian politics, society, economy and culture in the 45 years that followed.

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QUOTE-UNQUOTE

In Bulgaria not only the working and the protesting people are poor. Capitalists are poor, too.

Radosvet Radev, Chairman of the Bulgarian Industrial Association

I am not Boyko Borisov's personal attorney.

Chief Prosecutor Sotir Tsatsarov

Let's wait for the end of the construction works, then everyone will see with their own eyes. Many of the photos are manipulated.

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GHOSTS OF VILLA ARMIRA

Spread on the easternmost slopes of the Rhodope, Ivaylovgrad is still largely defined by its past as a border outpost. In the Middle Ages, Bulgarians and Byzantines disputed control over the nearby Lyutitsa fortress. Under Communism, the town was deep in the border zone. Entering it without a permit was impossible, as NATO members Greece and Turkey were a stone's throw away. In the 2010s, the border here was frequently crossed by refugees.

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THESSALONIKI WINTER BLISS

Winter with its cold, ice and smog can be overwhelming in Bulgaria. Thankfully, there is a quick solution: Thessaloniki.

The second largest city in Greece is a five-hour drive from Sofia, and has everything you might crave in the harsh Balkan winter. The weather is balmier. There is no ice. The sea breeze wafts in fresh air and the ideal conditions to relax, unbutton your coat and breathe freely.

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SOFIA, An excerpt from a novel

Of course, with Andrej there was no question of it being anything more serious than sex. We weren't even girlfriend and boyfriend. He never once introduced me as his girlfriend. I was a girl. Not his girl. When we would go out with other people, they were usually foreigners, current or potential clients, very rarely his friends.

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STARTING IN BULGARIA

"A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step": the popular quote by Lao Tsu is relevant for business, too. Many of the innovations, the companies and the products that we now consider a necessity have started with a single step, a bold idea, an enthusiastic team, a lot of work and the right dose of luck.

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BULGARIA'S BEST DESTINATIONS FOR 2019

Luxury vacation or bustiness trip to Bulgaria are a reality in which quality and variety combine in a memorable way. Some of the hottest destinations for quality tourism in the country have been here for years. Others appeared recently, offering innovative concepts. Some are located at established tourist destinations while others will pleasantly surprise you with their unexpected locations. In all of them you will find personal approach and services that make you feel special.

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CODE WORD: HOME

Quality dominates the property market in Sofia in 2019. The price rise is calming down which means stability and predictability that provide a buyers' market. Clients now look for better layouts and quality of construction and for more convenient location, regardless of whether they want a home or a profitable investment.

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THE DRINK THAT DEFINES BULGARIA

The eyes of the Frenchman in the company that is sitting in a popular Sofia restaurant become round from surprise. The Bulgarians he is sharing the table with one after another order a strange drink as an aperitif.

"You want to start with something like Calvados?," asks he, astonished, when the explanations are finally over. "But such drinks are digestifs!"

"No, here they are not," answers the table and starts laughing, because the Frenchman's astonishment is on the verge of turning into an outrage.

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THE BEST WAY TO START THE YEAR

The habit to recapitulate in the end of the old and the beginning of the new year is inevitable in this season. After all, retrospection is our way to evaluate what we have achieved, to set new goals or to change the old ones, contemplate our mistakes and successes.

Such thoughts might leave us satisfied or probably not, if perfectionism or bad luck are involved. In all cases there is one thing that helps us to greet the challenges of the new year with more energy, optimism and belief that everything is going to be fine.

Gifts.

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