Issue 161

TRAVELLING TO BULGARIA'S EXTREMES

In the past two centuries, geography, politics and moments of national triumph and tragedy have defined the borders of Bulgaria. The current territory of the Bulgarian nation appeared after the Berlin Congress in 1879, stretched and contracted during and after several wars in 1885-1886, 1912-1913 and 1915-1918, and peacefully set into its current shape in 1940.

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YAMBOL'S MUMMERS

Situated in the plains in southeastern Bulgaria Yambol is generally off any tourist map. Few Bulgarians would visit unless they have grandparents or friends living in one of the most depressed post-Communist cities in the country. Except for a weekend in late February/early May when the town host Kukerlandia, when a major festival of mummers attracts national and, increasingly, international interest and participation.

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NO 'ISLAMIC' ART HERE, WE ARE BULGARIAN!

This is not even a case of the Czech artist, David Cerny, who infuriated the Bulgarians so much with his Entropa installation in Brussels, in 2009, that the Sofia government formally requested the section of the artwork depicting our motherland as... a Turkish squatting toilet be enshrouded in a black veil because it caused offence. The Germans and the Dutch, who had perhaps overwhelming reasons to feel insulted (the installation depicted Germany as a spaghetti junction of motorways forming a swastika), never said a word.

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RADOSLAV NEDELCHEV: REINVENTING ADVERTISEMENT

Digital advertisement is everywhere nowadays, but it – and customers' behaviour, is changing so rapidly that even established companies and brands struggle to utilise fully its potential. Radoslav Nedelchev, Chief Operating Officer for Dentsu Aegis Network Bulgaria, and his team are fluent in the language of modern advertisement.

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BULGARIA'S 'DEMOCRATORSHIP'

For a few weeks last autumn Central Sofia was paralysed by mass protests. Nothing like the huge outpour of public energy that had kept the city dysfunctional for months in 2013 and resulted in bringing back Boyko Borisov to power, but still a manifestation of people's will that kept the media – and public consciousness – busy and working. The reason? The proposed appointment of Ivan Geshev for the position of chief prosecutor, the Bulgarian equivalent of the US attorney general.

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WHO WAS MAGDALINA STANCHEVA?

Walking around Central Sofia is like walking nowhere else, notwithstanding the incredibly uneven pavements. A mixture of buildings in a range of time periods and styles define the Bulgarian capital: Roman fortifications and early-Christian buildings rub walls with medieval churches, former Ottoman mosques and fine fin-de-siècle residential houses. Over these loom monstrous buildings in the Stalinist Baroque style and soulless glass-and-concrete concoctions built after the 1990s.

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QUOTE-UNQUOTE

"This is a reality show in the field of criminal justice."

Zdravka Kalaydzhieva, former judge at the European Court of Human Rights on tapping the Bulgarian President

 

"Everyone is very polite with me these days."

Chief Prosecutor Ivan Geshev

 

"We have come to a understanding with Geshev to crush anything alive that pollutes."

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SPRING IN BOZHENTSI VILLAGE

When spring in Bulgaria is in full swing, something marvellous happens. At night, songbirds go crazy. When darkness descends, nightingales, orioles, larks and gold finches sing, chirp and improvise for hours, as if their lives depended on it, creating a symphony celebrating life itself.

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LESBOS: GREEK ISLAND OF DISCOVERY PROFFERS POETRY, OUZO AND MUCH TO EXPLORE

In popular imagination, Lesbos is associated with Sappho, the ancient Greek poetess who composed enchanting love poems inspired by and dedicated to other women. In recent decades, this has resulted in a steady stream of LGBT visitors to Eressos, the village on the south shore of Lesbos where Sappho was born. An enchanting place in its own right, its tiny houses are enfolded in the hills above a wonderful beach, a place of pure relaxation that busts into activity during the Sappho Women Eressos Festival in September.

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OXHEART

In the empty apartment, he took a shower and looked for a piece of paper and a pen. He found an orange BIC, yellowed graph paper and sat down to write. He hadn't written for years.

Clinical Picture of Nostalgia:

Onset period: Since the beginning of eternity.

Vulnerable groups: Homo Sapiens, of various ages and gender.

Present focus: recently prefers Eastern Europe.

Anamnesis vitae:

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RECIPE FOR FEMALE HAPPINESS

What do we, women, need to be happy? Physical and psychological health, the opportunity to grow professionally and intellectually without obstacles and restrains, a united family and trusted friends, a supportive and encouraging environment, a cosy home and travels to places that charge us with energy – and the comfort to feel well in our own skin. When we feel realised, valued and able to pursue our dreams, to search and to discover, happiness is on our shoulder and smile appears spontaneously on our face.

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THE BIGGEST FORTUNE

When education is discussed, sometimes one can hear the opinion that this part of human development is overrated. The cases of university dropout Steve Jobs and of Steven Spielberg, who has no diploma in directing, are cited as affirmative examples. The examples appear convincing, but a tiny detail should be considered. Both cases concern people with above the average capabilities and are about university education (the shared first names are a coincidence).

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TEMPLE WITH WATER WELL

The massive stone crosses that centuries ago used to be the graveyard of Garlo village, in the region of Pernik, poke out from the undergrowth, a poignant sight that we have covered several times in Vagabond.

This time we are in this picturesque, atmospheric and overlooked part of Bulgaria for another reason: to search for one of this country's most enigmatic archaeological finds.

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